Shanghai Life and Death(53)

The night shift guards came, and during the shift they shouted to each other “Long live the Great Leader, Chairman Mao!” The night watchman then inspected the cells one by one along the aisle and gradually approached my cell. I heard her pacing vigorously, pausing briefly at the peephole of each cell.

“What’s wrong? Already lying down? What a blessing. Get up! It’s not yet time for bed.” She shouted as she came to my door. I knew from her voice that she was the same woman who had come to search my cell the next afternoon.

“I’m so sick that the guard who was just off duty made me lie down.” I thought unless she came and dragged me hard, I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep and get up anyway. Fortunately, she didn’t come in and have a go at me. After a while, I heard her reprimanding another prisoner upstairs.

The next day, a young man came to see me. I told him I was feverish and had been coughing for two months. He said, “You may have hepatitis. This time, there are a lot of hepatitis in the detention center. I’ll give you a blood test first.”

This really stunned me. An ordinary person with a little medical knowledge would have known that I had bronchitis and not hepatitis, which may have turned into pneumonia. The symptoms of a person with an enlarged liver are completely different from mine. What kind of “doctor” was this young man? I leaned down and looked out of the open window hole, only to see a young man under 20 years old, wearing a military uniform in the countryside. It dawned on me. He is not the kind of educated professional doctor, he came here to become a doctor, only by the leadership of the assignment. The top wants politically reliable, but does not know the business of the workers and peasants to take such technical work. Mao Zedong once said “learn to swim by swimming”. It seems that this young man was fulfilling Mao’s instruction to “learn to be a doctor by treating illnesses”.

At that time, there were often reports in the newspaper about this kind of thing. It was said that civil servants in hospitals who had no special medical training were able to perform surgical operations on patients with success after mastering Mao’s teachings. When a patient was to be operated on in the hospital, the rebel faction, in order to immediately prove the power of Mao’s words, had the untrained “doctors” engage in “life-and-death struggles” with the patient in the operating room, while they themselves gathered around to read aloud Mao’s quotations. But when the leaders of the ultra-leftists became ill, they not only asked their own personal doctors to treat them, but also flew famous medical experts to Beijing to treat them. These specialists were mostly graduates of foreign universities before the liberation. If these specialists had been working in the countryside at that time, they would have been transferred back to the city immediately.

The young doctor took me to the guard’s office with the fireplace, and I immediately felt more comfortable and stopped shivering. He opened the medical kit, took out the syringe, took off my cotton jacket, and then rolled up my sleeves ready for the injection. But when he inserted the needle into my arm, he couldn’t find a vein. After several attempts, I was bleeding under the skin, and my arm was in pain. I could see he was very anxious, sweating profusely, and his hands were trembling.

I felt bad for the poor guy because he was doing a job he couldn’t do. I knew if I didn’t give him a few words of relief at this point, my arm would have to suffer.

“My veins are so thin, the doctors say it’s so hard to draw blood from me.” I said, to try to drum up his confidence, at least so that his hand, could not shiver so straight.

He glanced at me, a glance full of gratitude, so to speak. Then I held my breath and let him try again, and finally at least I found a blood vessel.

Several more days passed, and my heat level was so high that I could not feel the cold marrow chill in my cell. The guards allowed me to lie in bed. The young woman who was working here, under the watchful eye of the guards, brought me thin rice and hot boiled water twice a day. Most of the time, I drifted off to sleep, having strange nightmares, thinking I was like a god, floating, curling out of the barred cell window ……

One morning, the young man came again and said to me: “You do not have hepatitis, you may have a lung disease. Many prisoners suffer from lung disease. Now put your clothes on and send you to the hospital for an X-ray.”

Although I knew I didn’t have lung disease, I was more than happy to go to the hospital for a checkup.

In the afternoon, a female guard opened the cell door and took me out. My feet were wobbly, I couldn’t hold myself up, and my whole body was limp. Fortunately, she didn’t yell or rush me to leave. At the exit of the guardhouse, a male guard was waiting for me with a pair of handcuffs, only to hear the female guard shake her head at him and whisper, “Too sick.” I couldn’t understand whether she meant that I was too sick to escape midway, so I didn’t need to be handcuffed, or that I was too sick to be handcuffed as a sign of care. Anyway, the male guard took the handcuffs away.

A black jeep was waiting at the second entrance, and the female guard got into the car with me.

How much this driveway has changed from that night sixteen months ago when I was brought in as a guard! The driveway was lit up with lights, busy people working everywhere, and on both sides of the driveway, by the willow trees, were red wooden signs with quotations from Mao Zedong about class struggle. Those quotations were written in yellow paint. The wooden sign faced the entrance of the gate, probably to create some atmosphere of terror for those prisoners who entered the detention center. On the roof of the barracks, a large red flag was hung with three quotations written in white paint: “Down with the American imperialists!” , “Down with the Soviet revisionists” and “Taiwan must be liberated”. Several targets for shooting practice, all dressed in foreign clothes to hang on the wooden pole, their lapels were written on the name of the President of the United States, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the head of the Kuomintang in Taiwan. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA), on it for assassination practice. When one of the fighters took an arrow step to meet the target, the bayonet killed, all the fighters held their voices out an ear-splitting “kill” word.

In the darkness of the night, the streets of Shanghai were almost deserted. The road from the detention center to Tiranqiao prison hospital was quite long. Along the way, I saw only sparse pedestrians, wrapped tightly in cotton coats, trudging along the sidewalk against the howling northwest wind. I was very sick, but since I hadn’t seen the streets of Shanghai for a long time, I took the opportunity to observe how the city had changed. I also hoped that I would be able to speculate on my daughter’s life in the present day.

There are traces of destruction everywhere; charred buildings with black hole-like windows embedded in them. From time to time, I see uprooted trees and abandoned cars on the side of the road. Garbage was flying in all directions with the wind. By the garbage piles, a few shadowy figures hovered, scavengers looking for treasure. Traffic lights have been discontinued, and buildings are plastered with slogans, some on buses and trucks. Chalk was also used to write on the sidewalks. The PLA patrolled the roads instead of the civilian police. A few trucks full of rebels with steel helmets and iron bars in their heads winded by, shouting slogans as they did so.