Testament 1 - 1
Hong Kong Type #1
The events of those days feel like memories from a past life, many of which I can no longer recall. Yet, the moment when I was about to jump out of the bedroom window is still vividly imprinted on the most vulnerable part of my heart, unable to be erased, and it keeps recurring in my dreams.
The dream mobilized all of my senses, magnifying them to the extreme, resulting in a sense of intolerable oppression. The first thing that appeared was the white marble windowsill of the room, and the sundry items usually placed on it, like books, jewelry box, small ornaments and the like, had been moved aside, clearing up enough space to stand. In that space, a screwdriver and a few screws laid. Looking up, the aluminum window grilles had been removed at some unknown time.
Even though it was summer, the bare soles of my feet stepping on the marble surface sent an icy chill through my body. With trembling hands, I couldn't smoothly push the window open to a sufficient width. Perhaps the window hinges were old, causing it to jam. Leaning out, I could almost feel the suffocating heat of the air rising continuously.
It should be around nine o'clock at night. The surroundings were eerily quiet. Vehicles silently passed on the street below. In my ears, all I could hear were the throbbing beats of my own heart and my panting breaths. There was an immense pressure in my chest, as if it was about to burst.
The public housing building across the street was lit with many lights, white and yellow, cold and warm. In each window, there was probably a different story. But at this moment, no one noticed me, no one knew my story.
My story? What story did I have? If there was one, it would reach its conclusion tonight. The ending seemed so insignificant. Even if it caused a momentary sensation, it would soon return to stillness.
Ah, to die for something! That sounds too romantic. I can't even figure out why I wanted to take my own life. I've completely forgotten those causes and consequences. In this repetitive dream, I was confused, not knowing why I was standing here, leaning against the window, with one foot stepping out of the frame. I was on the brink of becoming forever frozen at this boundary.
I lowered my gaze slightly and saw that word. I always saw that word. On the outer wall of the public housing building, near the lower levels, among the three vertically arranged large characters indicating the name of the building, one of them was the same as my name. In squarish, commonly used Ming-type font, the embossed characters embedded on the outer wall stood out clearly in the oblique light of the street lamp.
At this moment, the hinge suddenly loosened, the window I was leaning on flipped outward, and my upper body lurched forward. The roof of a passing bus on the street below flashed before my eyes. The other hand, clutching the window frame, reflexively pulled back, bringing my body's center of gravity back to the edge of the frame. My chest tightened, my breath suddenly stopped, the leg supporting my weight gave way, and I fell backwards into the room.
A severe pain shot through the back of my head. I didn't know what furniture I had hit, only that I found myself lying on the bedroom floor. In my daze, I heard Fox barking violently outside the room, and the sound of heavy blows against the wooden door. Then there was Dad's voice calling me, the urgent knocking, the door lock being forcefully twisted. I lay on the floor, unable to move, unable to respond. I didn't know how much time passed before the door was forced open, and a fluffy thing pounced on me. It was Fox! Then my dad's blurred face appeared, followed by indistinct sounds, and then complete darkness.
It seemed like I'd entered a dream. Yes, it was like that then, and it was like that in the dreams afterwards, becoming a dream within a dream. A dream of continuously falling. The falling process was long and seemed to never end. As I fell, I saw the surroundings. There was a suicide note written on the wall in red pen. The beginning of the note was written in smaller, neater characters, which became larger and more scrawled as it continued. But I didn't write that. It was written by a girl of about the same age as me. She had jumped before me. I didn't know her and didn't see her jump. The place where she jumped was in the stairwell of the public housing building across from my apartment. That afternoon at the convenience store at the railway station, I overheard the cashier talking to her colleague, “Someone just jumped off a building, right there in the estate! A girl in her twenties! Why would she do something so stupid? Oh my! Poor parents! They raised her all these years!” As I listened, I felt like they were talking about me.
I couldn't remember why that girl jumped or if my actions had anything to do with hers. In that dream, I saw the suicide note written in red ink on the wall of the stairwell, but I didn't have time to read its content because I quickly continued to fall. As for me, I probably left a suicide note too. It should be on my desk, written neatly on a single sheet of paper from the Chinese Department Student Association. But I can't remember what I wrote. I don't know what happened to the suicide note; it was probably burned.
During the fall, I saw Mom. She was at one point, like on a certain floor of the building, sort of a balcony. Mom was sitting in a chair with armrests on the balcony, holding something, probably knitting a sweater. In my memory, my mom was always knitting sweaters. She would get upset halfway through, rip the yarn apart, and throw the knitting needles to the floor. The needles would bounce off the ground, flying to who knew where. I would cover my head, afraid of getting stabbed by the needles. The mother in my dream didn’t lose her temper. She looked up and smiled at me, but I was falling too fast to shout out to her.
I looked up from below, longing to see my Mom again, but when I saw her foot with an embroidered slipper on it stepping over the edge of the balcony, I suddenly felt an intense fear. I screamed, "Mom! Don't go there!" I cried out, flailing my limbs in the air, trying to grab something to stop myself from falling, trying to climb back to the floor where Mom was, trying to stop her dangerous move, but all to no avail. Finally, exhausted, I prayed, "Just let me hit the ground quickly! Let me shatter into pieces!"
At this point, I heard a sound both strange and familiar. It was the sound of a machine, rhythmic, not noisy, but soft and comforting, like some sort of music. The sound came from a printing press. My deceased grandfather was operating it. A young version of my mother stood next to my grandfather, watching the press open and close. Grandfather pulled out a printed page from the press and handed it to me. The page was filled with densely printed Chinese characters. I didn't understand what those characters meant, so I asked my mother. She squatted down, gently pointed to the bottom of the page and said, "Look, this is your name!"
When I woke up, I found myself lying in a hospital bed. My dad was sitting by the bed, his eyes red, his face tense, as if using all his strength to keep himself from falling apart. Dad was usually a gentle man. The last time I saw him like this was when Mom died. I thought I was dead, but the pain all over my body told me I was still alive. Oddly, apart from physical pain, I didn't have any emotions, as if my heart had been taken out and placed somewhere else. If there was any sensation, it was a sense of being suspended, an emotionless void.
Seeing me wake up, Dad didn't speak, but just forced a smile, held my hand, and silently shed tears. I had no idea why he was crying or what had happened. It felt like there was a great distance between my dad and me. Perhaps, in some sense, I was already dead? I just felt very tired, and fell back into unconsciousness as soon as I closed my eyes.
I drifted in and out of sleep, not knowing how long I lay in the hospital. Doctors and nurses came and went, performing checks and diagnoses that I didn't understand. I was moved to a double room with no one in the other bed. Later, I found out that Dad was worried that the television in the general ward would affect me negatively, so he asked to move me to a quieter room. I didn't understand why the TV would have done me harm. Dad didn't bring my phone, and I didn't ask him for it. Life was very quiet, as if nothing had happened.
Dad kept telling me, "Don't worry, just rest, don't think about anything." I didn't think about anything because I didn't know what to think about. It seemed like I had forgotten a lot of things. What I did remember were vague impressions, scattered details, or rough outlines. I knew I had tried to kill myself, but I didn't know why, nor had the chance to find any hints from my suicide note. Lying in the hospital bed, the outside world seemed very distant and had nothing to do with me.
My older brother also visited and said a lot of things to me, which sounded like he was scolding me. He'd always been stricter than Dad. But I couldn’t follow what he was saying, so I didn't feel resentful. Sometimes I also thought of Ah Wang. His status was that of my boyfriend. I remembered that this relationship was confirmed not long ago, but I couldn't say what it meant. Ah Wang didn't come, and I didn't mind. I later learned that he did come, but Dad chased him away. My dad wouldn't let him see me again. Since I didn't have my phone, I also didn't know what was going on with Ah Wang.
Eventually, I was discharged from the hospital. I was given a bunch of medications and an appointment for a psychiatric follow-up. I couldn’t figure out what it meant. In any case, I was back home. I wasn't sure if it was something to be happy about.
The only thing that made me happy was seeing Fox again. Fox is our Shiba Inu pet. His eyes are blind, but as soon as I walked in the door, he jumped on me, wagging his tail, licking my face, not at all like a blind dog. I shivered all over, my eyes welled up, and something seemed to be coming to life in my heart.
I returned to that room. Everything was neatly arranged, just like before. I noticed that the window grill had been put back in place and reinforced. I had been lying in the hospital for too long and had become very weak, so I hugged Fox and climbed into bed. After a while, Dad came in, sat by the bed, and showed me something.
"Do you remember? It's what your grandfather left for you."
He opened his palm and there were three small silver-grey metal rods. I picked them up one by one and examined them closely. Each rod had characters engraved at the end.
"You must remember the name your grandfather gave you! It's his blessing for you!"
Those three characters came together in my fingers, flipped left and right, engraved with: Lai Sun Fei.*
I was suddenly overcome with emotion and couldn't help but burst into tears.
"Grandpa! Mom! Dad! I'm sorry! I'm really sorry! Why is this happening? I really don't know! I'm sorry! Please forgive me!"
[To be continued]
* The Chinese characters of her name is 賴晨輝，賴 is the surname and 晨輝 means “morning light” literally.