YUAN Chiung-chiung 袁瓊瓊
AFFAIR: WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW
Translated by Patrick CARR 柯英華
| His erection slowly grew in front of her.
The two of them looked on as that bulging thing poked up
from between his spread legs like a little fist beneath his trousers.
It showed no signs of subsiding any time soon.
His eyes glistened. He was drunk and having trouble
focusing. He fixed his gaze on her and grabbed her hand, as if
he wanted to force her to touch him, but immediately let go
again, gave her a cheeky grin and said: “You’ve got me really
horny.” He grabbed her hand and squeezed so tightly she almost
swore. In an obvious attempt at a beguiling voice he whispered
“Come with me, I’ll take you somewhere special.”
Mei Heng smiled: “What, a hotel?”
He didn’t catch what she said: “What?”
“A love hotel? A motel?”
He slowly broke into a stupefied smile, looking not so selfassured all of a sudden.
It was at this moment that Long Shu appeared from behind
the privacy wall that hides the entrance to the toilets.
Mei Heng snatched her hand away from the man’s clutches
and straightened herself up against the bar.
The man hadn’t a clue what had happened and still wore
the same stupefied grin. Without looking at him Mei Heng said:
“My husband just walked in.” The man looked the other way as
he understood the gravity of what she had told him. He picked
up the glass in front of him and took a sip.
The pair of them sat side by side woodenly. After a while,
the man stole a casual glance in Long Shu’s direction.
Long Shu hadn’t come over. He’d been stopped by an old
acquaintance at the other end of the bar and was standing with
an arm on the man’s shoulder listening with a faint smile of disinterest.
Long Shu was very handsome. Tall, with a shaved head, he
was a sculptor and thus had huge rounded shoulders and arms
like tree trunks. He always wore sleeveless vests to show off his
toned physique. Tonight he wore a faded black vest and a pair
of stone washed jeans. He looked good. He wasn’t actually
showing off. He had long since got used to his own appearance,
which had somehow fed Mei Heng’s vanity. The fact that such
an outstanding man belonged to her she took as evidence that
she had hidden virtues beyond the superficial. When it came
down to it. In comparison, Mei Heng was nowhere near as good looking as Long Shu.
Without looking at her the man said casually: “Give me
your phone number.”
Mei Heng smiled and said to herself, without looking at
him: “No way.” She picked up her glass and took a sip.
The man turned towards her and looked brazenly into her
eyes. Half smiling he said: “You can’t just ignore me now.
You’re the one who started all this!”
This caused Mei Heng to look in his direction again. That
little fist was still poking up in his trousers.
She looked up and caught the man’s gaze. He still had a
smile on his face, staring daggers dead straight at her. But he
really was drunk and his eyes had glazed over slightly, tending
towards the vacant, as if he was looking at something from his
Mei Heng felt as though she didn’t exist. Even though this
man had been flirting with her all this time she didn’t really
exist. Or maybe she was simply an object. An object to satisfy
this man’s desires. But at the same time, at that moment, he was
also echoing the existence of a certain desire within her.
Even though his desires were so completely different from
Long Shu came over and sat at the stool next to Mei Heng.
Mei Heng quizzed him about the person he’d been chatting
with: “Who was that?”
Long Shu chuckled: “I can’t remember! He says he knows
me; must be someone I met in the bar.” He looked back over at
the man he’d just been talking to and suddenly yelled in his
direction “This is my wife!” He put his arms around Mei Heng and reminded her: “Hey, he’s toasting you.”
Mei Heng fixed a smile and tipped her glass in the direction
of the distant man standing at the other side of the bar.
At moments like these when she and Long Shu were being
observed as a couple Mei Heng felt that the two of them were
being surrounded by a gigantic picture frame, as if the two of
them had been picked out on stage by a spotlight. Around them
was nothing but pitch black. Everyone else had vanished.
There was no one but the two of them and the circle of light.
It was just her and Long Shu. Her not worth a second
glance, and Long Shu attracting every pair of eyes in the house.
Put together, they complemented each other. Her a foil for his
good looks, him a foil for her plainness. Together the two of
them depicted the existence of opposites.
Right after this, from the darkness outside their spotlight
she would begin to hear a commotion. The first whispers, murmurings,
stifled laughs and gossip. How odd they looked
together, their verdict on Long Shu, their verdict of her. She
began to hear the exclamations of pity, the sighs and the regret
at seeing the two of them together.
Of course, there wasn’t really any such talk and in the real
world no one would ever say these things to her face, but Mei
Heng couldn’t find a way to stop herself imagining it. This
inevitable commentary and gossip she always believed she had
heard, touched, absorbed even, like the tiniest particles of dust
floating in the air, that one only had to take a breath to assimilate.
She knew, she just had no way to prove it.
They had been married for nearly six years, and throughout
she had always been gripped by this feeling. She had never figured out why Long Shu had married her. He was such a catch.
She didn’t even know why she had married him. She probably
simply couldn’t think of a reason not to marry him. He was
such a catch.
After so many years she was still continuously searching
for the reasons they were together. That was all.
That man who had been next to her had vanished.
Mei Heng suddenly felt intensely agitated. She searched
all four corners of the bar until she finally caught sight of him
making a phone call. After a while he came back over,...
From In-ke wen-hsueh sheng-huo-chih 《印刻文學生活誌》(INK Literary
Monthly), No. 64, December 2008: 148-151.