(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 painting below is Ms. Wenxi Zhou of North American Artist Association, NAAA.)
A Woman with Approaching Expiration Date — Chapter 10
Lying in the dark, Jingzhe tried to figure out what had just happened and found it hard to believe. Did she just have sex with a man she barely knew? Had her maidenhood of 32 years just got ended so unceremoniously? She didn’t know whether to celebrate or to feel sad. Also, what kind of changes will this bring? Will she live with this man from now on? She just gave her body to him.
After spending a long time mulling over what had just happened, Jingzhe got up to go to the bathroom. She saw blood stains around her private part and took a shower. Afterwards she returned to bed and lied down quietly next to Richard and fell asleep.
The next morning, a stomach pain woke Jingzhe up in the early dawn. When she opened her eyes, she was scared to find herself in a strange place. “Where am I?” She looked around. The person lying next to her was a virtual stranger! Jingzhe jumped up immediately, stared at him closely, and tried to remember what had happened last night.
At this time, Richard woke up too, and opened his eyes. He didn’t seem to be surprised by Jingzhe’s presence, and greeted her as if they had lived together for a long time. Overwhelmed by emotion suddenly, Jingzhe inched up to him and buried her head in his arm. And when Richard pulled her head up, he found tears all over her face. “What’s wrong?” he asked hurriedly. But Jingzhe gave no reply.
Later on, Richard got up to go to the bathroom. He found blood stains on the bed sheet beneath him, even some on his butt, which made him quite puzzled. However, when Jingzhe went to the bathroom, she found out that she was having her period. She ran out to get a sanitary napkin from her bag and rushed back to the bathroom again. After everything was taken care of, she returned to bed.
Fighting her menstrual pain, Jingzhe asked Richard for hot water and some brown sugar, but Richard replied that Americans don’t drink hot water and American women usually take some pain killers for their menstrual problem. Jingzhe was annoyed by his response and told him Chinese women need their hot water with brown sugar for this. Eventually, Richard went to the kitchen and got her a cup of hot water.
Just then, Richard’s phone started to ring but he didn’t pick up. After a while, a text message came in.
“Who is it? Who called you this early?”
“Just a friend.”
“Ex before ex. Now we are just friends. She lives far from here and she has a boyfriend. So beautiful Maureen, do you want to go to the café with me?” Richard changed the subject.
It took Jingzhe a while to realize Maureen was her alias on the dating site. So she laughed and told Richard to call her by her real name Jingzhe. Richard said OK, and proposed again that he would like to take Jingzhe to a café for breakfast and then some bar to meet some of his British friends who are soccer fans.
Feeling better by this time, Jingzhe got up and got dressed. However, when passing by the kitchen, Jingzhe noticed a group of photos of Richard with a woman on the fridge. They seemed very intimate. Jingzhe thought maybe that was his ex-wife. But Richard told her it was just the ex who lives in L.A. and is a movie script supervisor.
Why didn’t Richard get the photos off, knowing that she was coming? Jingzhe wondered, feeling uncomfortable. Perhaps he didn’t respect her enough.
Richard did not make further comment about the photos. That day, however, he did keep part of his promise and showed Jingzhe around Jamestown. They went to the university where Richard got his master’s degree, visited the library and the museum in the city, read, chatted, and had tea together. He also told her some history about Jamestown. Everywhere they went, they walked hand in hand. Although it was winter, Jingzhe felt a sense of closeness to Richard, which warmed her heart and made her happy.
They spent the whole day sightseeing and bar hopping. By 10 pm they were in yet another bar and Richard still didn’t want to go home. Jingzhe was really tired at this point and told Richard that her stomach hurts, and she needed to go home and take some rest. Richard said fine, and drove Jingzhe back to his apartment. “Get some sleep then,” he told Jingzhe nonchalantly.
“What about you?” Jingzhe asked.
“I’m not used to going to bed this early. And I have some business to discuss with my friends.”
“You won’t be home too late, will you?”
“No, I won’t.”
Richard gave Jingzhe a quick kiss and was gone. Jingzhe felt sad for being neglected. Was he doing this on purpose or unintentionally? Judging by his attitude, Jingzhe thought he didn’t mean to hurt her. But if he was like this all the time, how am going to deal with it? Jingzhe thought to herself, a little disturbed.