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During the Snowstorm

8.4

Crossing Mountain and Seas

95

The first light of Wednesday peeked through the towering buildings as they made their way back to Wu Wei's New York apartment. The city was now silent and still, with only the distant hum of a few cars breaking the silence.

 

Before the familiar door in the darkness, Yin Guo hesitated before pushing it open. As the door creaked, she realized that the once-familiar place now felt different, almost alien. She whispered to Lin Yi Yang, who was beside her, "Everyone is still asleep," as they tiptoed inside. The emptiness of the space seemed to amplify the sound of their footsteps, reminding them of how far they were from the familiarity of their past.

 

Yin Guo took Lin Yi Yang's hand and led him through the dimly lit living room, careful not to disturb the sleeping roommates. They soon arrived at Yin Guo's old room, and she fumbled for the doorknob, feeling a wave of nostalgia wash over her. As they opened the door, a bulky suitcase obstructed their path, and Yin Guo accidentally bumped into it, causing a loud thud to echo through the quiet apartment.

 

Reacting quickly, Lin Yi Yang lifted Yin Guo by the waist, kicked the suitcase out of the way with a swift motion, and the two of them looked at each other with a mixture of amusement and relief.

 

"That was close," Yin Guo whispered, and Lin Yi Yang gently set her back on the floor. Despite the noise, he wasn't too concerned about waking up the others as the apartment had decent sound insulation.

 

They proceeded to tidy up their belongings and freshen up themselves. It wasn't until 9 o'clock that the other two roommates finally stirred from their slumber.

 

As the time for departure approached, Yin Guo and Lin Yi Yang relaxed, seeming to have nothing else to do but wait.

 

The bittersweet feeling of parting was palpable. Yin Guo felt like her heart was slowly emptying like an hourglass as time passed. She wished that they could stay in the same space forever.

 

There were no extra words to say, unlike in the past when they had to rely on phone calls or letters. With the advent of WeChat, they could stay in touch any time, even during the dozen hours on the plane.

 

With nothing else to occupy their time, Lin Yi Yang took a cloth and began cleaning the table and tidying up the kitchen.

 

"Have you got any dirty clothes here?" Yin Guo asked from the bar. "Otherwise, should we go to the laundry room?"

 

"Why go there?" Lin Yi Yang asked, looking puzzled.

 

"To do laundry," she said, "and also to take a look around before we leave."

 

The laundry room was nothing special to others, just a common sight in the city. But to Yin Guo, it held a special memory - the place where Lin Yi Yang first expressed his interest in her. She vividly remembered the blue plastic table in the middle, where they sat opposite each other, texting back and forth as if it was just yesterday.

 

Lin Yi Yang gently patted her head and reassured her, "We'll come back to visit in the future."

 

They didn't want to make it seem like a final goodbye. But as they lingered in the living room, time ticked away. Yin Guo felt a growing sense of emptiness in her chest.

 

Suddenly, Wu Wei appeared in the room and found them still there, seemingly at a standstill. He couldn't help but ask, "What's going on? Are you guys fighting before you leave?"

 

Lin Yi Yang, annoyed at the interruption, checked his watch and headed inside to retrieve his suitcase. "We're leaving," he said bluntly, signaling the end of their visit.

 

Wu Wei watched helplessly as Lin Yi Yang and Yin Guo left the apartment, lost in thought for a while. He knew exactly how it felt to leave home and study abroad. The desire to say more to his parents, but feeling like there was nothing left to say. He sat at the dining table, staring at the clock, waiting for the time to come, waiting for the moment when he would have to carry his suitcase out of the door and leave his home. It was a familiar feeling, the difficulty of leaving everything behind.

 

Without a girlfriend, Wu Wei could only imagine the calmness between Lin Yi Yang and Yin Guo. Yin Guo went down the stairs; she felt the sadness creeping in as they passed the laundry room.

 

"Let me take a picture," she said.

 

Lin Yi Yang hesitated for a moment before nodding his head.

 

Yin Guo quickly took out her phone and rushed into the laundry room, taking several photos. As she came out, she said, "Alright, let's go."

 

She knew the car was waiting outside, so she hurriedly snapped some photos without focusing properly. When she got in the car and looked at them, two were blurry, and only the remaining two were usable.

 

Lin Yi Yang noticed her staring at the phone and said, "I'll send you the photos once I drop you off."

 

She made a sound of agreement and rubbed her eyes, pretending to be fine, but tears almost spilled out.

 

On the way to the airport, they sat in silence, lost in their thoughts.

 

Upon arriving at the airport, Lin Yi Yang noticed a dent in her luggage and grew worried it might fall apart on the way home. He quickly found an airport staff member to wrap the suitcase with a thick layer of plastic wrap.

 

Yin Guo attempted to argue over who would pay as they paid for the service but was ultimately unsuccessful.

 

As they stood at the airport, Lin Yi Yang anxiously checked their luggage, afraid it might be problematic during security checks. He hoped that if anything were to happen, he could be there to unpack it. However, he also had a secret motive to spend more time with Yin Guo.

 

"If they unpack our luggage, it will waste the money we spent wrapping it," Yin Guo said.

 

"It should be fine. I checked it before we left home," he replied.

 

Although the apartment wasn't either of theirs, it had become a temporary home for the time being. Yet, as they stood there, Yin Guo felt a sudden sense of homesickness, despite being on her way back home.

 

"It's almost time. We need to go," Lin Yi Yang said suddenly.

 

Yin Guo shook her head. "Just wait one more minute."

 

Lin Yi Yang and Yin Guo locked eyes, feeling the weight of the moment. Finally, after more than ten seconds of hesitation, Lin Yi Yang made a move and wrapped his arms around her. He wanted to tell her that if nothing went wrong, he would return around this time next year. However, the words stuck in his throat, and he knew that only actions could make his words come true; otherwise, they would be just empty promises.

 

As they held each other, Yin Guo buried her head in his chest and let out a deep sigh. "Do you regret it?" he whispered, rubbing his chin against her hair. "Choosing someone who lives in a different place from the beginning?"

 

"Yes," she replied, feeling a pang of regret. "You should have come back to China and chased after me."

 

He chuckled softly, his hand stroking her hair. "Without you, who knows if I would have ever returned."

 

"So, should we keep chatting until I return to my country?" he asked.

 

Yin Guo nodded in agreement.

 

"Are you not afraid that I am a love scammer? We will chat for a year and then eventually break up?" he asked again, his tone filled with concern.

 

Yin Guo's eyes became moist, and tears trickled down her face. Lin Yi Yang quickly wiped her tears with the palm of his hand before using the back of his hand to clean her face. "Don't cry," he said soothingly.

 

He realized that comforting her was not working, so he pulled out a pack of wet wipes from his pocket and handed it to her. "Use it on the way, and if you need more, there are some on the plane, too," he said kindly.

 

......

 

Yin Guo's eyes were still glistening with tears, but Lin Yi Yang managed to make her laugh with his silly jokes and witty banter.

 

In the end, Lin Yi Yang stayed with her until her tears had dried up and then walked to the security checkpoint. He waited there until he could no longer see her figure, then calculated the time until she had probably cleared customs and sent her a WeChat message.

 

Lin: Have a safe trip.

 

Red Fish: Delete the nickname. Delete my nickname.

 

Lin smiled and immediately deleted the nickname.

 

While browsing through her WeChat profile, he noticed that her name had changed – it now read "Lin Li Guo."

 


 

Lin Li Guo: Is a four-character WeChat name too long?

 

He looked at the new name for a while, then fell silent.

 

Lin: No, it's not.

 

Lin Li Guo: That's right; anyway, it's displayed above the chat box.

 

Lin: Okay.

 

Lin Li Guo: I'm really leaving.

 

Lin: Alright.

 

Lin Li's Guo: Send me another of that coffee emoji again?

 

Yin Guo had just passed through the security check, and her untied shoelaces were scattered on both sides of her sneakers. She hoisted her backpack over one shoulder, checked her phone, and waited for a message from Lin Yi Yang. After a long while, there was still no message.

 

She wondered if the signal was terrible and checked her phone's signal, which was showing full bars. Lin Yi Yang should have a good signal outside. People kept emerging from the security checkpoint, some putting their hats back on and others adjusting their bags. Yin Guo bent over to tie one side of her shoelaces, holding her phone in her hand. Suddenly, a notification sound chimed.

 

Lin: [Coffee]

 

This expression felt like a sudden opening of a door. She recalled the first time she saw this expression and remembered feeling that he was annoyed and dismissing her.

 

Yin Guo sat on the cold floor, her hands fumbling with the shoelaces. She tried to make a bow, but the knot refused to cooperate. After several attempts, she finally gave up and hugged her knees tightly. She buried her face in her arms, tears rolling down her cheeks and forming a puddle on the floor. The noise around her faded into the background as she was lost in her thoughts.

 

Meanwhile, Lin Yi Yang took the bus and transferred to the subway, his mind in a state of restlessness. As he boarded the subway car, the sound of drums reverberated through the air. Usually, Lin Yi Yang would have enjoyed the impromptu music, but today it only served to amplify his anxiety. Every drumbeat felt like a jolt to his heart, and his nerves were on edge.

 

With nothing else to do, he took off his watch from his left hand and slipped it onto his right hand. But it felt awkward, and he removed it again before slipping it into the pocket of his jeans. He was lost in his thoughts, the uncertainty of the future weighing heavily on his mind.

 

As the train pulled into the next station, Lin Yi Yang's phone beeped with a delayed WeChat message from Yin Guo. It was the message she had sent just before boarding her flight.

 

Lin Li Guo: [Happy]

 

Lin couldn't help but smile as he read the message. He knew that she had a romantic heart, and this was her way of saying goodbye.

 

He thought back to their time together in Hawaii, recalling the sound of her soft breath and the feeling of her feet on the sandy shore. He remembered the moment she introduced herself as Yin Guo on the subway and how his heart had skipped a beat.

 

He turned off his phone, hoping to clear his mind and shake off his restlessness.

 

As he entered the apartment building, Lin Yi Yang's mind was still restless; his thoughts lingered on Yin Guo. Walking past the laundry room, he remembered that he had to take a photo for her. However, before he could go in, he noticed someone coming out - it was Jiang Yang, who had been waiting there for over an hour.

 

"Why did you turn off your phone?" Jiang Yang asked, his voice full of curiosity.

 

"I ran out of battery," Lin Yi Yang replied, trying to keep his tone casual.

 

"I'm leaving soon, and I was worried I wouldn't see you before I go," Jiang Yang said. Like the rest of the group, including Meng Xiaodong, he was headed to the open tournament in Ireland and had a flight scheduled for today. "But I made it on time," he added with a grin.

 

Lin Yi Yang looked outside and asked, "Do you want me to call a car for you to go to the airport?"

 

"No need, I've already arranged it," Jiang Yang replied, shaking his head.

 

Lin Yi Yang observed Jiang Yang's hesitation and felt it had to do with something he wanted to say but was hesitant to. He wondered if it was related to Jiang Yang's mood.

 

"I just sent Yin Guo off, and my mood isn't great," Lin Yi Yang said directly, "It's not that I have any problem with you, just tell me if you have something to say."

 

Jiang Yang took out a piece of paper from his pocket with a phone number written on it. The area code indicated that it was from his hometown in China.

 

"Here's my teacher's phone number," Jiang Yang said, "I borrowed a piece of paper from someone and wrote it down for you. The teacher hasn't been in touch with anyone for years, and his health isn't great. If you have time, give him a call."

 

Lin Yi Yang took the note and felt its texture but said nothing.

 

Jiang Yang said, placing his hand on Lin Yi Yang's shoulder and giving it a comforting pat. "Stay in touch when you have time," he repeated after a brief pause.

 

Afterward, Jiang Yang pulled his luggage and cuestick case through the narrow corridor, opened the apartment door, and disappeared down the stairs.

 

Inside the laundry room, a young boy was folding clothes with precision, carefully smoothing out each wrinkle. The clothes were most likely his mother's. Lin Yi Yang stood against the doorway, watching the boy in silence. It felt like he had suddenly returned to the ordinary world of daily life.

 

But no one had shown up. Not her, nor any of her siblings.

 

The view outside the window was of a street lined with chaotic houses, each unrelated and dissimilar to the other, just like the people in this immigrant city who came from different hometowns. She was no exception.

 

The feeling of drifting was similar to that of opium; it could be addictive and yet easily obtained.

 

The sense of belonging was a precious emotion, a luxury given to only a few lucky people. I remember an acquaintance once told me, who was unfamiliar to me, that they felt like an orphan when their parents passed away, that they no longer had a place to call home. Only those who had experienced this feeling could truly understand the depth of it.

 

In late January, a girl had arrived from across the ocean and from her hometown, and now she was leaving. When she departed, she called herself "Lin Li Guo." Despite the uncertain future, she was the girl he had pursued and longed to possess.

 

Lin Yi Yang carefully folded the label paper in his hand twice and again, focusing on the crisp sound of the paper creasing. With deliberation, he retrieved his wallet and tucked the paper into the topmost compartment.

 

After a long, harsh winter, it was finally time to awaken from hibernation.

 


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