The moment the door opened, a sigh sounded over Ji Linxi’s head. He placed his laptop on the bed and laughed, “Dumb cat,¹ didn’t find a job again?”
“Oi, how many times do I have to tell you not to call me dumb cat?!” Ling Miao slapped the table and complained, “I’m actually very smart! But you all keep calling me dumb cat all the time, so even if I was smart at first, I’ve become stupid now.”
Ji Linxi raised his eyes to look at Ling Miao’s melancholy expression, and two words coldly slipped from his lips: “Dumb cat.”
“Get outta here!” Struck by a sudden impulse, Ling Miao grabbed a cup off the table and threw it at Ji Linxi. Ji Linxi moved his head to the side and heard a ‘thunk’—the cup had slammed into the ground behind him.
“So much anger. Did a relative come by or something?” Ji Linxi looked thoughtful.
Ling Miao glanced around. Damn, there’s nothing else I can throw in reach. Ji Linxi placed his folded hands on his chest and quietly waited to see what Ling Miao would do next. Ling Miao slammed his hands down onto his laptop’s keyboard and said indignantly, “This company was about to hire me! But then some woman, who isn’t even as qualified as I am, came in and the recruiting person suddenly said, ‘Sorry’.”
As if a dam had burst, words poured out of Ling Miao as he told Ji Linxi what had happened at the job fair. The wrinkles in Ji Linxi’s forehead grew deeper and deeper. Eventually, Ling Miao flipped the bird at the ceiling and said, “That stupid pig! It was like I wasn’t even there. When he saw her, his drool almost fell to the ground. She wasn’t even that beautiful, and the layer of makeup on her face could flatten a decent-sized crowd. And that nauseating, cheap perfume that she wore. She’s not as qualified or as skilled as I am—her work isn’t even as good as my first drafts! She just has better fortune in her career than I do! What’s so good about that?! If it’s curves, I have them, too!”
When Ling Miao finished ranting, Ji Linxi surreptitiously pulled at Ling Miao’s shirt and used it to wipe his face. Then he said disgustedly, “Ling Miao, when you talk, can you not spray people with your spit?”
“Heh heh, I got upset.” Ling Miao smiled in apology and handed him a tissue.
“So, in conclusion, you didn’t find a job?”
Ling Miao nodded, then he suddenly looked at Ji Linxi with a heated gaze. Ji Linxi saw that familiar look and calmly said, “Don’t look at me with that nauseating expression.”
Ling Miao knew what Ji Linxi meant. He placed both hands against the wall and laid his head against them, then sighed. “Linxi, you’ve got really good luck. Even when you went to interviews, you had good luck with women—no, good luck with men! Regardless. Do you think you have a chance with that department manager of yours?”
“No chance.” While Ling Miao had been talking, Ji Linxi had already opened his laptop back up and was continuing to do his unfinished work. The pattering sound of his typing caused Ling Miao’s thoughts to become even more disorganized.
Maybe Ling Miao was too dejected over the events at the hiring fair, but for the rest of the night he could not calm down long enough to write. Looking at a half-written paragraph, Ling Miao could only grimace. “I’m still nine thousand words short for today’s update. My speed right now—it’s looking grim.”
Ling Miao, one year out of university, ran himself ragged job hunting every day but had met with no success thus far. Aside from being a graduate who could not find a job, he was also a no-name writer of online serial stories. In the year since his graduation, he had scraped by on the little he earned from putting his complete and utter effort into his writing. To Ling Miao, subscribers were more elusive than clouds.²
Ling Miao stared at the ceiling for a while before turning his attention back to his computer.
Write – delete – write – delete – write. Ling Miao sank into a hellish never-ending cycle.
Compared to the first few thousand words, the last few hundred words usually came quickly. Ling Miao finished today’s update, looked at the time, then heaved a sigh of relief.
“Fuck!” The one word contained immense resentment, and also a little bit of regret and frustration.
Ji Linxi rolled over. Clearly, Ling Miao had woken him. “What are you yelling about?”
“Fuck this goddamn internet speed!” Seeing the time, Ling Miao lowered his voice and grit out through his teeth, “Do you know how much I want to break this router?” Ling Miao’s other housemate said: “Ling Miao, calm down. Don’t be reckless. I’m on an important mission. If you break the router, it’ll be you who gets into trouble when you can’t update.”
The router was just above Ling Miao’s head. If Ling Miao really broke it out of frustration, his other housemates who were watching a video channel on TV and playing a video game, respectively, would be upset about it and not even have anywhere to vent.
Their last housemate added, “I mean, I’m video chatting with a babe. If I suddenly go offline, she’ll be sad.”
“Goddamn it, you sure she can see you in this lighting?” Ling Miao swore under his breath, but his eyes remained fixed on his computer monitor. The “00:00” was such an eyesore!
That’s right, missed it by a minute… no, maybe just by a few seconds, and Ling Miao’s efforts just… like that… Ling Miao really wanted to have a good long cry. One thousand dollars! Every day he worked overtime writing, and every day he wrote and uploaded ten thousand words, and all for what? Wasn’t it all for those one thousand dollars a month? The popular writers easily earned more than ten thousand dollars a month! But Ling Miao survived solely on these one thousand dollars, which he earned with his sweat and tears, and he had not yet found a job. Without these thousand dollars, and without a job, how was he going to survive the next month?