Ju-Long’s anger and Eu-Meh’s disarray
31 August 2014
“She was beautiful and good, an authentic generous soul who wanted to help others and did everything to enable her mother and herself to live in dignity after the death of her father. I saw her grow and know .. “said Ming-Hoa when the crash of a chair thrown back stopped him in mid-sentence. Startled out of his dazed state, he was surprised to see Ju-Long standing before him with clenched fists, his face livid, his eyes filled with a palpable hatred.
“Enough,” cried Ju-Long. “You do not know her old fool! You could not know her. To even think such a thing is a sacrilege, a crime against nature”. With every word he inched threateningly towards Ming-Hoa whose eyes, widened in surprise with their pupils dilated with fear, were the only area of faded color like silicon crystals in his pale face. Ju-Long looked at the eyes of Ming-Hoa rolling in every direction with an urge to close his eyes forever. To close them as those of Cuifen were now closed.
Cuifen and her eyes like purple lakes in which verdant trees seemed to have cast themselves. Cuifen who looked at him with laughing eyes like a rainbow after a storm when she handed him the reins. Cuifen who lay dead a few feet away from him, a few feet away from that old fool who dared to say that he knew her. He wanted to pass a magic eraser on those words spoken by this villain whose excesses were only equaled by his nastiness.
“Ju-Long! ” cried Eu-Meh. She did not understand what had come over her nephew to dare make such a scandal and what’s more was that it was during the oration! She thought to herself that she must have really failed in his upbringing since the death of his mother for him not to recognize the values that her sister had tried to teach him: to respect elders and the resting of the dead, to never interrupt sacred ceremonies! What could she possibly have done wrong to deserve such a shame? She had always worked from day to night and night to day to be able to put food on the table and her nephew had never lacked anything. Every time she got up at dawn to resume work at the bakery after a few hours of sleep, she prayed to Buddha that he would bring a little peace to this young man who had become so sullen and angry after the death of his mother.
She had always known that Ju-Long was a vivacious young man and his perennial teenager behaviour had often made him go from one setback to another but since he had started frequenting Cuifen it seemed that a change had come over him. From the day she had introduced him to Cuifen who volunteered to work at the stable, Ju-Long seemed transformed and had come out of his shell happy to exchange gossip and laughs with Cuifen. He who usually was so secretive often came to her to reveal a few secrets, most of which revolved around Cuifen: the house where she would like to live, the dreams she had of going to the big city to live with her aunt and embracing a career as a singer, the changing color of her eyes when she laughed, the scent of her neck when her hair was in a bun and she knelt beside him to check the horses’ hooves and a thousand other details that seemed to him of the utmost importance. Eu-meh listened to him with a mixture of tenderness and amusement including when he had disclosed to her his “strategy” to ensure that Cuifen fell in love with him.
-Easy, he said. Just listen to her talk and say yes to everything she says. Just promise everything to her and she will be madly in love. Am I not handsome, younger and richer than she is? If in addition to that I agree to do whatever she wants, she will love me.
– Are you sure you understood Cuifen, darling, ‘she replied. You know, girls today are no longer satisfied with what we felt was acceptable to us seniors. They have other desires today.
– She wants to be a singer and I will help her accomplish this dream. She cannot possibly not love me if I do this, he had concluded triumphant
Eu-meh had watched him with a mixture of curiosity and pity. How little did men understand women’s heart and its complexity. Everything seemed to them so simple and so logical. She sighed with regret, thinking of her own disappointments in love. Had she not been herself a victim of such simplistic reasoning that her boyfriend had displayed a long time ago? She thought about her fiancé who had gone to war, about all those letters he had written to her and she had read with resignation, without a shadow of bitterness. Today she could admit it to herself even if it had taken her a long time to achieve this. She had been glad he was leaving for the war and that he would no longer be at her side watching her every move and dictating her conduct. In her heart of hearts, she wanted so much to be like Cuifen with no father that could force her to marry a man of his choice. She herself had had no choice and had to accept with a heavy heart to give up her studies and start learning the ways to live the life of the perfect wife. As for Cuifen, she was free to choose with only parent a mother who not only did not stop her from walking freely but more importantly seemed glad to send her alone shopping and dealing with other chores even when this was to go to the old Ming-Hoa.
She had never understood how Chow did not realize anything about Ming-Hoa’s infatuation for Cuifen. If Chow had been a sentimental woman she would have quickly realized that it was not a paternal feeling that drove Ming-Hoa but rather something completely different and more carnal. But Chow was not sentimental and could not afford the luxury of being so. Soon after her marriage to a drunkard, Lee, who beat her and had spent all her money on drinking, she had given birth to Cuifen, almost on the sly one day while she was weaving a wool rug for sale. She had scarcely uttered a sound during her labor and as soon as Cuifen was born, she had cut the cord that connected them both with a scimitar that was the only legacy she had left from her ancestors. A few months after Cuifen’s birth, her husband had died by drowning in a rice field; He had been so drunk that he had not been able to raise himself up from the few inches of water in which he lay face against the ground.
At the news of his death, Chow had expressed no sorrow but had accepted it with the same stoic resignation as that with which she had accepted the blows inflicted by Lee. She had just asked in a dull voice if we had found the axe with him and if they were willing to return it to her so that she could carry on with that work as well now that her husband was dead. Eu-Meh who had accompanied the bearers of the news had not been surprised that Chow was not sorry that her husband was dead though the remark about the axe had left her in a pensive mood. “What a strange woman” she had thought to herself and had felt a shiver run down her back at the sight of the expressionless face of Chow.
A strangled cry pulled her abruptly out of her daydreaming. Ming-Hoa, his face contorted, was struggling to break free but without much success from the grip of Ju-Long who was holding him by the throat. Ju-Long, eyes bulging, face contorted seemed overcome by a fit of madness and his hands around the neck of the frail old man seemed inordinately large and rough. He was screaming “It’s your fault old fool. It’s your fault. You’re just a dirty old man, a debris, an aberration of nature. It’s your fault that she died. ”
All of the men’s help was required to tackle Ju-Long and contain him and once on the ground, he burst into tears and continued to murmur like a mantra, “Your fault, your fault, your fault ..”
Ming-Hoa who was trying to regain his dignity took a wobbly step back before freezing in his tracks as he felt against him Cuifen’s cold tomb. He turned slowly and looked at the beautiful face of Cuifen who seemed to be asleep. She was so beautiful and peaceful in her sleep.
– Arise, he cried suddenly to Cuifen. You’re not dead, you cannot be dead. I held you full of life in my hands. Your heart was beating like a wild bird. You were full of life. You are full of life, get up, he shouted more vehemently.
He began to shake the tomb and two men had to leave the fray caused by Ju-Long to restrain him as well. Everything suddenly accelerated and they decided it was best to bury Cuifen quickly before her sight could provoke further damage. Some remembered how seeing her had made their hearts beat quicker and thought to themselves that she must have cast a spell on all men for them to lose their sanity. Some of the men slid the tomb on wheels to take it to the cemetery while the others continued to restrain Ju-Long whose sole purpose now seemed to kill Ming-Hoa. This latter seemed to have lost his mind and was moaning in a hollow voice, “Arise Cuifen. The time of your resurrection has come. “He went on in a louder voice,” Get up, you cannot die because you are mine and you will do as I command. ”
Throughout the fight, Chow had remained motionless, her ashen face covered in tears streaming silently down her cheeks. But when Ming-Hoa uttered his last sentence, she seemed to snap out of her torpor. She turned towards Ming-Hoa, her face contorted with hatred.
Read the earlier chapter – Ming Hoa’s oration