Every afternoon, after picking up my child, I take him for a walk around the street, a habit that we both enjoy. When I walk idly, looking at idle scenery and talking idly, I feel that this is God’s best reward for my day of work.
Whenever we came to the Mandarin intersection, I would stop and chat with a woman selling small vegetables, which was a mandatory part of our walk. This woman had a dark red face, long thick braids of hair, and was dressed in vulgar clothes, but was very clean. She has a wide variety of vegetables at good prices, so demand often outstrips supply, and I often buy vegetables from her, so we know each other well.
So every time I pass by, whether buying vegetables or not, I have to stop and greet her, and when there are many customers, I also help her to load the bag and collect the money. She would tell me in detail which dishes were selling well today, how many hours it took to marinate the meat, from which market the broccoli was bought, how to cut the shredded seaweed and tofu rolls as slender as hair, and which ingredients were needed to make the shiitake mushrooms tasty and beautiful.
When I listened to her rambling words, I felt a wave of hidden warmth swirling in my heart. It was as if the person who spoke to me in this way was a long-standing relative of mine. And every time the child saw her from afar, she would shout, “Your mother!” — this call is our local nickname for a woman who is older than her own mother.
That woman’s smile was as natural and mellow as the land in late autumn.
One night, I went to the theater on foot to see a play, and when it was raining lightly, I hailed a tricycle. The driver was a white man nearly 50 years old, slightly fat. When I was halfway there, I suddenly remembered that there was a friend living nearby, and I hadn’t seen her for a long time, so I wanted to go up and talk. So I asked the coachman to stop and settle the bill with him.
“We’re not there yet.” He reminded me that he thought I was a stranger.
“I just wanted to see a friend here.” I said.
“Is it going to take long? I’ll wait for you.” He said, “It’s hard to call a taxi in the rain.”
“No.” I said. In fact, tricycles tend to do better business on rainy days, so how could I hold him back from earning money?
However, half an hour later, I came out of my friend’s place, only to find that he was really waiting for me. His white coat was like a hazy cloud in the rain and fog.
That day, I had to pay him double the fare, but he insisted on refusing: “Anyway, pulling others is also pulling, you’re taking a steady business, and save me from running around.” He laughed. I saw raindrops falling on his hair, like dots of moonlight condensing into a ball.
The mailman who delivered the mail in my neighborhood was a handsome boy who looked to be in his twenties. With his dyed hair and necklace, he was so fashionable that it seemed unsettling, but in fact he worked very diligently. Every day after three o’clock in the afternoon, he would come here on time, put the mail in the mailboxes of each house before shouting loudly, “The newspaper has arrived!”
“Why do you have to shout like that? Is it a requirement of the unit?” I asked once.
He shook his head and laughed: “Shouting, if someone at home can hear, you can read the newspaper and letters in the most timely manner.”
Later, after each time he shouted, as long as I was home, I would come out at the sound and take the mail away. In fact, I wasn’t eager to read it, but I didn’t want to disappoint him with this shout. You know, every household shouting down, he must shout five or six hundred times a day.
His young voice is like the reverberation of a brass bell and a bamboo.
There are many such people in life who can give me this unforgettable feeling. The cleaners with dusty faces, the fruit vendors with fans to chase away flies, the bicycle mechanics with greasy hands …… just see them, a kind of unexplained affection will ripple through the whole body. I don’t know their names and origins, but I really don’t feel that they have nothing to do with me. Their smiles make me happy, their sorrows make me worried, their serenity makes me silent, their hurry makes me uneasy.
I understand that my existence is insignificant to them, but they mean something very different to me. I know that I live in their day-to-day toil and running, in their line of tears and sweat, in their thousand strands of sorrow and joy, in their lapis-like footprints and wave-like breathing.
These dusty and humble people, their figures in my sight, their spirit precipitated in my heart. They often make me feel that the ordinary world is actually so lovely, the world is actually so tacit, and the seeds of life, which seem to be like grass and mustard, are actually so tough and beautiful.
I live by their nourishment, but they are ignorant of their giving and giving. They are more and more simple because they don’t know, and I feel happier because I know.