Shanghai Life and Death(42)

That arraigner continued on: “You must first review your life and check your family origins. In our socialist country, you have to take a firm political stand and an economic stand. Whose side are you on? You yourself know very well that you come from a feudal landowning family with a large amount of good land. For generations, you have long exploited the peasants and lived off the wealth they created. Your grandfather, father, and husband were all high-ranking officials in the reactionary government, exploiting the people and opposing the Communist Party. You were unwilling to be hired to teach at a foreign language institute, but you willingly served foreign companies. Seventeen years after the liberation of Shanghai, many people of your origin have changed their way of life and joined the proletariat, and what have you done? You ignore all this, you do as you please, you still maintain that way of life, you still dress bourgeoisly, and you go so far as to speak English with foreigners in public places to show off your intimate relations.

“Do you think that others will have no insight into such a prominent performance of yours? We, the proletariat, have been observing you for several years. The great leader Chairman Mao said: ‘The eyes of the masses are discerning.’ Do you still want to conceal it?

“You are a very intelligent woman. Do you think you will be let out before you have fully and completely reformed your mind?

“It has been nearly two months since you entered here. I admit that your ability to adapt has taken us by surprise. Yet despite the fact that you act as if nothing is wrong, you must have felt that life in the cell is not pleasant. Winter is coming, and I believe you have never spent a winter without heat in your life, right? The cell is very cold, and the food that is hard for you to swallow, we have seen all these. Besides, what about your daughter? Do you miss her? Don’t you miss her?”

He paused again, and when I remained silent, he began again: “First, we asked you to write your autobiography. Almost everyone in the country has written an autobiography, but you are the only one who has no autobiography in your file. You have to write everything that you have experienced. Do not avoid shortcomings and do not conceal any facts. We have to check this with the relevant materials we have. If you omit some facts, it is dishonest. Write chronologically, starting with your origin. We’ll judge your political position on that basis, to see if you’re honest or not.”

The one taking notes got up and handed me a stack of papers. When I took it, the arraigner said; “If you don’t have enough paper, the guard on duty will give it to you. She will also give you a pen and ink. No sketching and don’t throw away any wrongly written paper. When you are done, turn it all in.”

He looked at me very sternly and said, “When you get back, think about what you were told today. After you finish writing it, hand it to the guard on duty, and we will summon you again.”

The door of the interrogation room opened and a guard came in. I followed him through the long tunnel and back into the cell. I don’t know how long I had been there, but it seemed like a whole century. I was hungry, tired, and disappointed.

I piled the bedding aside, spread the soaked sheets on the bedpan used as a table, and picked up a bar of soap and slathered it on. When I was done, I called out “report” to the watchman on duty.

She came to the small window and gave me a bottle of ink and a pen.

“Can I wash the sheets now?”

“It’s past time. We’ll do it next time.”

“But it is already soaked and has been soaped. It is not hygienic to leave a wet sheet for a month.” I said.

Before I could finish my sentence, she closed the small window with a bang.

Throughout the afternoon, she kept peering through the peephole of the small window, and after a few times of looking like this, she opened the small window again and asked, “Why haven’t you written?”

“Why not? But I’m having trouble with this wet sheet, it stinks, and I don’t have a replacement.”

In order to ensure that I could write my autobiography, she had the mercy of calling the young woman who was serving the sentence to wash the sheet, and the next day, she returned it to me clean and washed.

The guard still kept looking through the peephole, in order to show that I was in the pen, I put the “Mao” on my lap, and spread a piece of paper on top, and put the ink bottle on the side. In this way, the watchman never came again.

Before I put pen to paper, I had to think carefully about what the arraigner’s purpose was in asking me to write my autobiography. He used the excuse that all Chinese people had written autobiographies, which was unfounded. Although I had never been asked to write an autobiography, I believed that, like all the residents of my district, the Regional Public Security Bureau had detailed information about me. It is obvious that the purpose of the arraigner in asking me to write my autobiography was to get some material to capitalize on my own autobiography in order to attack me.

Another point to ponder is that in Shanghai, I was not the only woman who was pampered, made foreign friends, and wore a cheongsam instead of a liberation suit. But why was I the only one who didn’t go to prison? Of course others must have been shocked by the Red Guards, raided their homes, and probably beaten, but I don’t think they were all imprisoned. So there was a lot of inside information that I didn’t know, and I couldn’t be too stupid to throw myself into the net and list all of my experiences, my true thoughts and positions, all in one place. I have also heard that many people are asked to write their autobiographies repeatedly. Once they find out that the content doesn’t match each time, they will be more suspicious. So I just wrote a brief biography by year. If they asked me to rewrite it, it would be easy to do the same thing again.

In the evening, the temperature plummeted. In the evening, a strong wind blew. The windows of the cell were rattling, and the cold air, seeping in through the gaps that could not be closed. I will fold up the hand paper, one by one to block those gaps. By this time, my little spider’s web had been destroyed. Instead of making a new web, as it had done in the past, it dangled a long silk and crawled along it from one corner of the ceiling down to the floor, where it stumbled across the floor. I leaned down to see what it was trying to do. My little friend looked and was already very weak. I could see it struggling to crawl, climbing for a while, resting for a while, and sometimes tripping. I wonder, could the spider be sick? Does it feel too cold? I watched it with rapt attention, slowly crawling from one corner to the other, probably looking for a place to get out of the wind. Finally, it disappeared at the joint between the cement toilet and the wall. It turned out that in a crack it had built another small spider web, but it wasn’t as perfect as before, but the silk it let out was thicker than before. It made a small cocoon-like sac, and I thought my little friend would have a good place to stay at last. After this, I went to the toilet, are careful to sit sideways at one end, trying not to disturb it.