Now Bai recalled how they’d met. She was wearing a white dress and a purple hat. He was visiting relatives in Shanghai that year. No, he was working for them. It was summer. The streets were noisy and hot. Cicadas crying all day. Full of traffic. Busy boys on bicycles delivering food all day. They’d knock you down if you weren’t careful. They would. Crossing the street was dangerous. That’s how they met. She saved him from getting knocked over.
‘I’m not used to these busy streets.’
‘Are you from the country?’
‘Yes. I’m staying with my Uncle.’
On their first date they walked along the Bund. He had bought her a purple rose. No. He had stolen a purple rose from a local park. She carried it in her hand till a thorn pricked her finger. He bandaged it with his handkerchief. By then the tension was too strong. She kissed him back as the river boats floated by.
She was sixteen, just a girl really. Sweet and soft. He recalled a lace dress. White. And a purple hat. And her smile.
They moved south after the wedding. It was even hotter there but there was plenty of work. And a child? A girl?
The memory fades. Back to bewilderment. He is old again. Lost again.
Everything is obsession. Passing passions. Trying to recall is his only hobby, his only real interest. He gets angry sometimes.
She comes again. The girl. Who is she?
‘Want to play cards?
He looks away, out the window.
C’mon, it’ll be fun. Help pass the time.’
‘No it won’t.’
She deals the deck anyway.
He is in a prison. Everything is danger. Threat. His eyes study the room. It’s new again.
‘Are we having a lazy day? You’re still in pyjamas!’
‘I want to go home!’ he shouts.
‘But you are home.’
‘I’m too hot.’
‘It’s a hot summer. I’ll open the door. Some air will do your heart good.
She stands in the doorway. He sees her for the first time again. She looks about sixteen, just a girl really. Sweet and soft. He notices her white dress. And her smile. That same smile.
‘Are you my wife?’