Waiting

Sunny-Side-Up is a weekly column celebrating clear blue skies, fancy bookmarks and the snooze button. In other words, expect book/film reviews, DIY crafts and easy recipes for a lovely weekend.

Every summer Lin Kong returned to Goose Village to divorce his wife, Shuyu. Together they had appeared at the courthouse in Wujia Town many times, but she had always changed her mind at the last moment when the judge asked if she would accept a divorce. Year after year, they went to Wujia Town and came back with the same marriage license issued to them by the county’s registry office twenty years before.

Meanwhile his girlfriend Manna, a nurse at his hospital, had to wait as long as 18 years before finally becoming Lin Kong’s official partner…

She had been waiting, waiting, only for a beginning or an ending between them.

She raised her eyes, which were radiating an intense light. Then, she lowered her head and giggled hysterically. “I’m an old maid, a thirty-year-old virgin, do you know?”

Waiting is a tragic story about love, set in a closeted China during the years of Cultural Revolution. It was an era of uncertainty and suspicion, based upon flawed, misconstrued ideologies. The subject of love was trapped in a tight spot: freed from feudalistic notions of arranged marriage, but cornered by conservative societal viewpoints.

It would make no sense to anybody in the countryside if Lin said he wanted to divorce his wife because he didn’t love her. He had to find a real fault in her, which he couldn’t.

“You know, take off your shoes and socks is like open your pants. ‘Cause you bound your feet only for your future husband, not for other men, to make your feet more precious to your man. By the way, do you know what this is called in the old days?” She patted her left foot, whose instep bulged like a tiny knoll.

They all shook their heads. She continued, “It’s called Golden Lotus, like a treasure.”

One of the key reasons why Lin Kong felt estranged from his wife was because she had bound feet — a symbol of feudalism. But to Shuyu, a simple village woman with little education, having bound feet merely meant better marriage prospects. Because of his superficial mindset, Lin Kong failed to see the woman in Shuyu, and how she could also give him happiness.

You were misled by your own frustration and passivity, believing that what you were not allowed to have was what your heart was destined to embrace.

It was only towards the end of the story did Lin Kong realize that he had known nothing about love, that he had spent his youth pursuing what is not love, but an imagery of love. In fact, Manna had also waited for him simply because she had no other options. Ironically, the only person who understood love was probably Shuyu.

That’s why this is not a love story, but a tragic story about the idea of love.

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