Shanghai Life and Death(43)

The next morning, I started writing my autobiography and had it done by the afternoon. Then I went to the window and called out, “Report!” It was the guard, who came to the window, and I handed her the written autobiography and the extra paper that came down.

“You’ve written it?” She asked suspiciously, her eyes sweeping over the five sheets of paper I had written.

“I’m done.” I replied.

“That seems too easy, you wrote them all?”


“Why is it so short?”

“Is it? But I wrote it all up anyway.”

I was expecting her to say something else, but she left without saying anything. This relieved me. All evening I watched over the little spider as it abandoned that newly settled home again, stumbled and crawled with renewed effort, and finally, it crawled right up to me. As it crawled closer to my feet, I thought it might crawl to my feet to find warmth, but it crawled around my feet, under the bed, and then disappeared. I waited for it to come out again, but hours passed and it never came out again. Perhaps under the bed was the best hiding place for this cell, where my little friend was going to spend the long winter.

The next morning, when the guards called for me to get up, I carefully looked at the floor before my feet hit the ground to see if my little spider was there. As I ate my breakfast, I kept poking around the concrete floor next to my bed, hoping to find my little friend had come back to life. But no, nothing was there, and that frustrated me. I looked up at the ceiling and even the broken cobweb was gone, not a trace of that little thing’s life trail was left; as if it was all just an illusion on my part. But when it was there, it did work hard to survive, knitting its own web several times. The little spider had done its share of weak talent to fight for the right to live. I thought, “I want to be like it, as long as I stay in the prison for a day, I will have the faith to try to fight for a day.

My thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a lock being unlocked and a male guard yelling at me, “Come out!”

I grabbed my transcript and walked out with him, nervously preparing for another round of tongue-lashing with the arraigner. I figured that the interrogator was probably in agreement with the guards that they were not satisfied with my autobiography.

I was led to another interrogation room, which was furnished the same as the last one. It was the same two interrogators, except that the collar ends and cuffs of their liberated suits revealed thick sweatshirts. Outside the window, a cold current from Siberia assaulted the city relentlessly. The cold wind forcing its way through the window gaps made the glass buzz. The arraigner stared at me with furrowed brows. His voice was stern as he ordered me to read the transcript. He stared at me sternly, showing a look of dissatisfaction. I knew he was putting on this face on purpose to put pressure on me.

I didn’t care what kind of tone he put on, I just thought he was ridiculously childish. I read the quotation carefully: “The imperialists and the domestic reactionaries are not resigned to their defeat, and they will make a final struggle. After the country has been pacified, they will still be engaged in sabotage and disruption in various ways, and they will try to revive China every day and every hour. This is inevitable and unquestionable, and we must not slacken our vigilance.” I finished reading the quotation.

He did not tell me to sit down, but simply asked me. “Do you understand the meaning of this quotation?”

“I think I understand it perfectly.”

“You explain it a little bit.”

“This quotation is very familiar to the Chinese people, taken from the speech of Chairman Mao at the preparatory meeting for the new CPPCC meeting in Beijing on June 15, 1949. He cautioned the Chinese people to be on the alert because he believed that the imperialists and the Kuomintang reactionaries would not resign themselves to their defeat and would send in secret agents to wreak havoc.”

“Right! The past seventeen years have proved that the Great Leader’s admonition was correct and timely.” He stared at me intently for a while and then asked, “What do you think about this?”

Naturally I couldn’t be frank, but neither could I express my total agreement with them on this line about class enemies. So I replied in a diplomatic tone, “Oh, I believe that whatever Chairman Mao has said is always correct.”

The arraigner gave me a blank look, and after another moment, said, “Sit down!”

I heard the small window behind me quietly opened, the arraignment officer to look at me, to measure whether I heard, I just ignored staring at the window behind him, put on the appearance of indulging in some kind of thinking. I did not want him to perceive that I was very quick and sensitive to sound. Because the interrogator seemed to be reluctant to let me know that someone outside was listening to my interrogation.

The autobiography that I had written was in front of the examiner. He picked up the autobiography; “Is this a serious, serious self-examination, you say?” I knew I had nothing to say, so I kept silent.

“You have reported your experience as a running account; do you call it an autobiography?” He raised the piece of paper to me.

“It doesn’t fit the bill, does it? I’ve never written an autobiography before.” I pretended to be stupid.

“Never written an autobiography! But you’ve read many autobiographies. In your bookshelf, there are many autobiographies of famous Chinese and foreign writers.” The arraigner said.

“That’s true. I’ve read many autobiographies of famous people, and they have all done very great things individually. I, on the other hand, have not done anything worthy of a monument. Except for the nine years since my husband died, I’ve been nothing more than a housewife.”

“Housewife?” The arraigner grunted and said sarcastically, “Do you spend your time sewing or cooking? No, you studied Marxism-Leninism, read various newspapers and magazines, took extracts from the speeches of our Party and government leaders, and filed and kept the resolutions passed by the Party Central Committee. When the Red Guards came to your house to take revolutionary action, they found many political books in your bookcase and many notes taken by you in your own handwriting in the drawer of your desk. In your bedroom, there was also a radio with high sensitivity, and your maid said you often listened to foreign-language broadcasts on time. Would a housewife do that? A housewife only cares about housework and family, but you are so concerned with politics that you are not a housewife by any stretch of the imagination.”

“I am not ashamed that my personal hobbies go beyond taking care of my family and taking care of my home. I think the party and the government have encouraged women to study Marxism-Leninism and also to participate in political activities. I think I’m doing all the right things because the Communist Party also advocates the liberation of our Chinese women.” I said to him.

“We encourage women to study Marxism-Leninism properly. If you were really so keen to study Marxism-Leninism to raise your political awareness, why didn’t you join the study classes? As far as we know, you never attend the study classes of your district committee. If you care about politics for the sake of being a good citizen, why did you deliberately arrive two hours late to vote for the general election of Shanghai people’s representatives? Is this how a woman who consciously demands liberation behaves? Stop putting gold on your face. Why don’t you admit that you care about politics with an ulterior motive?”

“I don’t attend neighborhood council studies because I think it’s a little better to study alone. Also they study in the afternoon, and since I’ve been working in Asia, I can’t attend the studies there. As for me not being able to attend the general election in time, it was because I forgot the date, and then I rushed there after being notified. I didn’t realize that my personal election vote was so important, and I didn’t understand that Asean’s staff had to conduct the election centrally, so my late arrival delayed the entire company’s election. But anyway, the candidates are already designated, I vote or not, it does not matter much. I explained.

“How dare you slander the election system of the people’s government! You still think that the mistakes you made during the election are insignificant, and that it is so important to you to do some dirty dealings for imperialism?” The arraigner said angrily.

“The charges you have laid against me are untenable.” I said, shaking my head in the face of his outburst.