First Published on Chaleuria
060 – Can I kiss you?
Whenever grades were released, some students would be happy and others worried. But in all of Wu Zheng’s years of teaching, he had never met a student like He Zhao before. Even though he had gotten ‘worrying’ grades, he situated himself in the ‘happy’ camp of his own accord.
Wu Zheng was very impressed. A true talent.
Impressed to the point that he couldn’t keep himself from throwing chalk pieces one after the other at the back row, saying as he did so, “He Zhao, your psychological constitution is very strong… I can’t find any stronger across all three class years at this school.
“High praise, high praise.” Watching the chalk fly in his direction, He Zhao smiled and said, “I’m just averagely good.”
“—You really think I’m praising you?!”
One of the chalk pieces had missed its mark. It landed on Xie Yu’s side of the desk with a clatter before rolling to the floor.
Xie Yu, for his part, was worrying about his boyfriend scoring badly on exams and really becoming an excavator operator in the future. Hearing this, he propped his head up on his hands and smiled. “…Idiot.”
“That’s enough.” Wu Zheng, seeing that they’d had their fun and the class’s spirits had been lifted, gestured for them to quiet down and started going through the exam paper. “One exam doesn’t count for much. These questions weren’t that difficult, so why was the class average so low? I went over the questions where you lost points…”
Exam paper in hand, Wu Zheng copied the questions onto the board and lifted his hand to reveal a perfectly drawn cube.
Xie Yu glanced down and put his 40-point math paper under his desk. He had nothing to do, so he slumped onto his desk and prepared to nap for a while.
The moment he lay down, his deskmate with the strong psychological constitution poked his wrist twice with a pen.
Xie Yu moved his head slowly, pillowing his head on his arm as he turned to face He Zhao.
He Zhao was also slumped onto the desk in a similar fashion. They maintained this position for a few minutes, just looking at each other.
There was silence between them, neither of them saying a word, but as their gazes met something in Xie Yu’s heart began to sink.
He Zhao had his back to the sun, the picture of leisure, the corner of his mouth quirking up gently.
Xie Yu watched him for a while, then moved first. He reached out and pulled the zipper of He Zhao’s jacket up properly. “Ge, who do you think you’re seducing?”
“I wouldn’t dare.” He Zhao looked down at Xie Yu’s hand still resting on his jacket; who knew his little friend was so possessive. He smiled and said, “For your eyes only.”
Class 3’s average was still the same. The first in the year—first from the bottom, that is.
The top scorers were Xue Xisheng and Xu Qingqing, but their scores didn’t do much for the average.
The literature essay question had been an analysis essay. During lunch, the class rep brought the literature essays over from the faculty office and was immediately swarmed by students, but none of them were looking for their own paper. “…Where is Zhao-ge’s essay? Our fount of happiness.”
Xie Yu had just woken up and glanced up on hearing this. He Zhao was standing at the podium, protecting his exam paper. The scene at the podium was messy and several exam papers had fallen on the ground and been stepped on.
Then Luo Wenqiang and Liu Cunhao each caught hold of one of He Zhao’s arms and frogmarched him away, calling back to their classmates, “Quick, find it!”
He Zhao didn’t get violent with them and was marched straight out of the classroom. He stood in the doorway, unsure whether he should laugh or cry. “You’re too much, aren’t you? Can you leave a fellow human being some dignity? What’s so interesting about a zero-point essay?”
For an analysis essay, even going off on a tangent so wide it veered away from Earth would not produce anything as ridiculous as, ‘My silhouette is very suave.’ But He Zhao’s analysis and evidence all had nothing to do with the topic, and the way he forced them all together was an impressive sight to behold, too.
The paper made its rounds and was returned before the next class began. Wan Da didn’t dare hand it back to He Zhao directly and tossed it on Xie Yu’s side of the desk instead, laughing so much his stomach hurt. “Impressive, impressive. Very impressive. I’ve witnessed the legend of someone talking like a blind person while his eyes are wide open.”
Xie Yu glanced at the essay and thought that it was much better than the Silhouette essay. “You’ve improved, ge.”
He Zhao asked, “Really?”
Xie Yu’s grip tightened on the pen in his hand and he succinctly opined, “The contents of the analysis aside, at least you knew you had to write an analysis essay.”
The first two paragraphs had been all right, although Xie Yu couldn’t tell how they were related to the topic at all. Xie Yu had considered praising him as a form of encouragement, but as he continued reading he caught sight of the line, ‘He Zhaovsky once said…’
Xie Yu was silent for a while before folding up the exam paper and handing it to He Zhao. “I was lying. Take it and get lost. You deserve zero points.”
Almost every class period was spent reviewing the exam papers and everyone had sunk into a stupor by the last class of the day. The day passed like a dream and for a moment no one realized school had let out when the class dismissal bell rang.
Only when He Zhao stood up and called out, “Old Xie, let’s go eat,” did the other students come back to their senses, pack up their belongings, and trickle out of the classroom. “Ah, let’s go, let’s go. Let’s go home and receive our beatings.”
Liu Cunhao sighed sorrowfully. “Suddenly, I think living in the dorms is very good… you can live four days longer.”
Xie Yu stood up and said, “You should seize the moment. Look up which crematoriums are good and which are reliable.”
Liu Cunhao: “……”
He Zhao and Xie Yu both left school to get dinner. At the school gates, they discovered that the restaurants had come up with a new marketing strategy. A banner even hung atop the signboard of the Valedictorian House, a blinding bright red, drifting in the wind: Congratulations to Erzhong Students on your Midterms! 20% Storewide Discount! Welcome new and returning customers!
“They don’t understand the exams at all,” He Zhao said, shaking his head. “Did you see how slowly Hao-zi packed up his things? He really wanted to stay behind for evening self-study with us.”
“I saw. He looked like he was about to die,” Xie Yu said. “He still hasn’t left?”
He Zhao pulled out his phone. “Probably not. He’s still in class, picking crematoriums maybe? Wait… I’ll send him a photo.”
Liu Cunhao had finally plucked up the courage to leave the classroom but he broke down when he got the photo. These two big bros… one was cold and the other was mean, and both were intent on giving him a hard time.
Wan Da, on the other hand, threaded his needles properly. He hit the voice recording button and yelled, “—Zhao-ge, get me some milk tea!”
Parents surrounded the school gates and the air was full with the honking of cars. It was too noisy and Wan Da’s voice wasn’t clear, so He Zhao listened twice and still wasn’t able to decipher it. “What tea?”
Xie Yu couldn’t hear, either, but he could take a guess. “Milk tea, probably.”
Just as Xie Yu had never imagined that one day he would have a meal in the Gold List Restaurant, he had never imagined he would stand in line in front of the Fudan Milk Tea Shop, either.
“Boyfriend, let’s talk about this.” Xie Yu stood beside He Zhao, a group of girls around them glancing their way from time to time. “You buy it. I’ll go back first.”
He Zhao had the order form in one hand and Xie Yu’s wrist in the other. He pulled Xie Yu back. “Do you have a conscience or not? You’re really leaving?”
Xie Yu had really been going to leave, but at that very moment the group of girls behind them took action and pushed the girl in the middle forward. She was quite pretty and took two tentative steps in their direction before walking up to them. “Hi…”
Xie Yu’s eyebrow twitched and he stood still.
The girl looked directly at He Zhao as she spoke, but when he met her gaze, she averted her eyes shyly. Her intentions were very clear.
Xie Yu thought, thank goodness He Zhao lives at school and doesn’t run around outside all day…
Then he heard He Zhao apologizing to the girl. “Sorry, you can’t cut in line.”
It went silent for several minutes, so quiet you could hear a pin drop.
It was their turn in line. The girl stood in front of them, stiff-backed, blocking the entrance.
The milk tea shop employee shouted through the tense atmosphere, “Number 18, one Fudan milk tea.”
He Zhao handed over his receipt very casually. “Here.”
If Shen Jie were here, he would definitely tell the ‘Not scanning’ story again. Embarrassment on repeat.
He Zhao carried the milk tea back to school. After two flights of stairs, he discovered that his little friend had fallen behind, so he waited on the landing. “What’s on your mind?”
Xie Yu said casually, “Wondering how you got a boyfriend.”
On the way back, He Zhao had thought about it, too. He scratched his head and said, “Sometimes I’m quite… Shen Jie told me a few times, too.”
Not scanning and not cutting in line aside… In junior high, a girl had told him she wanted to be friends. Out of shyness, she hadn’t said ‘boyfriend and girlfriend’ and only hinted at what she wanted with ambiguous comments. He Zhao hadn’t understood and had replied, “All right, we’re bros from now on.”
The girl had cried on the spot before he realized what kind of ‘friends’ she had meant.
There were two lights in the stairwell. He Zhao paused, then said, “But you’re not the same, because I like you so much that… no matter how oblivious…”
No matter how oblivious he was, he could not overlook it.
He Zhao didn’t finish; even he felt that it was too sappy to say, especially in a public place. He stopped mid-sentence, stood up, and walked in the direction of the classroom. “Let’s go. Wan Da is waiting…”
He didn’t finish, but even an idiot could tell what he meant.
He Zhao had just turned around when Xie Yu said from behind, “Zhao-ge, can I kiss you?”
He Zhao nearly tripped.
After school hours, the classroom building was nearly deserted. Throughout their long conversation in the stairwell, they hadn’t met a single person.
He Zhao dragged Xie Yu up the stairs, then turned left and pushed open the door of the classroom nearest the stairwell.
Xie Yu only caught a glimpse of the empty, unfamiliar classroom before the world turned upside down around him. By the time he had recovered, He Zhao had pushed him up against the wall.
The door was wide open and both of them were stuck in the small space between the door and the wall.
“This is thrilling.” Xie Yu bent close to He Zhao’s ear and asked, “Here, then?”
“……” He Zhao hung his head and said, “Here’s not the best place, but I couldn’t wait any more.”