(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 will be staged at Northeastern University on Oct. 10, 2015. The photo of Autumn at Jenne Farm, VT is by Boston photographer Mr. George Moy.)
A Woman Approaching Expiration Date — Chapter 7
By Xi Zhang (left)，translated and adapted by Shuang Wu(right)
Again, Jingzhe went into a period of depression. Although she carried on with her daily activities as usual, she experienced a feeling of bitterness deep inside. Across the ocean and over the phone, her mother kept urging her to find a job and a mate, which made her quite anxious every time the phone rings. Indeed, when she thought about it, she was glad that her mother didn’t know how to do a video call. Otherwise, it would have surely driven her crazy. Where is she going to find herself a boyfriend quickly and shut her mom up? Jingzhe did not know.
The fallen leaves signaled the end of the fall season, and heralded in the long winter in Boston. It will go from November till April, which is, indeed, long enough to make people go crazy.
By December, Jingzhe started to feel restless, whereas Li Qiu continued to enjoy some success in online dating. This prompted Jingzhe to give it yet another try. This time she chose a dating site called “Eden Garden”, which even required her to pay for a fee. After some consideration, Jingzhe decided to go ahead and spent the money. As a result she felt more secure about it. She registered an account as “Maureen”, and started to feel as if the fire of hope in her heart got re-kindled.
One week later, a man named Richard caught Jingzhe’s eyes. He was an auditor for an environment engineering firm and he had dual citizenship for US and Britain. In his photo, he wore a pair of gold-rimmed glasses, and his face was slender, with a dignified but a slightly sad look. Jingzhes felt an instant attraction to this scholarly-looking man. Richard seemed to be also interested in Jingzhe’s photos and data. They then said hello to each other and Richard started to write to Jingzhe.
In his email, he mentioned that he was born in UK and had become an US citizen five years ago. He got his master’s degree from Virginia University in US and his bachelor’s degree from Cambridge University in UK. He flies a lot between the two countries, and he lives in Jamestown, VA. In his spare time, he likes to go to British bars where he can drink nice beer and watch some soccer games.
Jingzhe was not much of a well-traveled woman and she usually doesn’t go far beyond her campus. Now meeting a man with dual citizenship who constantly travels back and forth across continents, Jingzhe couldn’t help but feel excited and her eyes got all lit up by their potential joint adventure in the future.
Jingzhe asked Li Qiu to meet her in the café near her lab after work, and told her all about Richard. How interesting it is that she had met a man with dual citizenship! Jingzhe exclaimed to Li Qiu, and now she might have an opportunity to travel around the world!
“I see. Although you usually don’t talk much, you obviously long for a free life. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be so interested in someone with dual citizenship. Am I right?”Li Qiu commented.
“Indeed I have always longed to be free! I’ve always been all tied up by my studies and my worries for the future, such that I dare not even think about anything else.” Jingzhe sighed.
“What do you mean? What anything else?” Li Qiu asked suspiciously.
“Well, I would like to have an opportunity to travel around the world!”Jingzhe’s revealed a bit of her wild thoughts.“But every morning I wake up, I know that is only a dream. There is a huge gap between reality and dreams. If I rely only on myself, I won’t be able to realize my dream until I get to be in my 60s. But if I marry a well-traveled man, my dream may come true quicker. Don’t you think?”Jingzhe asked, hopefully.
“Ah, you finally learned how to make use of the resources available to you. You’re maturing fast. I’m happy for you. Since you have the thought, why not give it a try and see this man? Maybe you’d be perfect for each other.”Li Qiu encouraged Jingzhe.
The more Jingzhe thought about the prospect with Richard, the more excited she got. Wow! I could be living in United States today, then go to UK tomorrow! And then I could even go to China the day after! Jingzhe thought. How great that would be! But then again, am I using this man? Is this true love? Jingzhe continued to wonder, and then got somewhat confused.
Since Richard had given Jingzhe his cell phone number and his home address, Jingzhe contacted him via text message at the first chance.
“Hi, Richard, I’m Maureen from Boston.”
“Hi, Maureen. I’m glad to hear from you. How are you today?”
“I’m good. Thank you. What are you doing?”
“I’m watching a soccer game. This is my typical game time on Saturday.”
“Oh, I don’t watch soccer. I can’t figure out who’s who on the playground, or what they are doing.”
“It takes time to catch on to the games. My British friends here and I know what’s going on with every team and it also took us a lot of time to figure it out.”
They continued to chat for a while, about their respective work, their families, and the weather. Then Jingzhe said she did not want to keep him from watching his game, and let him go. So that concluded their first conversation via text messages, which was mostly about soccer, with a bit about how he loved UK, and his British friends in US, etc., throwing in there. Though Jingzhe knew little about soccer, somehow the conversation still sounded natural and mellow to her. There is no exaggeration about anything, and no drama.
In the following days, they had a few more similar conversations, in which Richard was still keen on chatting about soccer. Was this his lifestyle or was he only living like this during this period? Jingzhe had no idea. But as far as she was concerned, she certainly could not afford to spend so much time on leisure, considering her current status in life. Perhaps this was the difference between foreigners and Americans? Or the difference between the working people and the leisurely people? Or between men and women?
On Monday, Jingzhe decided to call Richard to find out more about him. During their conversation, Richard told Jingzhe he was driving to a job site where he would be auditing the environmental safety compliance for a client in manufacturing industry. He said he was going to stay there for two weeks. Now, knowing the specifics about his job, Jingzhe found it fascinating. How great it is, to be able to work mostly outdoors, walking around surveying the field, recording, auditing, and offering conclusions! And most importantly, Richard’s job mostly involves dealing with environment, not people, and for that Jingzhe even felt a little envious.
Over the phone, Richard sounded sincere and honest, just like a middle-aged man should be. Though he spoke quite fast, Jingzhe caught his British accent, which she found kind of cute and somehow even a little reassuring. Perhaps, he was real after all.