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.