A short fiction dedicated to the late Apple founder Steve Jobs, and all creative minds.
Apple products, specifically the iPhone, have become an important personal icon in China, not only to show that one has found financial success, but also that they are connected with our times and the world technological trend. Consumers have gone to extreme lengths to follow the trend, such as this 17-year-old boy who sold one of his kidneys for an iPhone and iPad!
Apples have been the subject of art for artists all over the world, from back in time up to today. We eat them, we smell them, we appreciate their lovely perfect form and we are conscious of their value. We hope that the shape stays un-withered, like a golden apple that has this magic power to express whatever thoughts are in our mind and emotions in our heart. Apples would have never gained this function or their fame and loveliness, exquisiteness and likeability if it had not been for Steve Jobs and his team of creative minds.
I have visited China almost every year since 2001, mostly because my parents, my brother, and niece are still there. Also living there are my ex-families, my ex’s and my brother’s ex’s families who have been very nice to us and who have been looking after my parents while my brother and I roam around the country and the world.
In November of last year I went back to Kunming to be with my father after an operation (my father recovered quite well in spite of his age!). My brother’s birthday was approaching, and my father and I were talking about a birthday gift for him. Without conspiracy, both of us came up with the idea of buying him an iPhone 4S.
That was at the end of January, in the Spring City in southwestern China. On a beautiful clear Monday, the only right time to bring my not-completely-recovered father out shopping, we found two Apple stores in Kunming! I could not believe it, there are only two in Montréal, two in Beijing, and two in Shanghai. How can there be two Apple stores in a medium-sized provincial city? My brother’s explanation was that Kunming is quite advanced in pursuing new trends. Still with doubt in mind, I suggested that we go to an authorized seller of Apple products rather than to any of these Apple stores, but out of curiosity we all went to have a look in the Apple store.
It looked really like THE Apple store. The huge glass window had The Apple Store written in English, with its Chinese counterparts below: 苹果专卖店. The store was also very clean and simple, as the Apple image itself suggests to our eyes – a singular silver apple with a bite taken out of it’s right side. They applied the simplicity rule of apple so well that they seemed have almost gone overboard. The counters were spotlessly clean and shiny, with blinding lights inside. There were only sales boys who did not quite come out from the muddy countryside roads. They were extremely polite and diligent, following us wherever we went! Surprisingly, the boy who rendered us his enthusiastic service really knew a lot about Apple products. With a geek-like musician brother at my side, the boy chatted away. We certainly do not lack topics on Apple to chat about in China
Google suffered in China, but Apple won. It won its customers with an easy interface for everyone, by protecting the privacy of its users, and its non-ads policy, not to mention the slick, chic, zen image of all its products, including its company logo – The Apple. The Chinese market might not yet have realized the more profound cultural side of it, such as privacy, but more and more Chinese are coming up with a sense of subtlety and cultural software among those busy, loud commercial advertisements and public images. Apple is wining its fortune in China with ideas conceived in Silicon Valley, California, using spare parts and cheap, well-trained labour from China itself.
Following the suggestion of an expert in Apple products, an internet geek friend who has been using Mac since 1985, we stayed with an authorized seller for the birthday gift. We went to a store that was 50 meters away from the No.1 People Hospital.
“Dad, if you don’t feel comfortable, we can send you to the hospital!” I was joking with my dad, but I got no response; he already had an iPhone 4S in hand. With his reading glasses on, he called out to my brother to come over.
Both my father and brother are not very talkative people, though both are very talented in arts, such as painting and music. They are not good with words, but I can feel their feelings. Except their artistic talents, they generally have little in common, and seldom talk to each other, but this was one of those scarce moments when they are truly together! They took their time looking into the crystal shield; a gadget not too big, nor too small, and it had no buttons like other phones. They were quiet, listening to the salesman who was dressed in a bright yellow sweater. They smiled at each other as they were enjoying the exclusive design, as if they had always been great friends in spite of their hate and love relationship all their lives.
“What colour do you like?” my father asked my brother.
“White is nice, but black is attractive, and not easy to be stolen.” That is a good point when owning something nice in China, or anywhere else in the world, for that matter.
Unfortunately, the store was out of black iPhones, and my brother decided to wait for a special order. We would have to come back again.
As we were walking to my brother’s car, which was parked behind the hospital, we heard the deafening cry of an ambulance. An urgent case of life and death, the young or old struggling to breathe and survive, a heart strives to stay pumping…We quickly dodged aside, giving way to the ambulance, hoping for the heart to keep pumping along…
We soon forgot all about the ambulance. We sat into the car and crawled home like a snail. So many cars on the narrow roads of this city! In 1979 less than a million people lived in Kunming, and now there are six million all around us. Our buildings have expanded all the way to the stinky shores of lake Dianchi and to the feet of the mountains.
My brother’s ex-wife came to check on my father’s situation after dinner that evening. She was the one who sent my father for a check up when The Big C was found in his left lung. She arranged the best possible doctor for my dad and she nobly went through my parents’ fear and frustration, giving them the most care they would ever need.
She had barely come through the door, when she burst into talking:
“Do you know that we treated a very special 17 year old boy this afternoon?”
We did not know what she was referring to, but we felt that it might be the screaming ambulance which almost ran us over at the entrance of the hospital at about 11am.
“You are not going to believe it! You just can not believe it!”
Well, tell us the story quickly, enough of your CANNOTS!
“A 17 year old boy sold one of his kidneys to someone for an iPad and iPhone!” She was tossing her head like a Bolang gu drum. Of course, no one could ever believe what she just said!
The boy had not been home for three days when he was discovered with a high fever of 42 degrees in his classroom, and he passed out when his mother rushed in. He had been operated on somewhere else, in a non-professional facility, in exchange for a slick symbol of his life! Now his life was at the mercy of heaven.
Life is dumb and numb without colours and sound! Life is dark and death-like without shapes, shades, and music! If science says that the use of tools is the divergence point between humans and animals, then I say that Language is the blade that cuts between mundane space and the exquisite world! One sad and troublesome thing for us humans is that we grow complicated, sophisticated, and sometimes, perhaps most of the times, we are filled with inexplicable emotions and tangled thoughts. These emotions and thoughts get stuck in our minds and they need to find ways to get out, to talk, to show to others the life that is burning within.
The 17 year old boy’s life had just started, and yet he made a choice to risk his precious gift from heaven. When we hear the voice of the Hungarian poet Petöfi Sántor say:
Life is precious
Love is with costly price
Yet for the cause of freedom
both, I will leave behind.*
We become silent, for this boy and for many other wonderful, yet seemingly stupid actions!
Yes, life is precious and the blood is hot and red! We live because we are born who we are, yet we live over and over again, for the love of life, for the meaning of life, for our individual interpretations of life! This unknown boy has made his interpretation of the meaning of life by trading part of his body for the connection. He has found a striking way to show his existence and value. He lived and consented that it was his will to do it and he was happy to have done so!
Apple, apple, this silver, lovely, likeable, nutritious fruit among fruits, is no longer just an apple. It has become an international language with golden words, an universal language with no boundaries nor borders. In China, with the blood of a young life, this silver apple is becoming red. A winning icon for the supremacy of life!
Thanks to the inspiration of Valentino’s article about Apple and Alberto Forchielli’s Team for the red apple image.
The Big C : Amrican HBO TV series that tell a story about the life of a 40 years old woman teacher after she got cancer. C symbolizes cancer.