A short story by a former EPU-scholarship holder Xiaohu Sieghard Jiang
That day, the cool breeze of the summer dusk ran across the luxuriant trees on the Mariahilferstraße. I was standing in front of a crowded ice-cream shop, waiting for you.
You wore a black suit, a light pink shirt of pointed collar and a water-blue twill tie, walked to me with a smile. You stretched your hand to me, and I put my hand on your palm, as if we were going to the church to make the marriage vow that we would love each other until the last day of our lives.
It was at a cafe close to the Votivkirche that we had our first date. You wanted to pay for me because it was you who made the initial invitation for coffee. I was happy secretly because it was you who invited me. But I stubbornly insisted to pay myself. You failed to persuade me and shrugged your shoulders.
Our relationship was doomed not to be long-lasting. But you said: “It doesn’t matter. If I can only stay with you for a short time, then I will enjoy it to my best, however short it will be.” Ok, then I would enjoy every short moment with you.
I liked going to the Naschmarkt with you on every Saturday morning and looking at those second-hand posts, books, CDs and jewelleries. I always stopped at stalls of old tableware and furniture and listened to the sellers telling us their history. I could not help envisioning that one day you and I would buy an old desk and carry it happily back to our home. But, I had to go back to China.
I told you that Facebook and Whatsapp were forbidden in mainland China. You did not utter a word but your complexion was of mixed emotions, shocked, desolate and forsaken. The next day, you said to me: “It sucks that we cannot communicate after you leave Vienna and return to China! But we can send emails, you can receive emails, right? Then at least we can stay in contact. Though our contact will fade away in the end … but let’s try … yes … that’s reality, even if we try hard, it will eventually fade away.” I knew this was not a conversation of breaking up, but it was more sorrowful and depressing. It was like a heavy stone falling on my heart, which gave me such a sharp and nagging pain, but I could not find where the stone was and thus could not remove it.
I knew what you liked, but I kept asking again and again what you did like. You liked books so I intended to leave all those books, which we read together, at your home; you liked small exquisite decorations so I visited those shops frequently to buy little beautiful ornaments as many as possible and put them on your table and bookshelves. I hoped to create more memories in your life before I left this city. I wished that I could leave more traces and marks at your home. I prayed that years later, one day when you looked back, you would remember that I was once a fleeting part of your life.
That day, though it was sixteen o’clock, the sky of Vienna was darkening slowly. The cold strong wind blew away those golden fallen leaves in the Volksgarten. I arrived earlier, waiting for you.
You shifted your work schedule and came to this park directly from your office. You wore a long warm dark coat, with a dark-blue velvet suit, a white shirt and a brown tie. You walked fast towards me and stretched your hand. I put my hand on your palm, for the last time.
You promised that before I left Vienna, we would have a night walk in the old district of Vienna, like what the couple did in the movie Before Sunrise. You and I stood under the statue at the entrance of Albertina Museum. The last beam of winter twilight lingered over the roof of an ancient building across the street, soft but desolate. You said: “This is the last place in Vienna that we visit together.” I could not say anything. You asked me: “Did you put down my email address?” I could not speak, only nodded my head.
I put my small bag on the belt for security check at the Vienna International Airport. Somehow, I felt a little relieved because just now when we embraced for the last time, neither of us cried. We said goodbye with a smile. The security staff told me that I could go to the boarding gate now. I picked up my bag, turned my head back but could not see anybody behind the opaque glass-door. All of a sudden, I burst into tears silently and they kept flowing from my eyes even when I arrived at the boarding gate. I called you. This was the last time that I gave you a call with a Vienna mobile phone number. On the phone, you cried.
We tried our best. However, as you said, years later, our contact faded and stopped. But even now, even with such a gap of time and distance, I, still miss you.
(This is an English translation by the author himself from his own Chinese short story published in Macau dailyon 16 November 2017.)