Afternoon 下午


Time started at four o’clock in the afternoon. I woke up from the couch and it was four o’clock, an afternoon which I did nothing. The door facing me was open at the moment, and beyond it, the gray concrete stairs. A little later, light of the setting sun would pass through one of the windows in the hallway and rest squarely against the door, and I would start reading the newspaper, and the neighbors would go home. Then it would be completely dark, there would be sound of cooking in the kitchen, the fluorescent lights would shine my face horribly white, and then the day would be over.

There were some rumors that some people were coming to visit me at home, but I did’t believe it to be true. All I need to do is to touch the back of my head. If there is no hair, I am in a dream; if there is hair, I am in reality. Apparently, I can feel my lush hair, and they are still as soft as the long hair I had when I was young. So I was relieved to pour a glass of water and start reading the newspaper, but the newspaper was almost all photos, with only one line of text saying, “You have to trust the photos, where is the truth in this world, only photos. Your mom and dad are both photographers, which means they are born unable to lie.”

I read the paper with disbelief, it hardly looked like a newspaper, but rather like a diary, the photos were of people who were talking, like a retelling of the mottoes and aphorisms that filled my head when I graduated from college, and I couldn’t stop the tears from staying. I folded the newspaper and went back to the couch, when light of the setting sun passed through a window in the hallway and reached on the door, and the dappled shadows took the opportunity to enter my house. They became the shape of individuals and attempted to move my bicycle that was parked in the kitchen. I ran over to them and tried hard to stop them and questioned why they were trying to steal my bicycle, but they never answer. We scrambled for 40 or 50 minutes until the light could no longer pass through that window and they disappeared. Then my neighbors went home, and at night I cooked in the kitchen with the fluorescent lights on, which lit up my face so white. I looked down to my feet but I could barely make out the shape of my shadow.

For several afternoons in a row, I scrambled with these shadows. I decided to tell my friends about this strange occurrences, and they all stared in disbelief, even excited by such an almost impossible thing to happen in this world. But I was already very tired, fortunately, it was only a few days to go before I moved out of the place. The new apartment was not far away, a triangular shaped wooden house, and I decided to move some extra items to the new home a few days early first. That day, I packed my suitcase and went out happily, there were already many people waiting in front of the cabin. Finally it was my turn, but I found my body is too big to enter the house. I was stuck in a corner of the entrance, and there was a long line of people behind me, which made me felt very anxious. It was sunset at that moment when I saw an identical window in front of me, and the same light passed through it. The people in the line behind me started to stir a little. They pushed me aside, like shadows, kept their bodies close to the wall, folded around this tiny corner and went up the stairs one by one. Stunned, I dropped my suitcase and ran home. The shadows were still pulling at my bike in the hallway. I blocked that window with a piece of newspaper before they gave up and left. The newspaper soaked through the sunlight that I couldn’t see anything bad it would do.

I sometimes wonder if I’ve entered some world I’ve envisioned, and whenever that thought struct me, I touch the back of my head, where my hair is still so thick that it assures me that it’s not the cause of these strange occurrences. I will still wake up from the couch and read the newspaper, the light of the setting sun passing through the window, the neighbors going home, the sound of cooking in the kitchen, the fluorescent lights shining my face horribly white, which I have been living with for eighty years. Time starts at four o’clock in the afternoon, I would hardly doubt this fact.

Oct 2022








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