This is probably the most difficult class Tang Xu has ever taught, to the point where he feels that it goes against his professional ethics as a teacher.
Although the content displayed on the computer screen is something he knows like the back of his hand, today it seems to be bouncing and jumping around in unpredictable ways, leaving him feeling confused, annoyed, and agitated.
The bell for the end of the first class rang, and he took a long breath and threw the chalk on the desk.
Although there is now PowerPoint, and the teacher can complete the entire lecture without moving the chalk, he still writes some notes on the blackboard in each class.
The chalk that was thrown did not hit the desk but rolled a few circles on the podium, and with a crisp sound, it fell to the ground, broke into two pieces, and scattered some white powder debris around.
To save himself trouble later, Tang Xu bends down to pick up the pieces.
As he stands up, he realises that something is different in the classroom today.
During usual class breaks, students would go to get water or use the restroom, or even just wander around even if they had nothing to do—the main point was to take a break.
But today, the students below seem to be less active.
Some are gathered around He Zhong, while others are looking over and listening to their conversation.
Tang Xu overheard a few comments; they were asking about Tang Cuo’s situation and wondering why he hadn’t come to class, wondering if he was feeling down.
It seemed that Tang Cuo was indeed well liked by his classmates.
This care and concern from the students stir up some emotions in Tang Xu.
He put down the chalk in his hand and leaned on one side, took out his phone, and sent a message to his family, asking what they wanted for lunch.
He Zhong walked up to the podium with a stack of homework books and placed them on the desk.
He then leaned over to Tang and whispered in a low voice, “Teacher Tang, is Cuo Cuo okay?”
Tang looked up at He Zhong, shook his head, and glanced at his phone, which had not received a reply yet.
“Oh,” murmured He Zhong to himself.
Just before class began, Tang Cuo received a text message.
—”I’m going home… My parents are coming back tonight, and I was planning to leave today anyway, really.”
Less than two seconds later, another text came in.
—”It’s really my parents who are coming back.”
After reading the message, Tang Xu had already imagined Tang Cuo’s sincere and serious face in his mind.
He sighed inwardly; he had still run away in the end.
The five-minute break quickly passed, and he only had time to reply with a short sentence before clutching the chalk in his fingertips and continuing the unfinished content.
Meanwhile, Tang Cuo was standing at the subway station waiting for the train; his phone lit up, and he looked at it nervously, more afraid than hopeful.
He couldn’t figure out Tang Xu’s attitude, but he touched his forehead and felt that things didn’t seem as bad as he had expected.
—”I’ll call you after class, and you have to pick it up,” he texted back.
With two “didi” sounds, the subway door opened, and Tang Cuo walked up and found a small corner by the intersection of two carriages.1The phrase “找了个小角落靠着” (found a small corner by the intersection of two carriages) is an idiom that means to find a comfortable or secure spotThe subway started, taking people away from the platform.
Tang Cuo opened the message interface again and read the message word by word, so slowly that he could mentally trace each stroke of every character in regular script.2The use of “规整的小楷” (regular script) to describe the way Tang Cuo mentally traces each character in the message emphasises his careful attention to detail.
He opened the phone settings, confirmed that the ringtone was set to both sound and vibration, and then checked the battery level, which was at 74 percent.
Only then did Tang Cuo feel relieved and put the phone in his pocket, looking up to catch a glimpse of the billboard flashing by outside the window.
After the most secretive secret is exposed, one will generally go through a phase of panic as if the sky is falling and the ground is caving in, and then a phase of fear as if it’s the end of the world.
And after that, there will be calmness, a calmness that can last forever.
Tang Xu’s phone call was very timely; almost exactly 51 minutes later, his phone rang.
At that time, Tang Cuo was still going through a long transfer on the subway.
Beijing is too big, and the journey is too far.
“Have you arrived home yet?”
The surroundings were a bit noisy, and Tang Cuo held the phone closer to his ear to hear Tang Xu’s voice better.
“Not yet, but I’m almost there.”
“Okay,” Tang Cuo paused and said, “Be safe, and send me a message when you get home, okay?”
Amid the crowded flow of people, Tang Cuo answered the phone and squeezed onto the subway train.
“Teacher Tang…it’s too crowded on the subway, I…I’ll hang up first.”
After Tang Xu hung up, Tang Cuo felt his face flush from being pressed against his phone.
There were still some difficult things to face, and he lowered his head in discouragement.
Tang Xu quickly ate in the canteen and returned home to find that his set of bedsheets and quilt cover had already been washed and neatly hung on the balcony to dry.
There is a note left by Tang Cuo on the bedside table saying that he didn’t know where the new bedsheets and covers were, so he didn’t help make the bed.
Also, his parents are coming back today, so he went home first.
Tang Xu sat on the bare bed, holding the note and staring blankly for a long time before sighing heavily and putting it in the drawer.
Well, forget it.
He’ll look for him after seeing Wen Ying tomorrow.
On Saturday evening, Tang Xu arrived twenty minutes early at the agreed meeting place with Wen Ying.
Originally, Wen Ying said they would meet at a café, but for some reason, she called yesterday and changed the location to a McDonald’s.
Tang Xu was standing outside McDonald’s.
Through the transparent floor-to-ceiling glass window, he could see a crowd of three or four people dining, chatting, and even playing some card games together.
He once again concluded that this was not really a suitable place to have a serious conversation.
He found a relatively secluded spot by the window to wait for Wen Ying.
He had never met her before, but he recognised her by her demeanour when she pushed open the door.
He waved at the woman in the white windbreaker, and she looked over and smiled before walking over.
Tang, you’re here early,” Wen Ying said as she sat down, without overly formal pleasantries.
Tang Xu smiled back.
“I’m used to arriving early.” Then he looked around: “Why did you want to meet at McDonald’s, Dr.
It seems like Wen Ying isn’t here to talk about anything serious at all.
After she sits down, she starts casually examining the children’s meal promotional pamphlet that’s stuck on the table.
When Tang Xu asks her a question, she smiles and asks, “What’s wrong, Mr.
Tang? Do you think this place isn’t good?”
“I just feel like it’s not very suitable for conversation,” Tang Xu shakes his head.
“I haven’t been to McDonald’s in a long time.
I’ll go order; what does Dr.
Without being overly polite, Wen Ying says, “A small order of chicken McNuggets, a cup of Coke, no ice.”
“Just these for dinner?” Tang Xu asks
Wen Ying smiles, “Maintaining my figure.”
Wen Ying made a good first impression on Tang Xu.
Perhaps because she is a psychologist and knows a lot about people’s psychology, every action and every word she says seem to be just right for Tang Xu.
To some extent, he doesn’t like the polite and hesitant attitude, firstly because he is straightforward himself, and secondly, because he thinks it’s a waste of time to deal with trivial matters back and forth.
He quickly came back with the tray, and besides the two items that Wen Ying ordered, there was only one cup of Coke with ice in the tray.
“Don’t you want to eat something?” Wen Ying asked.
Tang Xu politely shook his head, “I don’t really like fast food.”
As Wen Ying was opening a packet of sweet and sour sauce, she only smiled lightly upon hearing his words.
Tang asked me earlier why I chose this place.” Wen Ying picked up a chicken nugget, dipped it into the sauce, “Doesn’t this place remind you of something?”
Tang Xu was taken aback and watched as Wen Ying put that little piece of food in her mouth and bit off a corner.
It was this action that suddenly triggered his memory, and a familiar scene was polished and brightened, leaping into his mind.
Wen Ying had been paying attention to his expression all along, and at this moment she saw that the corners of his eyebrows tightened slightly and knew that he had remembered.
“I don’t like to eat these things either, and I don’t let my daughter eat them either.
The first time I came here was with Si Hang.
According to professional ethics, I shouldn’t casually reveal a patient’s condition to others, but Si Hang’s situation is special.
Perhaps because I am also a mother, he feels more like my child in my heart.
I treated him for three years and naturally hope he can recover soon.
After much thought, I realised that only you can help him.
Without beating around the bush, Mr.
Tang, I have heard a lot about you from Si Hang, and I have also heard many times about why you sent him away and what happened.
But those are all Si hang’s own interpretations.
If you don’t mind, I would like to hear you personally explain the reasons for that time.”
The ice cubes in the cup collided twice with a slight shake and then trembled and returned to calm.
Compared to their appearance when they were just put into the cup, their edges and corners were now slightly smoother.
Tang Xu subconsciously reached into his pocket for a cigarette, but then remembered that he was in a public place and withdrew his hand.
He pushed the can of cola aside and folded his hands together on the table.
Wen Ying lowered her gaze slightly and noticed his small movement, but didn’t say anything.
Tang Xu rarely looked back on that memory.
He had been with Tang Cuo for over a year and always felt that, even if he hadn’t taught Tang Cuo to be outstanding, he had at least taught him basic manners and right from wrong.
He really didn’t expect that when they went on a picnic, Tang Cuo would push Shi Xi down the hill.
Even more unexpectedly, when he questioned Tang Cuo, he would shout back at him with his neck sticking out.
“I just hate her! She said she wants to live with you in the future! I’m the one living with you! She’s trying to steal you from me!”
“I did it on purpose! It’s not my fault! She stole you from me without any consideration!”
Every word that Tang Cuo said at that time felt like it could easily ignite the hundred tonnes of explosives in his body, making him so angry that he raised his hand, wanting to slap him hard.
However, even though his hand was already in position, he couldn’t bring himself to hit him—he had told Tang Cuo at the beginning of their time together that he would never hit him, no matter what mistakes he made.
He remembers that his hand was shaking when he lit his cigarette.
He was extremely disappointed in Tang Cuo and in himself.
He couldn’t understand why Tang Cuo had become like this.
He didn’t know whether Tang Cuo understood the significance of legs and feet to someone who regarded dance as their life, but he understood it.
Even then, he was afraid and wondered what the consequences would have been if the slope was steeper and higher.
Tang Xu’s hands tightened together as he said, “I saw him push Shi Xi; I saw Shi Xi roll down.
Later, when Shi Xi was having surgery, I asked him why, and he told me…”
At this point, Tang Xu paused, sifting through his memories, trying to come up with a sentence that could fully express Tang Cuo’s attitude.
“Because Miss Shi Xi said that she wants to live with you, Si Hang thinks that you belong to him, and Miss Shi Xi wants to take you away from him.” Wen Ying continued on from Tang Xu’s words, her tone gentle and slow but every word precise, summarising the unbelievable content that had left him speechless.
Tang Xu nodded and said, “That’s right.
He didn’t know he was wrong, and he wouldn’t admit he was wrong.
At that time, he was too extreme, probably because of his childhood experiences and lack of security, so he relied on me too much.”
Only then did Wen Ying wipe the smile off her face, looking somewhat grave as she shook her head and said, “Although Si Hang did become very extreme later on, he wasn’t like that at that time.”
Tang Xu looked at her with a questioning gaze.
“Some children have a sense of possession towards toys they really like; perhaps this analogy is not very appropriate, but I just want to correct Mr.
Tang’s viewpoint,” said Wenying.
“He’s not being extreme; he just understood possession before understanding what liking is.
This is also why he later despised himself and attributed his feelings towards you as a shameful mistake.”
1The phrase “找了个小角落靠着” (found a small corner by the intersection of two carriages) is an idiom that means to find a comfortable or secure spot2The use of “规整的小楷” (regular script) to describe the way Tang Cuo mentally traces each character in the message emphasises his careful attention to detail.
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