First Published on Chaleuria
Blood dripped from Fang Chi’s nose and fell onto his suit jacket. He sat back and tilted his head backward. Gao Zhun sat barely ten centimeters away from him, trembling all over. Grabbing Gao Zhun by the hand, Fang Chi asked the cab driver, “Is it okay to roll down the window a little, Master?”1
The driver, a balding middle-aged man, stared at Fang Chi through the rearview mirror. He watched the injured man with wary eyes, worried that he would stain the seat covers with his blood. “You kidding? What about my air-conditioning?”
Gao Zhun had twisted his body toward Fang Chi, not daring to move any closer despite his evident longing to lean over. Without any hesitation, Fang Chi lowered the window with a resolute press of the button. “I’ll double the fare.”
Though peeved, the driver did nothing to stop Fang Chi; he merely snarked under his breath, “Oho, crazies everywhere. Bloody gone in the head.”
It was Gao Zhun who called for the cab. Wanting to get home to tend to Fang Chi’s wounds as soon as possible, he had completely forgotten about his fear of cars. But now, sitting in the narrow, enclosed space, oppressed by the tightly-shut windows all around, he was assailed once more by his memories. He could not help remembering that night. He could not stop recalling the weight of the man above him, or the pain inside him…
All of a sudden, a pair of strong arms encircled him. Shuddering, he snapped up his head in panic – but all tension faded away when he saw who it was: Fang Chi. His mind was calm again. “Don’t… we’ll be seen…”
Gao Zhun’s voice was so soft that it was only audible between the two of them. Knowing that he was talking about the driver, Fang Chi held him by the waist and pulled him to his chest. “Why care about him? He has nothing to do with us.” Turning his body to the side, he enveloped Gao Zhun completely with his embrace and began caressing Gao Zhun’s back with long, slow strokes. “Feeling better now?”
Nearly choking in the tight confines of Fang Chi’s arms, Gao Zhun began to relax. The sheer force of the embrace soothed him. The mere thought of Fang Chi holding him was enough to make him quiet again, as content as a newborn babe. “Don’t let go,” he murmured. “Even if you crush me in your arms, don’t ever let go.”
“I won’t.” Fang Chi rubbed his chin lightly against Gao Zhun’s temple. “You know I will never let you go.”
The streets were still bustling with life at this hour of the night. Neon signs adorned the sides of the road with their multi-colored splendor. They shone through the windows of the cab and bathed the two men in the brilliance of their myriad lights, ever shifting and changing as the cab moved forward slowly through the traffic. As if he were looking at a peep show, the driver peeked into his rearview mirror. He watched as the two men – well-dressed in fine suits and shoes – entwined themselves in each other’s arms. He saw them breathe into each other’s skin and whisper into each other’s ears. Scoffing at them in derision, he spat inwardly at the sight and called them f**s.
At last, the cab pulled up to the entrance of Gao Zhun’s estate. It was let into the grounds by the security guard after a brief greeting from Fang Chi. All the guards recognized him now. Whenever he sent Gao Zhun home at night, they would even greet him with warmth: “Welcome back, Dr. Fang!”
After the fare was paid, Gao Zhun helped Fang Chi out of the car and supported him all way back to the apartment. Although his injuries were not serious at all, Fang Chi relished the attention, like a hero basking in the adoration of a damsel he had rescued from distress. Together, they stepped out of the elevator on Gao Zhun’s floor. As soon as he managed to open the door, he deposited Fang Chi with utmost care on the couch and rushed to find his first-aid kit without even changing his shoes.
In reality, Gao Zhun’s kit was only stocked with some alcohol wipes and plasters. Under his huge Arcimboldo paintings, Gao Zhun propped a leg on the black leather couch and reached forward to cup Fang Chi’s face with one hand. Holding some alcohol wipes with the tweezers in his other hand, he leaned in and dabbed at Fang Chi’s wounds, his breath warming the air between them.
They were so close. Right before Fang Chi’s eyes were the delicate node on Gao Zhun’s throat, and the silken skin of his thin chest. Gao Zhun had undone his collar; it hung open now in the yellow light, casting angular shadows tantalizingly over the flesh under his shirt. Fang Chi swallowed. Then he reached out and placed his hands on the lean, taut hips before him. Helpless, violent shudders promptly ripped through the body under his palms.
“Careful,” Fang Chi said, feeling a little guilty. However, in the very next moment, he felt a sharp sting on his brow bone that sent chills prickling down his spine. “You artists have pretty heavy hands, don’t you?”
Although Fang Chi had made the remark in jest, Gao Zhun apologized in earnest, “I’m sorry…”
Fang Chi’s hands tightened in response and pressed hard onto Gao Zhun’s hips. Starting from the edge of his pelvis, they began moving upward along his waist. Fang Chi wanted to stop, but he could not. For reasons he did not understand – perhaps he was carried away by the mood – he kept going, inching higher and higher up the body before him. Then, he felt Gao Zhun’s ribs under his hands: small, prominent bones that seemed to bend and melt under his caress. He fingered them gently. At the merest scrape of his thumb, however, Gao Zhun’s body went limp. Bit by bit, Gao Zhun collapsed forward until his soft, vulnerable belly fell flush against Fang Chi’s body, and Fang Chi’s arms were around him once more.
All was quiet in the room; only the sounds of Gao Zhun’s erratic breaths and the occasional whir of a distant engine could be heard. Nestling in his arms, Gao Zhun clung to Fang Chi’s neck bonelessly, the smooth expanse of his skin separated from Fang Chi’s lips by a mere shirt. Holding Gao Zhun close, Fang Chi acknowledged to himself that he was playing with fire – a fire that had been smoldering for some time. Should he allow it to blaze back to life, just like this? All of a sudden, through the haze of desire in his mind came the sound of Gao Zhun’s trembling voice, “Don’t go… please?”
Don’t go? What would happen – what would they do – if he stayed? Fang Chi’s mind cleared in an instant at the thought. His arms, stiff from exertion, fell away from Gao Zhun. He shifted his weight, trying to stand up from the couch, but Gao Zhun refused to let him leave. “It’s too late,” he pleaded as he tightened his hold around Fang Chi, “the last train and bus are gone by now.”
“It’s alright. I can get a cab.” Fang Chi got to his feet.
“I’m scared, really scared.” Gao Zhun grabbed his arm in despair. “I leave the lights on through the night. I don’t even dare to close my eyes. It’s as if I’ve lost my mind. Every night, I curl up in a corner on my bed, and when those memories come back to me, you’re all I ever think about!”
He cried, helpless and pitiful as tears streamed down his face. Suddenly unable to bear the thought of leaving him, Fang Chi pulled Gao Zhun into a hug once again. “I’ll call you when I get home. I’ll keep you company on the phone, and we can keep talking till morn…”
“No! I don’t want that!” Gao Zhun shook his head like a clingy, petulant child. “Stay, I beg you…”
Just like that day in the clinic, Fang Chi tilted his head and dropped a kiss on Gao Zhun’s temple. The skin under his lips was smooth and cold, waiting to be warmed again by the heat from another body. “I can’t,” he replied with a push. “I have to go back.”
Gao Zhun latched onto him. “Don’t go. I’ll give you anything you want.” As Fang Chi turned his face toward the doorway, Gao Zhun cast aside every shred of dignity and yanked at him in desperation. “I’ll be good, I promise! I’ll obey every word you say! Please…”
“Let go.” Fang Chi’s voice took on an abrupt harshness. In an instant, he transformed once more into the high and mighty doctor Gao Zhun knew too well. Sobbing, Gao Zhun put up one last struggle and hung onto him in anguish. “No, I won’t…”
“Take your pick: my company tonight, or every day after this?” This was a blatant threat – a therapist’s last resort, only to be used in the direst of situations. Pushed to his limits and forced to his wits’ end, Fang Chi could find no better way out than this final option.
Sure enough, Gao Zhun loosened his grip at last. Fang Chi extracted his arm from those hands with a light, effortless tug. Though he seemed to hesitate for a split-second, he eventually strode towards the door and disappeared into the night.
- Master: This is a form of address that is used when referring to or speaking to individuals who have technical skills (e.g. craftsmen, drivers, technicians, etc.).
- In Chinese, this term (师傅) is pronounced as ‘shifu’, which is homonymous with the term for master-teacher / master-father (师父). These two terms are often used interchangeably, since both are respectful forms of address for skilled individuals.
- However, they are not entirely synonymous with each other: while “师父” indicates the presence of a mentor-apprentice relationship, “师傅” can be used to address any skilled individual in general.