I looked at myself at the mirror. I sleep very early last night. I did not leave my room. I dozed off to bed at 8.30pm. I missed my dinner, my medication, and I didn’t even change the bandage. But I didn’t manage to sleep well due to the pain and I guess due to the messy mind I had too.
I looked at the bandage on my neck. It is soaked with blood, but it is dried.
I strained my neck last night too many times. I forgot about it and I tried to talk, end up I strained my wounds and bleed. And I move too much too.
Here I am, dressed formally for a Monday morning. I saw myself in my black coat and a white blouse, to fit the bandage whose color is white too. But I had yet to change the bandage. The bandages are not with me, not in my room.
I found myself a red tie to match with my attire. But I was wondering how to tie it on my neck since I have the bandage there?
I stood in front of the mirror for 10 minutes. I guess this is the longest time I spent in front of the mirror looking at myself doing nothing. I looked at the tie, and then at myself.
I took a deep breath, this time slowly, not as harsh as I did last night.
I decided to ask Xiao You if I should need the tie.
Wait. Did I say Xiao You?
I shook lightly, and I turned, walking out from my room.
The moment I opened the door and stepped out, I smell the nice aroma of coffee. I just recalled. Xiao You is staying with me. I closed the door of my room, and I walked down the stairs.
“Good morning, Xi Men,” Xiao You smiled at me, at the dining room.
Her smile is the best thing I’ve seen, especially to start my day. She is smartly dressed in formal attire: a pink long sleeves blouse with a black skirt, ready for work.
I smiled at her and I nodded at her, indicating to reply her ‘good morning’.
“I’ve made you coffee,” she said, and then she looked at my neck. “Ah, your bandage… I’ll change for you now,” she hurriedly run to a bag and took out the bandage. “Sit here,”
I, as directed by her, sat down at the chair she asked me to and then she gently took the bandage off my neck, and replaces a new one, to both sides.
“Ok, done,” she smiled. “Coffee?”
I smiled at her and I took my phone out as I write. ‘I used to take coffee in the office’
“Oh,” she said, and her smile fades off.
Seeing her smile fades off just like that, I write again, ‘But your coffee smells good’.
She smiled again. “You cannot drink it like this as it is too hot for you. Do you want to pack to work? By the time we reached office, the warmness of coffee should be fine for you,”
She is right. If the drink is too hot, it adds more pain for me. Swallowing plain water is painful, but I cannot start my day with plain water. Swallowing warm coffee is like swallowing porridges that I had taken the last 2 days. I looked at her and nodded.
She jumped happily to the kitchen and look for the water tumbler.
I am happy seeing her happy like this. A while later, she emerged from the kitchen with a water tumbler in hand.
I wave at her. She looked at me. I pointed at the tie.
“The tie fits your outfit,” she said as she continued pouring the coffee. “Wait,” she looked at me. “You have bandages in your neck. How do you want to tie?”
I looked at her, tilted my head a bit and smirked slightly, then I straightened my head (meaning: that is what I want to ask you).
“Oh! That is the one you want to ask me? You ask me if you should tie or not?” she asked.
I smiled and nodded. She got my meaning.
“No,” she said shortly. “You shouldn’t tie because you have bandages there,”
Oh. I looked at the tie and I put it at the chair that I am sitting. So, I am not bringing it to work.
She smiled. “You look alright without tie too. You have that smart look,”
She makes me really happy. I let out a small laugh.
“Ok, done!” she said. She handed me the water tumbler. “We can go to work now,” she smiled.
I smiled and nodded.
I have been smiling a lot since meeting her. Even little, tiny things she do, would make me happy… of course, those were after I am injured…
“Xi Men?” Xiao You called me.
Huh? I looked at her. I’m blur.
“Work?” she asked.
Oh! I nodded a few times, and then look for the house and car keys. I patted on all pockets on my pants and clothes for the keys’ sound.
“Eh, don’t panic,” Xiao You said as she took her notebook computer and slings it on her shoulder. “House keys are here… car keys… ah, living room…”
I looked at her. How come she knows what I am looking for?
I put my hand up, to stop her. She looked at me. Then I took my phone out and start writing. ‘How come you know I am looking for keys?’
“Oh, simple. When you pat your pockets it means you are searching for something. And the way you pat means you are looking for keys. But I don’t know what keys are you looking for, so I just tell you both,” she smirked. “Basically most guys also do the same thing to look for things,” she looked into her handbag.
Oh. I supposed her husband did the same. I turned and headed to the living room. I found my car keys. I still prefer to drive my BMW, especially to work.
“Xi Men, do you take breakfast?” she asked.
I wondered how do I answer her with ‘depends’. I just glanced at her, from my focus on the road.
“Yes?” she asked.
I did not answer, I bite my lips. I cannot take my phone out and write when I am driving.
“No?” she asked again.
Then I immediately show her the peace sign using my hand, which is my index and middle finger, and I joined them both in front of her… let’s see if she understand what I mean with that, that I want to tell her is both ‘yes’ and ‘no’.
“Yes no?” she answered.
I immediately nodded.
“Oh… so the answer is yes and no… so it depends, right?” she asked.
I nodded again.
She smiled. “Then you want any breakfast today?”
Breakfast? That means porridge again? I’m so gonna fed up with porridge. Even hearing that word can kill me. I shook at her.
“Okay,” she smiled.
I reached office. As the lift reached the top floor, Xiao You and I emerged from the lift.
“Mr. Xi Men,” she smiled as she extends her hand to show me the door. She tapped her pass at the censor and the door opened.
I laughed when she did that. Ouch. That hurts.
“CEO Xi Men,” my staffs called. I smiled, and nodded at them.
I can see all their eyes stared at me for a moment, before they turned their face away, worrying that I will scold them for their stares. My bandages are very obvious.
“CEO Xi Men,” Secretary Xu stood up and greeted me.
I nodded at him and I walked in into my room, only to realize Xiao You is not with me. I turned and looked around, and found her just sitting down on her desk.
I walked into my CEO room, to my desk and I sat down on my chair.
“CEO Xi Men, these are the highlights of the…” he stared at me. “CEO Xi Men, what happened to your neck?”
I smiled and nodded slightly. I waved my hand at him, telling him that I am alright…
“CEO Xi Men?” Secretary Xu asked.
I immediately hold my hand up, to ask him to ‘hold on’. I took my phone out and I start writing on it, because it understands hand writing. ‘I’m ok’
“Oh… but… you seem…” Secretary Xu said.
I start writing again. ‘Cancel or postpone all my appointments for today. I want to focus on my paperwork’
Secretary Xu scratched his head. “But…”
I hold my hand up, again, ask him to ‘hold on’. I dialed Xiao You’s number on my cell phone, but I hang up before she pick up. I create a missed call for her. Basically I cannot talk, so, I cannot even talk to her. I hope she gets the ‘message’ on why I missed call her.
“CEO Xi…” Secretary Xu said.
Clearly, he did not understand my hand signals of ‘hold on’ because I am waiting for Xiao You to come in to interpret my hand signals. I scratched my head.
“Yes, Mr. Xi Men?” Xiao You asked as she walked in into my room straight, since the door is not closed.
Secretary Xu immediately turned and looked at Xiao You.
I looked at her, and I pointed at my neck, and then I pointed at Secretary Xu (meaning: can you tell Secretary Xu that I cannot talk due to my neck injury?).
“Oh,” Xiao You said. “Actually Mr. Xi Men had a lil accident… so he won’t be able to talk until his condition gets better… in the meantime he will communicate with you via written words or hand signals,”
I looked at her. I wasn’t expecting her to tell him THIS MUCH. I was expecting her to tell him that I cannot talk and that’s about it. But it’s ok. She already said it out…better than Secretary Xu keep asking the same question again.
“Accident? What accident?” Secretary Xu asked.
Oh boy. I was WRONG!
“Well, you have to ask Mr. Xi Men if he wants to tell you about that,” she said. “I have some documentation to read, so…” she looked at me, hoping that I can allow her to continue her work.
I nodded, but then I put my hand up, indicates that ‘she can go but hold on’. I point at her, and then I point at Secretary Xu, I wave and point at my neck (meaning: ask Secretary Xu to stop asking about my neck).
“Oh,” Xiao You said, she then turned looking at Secretary Xu. “Mr. Xi Men hopes that you can stop asking,”
“Oh,” Secretary Xu said.
“Mr. Xi Men…?” Xiao You called, seeking my permission to leave.
I smiled and nodded.
“Thank you, Mr. Xi Men,” she smiled as she walked off.
I see her today behaving differently than what I see on Friday, despite this is just her second day in my office. She is friendlier today. And I started to understand that she is trying to be her way, being a professional in my office, calling me Mr. Xi Men…
I have to communicate with Secretary Xu using typing, or handwriting. He, just the same as Ah Si, Lei and Mei Zhuo and their wives, does not understand my hand signals at all.
Someone knocked the door. I looked up, and Xiao You opened the door lightly.
“Lunch time,” she smiled.
Oh. I looked at my watch and it is 12pm already.
“I bought you porridge,” she said as she sat down in front of me at my table.
“I bought you century egg porridge,” she smiled. “And I have the same,”
I looked at her. What does she mean with ‘she has the same’?
She put two takeaway-polystyrene-bowls on my desk. She then stared at me.
“Oh, lunch is not supposed to be taken at your table…” she said, looking at my messy desk. She then turned and looked at a small meeting table across the room. “We’ll eat there,”
I just smirked. And I stood up, following her to the meeting table and sat down, where I see her opened the cover of the polystyrene bowl containing the porridge and she pushed it to me.
“Yours,” she said, and then she opened another cover of another polystyrene bowl.
I looked at her porridge, and noticed she is having the same porridge as I do.
“I bought this at a shop next street earlier. I was thinking that you do not want to take lunch with your friends so I went out and buy you porridge,” she smiled.
I write her a message in my phone and show to her, ‘you don’t have to eat porridge just because I do’.
“I eat, because I wanted to,” she smiled, as she shoved her spoon into the porridge.
I looked at her and I smiled. And then I shoved my spoon into my porridge, and take a spoonful of porridge, and swallow it slowly.
Porridge is not any food that Xi Men would take because he has been used to eat expensive and quality food in every meal since young. I know he has taken porridge for the past 2 days, and include today, it’s the 3rd day. I know it is very suffering for Xi Men to consume possibly another spoonful of porridge.
I caused him like this.
I feel so guilty.
I wish I could take his place instead… at least I wouldn’t feel so guilty for making him suffering every single day, because of me.
Looking at Xi Men swallowing food that he doesn’t like is a little painful for me.
All I can do is to stay with him. If he is going to eat porridge, then I will too.
Whatever he has suffered, I have to be in the same situation with him.
And I have decided that way.
Every single day, I woke up in the morning brewing coffee, causing Xi Men’s house filled with the fragrant aroma of coffee. Xi Men would drink the coffee I made everyday in the office. Because of his injury, by the time the hot coffee was brought to office, it became just warm enough for Xi Men. I wasn’t quite sure, but he seems happy about it.
It has been a week since the accident.
I did not know how much it has changed Xi Men… or did it?
I have always been myself… I believe work should remains in the office, and after working hours it is my private time. I did not want Xi Men to overwork, so I want him to go home at 6pm, and latest to leave office would be 6.30pm.
First, it would do him good, that is for him to be able to rest more.
Second, my principle is that I would be working from 9am to 6pm every day, and after 6pm it is my private time. However, since I came to Taipei for work, at times I would need to do some homework at night.
Xi Men did not reject each time I knocked the door and walked in to tell him that it is time to go home. He would only smile and nod while he saved his working stuffs before he walk out from his room. I honestly don’t know what time he goes home each day after work, but I have a feeling he leaves office after 8pm.
Xi Men did not go out for lunch or dinner with anyone else. I know that he did not want other people to eat something they don’t like just because he cannot eat. I bought him some softer food for lunch, and undeniable most of the time would be porridge. By dinner time, I would at times buy him some mashed potatoes and soups. Xi Men did not complained about food anymore since last Sunday. I know it is very difficult for him, to take porridge day after day, and seeing him suffer is the last thing I ever wanted. Xi Men would only consume whatever I bought for him, without objection.
Everyday after work, and after dinner, I would see Xi Men walked into his room and he rarely comes out. I am not sure what he is up to, or what he is doing. And I would be in living room, fancying the night scenery from the glass that acts as walls, or standing in the balcony. And at times I would call Dr. Huang and asked him what I should do to Xi Men to make him feel better after seeing him like this, and also telling Dr. Huang of Xi Men’s condition, what type of food he can consume.
Nevertheless, no one understands Xi Men because he did not talk much about himself and his face would always bear the same look all the while since Ying De years. Despite he is not happy, he would still be able to smile and laugh like nothing bothers him. And now, it is even worse. He lost his voice completely. Talking to him is difficult. Other people would talk, and he would only reply using his phone.
Everyone knows the brain works very fast, and by the time he finished typing or writing, the brain has ‘run’ to a very different ‘channel’. I understand he hopes he can talk but he couldn’t and seeing his own condition like this, he prefers not to talk. What I realized is he only smiled and nodded most of the time, perhaps trying to hide his own sadness. Xi Men did not pick up calls anymore. He would only respond to SMS messages.
I am the only person who understands most of his hand signals. And I try asking him questions that he does not need to reply much or with a lot of words. I don’t want to tire him for answering me using his phone. So, most of the time I ask him questions that he only needs to answer with a YES or NO.
I wasn’t quite sure, but I wished he can talk more with me… or at least, let me know that he is living well during this period, and that he can accommodate to his injuries.
Seeing him like this everyday… it hurts too.
I carry the guilt with me. I caused him like this.
I feel so sad for him. I feel so sorry for him.
It’s Saturday. 11am.
I woke up and came down to living room at 9.30am. I have yet to see Xi Men coming down from his room. All his car keys are still intact in the living room, so I confirmed that he is still in the house.
It was as though he heard me. I heard him opening the door, and then closed the door. He slowly walked down the staircase, clad in a tee and knee-length pants.
I looked at him from the dining room. He looked straight at me and smiled.
“Good morning,” I said.
He smiled and nods once, to indicate the same greeting.
“Coffee?” I asked. “It should be warm enough for you now,”
He smiled and nodded.
And so I pour the coffee out for him.
He took the cup of coffee up, and he smell the aroma of the coffee, before he takes a sip. He looked at me and then he looked around the table, to find a pen and a stack of old newspapers. He took the pen and scribbled on the corner of the newspaper. ‘Didn’t go out?’
I shook. “Nowhere to go,”
He scribbled again. ‘It’s been some time since you come to Taipei, why not you go out and enjoy yourself?’
I smiled. “Then what about you?”
He looked at me and shook, he writes again. ‘I don’t have anywhere to go. I used to work on weekends too’.
“Then today?” I asked.
‘You don’t allow me to work on weekends. You ask me to rest’ he writes out.
“So you are putting the blame on me?” I joked.
He smiled. ‘Not exactly. But I was wondering what I can do on weekends if not work’.
“Then go out with me,” I said. I am hoping that he can enjoy himself despite his injury.
He looked at me and shook. He pointed at his injury.
“That is not a reason for you to reject going out and enjoy your weekends,” I said.
He smiled and shook, looking down to his coffee.
“I want you to go out with me and enjoy the weekend with me. I want you to bring me around Taipei,” I said, looking at him.
He bites his lower lip. He then starts writing, ‘I cannot be able to bring you around because I cannot talk to explain. Go out with San Chai’.
“You don’t need to explain. I only need a companion to go around with me. And that companion I want is you, not San Chai. I am not taking someone’s wife away for my weekend,” I emphasized.
He took a deep breath and drank his coffee. He looked at me, and I am still waiting for his respond. He closed his eyes, opened it again, took a deep breath and then nodded at me.
I smiled. “Thank you, Xi Men!”