Sunday, February 10, 2013

My New Girlfriends

During my middle school years, I had a friend Wei (魏) who had two brothers and two sisters. Two of her siblings were twins. Her father worked for the shipping company, he hurt his back so he could not work like before. Her mother worked in a small clothing factory. Her parents thought that they couldn’t afford to raise her. She was the third child. Her parents gave her away to their neighbor who had several kids. Later on, her parents’ finances improved and she came back home; then, her twin brother came and they were poor again. I used to feel sorry for her. Wei was one of the poorest families in our class. Her family lived in a neighborhood that was not very good. I used to help her out by giving her food or some items we didn’t need. I am not saying that we were rich, but better off since my parents worked for the Oil Company, we had good benefits, including good housing in a better neighborhood. My friend’s family only had one room. She used to visit our house with her twin brother and I used to go to her home sometimes too.
     One thing that I wasn’t happy about was that she had a neighbor girlfriend who had a bad name in school. One day, she told me something that shocked me. Even though I was 13 years old, we didn’t have any knowledge about sex. “Condoms” were free at any drug store. There was a Chinese herbal store on the corner of our street. Like other kids, my brother and I used to take them from a small box hanging close to the door. We preferred colorful balloons, but it was difficult to find balloons anywhere even with money. So we filled them with water or simply blew them up like balloons. We thought that if there was no tip, it would be just like a white balloon.
     Her girlfriend said that in order for our parents to have us, they had to have sex. We did not have Sex Education in school.  But “sex” was such a “dirty” word. I objected, I said, “no, no, not my parents. I think you spend too much time with that bad girl. Some day, you will be bad too.” She was not happy about that.  One event that really broke our friendship was one incident during a Ping-Pong game. One day during the break between classes (the break was usually 15 minutes), I was playing Ping-Pong with other classmates. She came along with another person. Of course, the rule was to wait for your turn but she knew that it wouldn’t be her turn until class started again. So she came to the table with the other girl and said, “let’s divide the table in half. Four of us could play at the same time.” She started to do so and completely ignored our objections. I felt so humiliated and put down the racket and ball and walked away. I stopped talking to her. A few days later, she told me that she was very sorry about that. Even her mother said that she should apologize to me. I did say, “Okay, I will forgive you” but from my heart, she was not my best friend anymore.
     I began to be interested in the balance beam and single bar. Several other girls in my class were interested also. Parents of two of them also worked in the same institute as my parents. We did all kinds of things on the balance beam including somersaults. We competed one on one -- one person on each side of the balance beam. The new person told the incumbent what to do on the balance beam. If the incumbent didn’t know how to do it, she lost before the game started. Another girl would then be the new person and the former new person then became the incumbent. If both persons knew what to do, then the game finally would start. Both of the persons would finish the feat, jump down and then run to the other side of the balance beam to catch the other. If no one caught another, they switched sides and the same game began again. They did this until one of the persons became so tired to be caught by the other. Then another new person would challenge the incumbent, and so on. We fell and got bruised a lot. We were able to do almost anything on the balance beam since our bodies were so flexible.  Overall, I was good at climbing and gymnastics. I wasn’t very good at speed or long distance running. I barely passed those.
     One of my middle school friends was from my grammar school, her name was Li Hua Lei (李); her parents were actor and actress in the local theater, and we usually called Hua Lei. I used to go watch her parents play on stage. She was good at acting too; she directed our annual class performance. My other girl friend Zhang (张) Liqin was big and tall and so were her family members. She lived next to our courtyard and her parents worked in the same oil institute with my parents. We played after school or sometimes just had some wild discussions about mysteries. The discussions were due to a two year old little girl in her yard who was struck by a palm tree and died. She was the only child they had. One day she was playing in the yard by herself, and a few feet away four other kids were playing chess. This small palm tree fell on her. She was so cute and so sweet every time her grandmother had taken her to visit our yard. We didn’t have anyone die in our yard except Mr. Li’s niece. She came to play a few times. She was supposed to be a few years older than us—15 or 16 years old, but she looked about seven or eight years old instead. My neighbors told us that she died from the mystery fever that she had on and off.
     Death was for the first time something on my mind, something we couldn’t change. So my girlfriend and I discussed it. The worst thing was that we wouldn’t know what was going on any more, and would be forgotten. I offered the solution that if we do something extraordinary, people will remember us after we die. But not knowing what was going on, we could not find the solution.