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She was fond of Strauss, KFC, and Brazil Espresso. Dressed in decent grey professional skirt suit, she was busy working in a modernized office mansion. That was her life before meeting me. Ever since our dating all those have vanished.

It was in 1997 when I started my so-called "great business". She followed me wholeheartedly. That summer came early. Flowers dyed the town dazzlingly red. We stayed in the outskirts, in a small room of a condo known as an illegal structure of this city. Wind blew through all the four walls into the room, then home of her and me.

In order to save money, we walked to our store downtown every day. Lunches were always simple like doggie food, worth no more than 1.5 yuan for each of us. We walked back home at the end of the day, so beat that all we wanted was collapse into bed. It seemed that we made it through one whole year this way.

Those days were bitter. Business was my totem; love was her belief. Both supported us from falling apart.

We walked home late one day. She sat at the bed edge, washing her feet in a bucket on the floor. I went to the landlord for boiled water to make instant noodle. When I got back carrying a thermos bottle, she fell back into the bed sound asleep, feet in water. She must have been extremely exhausted. One of her hands was under her body. I heard her light snore.

I tiptoed to the bed and tried to flip her over so that she would be in a more comfortable position. I stared at her face, which was a young and pretty one and yet so wearied and exhausted.

I saw one mosquito on this pretty face.

That summer my city was like a huge steamer box. We put off one day to another the plan to buy a mosquito net, just to save money. I knew mosquitos were flying all about in our room, but I seemed not to be bothered. So exhausted when I got back each day, I doubted if I would wake up even though someone cut a piece of flesh off my body, let alone mosquito bites.

That mosquito stayed at her forehead, sipping her blood greedily. She was still sound asleep, not feeling anything. Perhaps she was in a sweet dream in which our business was turning better. There came an abrupt throb of my heart. I reached to wave my hand at the mosquito. But it was not at all scared. I wanted to bat it to death. I raised my hand up high, but it could not descend. I was afraid of waking her up — she was really worn out.

There lay a weak mosquito between her and me, doing harm to her right now. I froze there, hand in the air. I did not know what to do. I was worried. Suddenly, I began to get deeply fed up with myself. I hated me.

On the night of that summer, I stood by her side, feeling extremely guilty of her, of our love.

The mosquito finally flew away. I forgave it, but I could never forgive myself.

In the daytime I went by a peddler's stall and saw a pink mosquito net priced 16 yuan. That amount could be spent on a lot of dealings at that time. I headed back home without buying it. After she fell asleep, I got out of bed, stood by her side, and waved away mosquitos with a hard paper board as a weapon. I was her temporary mosquito net all that night through. After a while she woke up to find what I was doing. She gazed at me, and ten minutes later tears flooded her face.

The next day saw a pink mosquito net in my room. We were both silent working together to fix it on our bed. In my mind I had presented the net as a gift to her. I did not tell her that it was a gift. I was feeling that it was like a rose in full bloom. It was my compensation to love. Then I realized that nothing could really make it up. It was her birthday that day.

Years went by. And I made 160,000 yuan, or precisely we made 160,000 yuan. We did a lot of shopping, but never a mosquito net any more. We did not need any mosquito net. We live in a very well decorated apartment, where no mosquitos could fly in.

Nevertheless, I always feel that all these money, and all my belongings are far less important than the 16-yuan mosquito net, which was invaluable to her, to our love.

That summer was past. We had no choice but to love each other.

爱在那个夏天

文/周海亮

(摘自青年文摘)

我知道她听施特劳斯,吃肯德基,喝巴西现磨,穿着得体的灰色套裙在写字楼里自在地忙碌。但那只是以前。后来,她与我相恋,这一切便消失了。

记得是1997年。那一年,我开始了自己所谓的事业,她跟着我,义无反顾。那个夏天来得特别早,花儿染得城市一片彤红。我们住在市郊,一个属于非法建筑的小屋,四壁透风。那是我们暂时的家。

为了省钱,每天我们步行至市区的店铺,中午买两份一块五毛钱一碗的凉皮,晚上再步行回来,累得骨头散架。好像,整整一年,都是那样熬过来的。

那是一段艰苦和心酸的日子。那时,事业是我的图腾,爱情是她的信仰。那是支撑我们没有倒下去的全部。

有一次,记得很晚了,我们步行至临时的家,她坐在床沿洗脚,我去房东那里讨开水泡面。当我提着暖水瓶返回时,我发现,她已经睡着了。

她保持着一种疲劳至极的姿势,两只脚仍在脸盆里泡着,人却已斜倒在床上。她的身体压着自己的一只胳膊,于是,有了轻微的鼾声。

我轻轻地走过去,想翻动一下她的身躯,让她睡得更舒服。我盯着她的脸,那是一张年轻美丽的脸,此时却写满疲惫。

在这张脸上,我发现了一只蚊子。

那个夏天,城市像个巨大的蒸笼,可为了省钱,我们一天天向后推着买蚊帐的时间。我知道屋里到处都是蚊子,但我好像感觉不到。那样劳累的身体,睡下了,别说蚊子,切下一块肉,我都怀疑自己能不能醒来。

蚊子趴在她的额头,贪婪地吸食着她的血。她睡得很香,毫无察觉,也许正做着生意好转的梦。我的心猛地抽搐了一下,伸出手,挥动着,但蚊子对我的恐吓并不理睬。想用手拍死它,手扬着,却不忍拍下去。我怕惊醒了她——她已经那样地疲惫。

我与她之间,有一只弱小的蚊子,此刻正对她实施着伤害。我站在那里,就那样扬着手,愣着,矛盾着,心焦着,突然间,我对自己产生出一种深深的厌恶。

在那个夏天的夜晚,我站在那里。那是一种极端亏欠的感觉。对她,对爱情。

蚊子飞走了,我原谅了蚊子,却不能够原谅自己。

白天经过一个小摊,我注意到一个粉色蚊帐的标签:16元。这16元在当时,可以做许多事。那天我一夜没睡,我拿着一个硬纸板挥动着,像一名士兵,不让蚊虫靠近她的身体。我成了她临时的蚊帐。后来她醒了,醒后的她盯着我看,10分钟后,我突然发现她泪流满面。

第二天,小屋里挂上了粉色的蚊帐。挂蚊帐时,我们一直没有说话。我是把蚊帐当成礼物送给她的,但我没说。我觉得那像一朵盛开的玫瑰,就算是爱情的补偿。但我觉得,其实什么也补偿不了。那天,也是她的生日。

再后来,有一段时间,我有了16万,或者说我们有了16万,我们买了很多东西,却没有再买一床蚊帐。我们已经不再需要蚊帐了,装修严密的房间,已经飞不进一只蚊虫。

可是,我总觉得,这些钱,这些东西,远不如那个曾经16元钱的蚊帐,对她有价值,或者说,对我们的爱情,有价值。

那个夏天过去了,我们别无选择,只能相爱。