Chapter 9 — Bumping into Gu Lin at the Hospital
Edited by Tin
It was July. Zhou Hao was starting his first clinical attachment, which would be in the school’s affiliated hospital. His area of study was endocrinology, and so he was assigned to the diabetes department.
His work everyday was to measure the patients’ blood glucose level after every meal, as well as following the teachers on their rounds and helping them write the patients’ history. It sounded simple, but it was sundry work and tiring. Every five days, he also needed to do a night shift.
Since the last time Jiang Yuqian and he had a row over the phone, for over a month, there had been no communication between the two. They seemed to suddenly share a mutual understanding, neither seeking out the other. However, while their actions were the same, their reasonings for it were different.
Zhou Hao was sulking, but what about Jiang Yuqian? He wished desperately that Zhou Hao would disappear by himself, and go far, far away from him.
The ones also on their clinical attachments were of similar age. At some unknown time, they had suddenly become very familiar with each other, and would occasionally even arrange to have a meal together outside of work. Zhou Hao had always been unsocial, and never liked to interact with others. Among the students on attachment, he was the only one left out.
Did he know what those people were saying about him? They said that he was pretending to be lofty and aloof, and liked to pretend to be cool.
“Zhou Hao!” Someone called out to him from behind.
Zhou Hao turned back to realise it was Zou Kai, the man striding towards him. Zou Kai was from the same school and course as him, and they were assigned to the same hospital as well. It seemed like they had quite an affinity.
“Going to the cafeteria? Let’s go together.”
“Sure.” Zhou Hao turned back, walking forward with soft footsteps.
At the hospital cafeteria, the two people collected their food and found some empty seats.
Zhou Hao was not used to people’s sudden friendliness. As such, during the entire time, his face was expressionless, and he did not say a word, only looking at his food and eating it. Fortunately, this schoolmate was the sort that was very good at conversation, and even when there was nothing to talk about, he was still able to come up with a topic. Throughout the whole meal, it was Zou Kai chattering non-stop, while Zhou Hao only answered occasionally.
“What plans do you have after graduation? Will you continue studying for your PhD?” Zou Kai asked.
“I’ll go straight to work.”
“I thought that you’d continue studying.” Zou Kai said, “I heard that our school is accepting PhD candidates, but there’s only space for one every year.”
“That’s nice,” Zhou Hao answered perfunctorily.
“You don’t want to try and go for it? After being a lecturer for a few years, if you’re lucky, you can become an assistant professor.”
By this point, Zhou Hao could figure out what this conversation was about. This person was beating around the bush, trying to get information from him. Although Zhou Hao did not interact much with Zou Kai, he still knew this person’s character. He was the sort to be close to teachers, and there was a motive behind everything he did, and he was also a very hardworking student.
For the past five years, through all tests and examinations, Zou Kai had always been one of the top scorers. If this person had any resentments, it was probably that he was always one rank lower than Zhou Hao, forever number two.
There were many things that Zhou Hao could see clearly. This was a talent that had been trained since he was a child.
“I have no such intentions, and it’s also not easy surviving in academia. Good luck.”
“I’m only discussing it casually, I don’t have such plans.” Zou Kai’s tense expression visibly relaxed. “Let’s eat, let’s eat.”
On the way back from the cafeteria, Zhou Hao surprisingly bumped into Gu Lin at the entrance of the elevator to the wards. That person happened to be exiting, and so they saw each other.
“Zhou Hao,” Gu Lin called out.
Zhou Hao responded apathetically, “What a coincidence.”
“Ahem, my grandfather’s been warded, and my parents aren’t in the country. I’ve been taking care of him over the past few days.”
“Oh, then go on ahead then.”
Gu Lin glanced at Zou Kai who was next to Zhou Hao, then asked tentatively, “You’re on attachment? If you’re on a break now, can we talk?”
Zhou Hao did not reject him. Compared to having to answer Zou Kai courteously, he might as well go with Gu Lin. Actually, in Jiang Yuqian’s little group of friends, Gu Lin held the least malice towards him. This person was a little similar to him, unconcerned about everything, and so he naturally would not deliberately speak harshly towards him.
“Sure.” Zhou Hao turned towards Zou Kai. “You should go up first.”
On the western-most side of the hospital was a scenic spot, with an arch bridge, a small river, pavilions, as well as trees and plants. It was currently noon, and the weather was scorching, everyone feeling as though they were submerged in boiling water. As it was also lunch break, there were no patients in the garden. The two people found a shady spot, sitting on a wooden bench under a tree.
“I haven’t seen you in a while.”
Zhou Hao gave a small, superficial smile. “It hasn’t been too long. Didn’t we see each other last month at the bar?”
Gu Lin echoed his smile as well, only that his smile was tinged with a little bit of awkwardness. He thought, this person was really very prickly. He was already so friendly and polite, and Zhou Hao could still misinterpret it as sarcasm, and then respond in kind.
“That’s true. Speaking about the bar, I haven’t seen Yuqian in a long time as well.”
Zhou Hao did not like beating around the bush. He asked directly, “Why did you look for me?”
“Nothing much, it’s just that it’s so rare to bump into someone familiar, so I wanted to have a chat.” Gu Lin considered the expression on the person next to him, then asked in pretense, “You really don’t know what Yuqian has been doing recently?”
“What has he been busy with?”
It seemed like this person really did not know. Gu Lin stopped observing Zhou Hao, shaking his head. “I don’t know as well.”
“If there’s nothing, I’m going back.”
Zhou Hao stood up, about to leave. At last, Gu Lin stopped him and went straight to the point. “Uhh, I heard from Shichu, Yuqian has gone to Europe for a holiday. It seems that he didn’t go alone.”
“Then who did he go with?” Zhou Hao pretended to be unbothered and shrugged. “Cheng Zixu?”
Gu Lin did not continue.
“Hope he enjoys his trip. I’m leaving.”
July ended, and August came. The weather was still hot and unbearable. Zhou Hao’s life started becoming more and more regulated. He only went between his home and the hospital, not straying from these places. When he did not have to work, he was either at home reading or playing video games. He had also paid for a gym membership recently, and he would exercise when he was free.
Most nights he would still have insomnia. However, it was not very serious. He would be tired during the day, but it did not affect his work.
In mid-August, Yan Ming gave Zhou Hao a call. That fellow told him excitedly about how their form teacher in high school just had her second child; how one of their ex-classmates was now a rich man, doing well in business; even about bumping into a girl yesterday who had had a crush on Zhou Hao in high school, and she had asked Yan Ming about him…
All these were very good news. At last, Zhou Hao once again asked Yan Ming, “How is it like now?”
Yan Ming still did not understand. “Who?”
“I haven’t been back in five years… I’ve already forgotten what it’s like.”
Yan Ming immediately came to a realisation. “Things have been pretty well here. They’ve just built a railroad, and didn’t there used to be a fibre-spinning company in front of our high school? It’s been demolished, and it’s now a large supermarket. Also, over at your home, the places around there have pretty much been demolished as well. In a few more years, your house will also be demolished too, and you can soon be rich as well. I’ll be coming back to school next week. My mother’s made chilli paste, and she wants me to bring some to you.”
Zhou Hao: “How’s Auntie’s business coming along?”
Yan Ming: “A while ago, the government wanted to establish a clean and civilised city, and so cleared away all the roadside stalls. My mother made quite a bit of money out of it, and now she’s gone to wash dishes at a restaurant. She doesn’t have to sell pancakes anymore.
It wasn’t long before Yan Ming returned to school. Carrying many bags, he brought back a lot of local specialties for Zhou Hao, as well as a few jars of the chilli sauce his mother made. The two had a good chat, and went to a restaurant for a meal.
Yan Ming asked Zhou Hao persistently if he bumped into Professor Jiang during the school break. Zhou Hao teased him deliberately, saying that not only did he bump into him, he even saw Professor Jiang and a girl snuggling together on the streets.
“A 100% true.” Zhou Hao looked very serious. “Why don’t you bring a few jars of chilli sauce for him? You can let him try his mother-in-law’s cooking!”
“Damn you!” Yan Ming scolded, then continued asking, “How did the girl look?”
“I’m only joking with you. What girl? I’ve been stuck in the hospital the entire break, and I didn’t see your Professor Jiang at all.”
Only then did Yan Ming’s complexion improve. His covert delight was really too obvious. Suddenly, Zhou Hao was a little envious of this friend of his. If he never tried, he would never lose. Was it not better to leave it as a fantasy?
At least, it would not be like how he was now, torturing others, and torturing himself. There were no benefits at all for him, and instead, he had turned completely into the bad guy.