Ten Vignettes About Love | The New Engagement

Ten Vignettes About Love

By Li Zhuang
Ten Vignettes About Love accompanying art

                   Ten Vignettes about Love

                                                                                     ---- Falling Sand in my Hand

                                                         By Li Zhuang

1.     The moment I left you, you didn’t understand. You cried. You cursed me. You became hysterical. But the seeds of my departure has already been planted long ago.

That winter afternoon, the north wind was whipping our faces and your hands were cold. I took off my scarf and gently wrapped it around your neck. You didn’t say anything.

When we were at the corner of Xi Dan, the famous Chinese shopping center, some random street photographer asked if you could model for him. You waved him off with a smirk.

Without realizing it, you murmured to yourself, “I can’t believe it. People still ask me to model for them when I am wearing such an ugly scarf.”

I smiled and pushed the front door of the French restaurant open. A thick layer of fog was forming on the glassy surface.

When I spread the white linen over my lap, a thought suddenly came to my mind. “Why didn’t I strangle you with that scarf?”

2.     A fish swims off the hook

3.     I still remember that night, that conversation between us while we were in bed.

You: I fear that one day you might leave me.

Me: Yeah, you are right.

You: If that’s the case. What should I do?

Me: Stay away from me.

You (laughing): I can tell when you are lying and when you are telling the truth.


I fell in love with you because of the last sentence of that conversation, and I left you because of the first.

4.     That morning, when I woke up, I watched you sitting on the bed and doing your make-up.

   You turned around, facing me, and told me that pursuing you is like trying to pick a lotus flower when you are stepping on the lotus leaves.

   I was so stunned by the beauty and originality of this metaphor that I forgot about the warning message underlying it.

   I guess that's why I got caught in the mud and was unable to escape in the end.

5.     Falling in love with you is like waving a candle in front of a blind man. The flame seared my fingers, but there was nothing you could see. Living in the world of darkness, you would never see the glorious side of me.

6.     I know that I could be such a wonderful lover:

  I know that I should send you flowers and chocolates on Valentine’s day.

  Present you with a wonderful surprise at your birthday.

  I would walk at the “right” side of the road to protect you from the oncoming traffic.

  Take off my scarf when it gets cold.

  Make plans every time we travel.

  Praise the way you do your makeup,

  Take your coat and your handbag at the restaurant,

  Cut the steak and hand you the plate

Pay the bill at the end of our dinner

  Escort you home when it gets late

  Call you everyday and text you every minute

  Say “I love you” and “I love only you.”

  Like a robot.

7. On Christmas night, the light of the water fountain in front of Hotel Oriental illuminated our faces. You looked at the currents of water, forever circulating, glimmering in the darkness. I saw the sharp angles of your face became softer in the moonlight. You said this was the place where your first love ended, and now I was by your side.

The room was at the 17th floor of the hotel. You were so clever that you searched for every French window in the room. You cried when you saw the water fountain from the last one. Seen from above, the currents of water were still splendid, still lonely in the night.

When I turned off the lights, the room became pitch dark. I tried to light two delicate little paper lanterns on the table with my trembling hands. The candle wick was never long enough. The flame scorched my fingers and I cried out. You stared at me unaffectionately.

When I ask you to make a wish, the candlelight cast a dark shadow on your face. You said theatrically, “Now I would ask nothing for myself. I only wish that this girl sitting in front of me...”

I gently patted on your hands, “your wishes should never be spoken aloud.”

7.     It was a pity that I couldn’t find a better material for my sculpture. All I could afford was a large chunk of marble. The quality of the marble was poor and there was a devastating crevice on the left-hand side.

I polished it, carved it, giving it a perfect shape. Just like a goddess.

Its left hand was holding a daffodil, the right hand was pointing at the sky, as if it was ascending to the heavens.

Days passed and the poor quality of the material began to show. Its ivory forehead was turning yellow. Small rifts began to appear on the left side of her waist. I tried to mend it. I carved and polished it every day. How I worried.

For a whole month, I slept beside it, dreaming that the perfect goddess would break into pieces.

One day, after staring at it for hours, I jumped up. The hammer in my hand pounded on it like a storm. White powder permeated the room.

When the hammer landed on the ground with a sharp pang, I realized I had never felt this happy.

8.        Before my girlfriend and I broke up, we used to do this role-playing game.

She would kneel on the mattress. I would pull her hair and make her body arch back in a sexy way.

I would curse her, calling her a “bitch,” a “whore.”

“Aren’t you dirty?” I would hiss in her ear. 

“How many men have entered your body and left their seed in your pussy?”

She was mute. The whole time.

When we finished, we would lie side by side.

I was pleased and contented, “I was pretty good at this right? This role plaything?”

“Perhaps a little bit too good at it.” Her face was shrouded in shadows.

9.          Once upon a time, there was an egg that wished she could become a tomato.

        “When I become a tomato, people will like me.” She tells herself.

    She holds her breath so hard that her face became redder and redder, gradually resembling a tomato.

    Finally, the egg had just tried too hard and burst into pieces.

   The pieces of eggshells glimmer in the yolk and the white.

   Just like the look of a galaxy.

10.     It was another bad day. Just like the thousands of other bad days I’ve had in my life. And it would go on, and on, and on.

I skyped with my mom and told her I was sick of this life.

Mom said, “You know, when I watched your grandmother lying in bed, dying, I was thinking that the next would be me.”

I responded angrily, “And I would be the next after you.”

She said calmly, “so please don't jump the queue.”

I was shocked to the gut and repeated over and over to myself,

“Don't jump the queue.”

“Don't jump the queue.”


11.     Under the dim light of the night club, we were gathering up our stuff and readying to leave. You asked me where my lighter was. I struggled to find it in my wallet. You grabbed my wallet from my hand and easily found it.

         When we got outside, the cold wind whipped me awake. I took hold of your arm and begged you, “it was so late. Could you not go back? Just stay with me for one night.”

         You suddenly became really, really drunk, your body was shaking, and you lost your sense of direction.

            “No, no, don’t,” you repeated.

          I put your arm around my neck so that you were able to maintain your balance and I called a cab for you. There was no traffic on the main road. Only the neon lights of the night club sparkled.

          When you suddenly bent down and tried to kiss me, I was so shocked that my body became stern. You looked at me and stopped. I stared at the far end of the road, waiting for the car to come. Your face came close to me again and my body was still stern.

       At last, I accepted your kiss.

       After so many years, I still didn’t know how to kiss.

       When our lips touched, I felt nothing.

       Only that there wouldn’t be another girl in this world who would try to kiss me five times, and that each attempt elicited no reaction at all.

Li is a Chinese lesbian writer whose fiction and creative nonfiction probe into Chinese homosexuality from socially marginalized perspectives. She holds an MFA from Columbia University. Her work has appeared in The Collapsar and The Madison Review. Li’s work is known for its unapologetic lesbian sensibility.

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