I took a draw from the cigarette and asked, “Do you recall those birds?”
“Birds?” she asked while looking stunned. Yet, I saw something briefly in her eyes, so I figured she must have known something about the birds.
I nodded and continued, “That’s right. The birds we saw that day on the ship; those black-colored, strange-looking water birds. I’ve never seen those birds anywhere else and couldn’t even find them online.”
The room abruptly became still as Tan Jiao seemed dumbfounded with a blank look in her eye. This made me feel somewhat uncomfortable, so I drew several mouthfuls of nicotine and let out a wry, self-mocking chuckle.
Then she asked with her soft voice, “It’s you?”
I fixed my gaze on her and replied, “It’s me.”
Devastation covered her face as she seemed to reject my answer while shooting questions at me like a machine gun, “How can this be? How could you change so drastically? There’s no way you could become like this in such a short period! What’s more, didn’t you graduate from a prestigious university and was about to have a good life? How is it that…”
“Tan Jiao!” I interrupted her and even let out a chuckle. “It’s nothing. People change. There’s nothing bad about my current state.”
Staring at me intently, she asked slowly, “Wu Yu, what have you experienced?”
I fell into a lull while looking at the cigarette in my hand extinguish. For a moment, I thought of revealing everything about myself to her. Yet, I could not. So I replied, “Life.”
She became speechless for quite some time.
I lit up another cigarette and placed my hand on her shoulder. However, she instantly shrugged my hand off before turning her head away, not willing to look at me. She was angry and not happy, but I did not see an obvious reason.
Finally, she bit her lip and said, “Tell me more about the birds. I also feel like I’ve seen those birds somewhere. You said on that ship; I have some memory of it. I’ve also seen them a few times around town. But what is it with the birds?”
“Those birds are abnormal. They aren’t supposed to be here in the city, and I’ve noticed they seemed well trained; it’s as though they are intelligent.”
I looked her in the eye and replied, “Abnormal things are usually related to each other. I have a feeling that those birds may have a certain connection with what happened on that ship.”
Taken aback briefly, she asked, “Happened? What happened?”
I never expected such a reaction from her. Is she different from me? I moistened my dry lips with a lick and explained, “Do you recall the things that happened after our first day on that ship?”
She looked perplexed for a moment before astonishment abruptly set in as though she had come to a certain realization. I felt somewhat bothered all of a sudden. This girl, how absent-minded is she? This matter has been bothering me for a long time, yet it seems as though she’s clueless about it.
I said, “I have absolutely no memory of what happened on that ship after the first day. Yet, I can remember the day I got back home from the ship. Is this the case for you?”
Biting her lip slightly, Tan Jiao said, “Yes… I just didn’t realize this previously. I recall having a good trip and leaving the ship. But now that you’ve brought it up, I feel that I can’t remember anything from those few days—none of the details. How can this be?”
Seeing that she was somewhat dazed, I passed her the bottle of water beside her. She took a drink of the water while having a preoccupied look as though she was thinking about something.
When I saw that she had calmed down, I continued explaining, “That’s why I’ve been seeking the truth for the past year. Unfortunately, I’ve not made any progress.”
For some reason, my words seemed to have pushed her heart even closer to the edge of the cliff.
There are no obligations, but every bit of support helps, especially to help pay for editors and my bills.