Ming Hoa’s oration
29 August 2014
When Ming Hoa had to face the look of Chow, he felt a cold chill run through him and had to look elsewhere. She definitely knew what had happened was trying to drive him crazy. He had tried to make amends for his wrongdoing by providing a funeral in great pomp for Cuifen but to no avail. It seemed to him that Chow was like a demon determined to track down every bit of sanity within him and drive it out of him in a frenzy of vengeance. Not only was she fully aware of what had happened and wanted to make him lose his mind by giving him the place of honor in the seating but she also openly flouted it by forcing him to perform the funeral oration.
Ming Hoa was not particularly superstitious but he could not help thinking of the old legends that told how the spirit of the deceased stayed with the one who had made the oration as long as such person still had feelings for the deceased. Chow had to know the intensity of his feelings for Cuifen and therefore wanted him to suffer eternally because Cuifen would never leave him and he would be forever haunted by the pale glow of her bright face. Fever seized him again despite the gust of the wintry wind blowing into the temple. He got up, stood in front of the assembly and cleared his throat.
“Cuifen was a very kind and sweet-natured girl,” he said. “She had the beauty of those who do not need any artefacts and saying she was beautiful would be an understatement as she was a sparkling splendor.” The image of Cuifen, eyes half-closed watching him flashed in front of his eyes and he felt faint. “In the beginning,” he continued, “I did not realize how kind she was. She was a wonderful girl who never hesitated to help Ju-Long, Eu-meh’s nephew, at the stables for all of us to have healthy horses to transport the mail”. “She was beautiful,” he carried on.
Cuifen with her little velvet headband that held her hair, Cuifen with her frenetic desire to live, Cuifen whose successive layers of clothing had made him think about matriochkas, Cuifen who denied him calling him a vulture. Cuifen lying dead beside him …
He had never understood exactly how it happened. One moment he was holding her while she inflicted on him a severe pain by pulling his ponytail carefully knotted at the neck and the moment later she lay dead beside him. Since that day the world around him was colored gray and he had gone about minding his business like a lost soul, colour-blinded and sentenced to not see any other color than the brilliance of malachite Cuifen’s eyes donned when she smiled. He was sometimes also obsessed by another color when he allowed himself a thought of the poppy made of three large spots that stood against his immaculate white pants: blood red! He had asked himself when waking up with Cuifen dead at his side from what mysterious illness was he suffering for him to want to absorb the smallest particle of this blood that flowed from him, a little as if to regenerate himself in self-sufficiency. However he soon realized that the blood was not from him but from a small wound in Cuifen’s temple. A small hole made by a sharp object that was shaped like the profile of a small poppy. Like a human blotter, Ming-Hoa would have liked to absorb every drop of blood that had flowed out of Cuifen.
Damn it, he thought. Why had she refused? It was totally incomprehensible after these few weeks when he had observed how she tried to tease him. Besides he had been drinking a potion of cloves and therefore had a very good breath when he had talked to her before her death. It was probably prejudice against old leaders of his type who had lived in splendor while the others had experienced poverty in a simple home. When he was transferred after the revolution to his old neighborhood for the restructuring of the old post office, he knew he would face taunts since many people in the district had never accepted him as one of their own.
Ju-Long watched Ming-Hoa with eyes full of hatred. For him the old fool was an anomaly and an aberration of nature that he would have gladly done without. He found that his body was reminiscent of a delta where putrid flesh would have filled the role of sediments and fetid blood the role of water seeping into his old carcass. Ming-Hoa’s facial skin was indeed so wrinkled that it looked like strata of unidentified origin. He thought about the role being played by the old fool in Cuifen’s funeral and jealousy tormented his heart. He felt rising in him an irresistible urge to put his hands around the neck of the ridiculously thin Ming-Hao and tighten his hold until the latter could no longer utter a word.
Eu-meh looked fearfully at her nephew. She felt that he hated Ming-Hoa more than she could ever hate another person. She had never been able to accept the bombastic speeches of the old fool and understood that many did not like him. Something bothered her, however, in Ju-Long’s anger. It was a cold and murderous rage. She gazed for a while at his profile before looking away. The night of Cuifen’s death, he had returned with haggard eyes, circled with purple rings. Without a word he had taken one of the packs of drink that had been left on the table since the wedding of his cousin and had swallowed it in one gulp. She remembered the black fury she had read in his eyes that day when his eyes had met hers in the mirror.