When the trip was almost at its close, it started to pour without end, raining non-stop for four consecutive days, and the sky was so overcast that not a sliver of light was able to penetrate the heavy dark clouds.
The hospital was almost done with the patient consultations and surgeries, lightening the doctors’ workload significantly.
However, this was only true in the beginning few days.
Due to the large number of surgeries, the post-operative care and follow-ups with patients still kept them constantly busy.
Tao Xiaodong was supposed to leave before this.
He still had two other places he wanted to drop by and didn’t plan to return that early.
But the bad weather grounded the planes at the airport here.
Resultantly, Tao Xiaodong could only change his plans and wait to return with the doctors.
Tang Suoyan had his hands full with visits to a few city hospitals in the vicinity during the last few days of the journey, conducting lectures and providing guidance.
Tao Xiaodong hadn’t seen much of him after that night.
Once the rain stopped and the airport was cleared for take-off, everyone immediately started preparing for the return journey.
The two of them were seated together on the flight back again.
Tang Suoyan was seated on the inside.
Tao Xiaodong was seated next to him, with another doctor on his other side as well.
As Tao Xiaodong was in the middle of the row, he didn’t rest his elbows on the armrest on either side of him.
After sitting for a while, he moved his shoulders.
And after a while more, he fidgeted again.
Tang Suoyan suddenly chuckled from the side, asking him, “Director Tao, it’s been quite some time since you last flew in economy class, right”
That was a small running joke that Tang Suoyan had with him, calling him ‘Director Tao’ on purpose.
Tao Xiaodong played along with it.
“I’d sack my secretary on the spot if she dares to book me economy class.”
The doctors on both sides of him laughed.
The one that he was less familiar with, Dr.
Chen, said, “It’s been hard on you, Director Tao.”
After joshing around, Tao Xiaodong said, “What Director Tao this and that It’s all in good fun; I don’t have an secretary, either.
Apart from those long-distance international flights that go over ten hours, I generally buy economy class.
It’s too expensive otherwise.
They’re all about the same anyway.”
“Are you really short on that little bit of cash” The young Dr.
Chen by his side appeared to be quite chatty, speaking without airs and warming up quickly to people.
“How can I not be Name me someone who isn’t short on money.” Tao Xiaodong rubbed the back of his head, smiling.
Chen, you have no idea what my reputation is like out there.
Everyone who knows me says that I’m a scoorge.”
When Tao Xiaodong was in the mood, he could make people completely at ease chatting with him, without sparking any annoyance.
He had a good grasp of the subtleties of conversation, and was constantly well-aware of what to say and what not to say.
This four-hour flight, with everyone sitting together in one place, was a rare opportunity for idle chatter.
Those who didn’t chat could only sleep.
It wasn’t long before Dr.
Chen was fast asleep with both hands resting on his legs, not taking up much space.
Only then did Tao Xiaodong perch his arm on the armrest that side.
Tang Suoyan and Tao Xiaodong engaged in quiet conversation for the remaining duration.
As their professions and lifestyles had little in common, they naturally talked about their mutual friends.
For example, Tao Huainan, Tian Yi, and the patient, Mei Duo.
And, for example, Tong Ning.
Tang Suoyan’s eyebrows raised marginally in surprise when Tao Xiaodong brought up Tong Ning.
“Didn’t expect me to know Dr.
Tong, right” Tao Xiaodong gave a lopsided smile.
“I also heard from Tian Yi that the two of you have… that kind of relationship.
Tong is a fine man.”
Tang Suoyan was indeed rather surprised.
After a pause, he said, “I’ve never heard him bring it up.”
“We haven’t known each other long; we only had a few meals together.” At the thought of Tong Ning, Tao Xiaodong smiled.
“You match each other really well.
You’re two of a kind.”
Tang Suoyan didn’t delve into it.
He wasn’t someone who was willing to discuss relationship matters with others, so he only laughed lightly and asked, “How so”
Tao Xiaodong gave it a thought, but eventually only said, “It’s hard to explain.”
In the eyes of others, these two men were exemplary, a head above everyone else.
The air stewardess was handing out water.
Both of them requested warm water.
As he was seated in the middle, Tao Xiaodong helped to pass it to him.
Tang Suoyan took it with his right hand and thanked him.
Their fingers inadvertently came into contact.
Tao Xiaodong made a soft exclamation, saying, “Your hands are so cold.”
Tang Suoyan sipped his warm water and said, “Mm.
After the air stewardess poured the water and pushed the cart away, Tao Xiaodong studied Tang Suoyan’s hands.
Tang Suoyan was pressing the cup to his right wrist.
“Are your…” Tao Xiaodong glanced at Dr.
Chen, fast asleep next to him, whispering, “Are your hands uncomfortable”
Hearing this, Tang Suoyan turned his head towards him.
Their eyes met.
Tao Xiaodong lowered his voice further, such that it could only be heard by the two of them under the white noise of the plane.
“Does it hurt”
Tang Suoyan didn’t immediately respond.
Tao Xiaodong said, “Actually, I’ve noticed that there’s something up with your hands from time to time.
If your hands hurt, I’ve got some medicine.”
They were surrounded by people from the hospital.
Tao Xiaodong was almost breathing his words, though, even he didn’t know why he had to keep his voice so low.
Seeing how secretive he was being, Tang Suoyan smiled, also lowering his voice to say, “It’s a chronic problem.”
“I’ve got medicine at my place, the kind that you stick on.” Tao Xiaodong looked at him.
“Those in my profession also get hand pain from long hours at work.
I’ll have Tian Yi to pass you some when I get back.”
In actuality, with Tang Suoyan’s parents both being professors of traditional Chinese medicine, he had no lack of medicine.
Nevertheless, he still nodded.
“What about massaging your own hands I also massage my wrists when they hurt.” Midway, Tao Xiaodong chuckled.
“I sound like a quack doctor telling you this.
You’re a doctor, how can you not know”
Tang Suoyan said, smiling, “I’m an ophthalmologist, not an orthopaedist.” (bone doctor)
Tao Xiaodong demonstrated how he usually massaged his wrists.
Tang Suoyan followed him, rubbing his wrist.
Actually, this was also a simple way to pass time.
In any case, it was just a casual conversation.
They’d chat a bit of whatever came to mind here and there.
Afterwards, Tang Suoyan shook his head, smiling.
“You’re very witty.”
Tao Xiaodong said, “I’m already at this age, I can’t keep going on and on, but I was even worse when I was young.
Back in school, I drove my teacher up the wall and was made to stand at the back door every day.
People like you are definitely not like this; you’re all good students.”
Tang Suoyan hummed in assent.
“My grades were too good.
Even if I talk in class, teachers can’t bear to punish me.”
They both broke into soft laughter at the way he put it.
Chen was still asleep by the side, so they kept their volume down, and when Tao Xiaodong spoke, he’d tilt his head marginally towards Tang Suoyan.
Translated by luckykoi
Da Huang was driving over to fetch him from the airport. While walking over, Tao Xiaodong asked Tang Suoyan, “Dr.
Tang, how are you heading back”
Tang Suoyan said, “I’ll call a cab.”
Tao Xiaodong said, “Why don’t I give you a lift”
Tang Suoyan shook his head, saying that it wasn’t necessary.
“It’s out of the way.”
Tao Xiaodong asked for his address and, after Tang Suoyan gave a location, he said, “It’s not, it’s along the way.”
So, Tang Suoyan didn’t keep refusing.
Upon finding Huang Yida’s car at the car park, he came down to help them with their luggage.
Tao Xiaodong introduced, “This is Dr.
Huang Yida asked with a smile, “Xiao Nan’s Dr.
“Yeah,” Tao Xiaodong nodded.
“Nice to finally meet you,” Huang Yida extended a palm.
Tao Xiaodong said, “My sworn brother.”
Tang Suoyan smiled and shook his hand.
It was nearly an hour’s journey from the airport.
Neither of them slept on the plane, yet were hit by drowsiness now.
After chatting a bit, they’d actually nodded off, one after the other, quietly asleep.
Huang Yida turned off the music and adjusted the temperature.
Tao Xiaodong was awoken midway by the vibrations of his phone in his pocket.
He fished it out and checked the display, then cleared his throat, picking up the call and greeting, “Mao ge.”
The caller was Lao Mao, asking Tao Xiaodong whether he would be around the parlour.
Tao Xiaodong said, “I just came back, but I’ll be off again a few days later.
What is it, Ge”
Lao Mao was Tao Xiaodong’s friend in the celebrity circle.
He’d acted in a few dramas when he was young, later switching to direct movies, doing some experimental film projects.
Tao Xiaodong had known him for many years.
Back when Tao Xiaodong was still fresh to the scene, this guy had given him a much-needed leg-up.
He said that he had a friend who wanted a tattoo and asked him when he could make some time.
Tao Xiaodong leaned back into his seat with his eyes shut.
“How big is it If it’s small, I can just get it done before I leave, but if it’s big, he’ll have to wait until I get back next month.”
The other end said, “He wants a half-sleeve.
We can discuss it again when you get back.”
Tao Xiaodong hummed in assent.
“I’ll call you when I do.”
Through with business, Lao Mao started to run his mouth again, saying that a young actor he once tattooed had come to him and asked him about Tao Xiaodong quite a number of times, in essence, hoping that Lao Mao would play as wingman, hooking them up.
“How about it Wanna hook up”
“I’ll pass.” Tao Xiaodong wasn’t interested.
“I don’t have the time.”
“You said that the previous one was too young.
This one is only two years younger than you; quite the looker, too.
How about I invite you out for tea someday”
Anyone could overhear the conversation on the phone in a quiet space. Da Huang chuckled next to him, and Tao Xiaodong said, exasperated, “Please don’t.
Spare me the trouble.
I can’t dodge it even if I wanted to.”
From friend to friend, after taunting him, Lao Mao started to crack uncouth jokes the way one did between old mates.
Tao Xiaodong unconsciously darted a glance back.
Tang Suoyan’s eyes were still shut, asleep in the back row.
He lowered his voice to say, “You’re already in your forties, have some class.”
When the laughter on the other end died down, they chatted for a bit then hung the call.
Huang Yida glanced at him awry, asking with a grin, “Which lucky fella”
Tao Xiaodong shut his eyes again, shifting around, planning to go back to sleep.
“Who knows, he’s talking nonsense.”
Huang Yida shrugged, laughing soundlessly for a bit, but didn’t continue to tease him.
Upon arriving at Tang Suoyan’s, they bade their goodbyes and offhandedly agreed to have a meal together next time.
After he left, Huang Yida said, “No wonder our Xiao Nan likes him so much.”
Tao Xiaodong looked at him.
“He has a certain vibe about him,” Huang Yida said.
“It’s hard to describe.”
Tao Xiaodong recalled the image Tang Suoyan presented in his white coat, then recalled again the night that they silently drank tea from paper cups in the room.
The car made a turn.
People were getting off work at this time, and the traffic was heavily jammed.
When rounding the corner, Tong Ning flashed across Tao Xiaodong’s mind.
Those lean shoulders under white dress shirts made the man appear pristine and untarnished, giving him a distinctive presence.
Tang Suoyan wore dress shirts as well, yet it came off different from Tong Ning.
After thinking this, the corners of Tao Xiaodong’s lips tugged upwards.
“He and his partner both have this vibe.”
Huang Yida casually asked, “You know his partner as well”
“I’ve met him a few times.
He’s Xia Yuan’s White Moonlight.
Got snatched up while he was dawdling around back then.” Even Tao Xiaodong felt a trace of embarrassment for Xia Yuan when speaking of this.
Huang Yida also thought it embarrassing, heaving a sigh.
“Nothing against Lao Xia, but who can match up when they’re going against this guy”
The reason for this feeling was that people invariably formed their impressions of others, ranking so-and-so against each other.
It wasn’t that they’d deliberately elevated or disparaged different people in mean spirit, only that this classification would form by subconscious thought.
Now it looked like Xia Yuan’s mind must have been addled to have mooned over Tong Ning, coveting what was beyond his reach.
“Lao Xia came by the parlour to see you yesterday,” Huang Yida recalled.
“It was along the way for him.
He dropped by to see you, but left when he saw that you weren’t in.”
“I doubt it’s anything serious.
He’s too free; he’s always loitering around,” said Tao Xiaodong.
Right after saying this, he received a call from Xia Yuan, asking him when he’d be back, calling him out for dinner.