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Published: April 30th 2009
Yesterday, i gave him a gift. he sat by me, turned the old clay bowl around in his hands and explained the blue characters written around winter telling a list but also expressing a feeling - early sunrise, go, look, willow, evening, down, cloudy, ask, smoke, rest, nothing, money, go, red sunrise.
and the air was calm and i felt close to him but only looked and didn't touch.
i didn't want to touch, just wired in and pleased to know that I could still feel this way again was enough.
now, he isn’t here. I sit outside enjoying the breeze and the sunshine thinking about the house that I have just found down the lane - a beautiful space, untouched for years, falling into itself. I cannot understand what it was, what it has been, just know it was something great at one time.
As I settle into my writing, I feel him arrive and on turning see him smiling at me and I instinctively return the smile.
"Would you please translate these three characters that the man in the house has written for me?"
but he cannot so
the hen run
almost like the Hen Run in the Mackintosh in Glasgow, but not quite
I tell him about the house. he wants to see it so we leave without warning to see the house down the lane. It feels a little unusual to walk out with him, as we are usually within the norms of his tea house.
At the house, he asks the man I had spoken to earlier if we can look around. We explore side by side, excited at the prospect of found and lost, new and old, discovering the past, mapping a possible future, untying knots, opening doors. We go where we shouldn’t, seeing everything - every tiny detail. The slatted doors with the light beams cascading in, the high room with ancient windows on all sides, the beams carved with flowers and dragons, the dead names above the doors and the tiny garden open to the sky, railed in roses all perfectly placed in the centre of the quadrangle ancient house with curving rooves and a story to tell. lost. forgotten.
At some time between the owner of the house killing his wife, his 7 children and then himself many many years ago and the man currently living in the two small lodge rooms at the front
of the building, the house has at some time temporarily been a school and a dorm. The past lies strewn across the floor and the walls. Everywhere holds a story. he faintly warns me about the corrugated iron flapping in the wind I want to touch him because this unexpected discovery has brought us somehow closer but I will not touch because he is married.
I want the building, he wants the building but he will not buy because the purchase and the restoration would be too expensive and secondly, the story of the murders haunts him. I do not believe in the old superstitions of the house being haunted but I am obviously becoming more Chinese because I do not brush his concerns away as total rubbish and I respect his feelings about the story. And, as I am wearing the little red jade bead that I bought on Monday in Luzhi because I liked the story that I was told about the openings in the bead giving me a positive future in any direction I will choose - then, who am I to question superstition?
Right now, I realise that I would go into business with
him - a decision made quicker than buying a pair of shoes. We both have skills that when combined would make a great team for managing and owning a hostel in this ancient area. We also both have a love for ancient things, the history, that lost quality in life and now, as we discover something in this quiet house it is apparent to me that we could work together. I realise this but don’t voice it as he does not really know me, he wouldn't understand and i would scare him. I will not say the address, if you come to Suzhou, you’ll have to find it for yourself.
I walk to work with a huge smile and when walking past Song Song’s shop, I lean over the counter to find that she has proudly had her one puppy. It is 3 days old, all squeezy and shut eyed, mute and useless but sooooo gorgeous. I’m so proud of Song Song as she shows me her baby. She can’t understand my English but she can sense my pleasure and excitement and pride. It’s as if I’ve seen a cycle happen with a dog for over 6 months. The
shop owner is also doting on the tiny little mut. As I turn to leave the shop, I bump into Cai Gen Lin and he is grinning at me and all of a sudden I belong once again to an area, a space, a place and time and it’s about all opportunities. The world has become my home. Cai Gen Lin holds my hand and I tell him I’m going to work but will see him tomorrow. Leaving, with a warm heart and my hand holding the ghost of an imprint I think the unthinkable. But it is too late, I already thought it.
I imagine that he will think of the house down the lane throughout the day, as I am doing so now.
i also know that he will look at the bowl everyday because it is a beautiful object
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