Carried Away by The River

Even though the distant mountain tops are still covered with snow, Spring is here. Thousands of peach trees are in bloom, announcing their most beautiful season. Hiding among the peach blossoms, there is a small, two-storied exquisite building: Black roof, white window paper, and red patterned wood frames. One panel of the windows is open. A lady in green is sitting there—She is playing her flute. 

She has been playing for quite a while. Hence nobody passes by, nobody hears it, and nobody  understands what’s in her heart.

She puts down the flute and sighs deeply. It is a lovely day: A light sheen of mist is trembling over the river; the ripples of water are glistening; the spacious river, the burning youth of peach blossoms. She remembers an ancient poem which a man sent to her before:

Lavish Autumn reeds, frosty morning dew; 

The lady of my dreams, on the other side alone;

Cross upstream to find her, the river is dangerous; 

Cross downstream to find her, the water is spacious…”

The first time she saw this poem, she was only fifteen, and he was eighteen. He was a distant relative of hers, and they grew up in the same neighborhood. A few years later he begged his mother to send their marriage proposal to her family, but it was refused—Her father considered he wasn’t noble enough. Soon she was engaged to a very rich man which was arranged by her parents. One day before the wedding, she received a letter from him. He expressed his love and admiration for her in that letter, and he asked her to run away with him. She hesitated. Yes, she did like him as well, but she couldn’t betray her family—She couldn’t let her family bear the shame.

On her wedding day, through the curtain of her wedding cart, she saw him in the crowd. He was wearing a gown of cyan color, and a black little hat. He stood in the crowd silently and waited until her cart was far gone. She felt heartbroken. But she never knew that this was the last time she would see him.

Her marriage was a mistake. She failed to love her husband, and her husband was impatient with her. He told others that his wife was “A gorgeous peach blossom face, with an icy cold heart.” He started to stay outside day and night; she knew that he was living with other women.   

She didn’t care and wasn’t jealous at all. She moved from her husband’s downtown house to this place seven years ago; her marriage has become an empty title since. She thought about divorce, and she sought her family’s support. But her parents told her that a divorce would blemish the family’s reputation, so they would never agree to it. What she should do was save her marriage and regain her husband’s love.

She knew these high-sounding words were lies; she knew that her parents and brother were depending on her husband for some family business. For this reason, they couldn’t and wouldn’t allow her to divorce. She felt she was a bird, caged in this exquisite building. She had no freedom and no choices.

But there were some days she was happy—When she received letters from the man. Every year near her birthday, she would receive his letter. There was nothing special, just a few words, and with that poem at the end. He seldom mentioned his personal life. He only told her that he lived at the same place in her hometown and was a teacher. She wondered if he had ever heard about her miserable marriage. He must have been married and had a few children. He must be a happy man, and he deserved it. Once she thought about this, she always would be in a long-time depression. She remembered her wedding day; his face in the crowd. He looked so thin in his cyan gown, as if he were a willow tree: fragile, and helpless.

She answered his letter only once: It was three years ago, she planned to visit her parents in Autumn. She told him this news after receiving his birthday letter. Soon he wrote back, he was excited about it. He would like to meet her with his younger sister after her arrival, whenever and wherever it would be convenient. He also told her his younger sister became a big girl, wasn’t that little kid anymore who always followed her for candy. 

Then she changed her plan and postponed it. “He must be very disappointed”, she thought. She was disappointed too. How many times she dreamt about him, asked for his forgiveness; she dreamt that she jumped from her wedding cart, and he was on horseback waiting for her. But, in real life, she hesitated. She wasn’t sure if it was a good idea to see him again. It seemed that he quite understood her—He didn’t send her letter later and ask why; he just kept his once-a-year letters. She was grateful.

Yesterday she just returned from a trip to her hometown. Everyone was ok there, but she didn’t see him—She only saw his grave. He died three years ago, in the winter, right after her missed Autumn schedule. His younger sister told her that since he knew that she would come that Autumn, he wandered every day at the entrance of the town in his spare time, expecting to meet her. He waited a whole Autumn, then he became gravely ill. On the day of his death, he handed his younger sister a bunch of unposted letters, and he bid her to send one of the letters each year near her birthday.

He was unmarried;

He had always waited for her;

He was so eager to see her one more time, but she failed him…

Lavish Autumn reeds, frosty morning dew; 

The lady of my dreams, on the other side alone;

Cross upstream to find her, the river is dangerous; 

Cross downstream to find her, the water is spacious…”

She has lost the man—The man who loved her with his whole heart and life; the man who never gave up on her; the man who, in this cold, selfish world, cherished her unconditionally—Perhaps he was the only one.

If she could go back to ten years ago, she would insist that her father accept his marriage proposal, even if she had to face the risk of breaking up with her family;

or, she would run away with him on the eve of her wedding day; 

or, she would get out of her wedding cart, and hold his hand in the crowd; 

or, she would set up her mind to divorce her husband and go back to find him; 

or, three years ago she would keep her word and meet him in that Autumn…

If any one of these ifs could happen, he wouldn’t die!

“There’s nothing for me to live for,” she says sadly, staring at the river. It is still sparkling, like countless twinkling eyes, like his eyes when he stood silently in the crowd with his willow tree cyan gown and that little black hat—So fragile, helpless, and heartbroken.

Her tears run along her cheeks and fall on her green dress. She picks up the flute and, holding it in her hand, jumps into the river.



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