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TAGS: Dialogue (general); Ethics; Fiction
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An existential yet emotionally-charged dialogue between two young women.
This essay was written by a young woman from China (English name, "Yeasany"), who was my university student at the time. Despite her limited English, I could see this was a most penetrating short story. I corrected a few small language issues but mostly left the essay as she wrote it. This is posted with her permission.

There is no mention of the Bahá'í Faith, but it does contain moral themes. [-B.Z.]


by Yang Juan


"Have you forgotten your dreams?" I heard, vaguely conscious. "What kind of person are you really?" She was staring at me, so profoundly. I avoided her perceptive gaze, mumbling "What kind of person am I really?"

How proud of yourself you were in middle school times. You were ever doted on as the model pupil by your teacher...But now you only see a shadow, your own shadow, the shadow of vanity.

Have you forgotten your dreams?

A spacious house, full of books arranged orderly into bookcases. You were sitting at the window where you looked through. The green swansdown window curtain was bound together. Outside, everything was dynamic in the shade. You could smell natural scents drift by. While she was leaning back in the sofa, another window was there, behind her. The sunshine was shut outside by the drooping blue swansdown window curtain. But when the wind passed through, the sunshine would shine upon her petite cheeks via the glasses and the curtain.

"I have said I love books. Where there is a book, there am I. However, I gradually found that even the books can't satisfy my emptiness. Lamentable, right? Pale words. Feeble me. I really don't know what kind of person I am! Day in and day out, doing the same things. Study, sleep, eat, and read, including a few tidbits of news from time to time. This is my present life."

"I have said I don't want to go to the university. I don't want to work either. I don't know what to do. What can I do and what can I do? People like me are incompatible with society and can't adapt to it at all, unless to be a writer or philosopher. But that is the way to death. In a word, life has a kind of dark tragic hue. Maybe I am exaggerating! Because there is no colour in our lives at all. Pure white tableau, fearful white, deathly pale swallowing everything..."

She glanced at me with sorrowful gaze. I saw from the glass of the window, but still kept silent. She didn't see my numb face.

"You know, in China you have to follow in other people's footsteps. There is a frame, you mustn't cross it. Once you do, you'll be punished and attacked. Dare not overstep the limit a step, be well-behaved, rush about life and be busy working. Because you carry on your back too many loads that contain hope of deep meaning for too many people's."

She sighed, then continued.

"Sometime, I found I was sentenced to death, just postponing to carry it out. I try my best to change it, to resist it until there is no voice and energy. But when I thought I had succeeded completely, I found, I hadn't changed at all. Only another face, another voice...I still was me."

Her voice grew ever more downcast, full of moving charm!

"You can't help thinking you are "beyond redemption." Try to save yourself from nothingness again and again. Finally you only find you are handcuffed to much bigger chains again and again. No medicine can save you from the perpetual repetition of hesitating, waking and resisting. Even the repetition itself is also repeated unceasingly. Once you are put to death, not only your spirit but also your clay, both of them will make you involved in nothingness again."

She looked at me, grieved. As I was indifferent and unmoved, this made her boil with rage, angrily rebuking me.

"Why! Why does my fire always drop into your ice? Why are you always only seeking lonely freedom with me? Why don't you show me your opinions? Why don't you say a word? Why?! Why?!"

She shouted from the bottom of her heart, making me shake. I turned to her slowly. Her furied gaze touched me as if I was stung by a scorpion, but I immediately recovered to my previous state. From the glasses, I cast a furtive glance at her trembling shadow.

Miserably I said "I'm a coward!" It was so low and deep that it was even hard for me to hear it myself.

"You! You?" a wintry smile appeared on the corner of her mouth. And soon spread over her entire face. "You are a coward?" The whole house was filled with her unbridled laughter. She was so unreachable, in a pejorative and despicable sense. I knew it was not only laughing at herself but also mocking me. I bowed my head with an ashamed face and heart. "For anything in the world, you'd better end it with a smile. There is no need to wash it with tears."

Silence...All was in silence. That can make me stifled. The wind held one corner of the blue curtain up. My eyes were burned with pain by the sunlight. Somebody said silence could cover up ignorance, but I felt it could gloss over helplessness more.

"Why don't you kill yourself?" Her voice faned my mind as if it blew from Hades, so cold...eyes of brick...

Now, I couldn't stand and burst into tears all over my face.


"Why don't you resist? Why do you hide here, here..." The fury made the wrinkles of her forehead suddenly appear.

"To exist is to resist!" I let the tears stay on my face, sobbing with a melancholy voice "Freedom...I want to write, not because the happiness it gives or because it is the only form I can use, but because it won't make me kill myself!"

"'Beauty is truth, truth is beauty.' But truth is usually cruel, and appearance often conceals the radiance of human nature.' Under poverty, no need to talk about chastity and crime, no need to make connections with morality and wisdom.' Everybody is selfish. The important thing is only to which side your heart is inclined. Family or career? Emotion or intellect? Or anything else.

Because of the stir, I talked in a confused manner. "Don't tell me if you love or hate something very much, you won't find the truth.' When you find the truth what can you do? 'There is no sky for the hero to carry out his brilliance. There is no audience to watch his splendid performance. Thinking is so lonesome that it can burst the most frightening shout. Everything around is silent. The forced silence grows ever more quiet...Perhaps you only can shout to the wilds." How strongly I hate!"

"A person who writes down the script with emotion is in privation. He needs a kind of helplessness and fear. He needs to negate himself and grieve continuously. He needs a sort of strong social responsibility that can destroy everything. Only during this emotion, can you find timeless writing."

"I turned around, looking at her eyes to eyes. My sound still paced back and forth in the transparent air. The oppressive emotion hugged both of us.

"Have you forgotten your dream?"

"Of course not!"

What she had said wasn't clear, I only knew she would have another plan for a journey. Flames jumped in both of her eyes. A splendid smile. The influence was so strong that my heart couldn't help beating. And the fervidity that was lost for so long a time came back again...

"What about your parents?" Suddenly, I said. It was my turn to laugh, gloomy and cold. Because of the envy at her freedom, I got a kind of pleasant feeling as if sprinkling the salt on a wound. Looking at her disappearing fervidity, I...I beat her, but...

With a wintry smile, she looked into my eyes, "Don't worry about it!" The generation gap won't disappear, you know." not caring about her own hurt, she laughed at me again, "Either you are assimilated by your parents or your parents are assimilated by you!...I'm the latter, what about you?"

Her unbridled laughter rang in my ears. "You are the former, am I right?"

My self-respect was tinged deeply, a pitiful self-respect! I admitted she was the winner again. We understood each other, although I don't believe happiness and sadness can be shared with others forever. All the hurt vanished thanks to the understanding.

"As a friend," I smiled friendly and sincerely. "Before you leave, I want to tell you a story!"

"A philosopher told me, Truth and Error lived in the same neighbourhood. He did his best to look for Truth. At last, he saw a house and knocked at the door several times. But there was no answer. So he knocked at the neighbour's door until Error came out. How regretful he was! He said if he insisted on it, there would be another result."

"Another philosopher told me, Truth and Error lived in the same neighborhood. He did his best to look for Truth. He set his mind on one house and knocked at the door time and time again, never giving up until Error came out. How regretful he was! He said if he wasn't so stubborn and had given the last knock at Truth's door, instead there would have been another result."

Everything around us was all in the darkness except both of her eyes full of hope and eagerness...just like the stars against the evening sky, brighter and brighter, melting away the pale face and soul...

"I'm a keeper of the wheat field, you're a bird of brambles. The form is different, but the substance is the same. Right?"

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