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3 1 Women! What about men? “With a mighty rumble like a peal of thunder , Meng Jiangnü’s tears washed away the Great Wall.” . . . My father bade me take another man, But Ping returned in honor to our home; Baochuan his wife is pure and undefiled. . . . This was how it was supposed to be; if the husband was to return in honor, then the wife must be pure and undefiled. The upright magistrate Judge Bao condemned the disloyal husband Chen Shimei; the bandit hero Wu Song killed the adulteress Pan Jinlian. When Chinese people want to say that what’s done can’t be undone, they use the popular saying , “The raw rice has been made into porridge.” But what’s the raw rice here, and what’s the porridge? Do you have to eat the porridge? What if you don’t feel hungry? Aren’t we supposed to make revolution economically? What’s right? What’s wrong? Haha got out of her chair and sat up on the table, feeling that the extra altitude might clear her mind. Finally she found herself fascinated by the dustbins on the street and still as confused as ever. Of course, as far as Old Gu was concerned, women had minimal IQs. And the little intelligence they had went into shopping. In high antiquity, when there weren’t so many stores, women had put their intelligence to work managing the family budget, and their remaining energies were for the kitchen and the bedroom. And then? “I tell you, as time 3 2 has gone by they’ve gotten to be more and more trouble.” This was Old Gu’s bottom line on women. Haha knew that Old Gu was just needling her; she also realized that her life would be a lot easier if she played dumb a bit more. What men most like to hear women say is “I don’t know.” She sat cross-legged on the table and looked down at the dustbins. Michael really had split up with her this time; the passion that made him say, “That’s no good, we can’t just forget it,” had cooled. Haha had nothing to feel guilty about anymore, since the burden of being a thief had now been shifted to some other other woman. And his fiancée was still sitting securely at home, waiting for him to call her from the other woman’s house. Even though she was no longer the other woman, Haha still wanted to understand what it was that there had been between them. She had been serious about the affair at first, almost thinking that she had found the man she could settle down with. Then, all of a sudden – bang – here she was sitting alone in a sinking ship, trying to understand what the hell relationships were: Dustbins? Broken toys? Buckets of tears? Wastebaskets? Microphones? Newspapers? Ashtrays? Exhibitions? Piles of cabbages stored up for winter? The key to the whole thing was not Michael’s personality. The key was her past life. She didn’t feel that her IQ was up to coping with it; even if she tried to work it out on her toes as well as her fingers, she still couldn’t get it straight. Michael had left her suddenly, saying she was “too deep.” What, me, deep? No one had ever said she was too deep before. Bloody Londoners. * * * I thought my brother hadn’t heard me say “Fuck it” when he was burning his stamp collection, but it turned out that he had. He rewarded me with a genuine khaki uniform. I rolled up the sleeves and the trouser legs, and it still fit me like a tent. 3 3 I put on the widest leather belt I could find. It went around my waist twice, and I still had to punch a lot of extra holes in it before I could do up the buckle. Back straight, chest out. The basketball shoes fit like pontoons. My feet seemed to stick out miles in front of me. My pigtails poked out ridiculously, and the cap fell over my eyes. In the pockets were a bus pass, some cash, a handkerchief, the Little Red Book, and a notepad. On the breast of the jacket was a Mao badge the size of an alarm clock. When you do the rebel dance, you need grand gestures – arms akimbo, legs apart, head facing right; you sway dramatically back and forth to the...


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