Shanghai Life and Death(72)

“Answer! Answer!” The well-dressed young man shouted. I looked at him, and then dropped my eyes to look at the interrogator. But the latter just stared at the paper in front of him, and I could see that the youth had interrupted him mid-sentence, which upset him.

“I’m laughing because it’s funny.” I said.

“What’s funny?” He asked.

“The whole meeting.”

“You explain.”

“Can’t you see that? Taufang is lying and telling a clumsy story. But you guys believe his lies and want to let him go home to his family. Isn’t that comical?”

“Tao Fang didn’t lie.”

“No? Then you mean that he really is a secret agent? In that case, isn’t it even more funny that you don’t sentence a real spy to death or a heavy sentence, but let him go home instead?”

“Leave Tao Fang alone and mind your own business, right? Do you want to go home?”

“Of course I want to go home. I demand a complete vindication. I ask the government to publish an apology in the People’s Daily in Beijing and the Liberation Daily in Shanghai. But I don’t want to tell lies; I want to state everything according to the truth.”

I looked closely at this young man, who was well dressed, but inside was just a bag of grass, how could he not realize that my loud laughter was only to spoil his carefully planned meeting. Suddenly he jumped up and shouted nervously, “Keep your head down, keep your head down! Keep your head down. I will not allow an enemy of the class to stare at me with two eyes like a searchlight.”

The man sitting next to him must have been a lapdog character. He quickly stood up, paced over to me, and reached out to press my head hard.

“I’m used to always looking at someone when I’m speaking to them. I’m sorry if I’m making you uncomfortable like this. Do you want me to sit with my back to you?” Since the prisoner’s seat was fixed to the floor and could not be moved, I had to turn my body and face the Mao statue on the wall. I caught a glimpse of the interrogator biting his lip in secret amusement from the corner of my eye.

“Now answer my question, are you a British agent? Are you willing to explain?” The young man asked.

“I am not directed by anyone, I am not a spy. I have nothing to explain.” I said unambiguously, facing the portrait of Mao Zedong on the wall.

“You are a spy!” The youth shouted angrily.

“I’m not.” I shook my head.

“We have the facts to prove that you are a secret agent.”

“Then you show it.” I turned my face again and forced him to look at me.

“Did you hear your old colleague’s revelations this morning?”

“They have no evidence, only some forced accusations.”

“Don’t you worry, we’ll give you concrete evidence. One point, two points, three points, four points …… We can give you a long list of what you did. But by then, it will be too late for you to try to be lenient.”

“If it is really a secret agent, then it cannot be treated leniently. A real secret agent, whether he or she is accountable or not, is to be shot.” I took my stand.

The interrogator got up and continued; “Now go back to your cell and recall what you heard at the meeting this morning. They are not all lies, some of them are very serious matters. There is nothing ridiculous about it all.” With that he went out, and the guards took me back to my cell again.

On my return to the women’s cell, I saw the woman from the kitchen, surrounded by white rice sheets, pushing a cart piled high with lunch boxes filled with yams, delivering the food. Two female labor inmates were helping her on the side. I saw a golden-yellow yam box with two boxes of white rice layered with green vegetables interspersed among them, and apparently, there was another prisoner who also ate white rice. I had just returned inside the cell when the white rice was pushed through the small window hole.

My gums have been bleeding, so I always have to wash my mouth before eating, otherwise the food I eat will always have a mouth full of blood. It was difficult for me to chew. The vegetables served were usually old and hard, so it always took me a long time to eat a meal. Since I had to return the dishes, I bought a small plastic spoon from the prison commissary. I sat on the edge of the bed, scooped the rice and vegetables from the rice box into a cup, washed the box and chopsticks and returned them to the woman in the kitchen, then began to use the spoon to slowly enjoy my only meal of the day, chewing and swallowing slowly. As I ate, I remembered everything that had happened during the day.

I thought that although I had been beaten and handcuffed one after another today, I had gained something throughout the day. I learned about what happened to the old company employees in the past, and I was more optimistic about my future. Unfortunately, so many of them have been under unimaginable pressure; there are others who have not been seen to sign the large-print posters, nor have they come out to expose my colleagues, and I wonder how they are doing? Are they still alive?

In the case of Director Tao, his performance was too weak, but I will forgive him. His choked sobbing voice still echoes in my ears, the moan of a persecuted soul who has reached the point of no return.

The weather has warmed up and I have stopped shivering with spasms for a few days. I was thinking about whether to wash my woolen sweater and put it away. I need to keep my winter clothes safe, as they are not available in the prison commissary. God knows how long I will have to stay in this prison. My struggle with these extreme leftists is essentially a constant battle. I cannot die. I had just laid down when the guard on duty came to the small window opening, which she gently opened, and whispered, “Would you like a hot shower?”

What a surprising and delightful suggestion I accepted! In the winter, prisoners were allowed to take a hot shower once a month because it was too cold to bathe in cold water in the cell. I was always counting the days when I would be able to take a hot shower again. That afternoon, when I returned from my interrogation, I had seen the female guards stream in and out of the shower all evening, and now it seemed that they had all finished, so the guards let me take a shower with the hot water left in the pipes.

I jumped up from the bed, grabbed my soap box and towel, and followed her to the shower room. I washed my hair and body in the hot water cage. Strangely enough, there was a remarkable change in the attitude of some of the guards since the day I bravely defended their past leader, Liu Shaoqi. After I washed, I gently slipped into my cell, and soon the guard locked the door.