A heavy downpour rained down from the dark sky. The large raindrops that fell without warning was so painful that it would hurt anyone who walked under it.
The bell rang out at the end of the eighth period. The teacher went on to remind the students about their upcoming midterms before walking out of the classroom. All the students packed up and got ready to leave; the majority of them were ready to make their journey home.
Jiang Pozhen fished out his cell phone from his pocket. There was no indication of any incoming calls or text messages shown on the screen.
His brows furrowed tightly; he grabbed his bag and left the room.
One week already passed since Jiang Pozhen told Guo Jinshan he was willing to be in a relationship with him. At that moment, Guo Jinshan had only looked down slightly. Without saying another word, Guo Jinshan had avoided his gaze and slipped out of the elevator the moment the doors opened again, leaving Jiang Pozhen alone in the elevator.
Despite having said so much their interactions didn’t change. Guo Jinshan still avoided him.
He thought Guo Jinshan would continue to pursue him, after all the man did confess his love. He never expected to have to wait so long or to feel so anxious over it.
Several people stood in the hallway, looking around their surroundings as they waited for the rain to stop. Jiang Pozhen shared an umbrella with one of his classmates and together they walked to the Atmospheric Sciences building. After thanking the fellow student for help, he turned to run into the building.
His hair and shoulders were soaked from the violent downpour. Two or three people even snuck a glance at him as they walked past.
Instead of heading upstairs, he stood rooted to the spot as he eyed the torrential rain out from window, feeling moody and confused as to why he came.
Soon the sound of footsteps came from the stairs. Turning around to look, a spectacled man appeared before him.
“Huh?” Guo Jinshan halted in his tracks hesitantly at the top of the stairs. With his eyes locked on Jiang Pozhen, he said, “Um, why are you…”
Returning the man’s gaze, Jiang Pozhen wasn’t aware that he had an unhappy expression on his face.
Guo Jinshan hesitated slightly before continuing to approach him. When he saw that Jiang Pozhen was drenched with rainwater, he asked out of concern, “You…you’ll get sick. Didn’t you bring an umbrella with you? I can lend you mine…”
Jiang Pozhen continued to stare at him without a word.
In the midst of such an intense stare, Guo Jinshan could only raise his head and explain, “I was told someone was waiting for me. I didn’t know who to expect, but I never thought it would be you.” He paused for a brief moment before asking with hesitation in his voice, “You…Is there something you need from me?”
It was obvious Guo Jinshan did not take his confession to heart at all. Otherwise, why would he ask a question like that? Jiang Pozhen was slightly angry that he was bothered by the incident for a whole week and yet this man seemed as though he didn’t care about it at all.
“How are you so sure that I came here because of you?”
Stunned by his reply, Guo Jinshan hurriedly answered, “My apologies… I didn’t mean it like that.”
Why did Guo Jinshan look completely unconcerned about their relationship? He should at least give a reply! That familiar annoying anxiousness was back. Unable to determine the exact cause of the problem and with no way to dispel it, Jiang Pozhen’s heart became anxious and burned with an inexplicable tension.
Seeing that Jiang Pozhen was silent, Guo Jinshan was also trapped, unsure how to deal with the current situation. Upon noticing Jiang Pozhen’s dripping hair, he quickly took out the handkerchief he habitually carried and said gently, “Your hair’s all wet. You should dry it up.”
Jiang Pozhen glanced at the handkerchief held out to him, not accepting it.
Several more people walked into the building, sneaking glances at them as they passed by. For a long while, Jiang Pozhen didn’t move at all. Just as Guo Jinshan considered pulling his hand back in embarrassment, Jiang Pozhen surprised him by quickly grabbing his wavering wrist.
The man’s frail wrist trembled slightly at his touch.
“Ah?” Guo Jinshan wanted to withdraw his hand but he wasn’t able to. “You…”
Standing near the door made them stood out too much, so Jiang Pozhen dragged Guo Jinshan to a fairly deserted corridor. Guo Jinshan, who was caught in a tight grip, could only trail after him.
Once they came to a stop around the corner, Jiang Pozhen turned to him and said in a deep voice, “Have you always been this nice to everyone?”
“Ex…cuse me?” Guo Jinshan asked back in confusion.
“You care about me because you like me right?” Following his own words, the sudden heat forming in the palm of his hand made Jiang Pozhen’s body turn rather hot.
He had thought at first there was a chance that Guo Jinshan may have given up on him. After all, the man could have liked him because of their frequent meetings that lasted half of the semester; so one winter vacation would have been sufficient to get over those feelings.
Even though Jiang Pozhen had once brutally rejected Guo Jinshan’s feelings, several days ago in the elevator, there was no mistaken the very same expression that resurfaced on the man’s face—a heartache that had stemmed because of him.
I’m definitely wasn’t delusional. Jiang Pozhen stared intently at the man.
The grip on Guo Jinshan’s wrist tightened, and the feelings he was desperately trying to mask were again laid bare. Left with no choice he hung his head and spoke hoarsely, a tone in contrast to his usual gentle voice, “Please…don’t act this way.”
Jiang Pozhen was very displeased with this reaction. There was a confession and the feelings behind it were still there; so why was Guo Jinshan trying to run away?
“Are you going to ignore me after turning my feelings into a complete mess?” For the past few days, Jiang Pozhen had been constantly and severely haunted by this man. Yet the man had completely ignored him and refused to understand what he went through, casting all responsibilities aside after confessing to him, no longer concerning himself with the matter. To top it all off, Jiang Pozhen had agreed to date him, what else did the man want? Jiang Pozhen felt as though he had been played for a fool, a strong feeling of unwillingness and dissatisfaction filled his chest. He shouted out in anger, “Forget about it!” He shoved Guo Jinshan’s arm away and stormed off.
“Wai-wait, wait a moment…” Guo Jinshan followed several steps behind. Afraid to pull the man to a stop, he said, “It’s still raining outside… You’ll get sick. At least, take this umbrella…nngh.”
The more Jiang Pozhen listened, the more angry he became. He swiftly turned around to grab hold of Guo Jinshan’s shoulders in a tight grip, pinning the man to the wall. As he gazed intently at the man, he shouted, “My cold doesn’t concern you!
He pinned the man who wanted to escape with his eyes, allowing no room for escape. “Unless you don’t wish to watch me suffer. Unless you actually feel hurt and can’t bear to see me like this?”
Pushed to a corner, Guo Jinshan’s fingertips turned pale. He could only clench his fists to stop himself from shivering.
Yet Jiang Pozhen refused to let him go.
“Answer me, do you still like me?”
At the end of the dark corridor the thundering rain cascaded down the windowpane, forming a fuzzy-looking water curtain.
It was a long while before Guo Jinshan gasped lightly for air and said, “I like you…”
The few minutes wait for his response felt like hours. Jiang Pozhen couldn’t figure out what he wanted to hear. He only knew that all his frustrations vanished the moment he heard those words.
From that day forward Jiang Pozhen took the lead in the relationship.
He thought about the relationship a lot, specifically what would it be like to date another guy. He had his fair share of girlfriends before, but he couldn’t use the same tactics in this situation, especially not with someone one seven years older than he was.
The only time they could get together was during breaks for lunch, so every other day Jiang Pozhen would find Guo Jinshan to eat together. That was it, nothing more, nothing less. There was nothing even special about their “date” since his classmates were also there to buy their pastries. To top it all off, their interaction became awkward and rigid, unlike the natural way they used to behave. Neither could ignore or address the elephant in the room between them.
Such a tense atmosphere made lunch uncomfortable and Jiang Pozhen, despite being the one who suggested they eat together, found himself making excuses to leave early.
It was only after a couple of weeks of this that Jiang Pozhen came to fully appreciate Guo Jinshan’s efforts to get close to him before.
He wanted everything to go back to how it was before. At the very least, he needed to make sure they could chat casually without feeling awkward. By the time he thought to ask the man out on weekends or holidays, three weeks had already passed by.
It was two in the afternoon and Jiang Pozhen was waiting outside the cinema when he saw Guo Jinshan running over from the opposite side of the road in a hurry.
“So-sorry. I got held up by the experiment in school…”
There was no such thing as holidays for graduate students. The man, who was only late for ten minutes, apologized profusely, as though he had committed a crime.
Jiang Pozhen really didn’t want to deal with his timid attitude so he impatiently interrupted him. “The movie will start in fifteen minutes. I haven’t bought the tickets yet.” After that, he walked towards the ticketing counter.
“Ah…” Caught by surprise, Guo Jinshan chased after him at once.
Although it was the weekend, the queue wasn’t long since it was a second-run movie that hadn’t been aired for a long time.
“Couple seat tickets please.” A pair of young lovebirds stood before them.
The cinema was popular because it was cheap. You could spend all day there for 100 TWD. It was also popular as a dating spot because of the couple’s seating available.
After Jiang Pozhen heard the type of tickets they were buying, he teasingly pointed at the “Lover’s seat Available” sign on the glass window and said to Guo Jinshan who was standing next to him. “You want to try that too?”
“Huh?” Caught off guard, Guo Jinshan flushed a shade of pink, a perplexed look on his face.
That reaction made Jiang Pozhen realize his joke wasn’t appropriate so he sighed, his brows uncontrollably knitted together as he did so. In the end, he settled for two normal seat tickets.
While waiting to head in, he went to the snack corner to purchase two cans of cold drinks. When he got back, he noticed Guo Jinshan was attentively staring at the movie poster. Thus, he approached him to ask, “What are you looking at?”
Guo Jinshan stared at the snowy white world in the poster, engrossed for a bit before saying slowly, “I feel…this movie is like…”
“Like what?” asked Jiang Pozhen as he raised his brow.
“…Nothing.” Guo Jinshan stopped, and didn’t continue further. He only said, “It’s time to head in.”
Jiang Pozhen shot him a glance. The two of them then entered a rather ordinary and small cinema. After finding and settling down at their seats, Jiang Pozhen handed one of the drinks to Guo Jinshan.
“Thanks.” Their fingers lightly brushed each other’s when Guo Jinshan reached out to grab it. It was evident that he was slightly shocked by the contact as he almost dropped his drink. After getting a better grip on it, he uneasily faced forward in his seat.
All of a sudden, Jiang Pozhen was reminded of the time he went on dates with his girlfriends. Even if it was their first time, none of them was this nervous.
A slender and frail body with average looks. Although he was gentle and kind, he had an unreliable introverted personality. When combined with his congenital disability, Guo Jinshan seriously had nothing that would attract a girl. Jiang Pozhen couldn’t help but feel that he was probably the man’s first love.
Come to think of it, the type of people he dated were considerably more outgoing. It was hard to find a person like Guo Jinshan amongst his circle of friends. But wasn’t he already aware of the differences between him and Guo Jinshan since the beginning?
The man was currently sitting rather properly, out of fear of he would touch someone.
The main film began as soon as the trailers ended. Jiang Pozhen eyed his date from time to time through the flickering lights from the screen. He could see Guo Jinshan relax as the film progressed and he became absorbed in the plot.
Even after Jiang Pozhen took the can from his grasp, opened it and handed it back to him, the man only clutched it tighter unconsciously. A small smile formed at the edge of Jiang Pozhen’s mouth as he continued to watch the film earnestly
“…The greenhouse effect is the reason behind the icebergs melting at both the North and South poles, causing a large volume of ice water to flow into the sea as a result. This obstructed the current flow of the North Atlantic Ocean, and that’s why climate change happened… ”
Inside the cafe, Jiang Pozhen propped his chin on the palm of his hand as he gazed at the usually quiet man narrate the plot of the movie with great enthusiasm.
“Do you know? Seawater releases heat energy before it freezes, so even if the all the energy in the atmosphere is used to speed up process, it can only roughly form an iceberg about 2 meters in width. Moreover, the drastic changes in the climate won’t cause everything to happen in the course of one week. They had no choice but to make it progress that way since the movie is only two hours long. If my professor were to watch this, he would definitely feel that the movie is misleading… But, I think the message it was trying to convey to the audience is the devastating results that can be brought by humanity’s destruction of the earth’s natural environment…” Finally noticing that he was the only one chattering incessantly all this while, Guo Jinshan shut his mouth, a faint blush crept up his cheeks. He placed his hands on his lap and whispered, “Sorry… I bored you with my talking again.”
Jiang Pozhen gazed at his lowered face and said all of a sudden, “The helicopter…”
Upon hearing him speak, Guo Jinshan looked up at once.
Jiang Pozhen took a sip out of his coffee, before placing it back down again and continued on saying, “About that helicopter that instantly froze and that hurricane… it violates the law of physics doesn’t it?”
“Ah, right. If there really is a cyclone like that, the helicopter should burst into flames before reaching the center core, not freeze.” explained Guo Jinshan smilingly. “You’re quite attentive.”
“I’ve read books on thermodynamics.” He’d read it in that small reference room they worked together in, but it was because of the man in front of him that he chose to watch the movie at all.
It was an old second-run movie and an old cinema, accompanied by a second-rate sound system incapable of bringing out the excellent sound effects of the film. Still, he brought Guo Jinshan over to the lousy cinema, to watch a movie relating to thermodynamics. Anyone would brighten up when faced with things they like.
As he gazed at the jovial expression on Guo Jinshan’s face, Jiang Pozhen somehow felt his mood improve.
Perhaps it was due to how pleasant the man sounded when he spoke.
Guo Jinshan’s voice was as deep and low as an average male, even deeper than his own. It was not angelic or even special, but the gentle and tender tone warmed the heart. So even when he talked on and on about a boring topic, Jiang Pozhen wasn’t annoyed by his incessant chatter at all. Frankly, he found it to be rather soothing listening to him speak.
They finished their coffee when their conversation reached a lull. To avoid the awkward silence forming between them, and since they were both getting hungry, Jiang Pozhen hurriedly suggested, “Let’s find a place for dinner.”
“Ah, but…I need to head back to the lab to amend my thesis.” said Guo Jinshan apologetically, as he turned down his invitation.
Jiang Pozhen didn’t expect him to refuse the offer, so he felt a little annoyed. However, he soon said, “Nevermind then. We can have dinner together next week.” It was poorly done of him to use the rejection as an excuse to barter for another date, but it was the best one he could come up with.
“…Okay.” Despite saying yes, Guo Jinshan appeared hesitant and skeptical, there was no sign of happiness and anticipation on his face.
Due to this little episode, Jiang Pozhen felt as though his genuine and sincere intentions were snubbed and the glee he felt instantly disappeared. Without saying another word, he stood up and picked up the bill.
Guo Jinshan quickly stopped him. “Ah, um…wa- wait up!” Walking over to stand in front of Jiang Pozhen, he slightly raised his head, flashing a faint smile as he gently said, “You’ve already paid for the tickets earlier so let this round be on me. Thank you very much for today. The movie was really great.”
Jiang Pozhen looked at the genuine smile that made its way up Guo Jinshan’s eyes. The earnest way he was thanked warmed him all over and filled his heart with happiness.
After he got home, he taught his brother for while after dinner and took a shower before going to bed. As he laid on the soft mattress, he couldn’t stop thinking about the date he had today. The gentle smile and gratitude he received at the end made his thoughts wander unceasingly. Since he was unable to sleep, he got out of bed to switch on his computer, searching for tourist hotspots online.
They had only separated a few hours ago and there was no doubt that they would run into each other again at school. Still he couldn’t help from imagining how their next date would go.
He had asked the guy out on Friday. Although the weather report said it was a bad time to go out, Jiang Pozhen still invited Guo Jinshan out to watch the meteor shower hyped up by the news media.
There were only a few mountains in Taipei that were renowned recreational spots. Stargazers and tourists who wanted to watch had already rushed up to occupy a spot earlier to avoid traffic. Guo Jinshan and Jiang Pozhen didn’t plan to crowd in with the rest so they went in the opposite direction and entered the mountain through an unused path. This way they would avoid the congested traffic.
If they drove any farther ahead, it would result in them converging with the cars that came in through the main road. Before that could happen, Jiang Pozhen turned into a narrow road and drove for about half an hour. Finally, a wide compound emerged before their very eyes and he casually parked the car at an empty spot that wouldn’t bother other people. Although it was a relatively unknown spot, there were still a few cars already parked in the lot. Fortunately, the place wasn’t as crowded as the other areas.
The night sky was dark and hazy. The weather report predicted a heavy downpour from tomorrow onwards.
As he glanced at the man next to him, he saw that Guo Jinshan was also looking outside the window. Noticing that the collar, which was usually tightly buttoned, were slightly open, Jiang Pozhen realized that one of the buttons had come loose. He instinctively reached over to pull the shaky button apart.
This sudden movement made Guo Jinshan quiver as a reflex. He turned around in bewilderment.
Pausing for a brief moment, Jiang Pozhen presented him with the button in the palm of his hand.
“It came off.”
“Ah…” Guo Jinshan’s cheeks turned pink as he pressed down his collar. “I didn’t even notice. Thank you.”
Jiang Pozhen’s heart raced from the brief contact of their skins when Huo Jinshan reached over to retrieve his button. His body’s reaction confused him. Why did a simple touch make him so nervous?
Guo Jinshan naturally did not notice his weird behavior. After pocketing the button, he shifted his eyes as he looked up towards the sky and whispered, “The clouds are too dense. We can’t see anything this way… Ah.” He paused before hurriedly explaining, “I just find it to be unfortunate. That’s all! Since you took all the trouble to come up here..”
Upon recovering his senses, Jiang Pozhen only replied, “It’s your car.” Although he was the one who invited the man out.
Guo Jinshan chuckled, caught off guard by his reply.
“Yeah…” He leaned back against the seat, his eyes fixated at a place far ahead. They had a good view, and were able to see the resplendent and beautiful lights flickering at the foot of the mountain. “…I remembered the first time you drove my car. We were heading up the mountain for some stargazing… You didn’t mind about my hearing impairment but was afraid that I’d be reprimanded by my family, right?”
Jiang Pozhen couldn’t help but stare at him in silence on hearing what he said.
All he could see was Guo Jinshan looking down as he recollected, “You weren’t scared that my hearing impairment would affect my driving. Instead, you were afraid that I’d be scolded by my parents if I drove. That’s why you asked for my keys… At that moment, I thought you were really a nice person who always thought of others.” His explanation was accompanied by a light chuckle. He continued saying shyly. “It’s the same for now too. You even came to my place to find me so I wouldn’t have to drive to meet up with you… You’re not the type to say it outright, but your actions speak loudly and show your consideration for others. I always thought that was your strongest point.”
He looked down. Since the button came off, his collar was more open than before, revealing an area of pale skin at the back of his neck. Even the collarbone in front was visible at times.
He seemed to be thinner than usual… What did his body look like underneath the shirt? It was only a brief display of skin, but it made Jiang Pozhen’s throat heat up and go dry. The image of the usually conservatively dressed Guo Jinshan without glasses and skewed clothing suddenly kept appearing in Jiang Pozhen’s mind. However, the only time that actually happened was when the man had drunkenly confessed his love to him that fateful night.
He remembered clearly the contours delineating Guo Jinshan’s bare torso. Although it was as leveled as his, it felt rather different in a sense.
This man was really clueless to the dangers that walked this earth. The earnestness in his voice left no doubt to his sincerity. Who wouldn’t like being praised in such a way? Even if it wasn’t spoken by a lover, it was still very touching.
His ever-so tender face and voice reminded Jiang Pozhen always that he was truly and deeply loved by the man.
Unable to withstand the feeling anymore, Jiang Pozhen reached out his hand and touched the man’s smooth nape.
With a start, Guo Jinshan was at a loss on how to react, his entire body turning stiff, unable and afraid to move an inch.
In an instant, the exquisite skin covered in a thin layer of sweat seemed to be sticking to his palm. Jiang Pozhen’s heart went up in flames and without thinking it thoroughly, he crossed over the line and asked, “Has anyone touched you like this before?”
“W-what…?” Completely at a loss, Guo Jinshan lowered his head in embarrassment.
“…You act like this is your first time.” As he fixed his eyes on the man’s reddened face, an inexplicable impulsive desire formed out of nowhere within Jiang Pozhen’s body.
To think a grown twenty-six year old male would reveal such a pure and innocent expression because of him. Jiang Pozhen observed his look, his curled fingertips gradually kneaded that piece of skin lightly. The touch was intended to be arousing in the beginning, he even went as as far as to reach down into the man’s shirt.
“No…” Finally, Guo Jinshan couldn’t take it anymore and shifted his shoulder away to avoid his touch.
Jiang Pozhen instantly grabbed hold of his hand, but he could feel the resistance in the man’s action.
“Stop avoiding me!” Jiang Pozhen growled hoarsely.
Guo Jinshan’s body shivered violently in response, but he did not struggle anymore.
The heat Jiang Pozhen felt from the man’s body ripple through his heart. Several couples were leaning on each other’s shoulders, locked in a tight embrace. He couldn’t help but think that if Guo Jinshan was a girl, they would be holding each other in an embrace as well. At least, in the dark where no one could see, he wouldn’t feel guilty holding hands.
If he was a girl…
Jiang Pozhen tightened his grip on Guo Jinshan’s warm hand and said in a hoarse and gloomy voice, “You’re wrong. I’m actually a horrible person. The worst.”
Guo Jinshan didn’t reply to him. He simply looked up at the pitch black sky.
Jiang Pozhen couldn’t let Guo Jinshan go even though he knew he should.
In the end, they didn’t manage to see even one meteor in the sky.
The reason he couldn’t let go lay deep inside Jiang Pozhen’s heart. It was as obscured and as elusive as the stars buried deep within the dark clouds.