Shanghai Life and Death(104)

The next morning, two people came from the film studio, claiming to be from the Revolutionary Committee of the Shanghai Film Studio, to announce to me that my daughter had died by suicide on June 16, 1967.

“We heard from the Public Security Bureau that you were released for medical reasons, and we understand that you immediately had to go into the hospital for treatment, so we decided to officially inform you about your daughter’s death, so that her problems would come to an end.” One of them said.

He was the only one talking the whole time, while the other just sat there and listened.

I found it strange when I heard him say that I was released for health reasons. But I couldn’t pursue a defense with him on this issue. So I could only say, “I want to know the exact circumstances of my daughter’s death.”

“She died in the early morning of June 16, 1967, jumping from the window of the ninth floor of the Sports Association onto Nanjing Road.”

“How did she get to the Shanghai Sports Association building?”

“She was taken there by the rebels for interrogation.”

“Why was she interrogated?” I asked.

“That’s not the main question.” He said and pulled the subject away.

“Then of course it’s important, it’s directly related to her death.” I said squarely.

“It has nothing to do with her death. She committed suicide, and she took responsibility for her own death.” The man said in a hardened manner, “But we came into the SSE factory as a labor propaganda team in 1968 after your daughter’s death.”

“Did the factory authorities conduct any investigation into her death before and after you entered the factory?” Although I hated the man’s official tone, I asked the question calmly and without rudeness.

“How is that possible?” He replied impatiently, “There are so many suicides, and we have many pressing issues at hand to solve. In any case, according to the instructions of the great leader Chairman Mao, suicide is an act against re-education and reform, against socialism. The fact is that these guys who committed suicide were counter-revolutionaries, except that they are dead, so we don’t call them that.”

“Are you sure that my daughter committed suicide?” I asked.

“We saw her name listed among the suicides when we entered the film studio. Your daughter’s ashes are now in the crematorium, so if you want to keep her ashes, come to the factory and get a certificate.”

“Didn’t the law say that a body must be examined by a forensic doctor before it is cremated?” Talking about my daughter cut me like a knife inside. But I had to control myself to get the truth out of the matter, “I want to see the forensic pathologist’s report.”

“You should know that your daughter committed suicide at a time of extreme chaos, when law and order was completely broken.” The man got a little annoyed, “There were a lot of suicides, probably hundreds a day.”

“You mean, there was no autopsy before the cremation?”

“I don’t know. In fact, we don’t know much about her death, only that she committed suicide.”

“I am formally proposing to the plant that an investigation be conducted into the cause of my daughter’s death.” I said to them both.

They gave me a silent look, then got up to leave. The other man took an envelope from his bag and put some hard-sided notebooks on the table, which I recognized as Man Ping’s.

The speaker said, “The envelope contains a sum of money paid by the factory to the family of the deceased. These notebooks are part of your daughter’s diary, and we are returning them to you by order of the factory’s Revolutionary Committee.”

I stood and watched them leave, and when I reached the door, he looked back at me and said, “I understand that your daughter got along well with her colleagues and workers at the factory. We regret that we could not make her treat the Cultural Revolution correctly because of her unfortunate family’s origins.”

Auntie followed them downstairs in order to lock the door.

I stood there gazing at Man-ping’s diary, but didn’t have the courage to touch it. I would take comfort from it, but not now. My heart was bleeding and I didn’t dare to touch the diaries. I chewed on the words of the man from the factory, he didn’t say much, but I could already speculate on some of the circumstances surrounding Manning. I must be careful to investigate, I believe that one day the water will come to light, the truth will come out. I handed the letter to Kong to my aunt and sent it.

I followed my aunt downstairs to lock her door, I think I have to have a spring lock installed on the front door, and then one on the door of the room, it seems to be a lot to do. The walls on all sides need to be painted, the debris in the garden needs to be removed, and some more furniture needs to be added. I’m also considering whether I’ll be allowed to move back into my old house again. But the government may think that one person does not need to live in such a big house. I think if I have to live here permanently, I will have to move the end of the hallway and a bathroom downstairs, and then convert the original bathroom into a kitchen for my sole use. This way, once someone moves in downstairs, they won’t come upstairs to use the bathroom. If so, my aunt wouldn’t have to bring food and water up and down the narrow back escalator every day. In order to ensure that I can be alone and not disturbed by others, I also want to install a door on the back escalator, and then build a wall to separate the front corridor. But to do so I need materials and a lot of money. What to do?

When I got to the upstairs escalator and turned the corner to go into the room, I noticed from the window in the uncurtained hallway that the neighbors in the row of houses behind us were looking at me from the window pane. If the electric lights were on at night, I would be like a goldfish in a fish tank when I left my room. There was also a window facing the door, and if the door was open, all the activities in my room would be visible to the human eye. I decided I needed to put curtains on these windows immediately, which would cost money.

Someone was knocking on the front door, and I didn’t think my aunt would be back so soon. I looked down from the balcony and saw a man dressed like a teacher shouting from below, “I’m from the greening department of the housing office, I’ve come to contact you about planting trees in the garden.”

I went downstairs and opened the door.

“Are you new here?” He asked.

“Yes.” He circled the garden, kicking the broken bricks and tiles with his foot, and said, “First we have to get rid of this garbage, otherwise how can we plant trees?”

“That’s your business. I don’t care, it was already like this when I moved here.” I told him, “Besides, I don’t have the strength to get this out.”

“What about a young woman the other day? Was it your daughter?”

“No, she doesn’t live here. My daughter is dead.”

Well! Did I say “my daughter is dead”? As long as I’m alive, I have to explain it like this all the time. Every time I explained this to people, my heart would ache as if it was being torn apart, and I would see clearly my beautiful daughter lying in a pool of blood on Nanjing Road.

I tried my best to control myself, but the tears couldn’t stop pouring down. I turned my back and wiped my tears with my handkerchief, ashamed of myself for shedding tears in front of a stranger I didn’t know.

However, the man pretended not to see, he lowered his head and whispered to me: “I will report to the unit, whether to find a young man to remove the debris first.” After saying that he left.