Her apparent hesitation lasted for some time. Eventually, I heard her slowly let out a sigh of relief before going over with Xiaohua to discuss signing up for a membership.
I knew that she did not recognize me.
It was just like a chanced encounter. She came here to fix her car today; she may even come here to get her car washed from today onward. But she and I would not have any further interactions.
I lowered my head and concentrated on fixing the paint. It had already been quite some time and doing these tedious, hard, and simple things helped my heart feel at peace. Perhaps the shop was too quiet today, as the other repairmen would more or less pay some attention to her. Speaking with Xiaohua, her tender voice seemed especially clear in the shop; it was pleasant to the ear. Like a piece of silk, shining slightly and floating behind me.
She said, “Tan Jiao. It's the Tan with the radical Yan, while Jiao is the character for bright.”
I became diverted for a split second, only to notice her gaze on me once more as though she had caught onto something. I turned away with an impassive face and continued with my work.
At last, she stopped looking toward me.
The job on her car was small, so I finished it soon. Looking up, I saw her standing at the counter, settling the payment. I passed by her without giving her any attention and sat with the other repairmen. One of the repairmen passed me a cigarette, so I continued to slowly smoke it. I placed my oil-stained hands—covered in wounds old and new—openly onto my pants. I stared at my hands quietly and felt as though her gaze would vaguely aim toward me.
After some time, Xiaohua came running over with a strange smile on his face. He tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Brother Yu, let’s talk about something?”
He glanced over to where Tan Jiao stood. She had her head down, busy with her phone with an indifferent look on her face. She was always like that. Xiaohua said with a grin, “Miss Tan said that she’s willing to sign up for a three hundred Yuan car wash plan. That’s enough to make my sales target for this month! But, she has one condition. She wants you, brother Yu, to wash her car every time she comes.”
The guys beside me became dumbfounded and laughed, almost becoming a rowdy crowd. I never expected her to make such a request, so I looked up in her direction. She must have noticed the movement from the guys and their gazes on her. Of course, some of them looked at me with envious eyes.
However, she remained calm as though she had heard nothing. If I did not look carefully, I would have missed the faint red glow on her cheeks.
What is she trying to do? A test? A challenge? Or perhaps she’s shaming me or taking pity on me? I felt a burning sensation rolling in my chest, which quickly cooled down. I said, “Sure, it’s fine by me.” I knew she would hear what I said since the shop was not big.
Then I got up, dragged the hose over, and started washing her car. The other repairmen settled down after they made a ruckus. I washed her car at the entrance of the shop where it was bright, while she waited in the shop without coming out.
Her car was very new. It was a typical car that a young, rich girl would buy. The car seemed clean and tidy enough. There were some unopened books on the back seat, all written by ‘Qi Zhu’. There was also a box of pens. The seat cushion in the driver’s seat, which had several strands of her hair, was a little wrinkled. The other cushions were very new; evidently, very few people sat in them. I guess she’s still single, keeping to herself, without anyone accompanying her.
I washed the car carefully, leaving it spotless. After completing the job, I threw the hose aside. I wanted to take off my half-wet tank top, but since she was here, I did not.
Right then, she put down the phone that she had been playing with for some time and walked out of the shop. She looked at me, but her gaze somewhat avoided direct contact, not wanting to look at me. I had no idea what she was trying to avoid. She said, “Thank you, Mister Yu.”
I stared at her curiously, “Why pick me specifically to wash your car?”
“Oh, because mister Hua told me you’re the most skilled,” she replied.
I tossed the keys over, and she frantically caught it. “Well… goodbye then.”
Saying nothing, I turned and headed inside the shop.
When I heard the sounds of an engine igniting, I took off my sweaty tank top and threw it aside. Grabbing the hose, I aimed the water directly toward my head.
I was already used to this kind of menial lifestyle.
As water streamed down, I subconsciously turned to look back. I saw her take a turn; she was about to drive off from the open space in front of the shop, but her gaze fell upon me from a distance. Through the random drops of water, I saw her clear and calm-looking eyes.
That was how a woman would look at a man.
She drove off, and the water flowed down from my head, instantly cooling me off. I threw the hose to the ground before grabbing a half-wet cigarette from my pocket and placing it in my mouth.
In the end, she didn’t recognize me.
She took me for another man and has even appointed me to wash her car.
There are no obligations, but every bit of support helps, especially to help pay for editors and my bills.