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from the June 2016 issue

Outcast

1.

It was a winter’s night, the kind with icy winds that blew so hard they tore into one’s pores and a cold that was enough to make each lonely heart freeze over. There, in the park, a ghostly young man drifted, a wandering soul with no family or friends to rely on. His black eyes flashed beneath the murky gray lamppost light as he watched me walking toward him.

“This late and you’re not going home yet?” I patted one of his hunched up shoulders and he made an obvious effort to smile. His lips were turning purple and they trembled. He looked as though he wanted to explain things, to give me a good impression so that I would take him home with me.

“I’m waiting for a friend,” he said, “but he might not come. It’s too cold out.” The words were directed at me, but the young man gazed into the distance as he spoke. He seemed to be telling me that if his friend were to show up now, it wasn’t me he’d be leaving with.

“What’s your name? How old are you?” I reached out and took hold of one of his frozen hands. “Are you going to keep waiting for that friend?”

“My friends in the circle call me Little Fairy. I’m twenty.”

“Little Fairy?!” I laughed.

“Listen, Uncle,” he said. “Can you host? If so, I’ll go home with you right now.” Little Fairy opened his bright, black eyes and looked at me.

I wasn’t sure that I wanted to host, but I couldn’t bear to lie to this child, who so desperately needed warmth.

“Yes, Uncle can host. He’ll take you home now.” I opened up the right side of my coat and held Little Fairy tightly against me as we stepped out of the park.

I took him home with me.

“I bet you’re hungry, Little Fairy!” I said, holding up two packages of instant noodles. “One pack or two?”

“Two, please, Uncle He!” Little Fairy stared at the noodles with hungry eyes.

I stepped into the small, narrow kitchen and lit the gas burner, then began to prepare the noodles in a wok. When the water came to a boil, I cracked two eggs and dropped them in.

The noodles were barely cooked when Little Fairy picked up a bowl and stepped toward me. In quick succession he ladled the noodles into the bowl, then into his mouth.

I sat down and turned on the TV.                                            

“Are the noodles OK?” I asked, smiling as I craned my neck to look at him.

“They’re good . . . good!” Little Fairy chomped on the noodles and gulped down enormous mouthfuls of broth. By the time the words were out of his mouth, the noodles had completely vanished. He quickly drank down the rest of the soup, showing me the great, pitiable hunger he had endured for so long.

My heart ached somewhat as I watched Little Fairy eat. I stood up and walked in his direction, then pulled two more packages of instant noodles from a cardboard box and returned to the kitchen. They were ready in no time. Little Fairy really was like a little fairy: he waved his chopsticks and the noodles disappeared as if by magic, leaving the wok’s interior bone dry. I made him a third batch of noodles.

“I’m sorry, Uncle He! It’s just that I was so hungry today, and Uncle He’s noodles are so good!” Little Fairy had eaten several bowls of instant noodles at that point and his face was now flushed.

I suddenly recalled my own childhood days of hunger. In those days, there was nothing that wasn’t an object of my appetite. I used to watch earthworms ingesting mouthful after mouthful of dirt and envy their good fortune.

“There’s nothing good on TV, Uncle He. Let’s go to sleep!” Little Fairy’s eyes turned from the TV screen, where an endless stream of drug commercials was being shown.

The day I met Little Fairy, I had been knocking around the public park for half a year. I was fifty-six.

I held Little Fairy tightly in my arms as we lay in bed together. I didn’t want to have too much contact with his flesh yet, as my hands and feet were very cold. Only after my limbs warmed under the blanket would I begin to touch and caress the skin of this heartbreaking little fairy. It was then that I suddenly realized that he was wearing a wig and the skin beneath his clothing was as coarse as tree bark. When I touched Little Fairy’s cock, he cried out like a bird. In haste I pulled my hand away like a child who had been caught doing something wrong.

“My hometown is Zhangjiajie, in Hunan Province,” Little Fairy began. He was lying in my arms and he began to tell me his story.

 

In your first year of middle school you had a classmate named Little Wei. Your families lived in the same residential area. On Sundays, you and Little Wei would play together and do your homework together.

Little Wei’s father was a driver who was on the road hauling and delivering goods almost all year long. This Uncle Ma rarely came home, but when holidays came around he would drive his big blue truck into the small square at the center of the residential area. With a solemn look on his face and dressed in clothes that were always neat and tidy, he would descend the vehicle with two bottles of booze in his hands. Only after stepping off to the side would the kids from the neighborhood lunge forward to encircle his big blue truck and begin touching it everywhere.

Once when you were very little you had a high fever. Your mother went out looking for your father; when she found him, he was gambling at a restaurant. He cursed her out brutally, so she put you on her back and carried you to the hospital with tears in her eyes. It had just rained and the streets were covered in mud. Your mother was frail and weak and she moved through the mire with heavy steps, nearly falling on several occasions. You almost passed out in your feverish state and you had no idea if it was daytime or night. Then, in a faint haze, you seemed to hear your Uncle Ma’s voice. You wanted to open your eyes to see him, but your eyelids wouldn’t lift. Your head rested heavily against your mother’s shoulder. A big pair of hands lifted your head and a wide forehead pressed against your face.

“This fever is high—he needs to get to the hospital right away! Isn’t the child’s father at home? Why isn’t he worried about him?”

“That bastard! Out drinking and gambling all day long—doesn’t concern himself with a thing at home! Go ask him yourself. He’ll either beat you or yell at you!” Mother’s voice choked with sobs. By the time a teardrop had fallen from the corner of her eye, your Uncle Ma had hoisted you up and onto his shoulders, which were as thick and sturdy as a horse’s back. Ma. The name meant “horse.”

From then on, you fantasized that your mother was a bad woman, that she had seduced Uncle Ma and become pregnant by him, and that you were the offspring of this union.

2.

During the summer vacation of your fourteenth year of life, you stole a cigarette and learned to smoke like your Uncle Ma.

Not far from the residential area where you lived, a utility pole stood at the side of the road. Next to it a streetlight shone brightly, illuminating the missing person poster attached to the pole. You hadn’t seen a trace of the imbecilic child who had wandered off; his father had written in the poster that there would be a five-thousand yuan reward for anyone who brought him home. Each time you saw that missing person sign, you daydreamed that you would be the one to find the stupid child and bring him back to his father. You would be rich, and you’d buy lots of toys and sweet fruits.

You caught a glimpse of someone walking toward the public toilet. You could only see him from behind, but—yes!—it was Little Wei’s father! There was the Uncle Ma about whom you had been dreaming for so long. It had been more than a month since you had seen that warm and loving smile. Uncle Ma! you wanted to cry out, but your feet moved faster than your mouth and the next thing you knew you were following him. You waited outside the entrance to the toilet, where the sound of gurgling piss met your ears and made your heart race. Suddenly the thought of catching a secret glimpse flashed through your mind and you charged into the toilet. When Uncle Ma saw you, he smiled and nodded as the sound of gurgling piss continued. It was the first time in your life you saw a big, dark cock right there in front of you. This was a big man’s treasure. One day you would grow one just like it.

You had made many friends at school, and on Saturday nights you began staying overnight in the school dormitory despite the fact that it was very close to your home. At first your parents asked you about it. When they found out you were sleeping at school, they didn’t concern themselves with it again.

One Sunday, you brought a classmate named Little Jie home with you to play. Little Jie was the child of a migrant family. He told you he wouldn’t be going home that day. As you neared your front door, you heard the familiar sound of your father and mother fighting. You were used to it, but it was embarrassing for you to have a classmate hear it. You were still deciding whether to take him inside or to run back out to the street when you suddenly heard your big sister crying. You lowered your head and your palms broke into a cold sweat. Little Jie took you by the hand and the two of you went back to the street. Neither of you felt like talking; you just kept walking farther and farther away from home. Before long the sky was completely black. You went with your classmate to a convenience store, where you bought two packages of instant noodles. You sat beneath a streetlight and ate them dry. Little Jie told you that his parents fought a lot, too; this was the main reason he stayed away from home on Sundays. Perhaps it was Little Jie’s story that made you feel your destinies were connected. You became good friends.

“Come back and stay with me at school tonight!” Little Jie’s thin, dark face was carved with loneliness and imploring.

“I want to go home,” you said. “But I’m also . . . I’m also scared!” You quickly added, “All right, I’ll go home a little later. How about I walk you back to school first? The main gate will be locked if we get there too late.”

“All right! Let’s take People’s Road. It’s a little longer, but there are lots of streetlights.” Little Jie tightened his belt.

Side by side, you and Little Jie walked back to school.

You were still unbearably hungry. The instant noodles were like air in your belly; you couldn’t feel a thing. You didn’t know if your father and mother were done fighting yet—perhaps they had finished making dinner and were now eating? You knew that if you didn’t go home they wouldn’t wait for you to eat. Father was cruel to you, and Mother at times would suddenly become like a stranger. Their entire lives, it seemed, were spent in regret—did it have something to do with you? You knew that your mother had given birth to you because you looked very much like her, but were you really your father’s? You knew you were supposed to be, and yet it also seemed as though maybe you weren’t. You thought back to the time when you were little and the ground was covered with mud, when you had a high fever and your mother carried you on her back. As she walked on the road to the hospital, you leaned your head against her shoulder and you suspected you might die. A big pair of hands lifted your head and a wide forehead pressed against your face. It’s Uncle Ma! you had thought. His voice had been so comforting. You crawled onto his shoulders, which were so big and broad like a horse’s back. The rain fell endlessly in the black night and large black shadows pursued you. You flew upward, you stretched your arms outward toward a light.

“Be careful!” Frantically, Little Jie dragged you from the middle of the road.

A car zipped past you, its headlights flashing brightly. You hadn’t realized you weren’t paying any attention to the road until you had almost been hit by it.                                                                                           

“Fuck! Driving that fast? We’d be screwed if he hit us!” There was no reproach in Little Jie’s voice. He held your hand and showed his concern for you, his face looking even thinner and darker than usual in the nighttime shadows.

You had just about arrived at Zhangjiajie Middle School. The main gate wasn’t fully shut yet and the shifu who served as night watchman sat beneath a twenty-five-watt lightbulb with some old, bald guy at his side. The late spring night wind blew and the delicate fragrance of flowers floated toward you from inside the campus.

Little Jie disappeared into the shared sleeping space of the dormitory and you exited the campus gate, thinking about the helpless and resigned way he had laughed when telling you the story of his parents. Your heart filled with compassion and if you hadn’t been quite so hungry you might have stayed with him throughout the night. You had already spent the last bit of change in your pocket. You knew your parents were fighting, but for several days now you hadn’t had even a few coins.

As you walked back to the residential area where you lived, you began to pray about what might lie ahead. The lights in your home were still on but the sound of fighting had ceased. You held the door key in your right hand, but gently knocked with your left.

“Fuck, you’re back?” Your father opened the door with eyes that were red and a face that was heavy with exhaustion. His voice was low and quiet. In your experience, this meant that everything was going to be okay, that you weren’t going to be beaten or yelled at. You lowered your head and cautiously made your way through the living room. Cutting across the kitchen, you grabbed a deep-fried pancake and began taking huge bites.

3.

After seeing Uncle Ma’s thing in the public toilet, you began to see a big, dark cock in your dreams each night. You fantasized that the next time you encountered Uncle Ma in the toilet, it would be dark outside; nobody would be able to see what you were doing. Uncle Ma would hold you tightly in his arms; surely he would also kiss you madly. But when you actually stood face to face with Uncle Ma, your face would flush red. When you actually stood face to face with Uncle Ma, you were filled with desire yet refused his kisses and his embrace.

News of Little Jie becoming lovebirds with a girl in his class spread quickly throughout the school. At a school assembly the principal and head teacher criticized them mercilessly and made them write open self-criticisms. For a time, everybody at school was talking about the scandal behind their backs; some students said the girl was pregnant. Later on, she killed herself: her body was found hanging from the steel-frame basketball hoop on the playground. Little Jie dropped out of school; later, some people said he had become mentally unstable. You never saw Little Jie again, and the whole affair made you dislike athletics. In an instant, male and female students started keeping each other at a distance.

You didn’t know why, but being near female classmates always filled you with an intense fear.

What you longed for day and night was a pair of big, broad shoulders.

One day, you thought you saw Uncle Ma walking toward the public toilet on the side of the road. You followed him as if involuntarily. Only after entering the toilet were you able to see that it wasn’t Uncle Ma at all.

During the summer vacation of your fifteenth year, all of your waiting finally paid off. It was just the two of you inside the toilet. You didn’t know if you should stand up and pretend to piss or squat down and pretend to shit. Disobediently, your little cock began to swell. You were getting so hard it hurt and you wanted nothing more than to hold onto Uncle Ma and have a good cry. Uncle Ma seemed to notice your rapidly stiffening little cock; his face was suddenly covered with a sheet of red as if he had been drinking. You watched as the last drop of piss fell from his body; his big, dark cock grew larger and larger. You squatted down, body swaying, and you suddenly felt the four walls of the toilet spinning around you. You opened your panic-stricken eyes wider; your mouth, too, opened wide, eager to take something inside.

The expression on Uncle Ma’s face suddenly became opaque. It was like something burning in a dream.

You don’t quite know how it happened that you were brought inside Uncle Ma’s home with his arms wrapped firmly around you. Little Wei and his mother and younger sister had disappeared the way people disappear in dreams. Your breathing became rapid and your body went limp.

Your face pressed up tightly against Uncle Ma’s face. He kissed your delicate skin with his burning lips and for some strange reason you suddenly felt like going home. You recalled that your father had never kissed you; he only yelled at you and beat you. Your heart palpitated wildly and your frozen limbs seemed to be floating.

This was the happiest night of your fifteenth year. You had yearned for this day for a long time; never could you have imagined that such a beautiful day would come. Your little cock swelled even more wildly than before and you couldn’t help crying. Lovingly, Uncle Ma touched you with his big hands and asked you if there was anywhere that didn’t feel good. Father had never showed this kind of concern for you, nor had he ever touched you this way. Your tears fell in heavier clusters. You wondered if Uncle Ma had touched Little Wei like this often in the past, making him drift into sleep each night like a little boat floating on a bay and giving him dreams that were sweeter than candy! You started to envy Little Wei. Cursing, you hoped that they would never return from his grandma’s.

Every organ in Uncle Ma’s body called out to you!

As if in a trance you answered the call. You felt that Uncle Ma’s skin and flesh was so hot it might scald you. You wanted to sleep but were gripped by insomnia. Under Uncle Ma’s kisses your little cock stiffened like nothing you had seen and a liquid that looked like egg whites shot out in greater volume than in dreams.

It became harder and harder for you to be away from Uncle Ma. When you were alone, you often masturbated while fantasizing about him.

Uncle Ma, too, was kinder and kinder to you each day. Sometimes you daydreamed that you and Little Wei had switched fathers.

You had never seen Father’s cock! Nor did you know precisely what he had done to give birth to you. You were lonely. Standing before your father you felt that he was a stranger. You had always believed that your mother couldn’t have been a good woman because she had married a man who didn’t care for you. This man is a bastard! came a scream from deep within your heart.

You spent the summer in secrecy with Uncle Ma. He took you in his big blue truck to go have fun in another city. Sitting in the front seat beside him you felt the cool, refreshing wind against your cheek; outside the window it was all green scenery. You pulled down the zipper of Uncle Ma’s trousers and pulled out his cock, which was as big as a banana, and held it in your mouth. The car moved forward excitedly.

 

“It’s so funny!” Uncle Ma said with a laugh. “Little Wei’s mom is starting to suspect I have a woman on the side, but she can’t find any proof!” When you heard this, you thought it was a little scary, but also funny!

When Little Wei and his mom weren’t home, Uncle Ma would open up the window on the second floor and place a red teacup on the windowsill. This was how you communicated for the purposes of clandestine lovemaking.

“I’m going over to Little Wei’s to play,” you would say to your family, you would say to everyone you knew. You didn’t know how many times you’d told this lie.

One day when you saw the red teacup, you ascended the staircase to the second floor and knocked on the door.

Uncle Ma took you into his arms and pulled you into the bedroom. A few articles of women’s clothing were folded up neatly on one corner of the bed. You enjoyed looking at women’s pretty clothing, but not at pretty women.

You could smell Uncle Ma’s body odor; it was a very nice smell that floated up from his armpits. His broad, wide shoulders pressed down on you. You were like a little tortoise that had finally found its shell. You embraced the heavy weight pressing down on your body. This was the sense of security for which you had longed.

“Kiss me again, Uncle Ma!” you panted, eyes closed, face flushed red.

Uncle Ma’s tongue glided from your ear to the nape of your neck, then flickered down to one of your nipples, which was just the size of a soybean, and down to your trembling belly button. The tiny hairs on your body seemed as if on fire. Sweat poured, semen shot, and before long, tears flowed, too.

When others bullied you, you pushed your tears down into your stomach. When your parents beat you or yelled at you, you pushed them into your heart. Uncle Ma made living happy. When he made you come, the tears that had been trapped inside finally had the opportunity to come out, too.

“I love you, Uncle Ma. I’ll love you forever . . . Uncle Ma.” Your tears mingled with Uncle Ma’s sweat.

“Time goes by so fast,” Uncle Ma sighed. Reluctantly, he released you from his arms and pulled up his trousers.

4.

You left Uncle Ma’s place, counting your footsteps.

You left your place, and went to the foot of Uncle Ma’s building. You looked up in search of the red teacup, but it was nowhere to be found.

In a dream, you stood at the foot of Uncle Ma’s building and looked up. Ever so gently, the window opened and a red teacup magically appeared on the second story windowsill.

On a mid-autumn Sunday, you had just stepped out of your building when you spotted Little Wei’s mom exiting the residential area with a bag in her arms. You rushed to the foot of Little Wei’s building, lifted your head, and saw the red teacup; there seemed to be a white mist rising from it. You and Uncle Ma tore your clothes off quickly. He kissed you madly, then mounted you; he was a tortoise shell growing on your back. His cock entered you again and again and your rectum convulsed in pleasure. Just then, Little Wei’s mother entered the bedroom. She stared at the two of you in shock, then began crying and screaming. She howled like a rabid dog and threw things across the room.

You threw on your pants, utterly gripped by alarm, and bolted out the door. It was only while running down the stairs that you realized you had left your underwear on the bed. You didn’t dare return home. Instead, you ran endlessly, feeling as though there were countless pairs of eyes mercilessly digging into your back, an endless stream of frightful faces cursing you. If Father and Mother knew about this . . . No tears fell from your eyes; you felt that you were a bad child and bad children weren’t allowed to cry. Full of hateful regret, you paced back and forth at an intersection in the dark.

To continue going to school, to repent and reform, you thickened your skin and went home. In your heart you prayed: perhaps Little Wei’s mom would find this too shameful to speak of, perhaps it would cause her to lose so much face that she wouldn’t tell your family. Hadn’t she gone out to do something? Why had she suddenly come back?! Did she already suspect something, or had she forgotten something at home and only learned of the scandalous acts when she came back to get it? You wanted to turn into a mouse and disappear into a crack in the wall.

You never would have expected that Little Wei’s mom would march straight to your home and make a huge scene over what had happened. She pointed right at your parents’ noses and hurled insults at them. Then she went to find others in the neighborhood and described to them all the vile things she had seen. When your father saw you, he pounded you with his fists until your nose was twisted out of shape, your lip was split, and you were covered in blood. You spit out one of your teeth and your entire face was bruised and swollen. You didn’t have time to cry, didn’t have time to moan and groan. A single kick knocked you to the ground and you felt your father’s foot kicking you again and again. Blood flowed from your nose and from your mouth, but no tears fell from your eyes. You closed your eyes and discovered you were willing to be kicked by your father, one blow at a time, all the way to death.

“I’ll kill you, you filthy animal! I’ll kill you, you filthy animal!” Father’s voice became more and more remote; the sound of spectators trying to stop the fight became more and more remote; the sound of Mother’s sobbing became more and more remote, too. The surrounding buildings spun and the earth beneath your feet seemed to float in the air like a boat on water. You couldn’t see yourself. The black night pressed down on you like a toppled steel tower.

After being kicked out by your father, you no longer went to school. Nor did you seek refuge with other family members or with friends. You couldn’t face anyone, so great was the shame. In the daytime you slept under a bridge, at night you foraged through the streets looking for food. You wouldn’t steal and you wouldn’t beg; instead, you ate from piles of garbage. When you couldn’t take it anymore, you returned home, knelt at your mother’s feet, and begged her to take you back. She hadn’t seen you for more than ten days, and yet she wouldn’t hold you. When she saw the condition you were in, all she did was cry. Your father still wouldn’t forgive you; he screamed at you for causing the entire family to lose face. When he grabbed a leather shoe to beat you again, your older sister threw her arms around you and pushed you out the front door. With tears in her eyes, she tried to give you twenty yuan so that you could buy something to eat. You didn’t take your sister’s money. You laughed in the face of this family that had thrown you out like so much trash. You puffed up your chest and descended the stairs.

Counting your footsteps, you went to Little Wei’s building. When you reached it you stopped and raised your head to look up. You no longer saw a red teacup on the windowsill. You saw the window, which was now tightly shut, and you laughed. Suddenly the window opened and a familiar face appeared. Uncle Ma saw you smiling at him; he returned your gaze with a look of surprise and seemingly at a loss as to what to do. You turned and left, counting your footsteps as you walked.

The first time you stole something, it was half a container of gasoline from a driver. It was only half a container, and you wanted a full one. What you wanted was a very large container of gasoline. You walked with the half-full container of gasoline to a pile of rubble at a demolition site. All the old buildings that were to be torn down had been torn down; the high-rise buildings that were to be built hadn’t yet been built. All that remained was a stretch of silence, a silence desperately needed by the dead! What you really wanted was to turn to ash, but you only had half a container of gasoline; now you thought, just burn to death and that will be good enough. You opened the lid of the half-full container. The gasoline splashed onto your clothes and the remaining drops you let fall on the top of your head. There really wasn’t enough gasoline. You wanted to die quickly, but your shoes were dry and your hair wasn’t soaked though. You didn’t know how long you would have to burn before you would die. You looked for the matches. You wanted to strike the match in your hand just like the little match girl in the story.

Suddenly you saw a man running toward you. When the man came closer you saw that it was Uncle Ma.

“Don’t come near me! Don’t come near me!” you cried.

Uncle Ma moved faster. When he was only a dozen paces from you, he tripped on a rock and fell to the ground. He raised his smashed face and called out in a loud voice: “Don’t do anything stupid! Stop!”

“Strike the match! Strike the match!” You seemed to hear a little girl’s voice calling in your ear. With lightning speed you struck the match and in an instant you saw yourself light up. The world around you was on fire, a countless number of insects biting at your skin.

5.

You were in the hospital for a week before you opened your eyes. The first thing you saw was Uncle Ma’s face, thin and haggard from grief. His eyes were red and his lips were dry and cracked. When he saw you open your eyes, a tiny smile appeared on his lips and his eyes welled with tears. Half the skin on your body had been burnt off, as well as a large section of the hair on your head. All that was left was a face that you no longer wanted, a face that continued to exist incompletely for this world.

Your parents never visited you at the hospital. Your older sister came a few times. She would stay for a while and then say good-bye, rubbing her eyes as she left. Only Uncle Ma stayed at your side.

After you got out of the hospital, you and Uncle Ma moved into a rented apartment. It was only later that you found out your Uncle Ma had left his wife for you. 

When Uncle Ma told Little Wei’s mother that he wanted a divorce, she cried for some time, then clenched her fists and said, “Fine, we’ll get a divorce. But the child stays with me. The apartment and all our savings stay with me, too.”

Uncle Ma agreed to each of Little Wei’s mother’s demands, and he left their home with nothing to his name but a few of articles of clothing. To provide you with medical care he borrowed money from friends. He never did tell you how much he paid for your hospital stay and medical expenses.

Your hair never grew back, so you wore a hat each day. Even with the hat, you no longer wanted to go out and enjoy yourself. On your sixteenth birthday, Uncle Ma bought you a wig and you finally saw your handsome face in the mirror. When the two of you walked in the street together, you feared that a strong wind would come along and blow the wig off. You didn’t go to the public baths anymore, for the skin beneath your clothing was uglier than a toad’s. Sometimes you went into the bathroom and tried to masturbate, but your cock would always remain flaccid.

You crawled on Uncle Ma’s back and cried because you were no longer able to ejaculate. He kissed your tears; no longer were they trapped inside your stomach, trapped inside your heart. With Uncle Ma at your side, you cried anytime you wanted. He made you promise that no matter what happened, you would keep on living. You began to put on weight. Uncle Ma, however, got thinner and thinner.

To make a living, Uncle Ma continued to drive his truck, endlessly hauling and delivering goods.

When you were alone, you would lie in bed and sleep. When you woke up, you would eat the candies that your Uncle Ma bought for you. They really did smell good and were very sweet. You ate them standing at the window, you ate them when you went outside. You ate them while sitting down and while lying in bed. You ate them endlessly, and endlessly you put on weight. You knew the taste of sweetness.

Three years later, Uncle Ma bought a two-bedroom apartment. Although your new home hadn’t yet been renovated, you moved into it. One time when the two of you were lying in bed, you reached out and touched Uncle Ma’s cock. For the first time in three years, he didn’t stop you. In the entire previous three years, Uncle Ma had had no sexual contact with you.

“Wait till I’ve done a few more long trips and made a little money. I’ll take you traveling to every corner of the country.” Uncle Ma held you in his arms as he spoke.

“Don’t do any more trips, Uncle Ma! You’re always gone for more than two weeks at a time!” Lovingly, you stroked his emaciated face.

Your Uncle Ma wouldn’t listen. He was determined to continue making long-distance trips so that he could earn more. Each time before stepping out the door, he gave you wonderful things to eat and told you to wait for him to come back. On several occasions, he encouraged you to go back to school, but each time you shook your head resolutely and said no. As long as Uncle Ma kept taking care of you, as long as you were together, there was nothing that you wanted, nothing that mattered.

You started smoking and drinking. When you were nearly at the point where you had forgotten how to cry, Uncle Ma had an accident.

One of Uncle Ma’s coworkers came to comfort you. Whatever he might have said, the words had no impact on you.

You didn’t believe that your Uncle Ma was really gone. He was going to come back! You didn’t cry. You were sure that fate was playing a big joke on you.

In dreams you saw Uncle Ma driving his truck with you sitting right beside him, the wind blowing past your face. A cold wind blew in the darkest, deepest place of the black night.

Shifu Ma was really unlucky! The car fell into a valley. Just before he died, he asked me to take care of you.” Uncle Ma’s coworker appeared once more. He placed a hand on your shoulder to comfort you.

“Go away! Go away!” You wanted to push anyone who came near you away. “Go die! Everyone, just go and die! My parents can go and die, too! The only ones who shouldn’t go and die are me and Uncle Ma!” You sobbed loudly.

You stood outside the doorway, waiting for your Uncle Ma to come back.

In dreams you saw Uncle Ma come back for real. He walked toward you, carrying sweet fruits in his hands.

You stood in the wind. You stood in the rain. You waited for your Uncle Ma to come back.

In dreams you saw Uncle Ma come back for real. His big, warm hands held you.

You stood in the interminable black night. You stood and stood.

Little Wei’s mother came to claim the apartment. Little Wei was with her. As the relative of the deceased, he had the right to inherit the property. But you were nothing. The relationship between you and Uncle Ma had no legal protection. You didn’t care about the apartment. You didn’t want anything. You only wanted your Uncle Ma.

You became a drifter after that. You took the wig Uncle Ma had given you and went from city to city, sleeping in parks, in railway stations, under bridges, and in tunnels. No matter how cold the dark night was, your Uncle Ma kept living in your heart.

 

Little Fairy finished his story and fell asleep in my arms. I wasn’t his Uncle Ma, but I felt I could love him just as his Uncle Ma had.

 

From Outcast. © Mu Cao. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2016 by Scott E. Myers. All rights reserved.

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