|http://www.sina.com.cn 2006/01/02 19:52 青年参考|
Two Eyes, Two Worlds
By Childers Cooper
It was an early night in June with the soft, orange glow of the lights of Pudong coming through the windows, the sound of trucks driving along the highway in the distance, that she looked at me and asked, “Do you think we should get married?”
I took a deep breath and spoke slowly. “. . . I was thinking of asking you that same question.”
In the morning I called my parents in America. They were having dinner, the kind of dinner we used to have together around the big table with the dogs lying quietly in the floor waiting for a bite to eat, the nightly news on the TV, the quiet conversation. My mother answered the phone.
“Mom, I have something to tell you. I’m engaged.”
The town where I grew up is hidden far away in the hills of southern West Virginia in America. During the night, only the sound of crickets and occasionally an owl can be heard somewhere off in the distance, and during the day, line upon line of gentle mountains can be seen rolling off under the sky.
My college town was not much different from where I grew up. A small town of only a few thousand people quietly living their lives out on the west bank of the Potomac River, not far from Washington D.C., but far enough so that it seemed a different world from the chaos of the city—the traffic, the crowds, the constant noise.
I spent my childhood and my young adulthood living in the country, accustomed to the quiet, untouched by the bustle and clamor of the metropolis. So when I was twenty-three, I decided to come to Shanghai. It was like bomb had gone off. Everywhere there were people—people upon people—the crowd seemed uncontrollable, suffocating. And so much was new. Not just things like buses and the metro, the taxis choking the streets, the smog and construction and constant racket, but all the faces were new too. First, describe everything you have ever known, everything that feels like home to you, and then try to imagine being plunged into a world that is the complete opposite. There was where I was. I could not have imagined a more alien place than Shanghai.
Even though the initial months of my time in Shanghai were a shock, I began to adjust, to figure out how to get the things I needed, to learn survival Chinese, and to enjoy my year teaching. I never thought, however, that I would stay in Shanghai—until I met her.
I sometimes try to imagine her life, to see her life and myself through her eyes. Wu Jun Yi was born in Shanghai to a Shanghainese family. Her entire life was and is played out under the skyscrapers and the thick crowds in the street. I did not know at the time I first met her in the last weeks of the cold, wet winter last year, that Jun Yi would become the only person I could ever conceive of asking to be my wife.
There she was. Attractive, yes, but there is something else about her. She stands straight, holding herself confidently. She speaks directly, demanding action, demanding attention and respect. She demands, but she is tender, loving, and soft. She is a woman in the fullest sense, but at times just a little girl who is scared and lonely. She has loved, and she has lost. She knows what she wants of life and refuses to sacrifice an inch. There is an air about her, a kind of energy which radiates her self-determination, and you can see it in the way that she holds herself, the way she walks down the street, the way she smiles and speaks.
After living in Shanghai for nearly six months, I had grown accustomed to seeing foreigners with their local Chinese girlfriends, but I had also heard some things about the local girls that had made me cautious of ever becoming emotionally involved with one of them. But more than this, I was certain that if I ever had had a chance to have a relationship, I would never take it because I felt I could never understand the world of Chinese girl. Someone from a culture so different from my own, how could I ever identify with her thoughts? How could we communicate our deepest feelings? How could we truly understand one another? How could our sense of love possibly be the same? But then another question began coming more and more often into my mind, and it was question which I believed and still believe has no answer: At what moment does a man fall in love?
When do we fall in love? I turned this over and over again in my mind last spring, but in a place deeper than my mind, a place beyond the intellect, I knew I felt something for her. When we were alone there were times when I found myself absently staring at the way her neck curves, the curious shape of her ears, her slender fingers, her small hands. All to the point where I could no longer deny that I was anything but in love with her. She was the last thought I had at night before I slept; she was my first thought in the morning when I woke.
The day was warm, late April, when all the flowers were still in bloom, and we met beneath a veranda by which ran a slow canal. “There is something that I have been wanting to tell you for a long time,” was how I began.
Last December Jun Yi and her first serious boyfriend broke up. I was raised in conservative cultural surroundings in America though my family is not conservative at all, and I was not surprised when, to her credit, she rejected my advance that day. I think that if she had simply accepted me, then I would have had some doubts about her sincerity. The romantic idea of falling desperately in love with a strange foreigner is a delicious fantasy that perhaps too many people in Shanghai have.
We were friends, becoming the best of friends, and we decided that our friendship should be preserved more than anything else. And perhaps it was out of that feeling, the feeling of being the best of friends, that on an evening in late April I asked her to kiss me, and she did.
Jun Yi was instantly accepted into my family. My family is very liberal, and we hold human equality as a basic standard, so she did not run into any racism or any other difficulty in finding acceptance with them. And amazingly enough, almost as easily as Jun Yi was accepted into my family, I was accepted into hers. Now I consider her father and mother, her aunts and uncles, as my family—people who love me and whom I love. It is amazing that even though we do not speak the same language, we communicate nonetheless, and I learn so much about what it means to be a family by taking part in hers.
In the end, my questions were answered. Yes, two people from completely different cultures can have the same sense of feeling, the same understanding of what it means to love. And that two sets of eyes from two worlds can find happiness and joy together, this gives me so much hope.
Cooper Childers(美国)／文 陈小茹／编译
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