RUAN Ching-Yue 阮慶岳
Translated by David and Ellen DETERDING 戴德巍與陳艷玲
| The day after we arrived at the hotel, I realized that that
man was stalking us. This was a bit shocking, but also not such
a big surprise.
When I had telephoned that day and told him I would soon
be going on a long trip with my new partner, the other end of the
line suddenly fell silent. Actually, this stunned me for a
moment, and I immediately recalled previous calls where he had
wept, and, with a threatening tone suggested in his voice, repeatedly
mumbled, “I won’t go and kill myself. I’m not that sort of
person,” before continuing, after a pause, “You really don’t need
Over the distance, the impression that gradually emerged
from his end of the line seemed to alternate, at times clear but
then becoming fuzzier. It was difficult to be certain, just like it had been hard to define our long and tangled relationship over
the years. Once, while both naked, we snuggled up together
under the duvet and watched a French movie, and the initial picture
was just a blurred image of white flesh squirming about.
He asked me what it was, and I said I wasn’t sure, as I couldn’t
make it out. Then the image slowly resolved into the scene of a
Japanese man and a French woman entwined in love, writhing
about and constantly slithering together like subterranean animals
coiled in a tight embrace.
The couple on the tatami mats seemed to combine passion
with indifference, just as the image was both sharply defined as
well as blurred. And as we watched the scene on the flickering
screen together, a similar feeling of alienation rose up between
And now, though I had no physical proof of his presence, I
was just the same convinced that he was inside the five-storey
After we entered the hotel room and put down our bags,
my partner went over to the window and gazed out, observing,
“It’s rather a small room and it doesn’t have much of a view.”
Feeling slightly embarrassed, I replied, “This is Tokyo,
where everything is so expensive it’s bound to be a bit cramped.
That’s just the way it is.”
My partner then closed the curtains and turned round, smiling
at me. I knew this arose from physical desire, a yearning
that had been simmering ever since we had left Taipei, so we
immediately switched off the light. With only the bedside light
on, and with me just wearing my silk shirt, we were ready for
some spontaneous body language.
But just as we started getting into the swing of things,
moaning and groaning in passion, suddenly there came the sound of footsteps in the corridor outside: click click click going
past, then click click click returning, back and forth several
times. Obviously that man had followed us from Taipei, and
once this idea had wheedled its way into my mind, the passion
that had just started between my partner and me was extinguished.
“What’s up?” he asked, looking at me.
“It’s nothing. Maybe I’m just tired from the long flight.”
“Really? In that case let’s have a rest first. Then we’ll go
and get something to eat in a while.”
He proceeded to go straight to sleep, while I quietly
switched on the television and started absentmindedly flicking
through the channels. The idea of that man currently being in
the building was churning about in my mind. I was not concerned
what he might do to me or my partner, as I knew he was
not the kind of person to interfere or to try to harm others.
Clearly that was not his plan, and it was not what he wanted
either, so his rationale for following us did not arise out of envy
or the desire for revenge. Maybe it was just his way of dealing
with his feelings of sadness, or perhaps a lack of feelings. Or
maybe he was driven by some unclear motivations. Whatever it
was, it had nothing to do with the emotions between us. That’s
why I could not really be sure what he would attempt or what he
might actually do, as for some time now things between us had
had nothing to do with our feelings for each other. This was so
alien to me, I couldn’t even comment on it.
“What’s that?” My partner suddenly awoke from his sleep
and pointed at the image that had appeared on the screen. In
black and white, out of the mist, a huge nuclear cloud was slowly
mushrooming, the massive grey shape silently swelling like a
flower sprouting in the early spring.
“What’s that?” my partner asked again.
“It’s the atomic bomb the American troops dropped on
Japan. It’s shown in all the history textbooks.”
“Really? How come I’ve never seen it?”
“Well, you must have forgotten about it.”
Abstractedly, we continued to watch the television documentary.
“Is that Tokyo? How could it have been bombed like that,
becoming so completely unrecognizable?”
“It isn’t Tokyo, it’s Hiroshima. The Americans didn’t drop
the bomb on Tokyo. The place they bombed was Hiroshima.”
“It’s probably over there.” I casually pointed in the general
direction of the window, showing that in fact I really wasn’t too
My partner was not too concerned about the details, so he
didn’t try and find out more. He always held that kind of
strange, easy-going attitude towards me, as he was never too
keen to find out about my past or indeed about my present mistakes.
“Have you had enough rest? How about one more time,
then we’ll go out for something to eat?”
His warm body touched mine, which for some reason was
exuding a cold chill. Suddenly, he exclaimed, “Gosh! how
come your body is so cold? Quick, come inside the duvet.”
Then we embraced in the darkness of that enclosed space,
jostling together in a burgeoning passion, rather like the grey
mushroom shape on the screen, repeatedly swelling and then
contracting like a blossoming flower.
The reason why I had originally decided to leave the other
man is not so clear. But when I think it over now, it might be
connected with him telling me a story from his youth.
“My father was a weak man and a gambler,” he said.
“Ever since I started to remember things, I always hated him. In
fact, I wasn’t bothered too much about his gambling,....
From Lien-ho wen-hsueh 《聯合文學》 (UNITAS—A Literary Monthly), No.
292, February 2009: 160-167.