The first time Fu Cuo saw Sui Qingchi was on the bus.
That day, he was trying to write a song with his headphones on. Although there was actually nothing playing on them. The bus was just too noisy.
A girl in the front row was quarrelling with her boyfriend on her phone. Wearing headphones seemed to be of little use. He wanted to give up. He went to shake his head to play a song, when he realized that the bus had suddenly turned quiet. Since it was stopping at a station, Fu Cuo thought that maybe the girl shut up because she saw more people, but only two new passengers came on.
It was an older woman and a boy wearing a baseball cap. The woman found a nearby seat, while the boy sat behind the loud girl. Fu Cuo heard the girl say “Enough,” to the other side of her call and hung up. At that moment, he truly wanted to thank the boy sitting behind her.
After that, the loud girl turned into a quiet, innocent-looking little girl, and the loud bus turned into a quiet, normal public bus. Fu Cuo picked up his previously fallen inspiration, bowed his head and wrote down the lyrics in his notebook. He didn’t know how long it’d take.
As he heard the sound of the door closing, he raised his head and saw the previously quarreling girl getting off. He suddenly realized that he had arrived at the station. He hurriedly stuffed his things into his backpack and stood up, trying to get the driver to open the door again. Unfortunately at that point, they had already pulled out of the platform and merged into the rolling traffic.
He held the armrest of the seat in front of the boy with a light sigh, he had to give up and turn back. At that moment, Sui Qingchi looked up at him. Their eyes briefly meeting. Fu Cuo still clearly remembered how Sui Qingchi’s baseball cap was pressed down very low, like how an eighth grader would often wear it, but he was still amazed by his face, even if it was heavily shaded by the cap’s shadow.
When the car turned, he staggered as he failed to hold the armrest properly. He swayed to the side, nearing the boy, then hurriedly returned to his seat with his heart pounding, Is that person even real?
From that moment on, he couldn’t take his sight away from the figure wearing the white T-shirts and jeans in the front. It turned out that beauty could truly inspire, regardless of gender.
He just looked at the fair neck of the boy, the clean stubble at its back, the piercings clipped on his ears that glittered in the sun, and the shadow that appeared behind them.
He couldn’t help but praise the heavens. It was like meeting an angel in the midst of a tiring, miserable and horrid gasoline-smelling ride. Even the chuuni-esque baseball cap seemed to be justifiable – such beauty shan’t be carelessly shown to the world.
When he got home, he finished the lyrics without even bothering to eat. Most works written in high school could not escape the fate of being scrapped, but this one did.
Although it was a little immature, it was adored by the fans. Though unbeknownst to them, this song was not written for a beautiful girl, but a beautiful boy. Even Sui Qingchi didn’t know about it. Sui Qingchi didn’t even know that they had such an encounter.
He’d kept this secret for him, like a hidden easter egg in a movie. He once imagined that if one day he were to tell Sui Qingchi about it, Sui Qingchi’s reaction, that kind of suspense and excitement would be enough for him to laugh contentedly for years to come.
Who would’ve guessed, they wouldn’t even get to see the happy end of their movie.
What Sui Qingchi remembered as their first encounter was probably when he was cleaning up trash at their school.
Fu Cuo came downstairs that day, patronizing his music score, when he accidentally kicked over the garbage can in the stairwell. The trash was scattered everywhere.
He saw a boy mopping the floor at the bottom. He said, “Sorry,” and squatted down to clean it up. He wanted to ask the other, “Where’s the broom? Let me help you sweep it,” and then he was stunned.
When the other saw the scattered garbage, he looked up and gave him a cold look, but that’s when Fu Cuo dazedly realized, it was the beautiful boy from the bus – now lightly glaring at him from the corner of the school stairs.
When he didn’t wear a baseball cap, his appearance was really too destructive. It happened to be such an unlucky occasion, too. Fu Cuo didn’t dare to look at him. He turned around and saw the broom on the side, so he swept up the trash on the ground again and poured it into the garbage can.
The beautiful young boy dragged his steps closer. Seeing that he was the only one cleaning the staircase, he couldn’t help asking, “You’re cleaning such a big staircase by yourself?”
The other party ignored him, making Fu Cuo feel a bit embarrassed. He saw the boy leaving with his mop and bucket. When he came to the end of the corridor, he said, “Clumsy Fuck.”
Fu Cuo was just about to leave when he heard it. Although it was barely audible, he had the sudden urge to laugh. What’s more was that after the boy disappeared into the corner, he heard the loud sound of pouring water. At that point he just knew, the plentiful dirty water from before must’ve flooded the school bathroom by now.
And sure enough, there came the furious voice of the teaching director, “Sui Qingchi, what do you think you’re doing?!”
So he’s called Sui Qingchi? He’s a student here? I wonder why I haven’t heard of him at all.
He earnestly remembered the name, and then as if destined, he had a third and fourth chance-encounter with this certain junior.
That year, Apple launched their sixth generation phones. One day after the new phones were in full swing, several boys blocked Sui Qingchi in the corridor and insisted on borrowing his iPhone 6+ to play. He happened to see this scene from upstairs. He was a little surprised. He thought this boy was the type that couldn’t be provoked by anyone, but it seemed that he was the one who was isolated and excluded.
Sui Qingchi put his hands in his pockets as he said, “Get out of the way.”
One of the boys directly pulled his hand, but it was firmly kept in his pocket. The boy couldn’t pull it. The boys tried several ways to take him, but they couldn’t make him budge.
As things were getting heated, Fu Cuo went back upstairs and called, “Director Yang.”
The boys turned around at the sound, thinking that the teaching director was coming, they speedily dispersed. Fu Cuo breathed a sigh of relief. Then he saw Sui Qingchi looking up from the bottom of the stairs. He didn’t want to be scolded any more, so he slid to hide behin the corner.
Sui Qingchi looked left and right, but he still couldn’t see the teaching director. He didn’t know what he was thinking, until finally, he left.
Fu Cuo held his chest and let out a breath. He wasn’t sure why he was so against being found out.
Tan Si looked him up and down, “What are you doing?”
Fu Cuo smiled and said nothing.
Tan Si walked in front, looked in the direction of the corridor, and sighed, “Alas, today’s juniors are really terrifying. They’ve learned the tricks of campus bullying.”
“You saw it?”
Tan Si nodded, “I thought if you were going to fix them up, I’d come down to support you. I didn’t expect you to be so resourceful.” Then he turned back and asked, “But how come you did a good deed without leaving your name?”
Fu Cuo threw his backpack on and said, “That guy probably won’t thank me anyways.”
“Maybe not,” started Tan Si. “Some people don’t say it, but they’ll for sure remember it.”
At that time, Fu Cuo didn’t really believe it. He just shook his head with a smile.
There was an abandoned factory one stop away from the school. Fu Cuo, Tan Si, and AK would often come there to rehearse during the holidays. Of course, at first they couldn’t really call it a rehearsal. At first they couldn’t even call it a band either. They didn’t have a lead singer nor an audience, they didn’t even have a name.
The three just came together because they all liked music and shared the same ideals. They would be very happy to play and talk about music together. At the end of the sessions, they’d always be reluctant to say goodbye and head back to their own homes.
Some would jokingly call them gay, as at that age, high school boys would normally fall in love and go on dates with girls, but the three of them never got tired of hanging out together. Everyday they’d only spend time with guys.
In the first year of high school, AK had a whim and said that he wanted to go to the street to busk. Because there was no lead singer, and AK was a drummer, making it inconvenient to sing. He and Tan Si had a round of rock-paper-scissors to decide on the role. The loser had to be the singer.
As a result, he lost. That day, they played LOTUS’ most popular hits. Thanks to the songs and the original singer, as soon as the prelude came on, it caught the ears of many.
Many passersby stopped to give face and applaud for them. On that day, he and Tan Si made a lot of mistakes, even AK didn’t perform very well. But this experience was like a catalyst. For the first time, the three had the idea of seriously playing in a band.
The name “West Wind” was taken from Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind” by Tan Si. Later, AK asked him to give the name of the band and explain its meaning before each performance. What else could the “Ode to the West Wind” mean? The sentence “If winter comes, can spring be far behind?” was more than enough.
He had to be brave enough to say such words each time. Later, it became a common cheer among their fans. Whenever the lead singer started with, “Hello, we are the West Wind…”, the fans would collectively return with, “Not far away!” – it made people laugh and cry, but that was it.
For almost a year, there were only three members in the band, but Fu Cuo hoped to have a lead singer to liberate him. Singing was not his strong suit. On one hand, he didn’t want to hold the band back, and on the other, he hoped to concentrate more on the guitar.
At the end of the summer when he was 17, he didn’t know that the singer he wanted, the one who’d take off in West Wind, and the one who’d eventually become a superstar, was already on his way.
There was a basketball court outside the factory, which was a little old. When Tan Si and AK came to rehearse, they would occasionally play there to pass the time. At first, only the three of them knew of the court, but later, AK led his classmates to play there twice. Gradually, more people from their school would come there to play when they’re free.
One evening, he passed by the factory and saw Sui Qingchi shooting there alone. He stopped to have a look, but silently walked away right after. Judging from the phone and sneakers Sui Qingchi wore, his family should be well off. But unlike other teenagers who use Apple phones and Nike sneakers, Sui Qingchi always gave people a feeling of thorns all over.
Even to play basketball, he looked for a remote place. One person layups and shoots, clenching his fist to silently cheer once he’s done. It was really worrying whether he’d been bullied in school. Fu Cuo could only hope that he was overthinking it.
The bus pulled in slowly. As soon as he finished scanning his card to get on, he saw several boys coming across the road, turning the ball in their hands towards the factory. He knew them. They were all students of his grade. Although they weren’t the same grade as Sui Qingchi, they shouldn’t be easy to mess with.
Right at that moment, two more passengers came up at the door and said to him, “Go inside, classmate.”
Fu Cuo muttered a “Sorry,” turned around, then squeezed out of the bus through the crowd. He rushed as he went back to the basketball court.
Sui Qingchi rolled his eyes when he heard the scattered footsteps approaching. He had already mastered the ability to judge whether the other party had bad intentions by the sounds of their steps. Sure enough, when the boys saw that he was occupying the court, they rudely asked him to leave.
Sui Qingchi ignored them, bounced the ball twice, and raised it to aim at the ring, “I came first.”
The basetball ‘swooshed’ smoothly into the net, impressing quite a few of the boys.
“You must be joking,” a boy walked behind him. “You? Dominate the court alone? There are so many of us. Do you want us to stand here and watch you play?”
“I also made an appointment,” Sui Qingchi glanced at him. “Do you want to fight him for it?”
The boy looked around and raised his eyebrows, “Where is he then?”
“He’ll come later.” Sui Qingchi said as he threw the ball. His words were steady as he lied, but his hands were not. The three-pointer missed the target with a guilty conscience, knocking on the edge of the ring. The boy took a step forward and took the returning ball, dribbling it back and front in front of him.
Sui Qingchi stopped to stare at them, wiping the sweat on his chin with the back of his hand. His eyes were already blazing as he took a step forward. Then he heard a “Sui Qingchi!” coming from behind.
The voice was completely unfamiliar to him. He looked back and saw the handsome boy coming in with his backpack. After staring for a while, he felt that he looked familiar, but he couldn’t remember from where. He frowned and wanted to ask, “Who are you?” But the other party had already came over, put down his bag, and smiled as he said, “I’ve been waiting for a while.”
The boy who grabbed the ball was stunned, “Fu Cuo? Are you the one with him?”
“Yep, can’t we play?” Fu Cuo said, raising his hand to ask for the ball. “Give it back.”
The boy harshly threw the ball back.
Sui Qingchi caught it with one hand, his expression still aggrieved.
Fu Cuo watched them leave, while Sui Qingchi kept staring at him. He finally blinked, Isn’t this the fucker who kicked over his garbage can that day?
Fu Cuo didn’t want Sui Qingchi to owe him a favor. He scratched his hair and said, “You…”
“Mind your own business. I didn’t need your help,” Sui Qingchi interrupted him. He picked up his bag and phone, and walked away with his basketball.
Fu Cuo was stunned.
——Some people don’t say it, but they’ll remember it.
How would you remember if you didn’t even look back.
Later, Sui Qingchi would often come to the factory to play after school. Fu Cuo had to pass there on his way home. If there was no one on the court while he was waiting for the bus, he’d also come over to shoot. The two stayed at the level of simply acknowledging each other’s existence. Nothing more, nothing less.
One evening when Fu Cuo was playing there, he noticed a hidden figure outside the barbed wire fence as he picked up the ball. Like a cat, it came and went silently. But he knew who it was. He’s kinda funny.
He wiped his sweat and shouted, “Wait, come back! I’m leaving!”
Sui Qingchi didn’t come out. Fu Cuo smiled and left with his bag on his back.
After that, the two seemed to reach a tacit understanding. When one played in the first half, the other would play in the second. When one occupied the court, the other would go to the bookstore to read comics to pass the time. They wouldn’t continue to occupy it at all.
And so this way, they shared the court in peace.
Once, Fu Cuo saw something, so he took his ball to leave. He saw Sui Qingchi coming from the bookstore on the other side of the road. He was still the same. His baseball cap hung very low. You couldn’t see his eyes until you’re right in front of him. He wouldn’t know if he could even see his way or not.
He thought it was better to not say a word, but decided to throw out the olive branch by himself, “Do you want to play 1v1?”
Sui Qingchi barely heard the other’s voice and wasn’t sure if he was talking to himself. He looked around and raised the brim of his hat, trying to broaden his vision.
He should be talking to him. No one else was around.
The two had a great time playing 1v1. Although Sui Qingchi was still under the age of 16 at that time, he was already aggressive when playing. Not soft at all. Fu Cuo almost fell down after being hit. He couldn’t help shouting, “Hey??”
Sui Qingchi had already made a layup with the ball. He was less than 1.8 meters tall, but could actually complete a one-handed dunk. His jumping ability was amazing. Fu Cuo saw that the basketball frame was knocked with a “bang” by him, and was stunned.
After landing, Sui Qingchi picked up the ball and asked, “How’s that?”
Fu Cuo thought that because he was two years older and had the height advantage, he’d be fine, but he was silenced by that wonderful dunk.
It wasn’t that Sui Qingchi didn’t know what Fu Cuo’s light “Tch,” meant, but when he threw the ball over, he said, “Was that too gentle?”
Childish, Fu Cuo sighed as he took the ball.
Before they knew it, the summer sky was getting darker and darker. The street lights in the factory didn’t have power, and as soon the rings were no longer visible, the two had to leave.
While waiting for the bus at the station, Sui Qingchi asked, “What time is it?”
Fu Cuo asked him if he didn’t bring his phone, and Sui Qingchi impatiently said that he forgot.
Fu Cuo remembered what he’d seen before and wondered, It couldn’t really be taken away, right?
With an “Oh,” he took out his phone, “…Ah, it’s out of battery.”
Sui Qingchi blinked, fiercely frowning at him. Fu Cuo held it up to him, “It’s really out of power.”
He glanced at the black-screened phone, but seemed to still not believe it.
Fu Cuo didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, “Why would I lie to you?”
“Because it’s too coincidental.” Sui Qingchi said.
While waiting for the bus, another lady came to the station. Fu Cuo stepped forward to ask the other party’s time, walked back and said to Sui Qingchi, “It’s half past eight.”
Sui Qingchi’s expression was a little anxious. After looking at the departure timetable on the stop sign, Fu Cuo asked him, “Are you taking bus 111?”
Sui Qingchi stared at him with wide eyes, a big “How did you know” was written vigilantly in his eyes.
Fu Cuo didn’t quite understand his exaggerated defensive behavior. He pointed to the sign, “Only that one ends at 8:30.” He asked again, “Where do you get off, let me see if there’s a different way.”
Sui Qingchi said the station name in a complicated mood. Although it wasn’t his own, but the one in front of it.
Fu Cuo nodded and looked for it on the sign. After a while, he said, “How about you and I take bus 141 to Qiaotou, and then switch to bus 151?”
He turned around to Sui Qingchi as he hadn’t heard his answer. He was focused on looking at himself, before turning his gaze to the sign behind him as if it was nothing. He asked, “Is that the nearest?”
“I guess so. Or you could stop at the one after to switch to the subway.” Fu Cuo explained.
As the bus pulled into the station, Fu Cuo turned to look at Sui Qingchi, who followed. When he got in, he also scanned his card for him.
Sui Qingchi didn’t say anything when he saw it, he just kept his hands in his pockets as he entered.
The bus was quite empty, Fu Cuo walked to the second-to-last row, while Sui Qingchi sat in the vacant seat in front of him.
The two didn’t speak for the rest of the way. The reason was simply because Sui Qingchi had fallen asleep on the front armrest shortly after getting on. When they got to his station, Fu Cuo patted him on the shoulder, “Time to get off.”
Sui Qingchi jolted up like a rabbit. He lifted his head to look out the window, and rushed to pick up his bag to get out. He didn’t even say thank you or goodbye.
When he got off, he was at the transfer platform. The bus doors slowly closing behind him.
The cold wind gradually woke him up, making him suddenly remember something. When he turned around, the bus had already started to leave. The moving window reflected the bright stop sign in front of him.
He tried his best to see through the mirror-like glass to find the boy sitting in the penultimate row—— he was leaning against the back of the chair with his schoolbag in his arms, closing his eyes tiredly.
Only seventeen, yet the young man already had such a handsome and gentle profile.