The Seventh Day

by Yu Hua


I had arrived here in the dark and sat down on a bench as quiet as death, and the fall and flutter of rain and snow were as quiet as death also. Sitting in this silence, I felt on the verge of slumber and closed my eyes once more. That’s when I saw the lovely, brilliant Li Qing and our brief love and fleeting marriage. That world was in the process of leaving, and yet the past events in that world were on a bus that was arriving. The scene where I first glimpsed Li Qing slowly approached.

Squeezed in tightly among the standing passengers, I swayed back and forth just as they did. Someone sitting in front of me rose to get off the bus and I moved to take his seat, only to be preempted as a female shape quickly occupied the spot that should have been mine. I was startled by the speed with which the young woman had seized her opportunity, and was equally struck by the beauty of her perfect features. As she raised her head slightly, the eyes of all the men on the bus lingered on her face, but she gave no sign of being aware of that—she seemed to be preoccupied with her own thoughts. It was vexing to me that she had stolen my seat but didn’t even give me a look. But I was happy all the same, happy that on a crowded, noisy journey, I had the chance to admire her pale skin and delicate profile. After about five stops I started making my way toward the door, which opened as the bus came to a halt. Disembarking passengers squeezed into such a tight mass that I was practically propelled out of the bus. Soon the young woman was skimming past me, as light as a breeze. From behind I watched her dress flutter; she walked and swung her arms with vigor and grace. I followed her into an office block, where she quickly entered an elevator. Its doors closed before I reached it; she was looking out but did not see me.
It turned out that we were working for the same company.

The Seventh Day by Yu Hua,
Pantheon Books. Translated by Allan H. Barr.