Wednesday, 27 May 2009

A Different Kind of Loneliness

A Different Kind of Loneliness
Originally written in Chinese by Chris Harry
(Translated into English by Chris Harry)

As he left his flat to walk out onto the clamorous street, he seemed to see tiny ripples forming in the sea of pedestrians flowing around him.

A pair of eyes from the surrounding crowd turned to fix their gaze upon him, and then another, and another... The harmony that had once filled the bustling, prosperous street now began to slowly dissipate, along with his blithesome mood.

In spite of a conscious effort to disregard them, and even as he quickened his pace as he walked past them, those countless eyeballs continued to follow him. Their glare gradually seeped through his back into his very consciousness, like so many beads of water collecting in his brain. Still he pretended not to notice; yet the looks being cast toward him were like keen barbs piercing holes through him, weighing down on him like great stones.

Now he could see that many in the crowd were engaged in furtive whisper. The whishing sound of their whispers swirled round his ears. Their hushed tones conjured up an image of scattered leaves rustling and flitting in an autumn wind.

Even he could not tell whether it was those collective stares, which had produced a chain reaction, or if it were he, this stranger, suddenly appearing on that busy street, which had led to the tension in the air. Then, very soon he discovered that his own disquiet was not shared. He could see smiles on the faces of many different figures in the crowd. And though he was unable to read what was behind those smiles, they merely heightened his unease.

As he walked, he thought to himself; no matter which corner of the frame he rested in, it seemed he could never blend into this painting. “Why would such a natural and ordinary thing as going for a walk become so painfully awkward?” It was a fact beyond comprehension for him, and one which he found rather hard to bear.

Nothing other than that cold blast of wind, which had just sheared through his consciousness, could accurately describe his feelings. That bleak, indifferent autumn wind of his imaginings had blown away every single leaf, sending them to drift and scatter apart. Only the desolation of this image in his mind’s eye could capture, in a real way, the feeling of loneliness and isolation he felt at that precise moment.

As he walked passed the intersection further up ahead and then across the street, a mother and her young son came into his field of vision. After seeing the two carefree figures strolling toward him, an exuberant, nimble little boy alongside his gentle and fair young mother, the world was suddenly suffused in warmer, gentler tones. He looked down toward the boy; the boy stared back up at him. At last, he could feel some sort of human bond. He believed that the little boy could understand him, even sympathise with him. Immediately his heavy mood lifted as a smile spread across his face.

The boy’s reaction was different, however. The clever-looking little sprite pulled excitedly on his mother’s arm as he shouted loudly and pointed straight at him, “Look! Look! Foreigner! Foreigner!”

He shook his head and bore on with a twinge of despair as he continued to walk alone, along which seemed to have become an even longer road ahead.

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