Tao Xiaodong had truly angered Tang Suoyan this time, getting the other to storm out of the car with just a handful of sentences, without glancing back once.
And stuck in the middle of the road, he himself couldn’t move ahead or get out.
This was the second time that they had such a big fallout.
The first time was just before they officially became an item, due to that mentally unstable husband of a patient.
Tang Suoyan had sent Tao Xiaodong straight home without running it by him first, and that time Tao Xiaodong had slammed the door behind him as he left.
It was laughable to think back on, now.
The cause and the consequence were almost the same, only that their positions were mirrored.
He knew what it was like to be spurned and deliberately avoided by someone he cared about.
He had experienced it himself.
Tao Xiaodong sat in the car in a daze with his head lowered, then slowly slumped over the steering wheel, resting his forehead against his arm.
It was only when horns were blaring from behind him that he started to drive again.
Tao Xiaodong drove the car around the expressway ring road with no destination in mind, his mind and heart in turmoil.
The city was crowded with people and cars.
Street lights shone suddenly overhead, and the world before his eyes flickered, dark greyscale instantly eclipsed by hazy technicolour, taking on a dreamy quality.
Everyone had dreams, and in the dream there were those few that were raised on a dais—with a hope that they could be forever free to follow their hearts.
It was past eight by the time he returned home.
826826, entered keystroke by keystroke.
The first time that Tang Suoyan had called him so endearingly in bed, Tao Xiaodong couldn’t take it, cresting a climax that left him shivering for hours.
Later on, when even his fingers had gone weak, he recovered there, too embarrassed to raise his head and voice smothered in the pillow, asking why on earth he had to call him by that name…
Tang Suoyan, at that time, wrapped his arms around him, pampering and adoring.
They had just been intimate, and his low chuckle was both sensual and searing.
He nibbled his ear and asked, “Don’t tell me that you still haven’t worked out what the passcode means.”
Tao Xiaodong was confused for a while, but when it hit him he started, and it was a long time later before he finally went “oh my god…”
It charmed him every time he opened the door since.
Because of this, Tao Xiaodong made sure to input his fingerprints properly into the system so that he could unlock the door using the fingerprint lock instead.
Listen, which old grandpa wouldn’t blush when entering 826826.
Six digits altogether, each perfused with love and affection.
The room was dark.
None of the lights were on except for the one in the study.
Tang Suoyan didn’t even leave a light on for him.
Tao Xiaodong took off his coat and hung it at the door.
He turned on the lights and said in the direction of the study, “Yan ge, I’m home.”
There was no response.
Tang Suoyan’s attention was trained on the computer, the only answering noise the clicks of the keyboard.
There was still dinner on the table.
No one came out to warm it up for him.
Actually, Tao Xiaodong didn’t have much of an appetite, either.
He wasn’t hungry at all.
But he still sat down and had a few bites; it wasn’t that cold.
Tang Suoyan was in the study.
Tao Xiaodong glanced inside a few times but Tang Suoyan’s head didn’t raise, as though he had never seen him.
Tao Xiaodong sunk into the couch.
Neither of them had taken time to change the water for the flowers on the balcony in the last few days; they were wilting slightly.
He sat for a while longer on the balcony, gazing absently out of the window into the darkness.
Before going to bed, he went to bring Tang Suoyan a glass of milk and set it on the table, saying softly, “Rest early, Yan ge.”
Tang Suoyan still didn’t look up, staring at the screen.
“Go to bed, don’t worry about me.”
Tao Xiaodong pursed his lips, standing there as though he had something he wanted to say, yet was unable to get it out.
He turned around and left silently; he didn’t go into the bedroom to sleep but continued to sit in a daze on the couch.
He lost track of time, as people did when lost in thought.
After an unknown length of time, Tang Suoyan emerged from the study, saw him sitting on the couch, and after a brief glance, went to wash up.
Tao Xiaodong rose to his feet and walked over.
He knew that Tang Suoyan was upset.
He also knew why.
Some words were so hurtful that they shouldn’t be spoken between people in a relationship.
It was worth noting that Tang Suoyan wasn’t rash in his anger; if it were him instead, he would long have blown a fuse countless times over.
He was not yet out of his clothes from the day, nor had he even bothered removing his cap.
He stood at the doorway of the bathroom watching Tang Suoyan, while Tang Suoyan didn’t even glance at him in the reflection of the mirror.
Tao Xiaodong called “Yan ge.”
Now, it seemed as if he had lost his vocabulary save for those two words.
The sore on the corner of his mouth kept his lips deathly locked together.
Even opening his mouth by a sliver to speak hurt terribly.
Tao Xiaodong reached up to touch it.
Tang Suoyan spat the toothpaste from his mouth.
“Do you have anything to say”
Do I Tao Xiaodong smiled derisively at himself.
He had nothing to say, not even a single word.
After freshening up, Tang Suoyan didn’t wait for Tao Xiaodong, simply saying, “Excuse me.”
Tao Xiaodong took a step back and Tang Suoyan left the bathroom, turning off the light and going into the guest bedroom.
They normally slept in the master bedroom.
That night, Tao Xiaodong lay in bed with his clothes on the entire night with no attempts made to shed them.
This was the first time that he was lying down without hair prickling his neck.
Tao Xiaodong reached up to touch his head.
It had been a day, but he still wasn’t used to the feeling.
He didn’t manage to catch a wink.
When he shut his eyes, he would feel a stifling pressure on his chest, and thus hours passed with his eyes wide open.
The darkness was a protective space where difficult emotions could endlessly expand and ferment.
There was no need to hide them from others and no need to hide them from oneself.
There was only so much that people could endure.
These days, Tao Xiaodong was almost at breaking point.
At that start, it was just a psychological pressure that winded him, but eventually he was truly straining to breathe.
His chest was so tight it hurt, filled with loathing even.
He sat up, forcing himself to take deep breaths.
He felt suffocated.
He wanted to throw up.
Actually, he didn’t know how many days it had been since he last slept.
He couldn’t fall asleep.
He was conflicted, irascible, anxious; his emotions felt trapped inside an increasingly narrow box.
He couldn’t turn back and he couldn’t find an exit.
Tao Xiaodong sat on the side of the bed, formless darkness spread before his eyes, so dark it appeared as though he had no way back into this world.
He curled up on himself, his upper body folding over, shrinking himself into a warped, wretched lump.
The next morning, when he came out of the bedroom, Tang Suoyan saw his countenance and frowned.
Tao Xiaodong pursed his lips.
He looked at him and wanted to say something; he parted his lips yet didn’t say a word.
The words “Yan ge” felt acrid on his tongue, but the only other thing he could say besides that was “don’t be upset”, which was even more acrid, useless, and better left unsaid.
Tang Suoyan gave him a moment but nothing came.
His countenance looked pasty, too.
He also hadn’t slept well.
Before going out, Tang Suoyan asked, “Yesterday, were you trying to say that you want a break-up”
His cadence was even.
He looked at Tao Xiaodong.
“Did I misunderstand you”
Tao Xiaodong raised his head and looked disorientated.
The word ‘yes’ was wedged in his throat, and he had no means of prying his mouth open.
Since then, Tang Suoyan really stopped stepping in.
After Tao Xiaodong said to leave him alone, Tang Suoyan stopped asking questions altogether.
Even the car he drove to work was his own, and he made his way back on his own, as well.
There were not more than a few sentences passed between them.
In the beginning, Tao Xiaodong was still able to go “Yan ge“, and whenever he opened his mouth Tang Suoyan would turn his gaze onto him, waiting for him to speak.
His mouth was full of cotton.
The sore on the corner of his mouth had become crusted over, keeping his lips sealed.
Pain lanced through his lower jaw every time he tried to speak, heart palpitating irregularly in panic.
Eventually, he lost even the ability to call “Yan ge.”
He didn’t speak much at the parlour as well.
He did the bare interaction with the clients, though, but apart from that it was like he had lost his voice.
When anyone tried to speak to him, he’d point to the corner of his lips with a smile, indicating that his mouth hurt.
It hurt to eat and it hurt to drink.
Sometimes it bled, and he would lick the blood.
When he forgot to lick it, it continued to scab.
His hair was gone, his body was haggard, and his mouth was useless.
It was a miserable sight no matter how one looked at it.
Tao Xiaodong didn’t return to see his younger brothers during this period—Tao Huainan was far too sharp; it would have been difficult to hide things from him.
The two brothers exchanged a few messages every day, but Tao Huainan didn’t contact him via call or press him for a response.
On Saturday, Tang Suoyan went into the lab while Tao Xiaodong went to the studio.
Neither of them stayed home.
Tang Suoyan, before leaving, placed medicine on the coffee table for Tao Xiaodong to apply.
He actually got him to apply medicine every day, and Tao Xiaodong did, just that he would occasionally forget.
Today, Tang Suoyan made sure to see him put on the medicine before leaving.
They hadn’t said anything else for a number of days, now.
After Tang Suoyan left, Tao Xiaodong curled up on the couch for a while.
He liked to curl up like this when no one was around lately, like it was only in this position that he could find any comfort.
What was once a loving relationship had actually deteriorated to this.
Oppressiveness loomed again over the apartment, as it once had in the past.
The next day, Tao Xiaodong had not yet left when Tang Suoyan went to the lab.
The client scheduled for today had cancelled his appointment at the last minute and Tao Xiaodong didn’t have any other arrangements for the day.
Tang Suoyan watched him put on the medicine and watched him for a moment more.
Tao Xiaodong was looking at him as well, but he still kept silent.
Then, Tang Suoyan left, and when the door clicked shut, Tao Xiaodong shut his eyes.
In the afternoon, Tang Suoyan returned to see Tao Xiaodong sitting on the balcony with his back against the glass door, asleep.
The weather was cloudy, blocking the sun, and the apartment was dim.
Tao Xiaodong was hunched up, head buried in the arm while the other arm blocked his head.
Tang Suoyan did his best to soften his footfalls, but the other still awoke.
It was a fitful sleep.
Rather than sleep, it was mayhaps better to call it stumbling into a trance where the fabric of reality frayed.
He inclined his head and looked at Tang Suoyan, who stood beside him, seeming to sigh.
“I don’t know if the problem actually lies within me.” Tang Suoyan also sat down, sitting beside Tao Xiaodong.
“Am I that unreliable Can’t you trust me” He looked at Tao Xiaodong, asking him.
Tao Xiaodong shook his head at him.
The moment he opened his mouth, the corner of his mouth hurt so much that a tremor ran through his body.
A sore should not be that painful.
Annoyed, Tao Xiaodong furrowed his brow, wondering how his life had come to this.
“Don’t frown.” Tang Suoyan spoke from beside him.
“If you really want to call things off, if it feels right to you, then so be it.”
“I don’t ever bring up Tong Ning to you because you are you, and he is he.
You have never been the same.” Tang Suoyan glanced at the corner of his mouth, speaking slowly.
“In the past, Tong Ning threw around talk of ending it with enough regularity that I grew used to it.
If he wanted to leave, he could; if he wanted to return, he could.
Today, I’m bringing him up to you because I want to tell you that there is no need to feel so bad.
If you really want to leave, you can.”
He must be seriously wounded to have mentioned Tong Ning.
This seemed to be the first time that Tang Suoyan was mentioning Tong Ning without any prompting, and it crushed Tao Xiaodong’s heart into fine dust.
The corner of his mouth was hurting so much that he felt out of breath.
Tao Xiaodong buried his head in his arms, his head bursting, temples throbbing painfully.
“I have reviewed your medical report several times and didn’t find anything.
If not because of illness, I can’t think of what else will make you so despondent; I have nothing to go on.
Has being with me been hard on you” Tang Suoyan looked at him through heavy-lidded eyes, finishing what he had to say.
I have always faced defeat when it comes to love.
I can’t tell if it’s because I’m not cut out for relationships or if I do not deserve the open truth.”
He sat with Tao Xiaodong for a while, gazing out of the window.
The spring gusts tore outside, raising scattered sand that rustled against the glass window.
“It’s fine if you’ve made up your mind.” Tang Suoyan rose to his feet.
Tao Xiaodong caught hold of his wrist, looking up at him, the rims of his eyes completely red.
He held onto Tang Suoyan tightly, so very tightly, looking at him as if he was trying to etch his image in his bones.
Their eyes locked.
Tang Suoyan said, “No matter what your reason is, you are making me very sad, Xiaodong.”
With that, he withdrew his hand from the grip and went into the guest bedroom.
Tao Xiaodong stayed on the balcony for the whole evening.
He didn’t move an inch from where he sat, and his legs became so numb that they lost sensation.
When he stood up, it took him a while to recover.
It was hours past midnight when he finally retreated to the bedroom.
He had so much he wanted to say that he had nothing to say, too much going through his head that, instead, his mind was vacant, only aware of how awfully reluctant he was.
He found this type of reluctance hateful.
The irony, really.
He was actually behaving like Tong Ning—scared that two hands weren’t enough to hold on and scornful of the lack thereof that he had to offer.
Until he was now backed into the same corner.
How could he
Taking a step forward would implicate Tang Suoyan and cause Tang Suoyan’s future to be fraught with uncertainty.
On the other hand, taking a step back would be letting go completely, whereupon Tao Xiaodong would cease to be a part of Tang Suoyan’s future.
Either way would result in agonising pain.
Wavering back and forth between the two ends had torn Tao Xiaodong right down the middle.
It hurt so terribly.
In the darkness, Tao Xiaodong used his arm to block his eyes.
—Why, just why.
Translated on ninetysevenkoi.wordpress
– ❀ –
Please do not repost or retranslate.
The next day, Tang Suoyan was out of the apartment before Tao Xiaodong had even emerged from his room.
They hadn’t been sharing a car lately, each going their own way.
Therefore, it surprised Tang Suoyan to see Tao Xiaodong, wearing a cap, walk into the consultation office before the end of work.
Tang Suoyan was doing consultations today and was right about to clock off.
Two young intern doctors still had some work not yet settled, and Tang Suoyan was waiting for them to retrieve the forms that required his signature.
Tao Xiaodong had walked in at this time.
The two young doctors saw him and were startled by his new hairdo.
Tao Xiaodong smiled at them and they hurriedly made their greetings.
Then, they rushed to gather the forms.
Tang Suoyan looked at him; Tao Xiaodong took a seat in the chair opposite him.
After obtaining his signature, the intern doctors immediately took the forms and left, even closing the door behind them.
Tao Xiaodong sat there without seeming to have any intention to leave.
Tang Suoyan said, “My shift has ended.”
Tao Xiaodong nodded and forced a closed-lipped smile.
They had a heavy talk just yesterday, and today Tao Xiaodong came over near the end of the day, looking so cautious that Tang Suoyan couldn’t help but soften.
How could he not, after all, they were still deeply in love with each other.
Tang Suoyan packed up and then stood from his chair and said, “Let’s go.”
Tao Xiaodong’s hands were still stuck in his pockets.
He didn’t say anything either, he simply sat there—in the chair for patients here to see the doctor, gazing unwaveringly at Tang Suoyan.
Before Tang Suoyan could complete the sentence, he looked into Tao Xiaodong’s eyes, and then abruptly faltered.