(This novel is translated and adapted by Ms. Shuang Wu. The original novel 海外剩女 by author Ms. Xi Zhang was published in China earlier this year. It tells stories of female students from China struggling to find love in Boston, and has received rave reviews. A play in Chinese language with the same title was staged at Northeastern University on Oct. 10, 2015. The picture of an alley in Barcelona, Spain is by Mr. Daryl Luk of Boston Chinese Photographers’ Association, BCPA.)
A Woman with Approaching Expiration Date — Chapter 11
Jingzhe boiled some hot water for herself and felt a little better after drinking it. However, about an hour later the pain in her stomach grew and sweat started to come out of her forehead. Feeling lousy, she texted Richard to ask him when he will be back. He said soon, but first he still had some business to take care of. Jingzhe told him her stomach hurts and she really needed him to get back sooner. Richard, on the other hand, did not seem to be too concerned. In anger, Jingzhe turned off her phone. She never expected that they would have an argument over such a trivial thing. Richard sounded harsh and callous in his text messages. Was he always like this? How come he acted like a different person now? It seemed that this man might not be such a great choice after all. Jingzhe took some pills she had brought, sighed in the darkness, and made a decision: if he were to come home soon, she would forgive him; otherwise, that would be it.
Richard came home at about 3 am. He sneaked into bed, got undressed, and went to sleep. Jingzhe was fully awake and she smelled some alcohol on him. The two of them just slept back to back until morning.
The alarm on Richard’s phone sounded off at 8 o’clock in the morning. But Richard made no response at first. Jingzhe had to pat his back to wake him up. Then
Jingzhe told him she planned to go meet the editor of the journal in the morning and return to Boston in the afternoon. With an indifferent expression, Richard said that he could help her purchase a ticket online. Then he asked her for her credit card. What a tightfisted jerk! Jingzhe thought, and booked a bus ticket for one o’clock in the afternoon herself.
Before Jingzhe left for the editor, Richard received another text message from the movie script supervisor. Jingzhe teased him a bit about his supposedly “friend” and he ignored it. Saying that he wanted to have some tea, he left the house.
Jingzhe took a taxi to the journal’s publisher, where she met the editor. He gave her some opinions on how to revise the paper and asked her to send back the revised version when she gets it done. Jingzhe could feel that this editor had high opinions about her paper and he just wanted to make sure the experimental data were solid. So for Jingzhe, the trip could be considered mission accomplished.
When Jingzhe returned to Richard’s apartment, she found him not home yet. Jingzhe made herself some hot noodles and then cleaned Richard’s bedroom, placed a pot of flower she just bought in front of the window and hung up a painting on the wall. The room started to bear a remote resemblance to a home now. Jingzhe was going to leave a note for Richard and then take a taxi to the bus station. But Richard came home shortly after she had packed her stuff and was about to leave. His eyes lit up when he saw his room and he came over immediately to give Jingzhe a hug. “Thank you for doing all this for me.” He said.
Jingzhe returned the courtesy, “Thank you for showing me around Jamestown and for buying me so many drinks.”
“Do you want me to visit you in Boston?” Richard asked gently.
“Sure.” Jingzhe answered out of politeness.
But Richard seemed serious about it, “I’ll visit you in Boston next month. Perhaps for a few days. But I will surely want to see you.”
Jingzhe’s heart got warmed up again. Perhaps he was a good guy after all, and they just needed some time? She thought to herself. But just at the time, Richard added, “Right now I still have some business to take care of. Why don’t you take a taxi to the bus station?”
Jingzhe’s heart went cold and wondered how he could change so quickly. He was the only person she knew in this city. Are all British men this standoffish?
Jingzhe insisted, “Sorry. I don’t know my way around here. You’d better drive me to the station.”
“The station is easy to find.”
“No, I can’t find it.”
“Okay then.” Richard threw up his hands and gave in.
There was a long line of people waiting for the bus. Richard told Jingzhe that since there was no parking space, he’d just drop her off there. He handed Jingzhe her luggage and gave her a kiss. “I’ll visit you next month.” He waved Jingzhe goodbye.
Jingzhe watched him drove away. Soon, Jamestown also faded out of Jingzhe’s sight.
When Jingzhe got back to her own room, she nevertheless decided to send Richard another text to thank him for his hospitality. And Richard texted her right back. His quick response lifted Jingzhe’s spirit. So she called him back and said,“I promised myself not to contact you again. But I need to check with you on one thing.”
“Oh? What’s that?”
“Have you ever liked me?”
“Of course I do.”
“I care about you because you are the first man I had sex with. But you seemed distant and cold. Perhaps that’s your way in your country, is it?”
Richard went silent for a while on the other end of the phone, then said,“Since you said that I was the first man you had sex with… I don’t understand how could you come to my bed so quickly?”
His doubts made Jingzhe really annoyed. She didn’t know what to say at this point.
“I want to know when was your last time with a man before me?”
“I’ll repeat myself – You are my first man, ever.”Jingzhe burst out in anger.
“But the blood stains on my bed sheet were from your period, right? If you were a virgin, how could you, an Asian woman, come to my bed so easily? I think you’re too old to be a virgin anyway. No, I’m sorry, I really like you, but I find this hard to believe. ”
That’s enough! Jingzhe really had it and hung up the phone. This time she erased Richard out of her life for good.