Romantic Cycles

Born Romantic

One day, Atabong went out for a walk in the park on the banks of the Yellow River. It was a cool autumn evening. The golden spray of the setting sun accentuated the charm and sparkle of the last gold leaves on the trees adorning the narrow paths. Like a virgin bracing up for a pioneer kiss a hedge of willows shivered and swayed feverishly as the cool breath of the Yellow River gently caressed their drooping branches. A little way down the path, along the hedge of willows, Atabong saw an old couple walking hand in hand toward him. They must have been in their seventies. Atabong fixed his gaze on their scaly hands, trying to build a mental image of the gentle chimes of love pulsing between their interlocked fingers. “For how long have they shared this sacred beat? Forty, fifty years?” He wondered inwardly and reverently stepped aside to give them passage.

He hastened on towards the gate as the crepuscular depth of the evening grew thicker. Just before the gate Atabong saw two figures under the canopy of a tree. It was one of the few trees in the park that were still clutching onto their last flowers in defiance of the pre-winter frost. He blinked several times. Ah, a boy and his girlfriend. The girl looked almost like a fairy with her long hair nearly reaching down to her heels. A mystic sexy aura seemed to glow from the long mass of hair squirming on her back like a mermaid’s tail. This woman looked almost exotic. For a moment, Atabong held his breath and stopped moving so he could engrave the unfolding idyllic scene onto his sometimes lascivious heart. Legs slightly apart and arms wrapped around the boy’s waist, the girl starred dreamily into his eyes. The boy gently combed her hair with all his ten fingers. She laid her head on his chest and seemed to fall asleep. The boy stretched a hand, ripped off flowers from the tree. As he pinned them on the girl’s flowing hair he said to her, almost in a whisper: “On these rich fields of Shandong we’ll blossom everyday.”
”We’ll rise like the mighty Taishan and hold all the land in awe,” she whispered into his chest.
”Like a gentle breeze from Huang He we’ll swim over this great land,” he chained up and pinned another flower.
The girl looked up into his eyes and they both chorused: “Like two waves on the Yellow Sea, we'll comb the waters together. And return ashore together, rich with the catch of each day.”
Atabong coughed, feeling jealous probably, pretending as if he had not noticed them before. The couple turned instinctively and starred at Atabong. The girl’s face turned red and her lips quivered. Her boyfriend cupped her face into his hands, gave her a deep wet kiss and then turned and looked at Atabong defiantly, with an almost mocking glare in his teenage eyes. Atabong felt uneasy. He coughed, almost inaudibly and walked away. Whenever he felt ashamed the hair on his nape would stand on edge. He brushed the hair down with his right hand. As he walked to the gate he thought: “The flowers the boy has picked would soon wither. Would their love also wither? Or would they grow old together like the old couple I just met a moment ago? Maybe in their old age the dregs of their love perfume would not be the sweet fragrance of late autumn flowers. One thing would remain after the exuberant flare of juvenile romance has been spent, should they never part. Like the old couple, it would just be the constant pulse of one heart into another through their interlocked hands and, possibly, nostalgic recollections of moments gone by.”

From the park, Atabong took a twenty minute walked to the town square teeming with people. Like a lone black pearl in the Yellow River he waded his way through the humming yellow sea of humanity, all the time trying to evade the curious eyes awed by his huge frame and ebony skin glistening in the floodlights at the square. He could hear people whispering to each other: “Zenme hei!” (“How black!”); or “Zenme gao!” (How tall!”). For a moment he thought of retreating. “Eyes don’t kill,” he consoled himself and waded on. At one spot, Atabong saw a group of kids playing on an inflated stage as their parents, and some grand parents looked on. Whenever a child stumbled on the stage, parents would surge forward to raise him or her up at once. He envied the carefree nature of childhood. But above all he envied this part of a Chinese child’s childhood. One of the benefits of the Chinese government’s one child policy is that the child doesn’t have to compete for their parents’ attention with any other siblings. They have become little emperors, Xiao Wang, at home as parents and grand parents over dote on them. Atabong looked at the children playing care-freely on the inflated stage. He wished he could be reborn as an only child in a Chinese home so that he could relive the childhood that had been sacrificed on the altar of a large polygamous family of forty children.

One particular little emperor stood out unique from the tens of infant royals jumping and rolling on the stage. He should have been between five and eight years old. Yet, Atabong could feel that he already had a very big romantic heart. This is the real Xiao Wang, Atabong thought. There was one little girl who seemed to have stirred up Xiao Wang’s young heart. Let’s call her FeiFei. Xiao Wang would play with no one else if FeiFei was busy doing some other thing. At one moment Xiao Wang was not enjoying life on the stage any more. His grandmother encouraged him to play. The kind old lady had not realized that her grandson would play with no one other than Feifei. For over twenty minutes one other boy had been trying to show Feifei the thrills of a new toy his parents had just bought for him. No matter how the grandmother encouraged him to play with the others Xiao Wang just stood by and sulked.

Not able to bear the pain any longer, he burst into tears. He had waited in vain to get back his princess but the other boy did not look as if he would let her go. So the only thing to do was to cry out his protest. His grandmother thought he had suddenly caught ill or was tired of playing. She tried to take him away from the stage but he would not step down. How could he just bow out like that? Frustrated that no one seemed to understand him, Xiao Wang wriggled himself free from his grandmother’s grip and ran over to where FeiFei was still marveling at the other boy’s reggae dancing toy. Xiao Wang gripped her hand and pulled her away. Ha, ha, ha! A burst of laughter instantly rose from the crowd of parents and onlookers as people suddenly understood where his pain lay. He did not care. After all, he had got back his sweet heart. “Romance is born with us!” Atabong exclaimed inwardly as he walked away, tugging at his Bin Ladin goatee.


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