Chinese are famous for knowing how to count the money hidden under their mattresses. It is a cheap mentality which teaches our children and ourselves that we are the only ones who should benefit from business and everyone else should work for free, a mentality passed down from kingdoms of sovereignty in which people worked not for their own benefit but for the benefit of kings and their imperial families. The difference between then and now is that each one has set himself up as a king, keeping everything for himself and expecting everyone else to serve him as well.
Living outside China, Ou Yang got to know about other nations: Greeks too are cheap. They are so cheap that they almost corrupted and collapsed their own country because people refused to pay taxes on the little work they are willing to do. Must it be the fault of joining the Euro Zone?! No matter where they go, Jews bind their community tightly together through marriage and business; Arabs like to bargain just as much as Chinese do; Germans are hardworking, serious and highly organized, but dry and stern as tree barks; Japanese respect rules to such an extent that they themselves become the definition of rules; Italians can talk with their hands around their heads for most of a day caring too much about what they love and little about what really makes sense; Swiss are famous for their non judgmental banks and ambiguous attitude towards world affaires with high mountains protecting them, and Canadians impresses the world nicely with American way of life, yet a better social and medical systems…
It is difficult and dangerous to generalize, yet for Ou Yang, or for any one who judges, the judgement is rather an expression of who they are than who the judged ones are. When we go about any business, our judgment is needed. The ways we generalize or judge lead to different directions. In the end, deep down, we are all some“-ISTS” – either nationalists, internationalists, racists, socialists, capitalists, and humorists etc. The day we remove all our “-ISTS,” we become impossibly perfect or impeccably ignorant.
As young people, we know nothing about counting, nothing about the value or worth of anything. Love is sweet, free, and exciting. Life is simple and happiness is as easy as an idea, a song, or a tune stuck in our mind. Life is measured less, we are fearless because life is timeless, and we can truly smile, laugh and live.
By the time we reach our 40’s, we find that we have lost our ability to keep things simple. We have measures, requirements and criteria.
For Ou Yang, who once married beneath her, and Elizabeth, whose marriage went off track, meeting their goals was not as easy as they thought it would be. What should they do next? Should they continue searching for the “right one,” letting time pass and getting old along the way? Or should they simply settle for less?
Elizabeth could no longer go on with her neighbour boyfriend. Though they were both Christians, their personalities were like two different stars far apart from each other in the immense expanse of the sky.They were the classic example of a couple who wanted so badly to be together, to love one another, despite the fact that they just couldn’t get along. He so desperately needed to be right, and both wanted to persuade the other to see the light of his or her own thoughts. They were vividly, passionately impossible together, like day and night trying to appear at the same.
It was hard for Elizabeth to let go. Maybe it was because she believed genuinely that her kindness and good intention would eventually change this man she was dating, for she believed that they were both the children of God. Pairing up with men for existence has been the Christian or traditional design for women . Both of them fought very hard for this cause and it was worth fighting for. The harder they fought, the more emotionally entangled they became but the more distant they grew within each their own mind.
Letting go was a symbol of failure. Unconsciously, Elizabeth had been doing her best to avoid another failure. She started counting; she could not allow another disappointment. Her heart was like a horse dashing to the edge of a cliff. Saving this relationship meant saving herself from falling over the cliff into the valley, even though the relationship was mismatched. Both worked hard on it, hoping that the more effort they put in, the more righteous the relationship would become. We wish simple logic would work sometimes, if only for the sake of sincerity.
Elizabeth tried Internet dating again, but it was still too much out of her way and technically inconvenient for her. We could almost say that she was ingenuous because of her simple marriage that lasted more than 20 years and also because of her pure decent state of mind as an enlightened Christian. She needed references to avoid encounters with people who had strange minds and behaviours, or she simply had no time for the consuming task of searching and meeting people.
After Sunday’s discovery, Ge Wen went silent. Simone was Ou Yang’s friend, not his, so she didn’t expect to hear anything more from him directly…Concerned, Simone nearly sent an e-mail or called Ge Wen to check that he was all right, but being as wise as an older woman, she held her trembling heart for the sake of propriety, to not help shake up more dust in everyone’s life.
We did not now how long a person in critical moment could hold on to himself. A couple of weeks after the Event, Simone heard from Ge Wen. It was a long distant call from Ge Wen in Vancouver.
It was not strange that Ge Wen had no friends in Vancouver. He was new in town. But he didn’t have friends in Montreal neither, especially no friends with whom he felt comfortable enough to divulge his secret shame or to engage in small talk about life. Simone was obviously the only one who would not make his discussion sound abrupt or feel out of orbit, because Ge Wen knew Simone’s involvement in their lives. Simone might have been the closest friend to Ou Yang, but at this moment, she became definitely the closest one to Ge Wen.
Simone was driving when Ge Wen called. Highway 720 was busy at 3:30pm going from Downtown to South Shore through Champlain Bridge. Simone was agitated by the noise of passing cars and trucks jumping over pot holes on the cheaply built and poorly maintained surface. She had to turn up the volume to hear Ge Wen’s distant, faint voice.
“I don’t know how to continue my life any more. She has been everything to me…and my son… She said I am not …I am useless and I have to give half of my sala… I counted on her…She has been the only one I ever counted on…now I am useless to her…I am nothing…”
Simone became even more disturbed by these negative words. Although rarely troubled, Simone frowned and sighed helplessly, not knowing what to say. She wished something would happen so that the subject could be changed, but she knew that she was called only for this matter, nothing else. For a moment, Simone forgot where she was going, the sad look of Ge Wen floating in front of her eyes. She got lost and found herself on a ramp leading to some direction she didn’t meant to go in…
Ge Wen’s voice was muffled by the noise on the busy noisy bumpy road, as was his last pride and hope for his reuniting in Vancouver. Even his pathetic small self-esteem sank into a big pot hole in the road, crushed completely to pieces and dragged along with blood on the flat tire…
To Be Continued…