Thursday, December 8, 2011

Scariest Moments In My LIfe: Why did I decide to become a novelist?

I have experienced a few scary moments in my life as I was growing up in China.  The scariest moment was when my mother was threatened at knifepoint by one of her co-work/boyfriend at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution when I was 10 years old.  It was indescribable fear.  It was like someone had pushed me against the wall and pressed the knife-edge on my neck.  The time was frozen.  I thought of going off to find some neighbors for help.  Yet most of them were still at work and I was running out of time.  I could imagine mother lying in a pool of blood, struggling to get up and putting cigarette back to her mouth. 

The second scariest moment was when my father raised a cleaver threatening to cut off my mother's head when I was 15 years.  Now in age fifty, I just begin to fell its impact on me after having a successful family and a relatively successful engineering career.  This is why I have written two books and one of them "Last Kiss in Tiananmen Square" is in Kindle now.  It has taken me 20 years to get it published.  However, I have felt immensely lucky.  Here is a short excerpt from my novel "Last Kiss in Tiananmen Square":

“I don’t know.  Because of my harsh childhood, I felt like an old woman by the time I was fifteen.  Now I feel so happy, I’m actually getting younger.  Maybe I’m too young to die.  I want to experience true love.”  Baiyun stared at Dagong and her eyes were brimming with tears. "I can't think of anyone I'd rather share my last meal with."

“So, you picked me.”  Dagong beamed at Baiyun. 

“I think you have picked me.  Remember, it was your idea to come here?” Baiyun sounded a little happier.  She was smiling. 

“I think we have chosen each other.”  Dagong reached across the table and took Baiyun’s hands in his. 

 “Are you ready to order?” The waitress showed up all of sudden.

“Sure,” Baiyun was skilled at switching her moods as needed.  She had plenty of training in hiding her emotions during her complicated childhood.  “I would like to order a plate of sliced beef tongue and a plate of pig ears.”

“I would like to have some crispy shrimp. That’s it,” said Dagong.  He handed the menu back to the waitress, who walked away, wiggling her hips as she went.

“I hate that she interrupted our nice conversation about the life, death and love, especially the last one,” said Dagong.  “I’m still curious about why the Qigong knife feat disturbed you so much.  Do you care to tell me?” 

“Why not, even though it will give me nightmares tonight,” said Baiyun in a matter-of-fact way, as though she was commenting on the furniture.

“You don’t have to if you don't want to.  I don’t want to wreck your mood.”

“No.  Everyone knows that I’m different and strange sometimes… it is because of this… it's about time for me to tell everyone, so let me begin with you.”  She looked boldly at Dagong.  “It is time for me to come out as a young woman instead of staying an old one.” It felt good for Baiyun to say it out loud.

“Great.  I’m glad that I helped you to come out,” said Dagong.

“One day, I arrived at my apartment after school.  After walking through the dark hallway, I opened the door. I saw my mother sitting, smoking a cigarette and on her right standing by the bed was a slender young man with mustache…” 

The north-facing one-room apartment was dark in the late afternoon.  A double bed and a single-bed filled up the far side of the room.  On the left stood a dresser with a big vacuum radio on top and a big wooden desk; in the center, a square wooden table.  Initially it was so quiet that Baiyun could make out the clock ticking.  Then she saw the young man with the knife in his hand and the world no longer stood still. 

Baiyun heard thunder in her head; her mind was racing.  She remembered the young man coming to her apartment once before and she thought he was friendly.  She quickly realized that she was mistaken and the young man was obviously mad.  He was mumbling chants and waving a knife as he slowly approached Meiling.  Then with swing of his long arm, he grabbed Meiling’s head and held the knife to her throat.  Baiyun was ready to leap forward to punch him, or bite and kick him. 

Baiyun heard Meiling’s steady voice.  “Take the knife away.  Have you heard me?  Take the knife away,” said Meiling.  Her voice was so firm that it made 

Baiyun think it might be a joke that the young man was playing against Meiling.   All those years later, as Baiyun told Dagong about the incident, her voice was not nearly as steady as Meiling's was that afternoon.   Baiyun stopped speaking to take a breath as Dagong listened.

“What happened next?”

 “Nothing.  Mother is still alive.  He didn’t even break the skin.  He packed his things and left, as she finished her cigarette.”  Nothing happened.  And yet it was the most intense moment in Baiyun's young life.

Dagong was engrossed in Baiyun's story.  He didn’t even notice that the food they ordered had been set on the table before them.  Baiyun began eating.  "Does it give you nightmares?" he asked her.  She did not answer, but not because she did not have nightmares.  She did not answer because her mouth was full.  Dagong did not yet understand; he assumed the best and joined in the feast.  “As long as you are eating, you are doing fine.  Otherwise you wouldn’t have grown to be a college student.  You would have perished a long time ago.”

“You are right.  I’m doing fine.  Don’t worry about me… it only showed me that my mother is invincible.”  As Baiyun said it, she realized that she could be invincible as well.    

Baiyun looked at Dagong carefully, trying to gauge whether his attitude toward her had changed.  She nearly regretted telling him so much.  But whom else could she speak to? 

Dagong touched Baiyun’s hand. “If you ever need to talk about it, talk to me. ” 
Baiyun smiled at Dagong through a mouthful of beef tongue.  She swallowed before she spoke.  “Am I full of surprises?” 

“I love the fact that you are full of surprises.” 

Dagong held Baiyun's hand, and she knew he understood her.   “How about you, Dagong?  Do you have any secrets?”

“Of course.  But I think we have revealed enough secrets for now.  Maybe if you're lucky I'll tell you one of mine over the cream puffs.”  Together they laughed over their past tragedies.

                                                   Get your copy in Kindle

Next post: I was raped but didn't know about it until now.

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jenny milchman said...

Lisa, I wish you the best of luck with your book (as you know :) Thank you for sharing the excerpt. My favorite part is Baiyun's lines of dialogue at the start.

Johanna Garth said...

Lisa those are terrifying moments! Thanks for sharing them on your blog. I loved reading your novel excerpt.

Lisa Zhang Wharton said...

Thank you for your support, Jenny and Johanna.