We were fighting with each other again, this time In math class over the solution to a function. In fact, I could not even remember how many times we had been like this, usually through no fault of his, that I would admit. I snapped, “Stop bothering me with your stupid methods, or I swear I’ll ask the teacher to change my seat so that I don’t have to see you anymore! ” He said, “Now you are being unreasonable. If you could Just take one good look at my solution, Just for once, you’ll see. Though kept down for the teachers sake, I still distinguished a trace of annoyed Impatience yet earnest pleading In his husky. Deep voice, from which I could picture his expression without even turning around to look at him. His cheek would redden a little, and one could take it for shyness were it not for his furrowed shaggy brow and his closed lips as if his words were squeezing through them with an effort. Even his short hair would seem to bristle a bit. But in his dark eyes, there was no vestige of anger or resentment.
They were strangely gentle and peaceful as always, under the shadow of his long, soft lashes that could even be the envy of girls. Yes, that was how my desk- ate looked Like when we quarreled. I met him the first day he was transferred to our class at the beginning of a new semester. I remember he looked ridiculous in that outlandish sweater which had a big bunny rabbit with a silly grin on it. What a peculiar thing for a grown-up high school student to wear! “You like it? My grandma knit this for me. A husky voice obviously from the owner of the sweater broke in and made me realize that I had been staring unconsciously at the rabbit for quite some time. Looking up, embarrassed, I saw a tall, bronzed and muscled boy In front of me. He had regular features – a large, square forehead dotted with several zits, an impressive nose, big and sharp, which somehow reminded me of the French actor Gaward Departure, and a pair of thick. Hard pressed lips, revealing his white but not so even teeth when he spoke. What really caught my attention were his eyes that seemingly did not match his whole body.
The softness and friendliness In his eyes took the edge off his overwhelming height and strong build, conveying a faint smile, proposing an amiable and gentle personality. He was wearing the same grin as the bunny’s, silly but nine, as he took the seat next to mine and claimed to be my new desk-mate, ignoring or at least pretending to not notice my silent protest. To tell the truth, I had the least hope to share desk with a boy. What I wanted was a girl, neat and quiet, with good grades, like my former desk-mate. But this guy Just came and upset my plan.
Several weeks passed, I had resigned myself to the fact that he was everything opposite to the Ideal desk-mate In my mind. First, Just look at his desk. He had a knack of making a mess – some boys always did. He sometimes left his text book on my desk and took mine by mistake; when the monitor collected emperor, he would keep her waiting for long, for he could spend five minutes missing piece of paper from his exercise book. And he seemed to have an unusual taste for clothes. That “bunny’ sweater was nothing compared to his other clothes such as the one with a Teddy bear on it and another with a donkey!
Well, I was okay with all the blemishes mentioned above. One thing about him that troubled me most was that he was almost as poor at math as me. Every time I was puzzled by a problem, how I wish I were sitting next to one of those geniuses in our class. But my present desk-mate, though without much brain in math, was eager to e my guide. He would insist enthusiastically that I listen to his method of solving the problem while he wrote the process on the paper. However, his solution often turned out to be not working at all. When he was stuck in his calculation, he would stop writing, looking into the distance with a dreamy look on his face.
And finally when he was at his wit’s end, he would drop his gaze and said in the most innocent and sincere tone, “I’m sorry, but I don’t know how to go on. ” Heavens knew how disappointed and vexed I was after spending half an hour or so listening to this “nonsense”. I wondered what gave him his confidence. As a result, we quarreled a lot on such things (l usually started the fight), often ending with his apology. To give him his due, he had a very good temper. Even when I said something very rude and harsh during our squabble, or when I took my frustrations out on him, he seldom took them to heart.
By the time he really lost his temper, his gentle eyes never changed, giving me the impression that he was pretending to be mad at me. He was also humorous. He had a way of livening up the class atmosphere by his witty remarks, and sometimes even the teacher couldn’t help laughing. He was indeed a mind of untidy and careless, but he always remembered to bring his books in case I forgot. And when I did, he always lent me his and took the blame for me when the teacher came. He also tried his best to help me with math problems, although the result was more often than not successful.
As for his clothes, once I teased him about it. He told me softly that his grandma loved to make clothes for him and that he did not have the heart to let her efforts and kindness go to waste. Thinking of all this, I wished to take back those words I had Just said to him. He was a great guy on the whole. In fact, I began to enjoy his company. I would never hurt him by asking the teacher to move his seat, and I had no right to insult him Just because he wanted to be helpful. But how could I swallow my pride to admit that? He must have thought I hated him for no words came from him since then.
The silence was killing me. Could he really be angry with me this time? Finally, I plucked my courage and whispered to him, “l didn’t mean anything of what I Just said. I don’t… ” One second later, he was smiling again, “l know’. “What? ” I couldn’t conceal my surprise. He turned to look me in the eye for a long time and said, “l was Just wondering, what kook you so long to finally admit it – you don’t hate me. ” His eyes were gentle as usual, gleaming with amusement and tenderness, Just like when we first met on that sunny September day.
Ala Chem. It was in a sultry noon that I first met Ala Chem.. He was leaning down to reap wheat, with a worn towel draped over his shoulder. A shabby old straw hat covered up half around as if to ease away an aching sensation. The glaring sun ahead dazzled me and vaguely, I saw his back, sweat-soaked yet exceptionally straight and stiffened. Having noticed me, he stopped, took off his hat and gave me a strained yet cordial smile. Beads of sweat oozed from his slightly protruding forehead and trickled down his craggy face. The old man right before my eyes was about 70 years old.
Time had left distinct trace on his gaunt face, which was slashed with deep wrinkles, each telling the vicissitudes of his life. The brown blotches caused by perennial heat ran well down the sides of his face and on his hands were deep-creased scars from endless farm work. Everything about him was old except his eyes which were sunken yet intensively alive and which seemed cheerful and undefeated. It was quite beyond my expectation. I’d learned that Ala Chem. was once a soldier and as forced to leave his then newly-married wife to fight for his country. The war stripped him of his most precious span of his life.
Years later, he survived the war and returned, only to find that his feeble wife had died of flu. Since then, solitude became his only friend, but he seldom complained about his misfortunes to his neighbors or even simply mentioned his past. Seated on the doornail, Ala Chem. took another drag off his cigarette thoughtfully, turned to me and said with an easy tone,” Why should I bother to inflict my past misfortunes on others and make them feel sad about my sadness? Kid, never let the sat misfortunes wet-blanket your present hard-won life, or you’ll certainly regret more.
Since in the midst of your sighs, a new day is flashing past. Look, I have faith that I can handle it well enough. “From his eyes, I read his iron-willed and unyielding spirits. All his life was merely about a house that sheltered him from wind and rain, a mum of land that prevented him from being starved, a dog that accompanied him through long nights of loneliness, a bottle of wine that let him drown his sorrow in, and a man, namely himself, who never gave in to the tortures in life and always kept his back straight and stiffened.
Everyday after the day-long farm work, Ala Chem. would recline comfortably on his wooden chair which was almost as old as its owner, lost himself in the melodious Skunk Opera coming out of his old-fashioned radio. Sometimes he even sang along with the tune on a whim. At that moment, he left the whole world behind, with his white-blonde hair blowing in the wind. A birdie dropped on his shoulder and pranced around. His dog sat idle at his feet barking. But he lied still, mesmerism’s by the lilting tunes, buried in his bittersweet memories, like a majestic living statue, contemplating the changing world like a sheer outsider.
The western sun cast rays of light on his face, making the lingering contentment on it clearly visible. “That’s the life I want,” he said to me, “torturous and lonely as it may seem, but I feel contented with its peace and simplicity that remains unaffected by the outside complexities. People may mock at me, a poor lonely old man, but they are wrong. I can straight up my back, laugh it off and say, look, I’ve got a warm house, a dog, a mum of land and a bottle of wine. Eve got everything that I need. I’m content with my lot. ” Then, he covered up his face with that old straw hat and took a nap. The apoplexies.