The Day After

Translation of 第二天的事 by Liu Yichang 劉以鬯


His face in a mirror.

         Not too handsome but not too ugly. Brows too thick. Lips too plump. A nose like a head of garlic. Huge nostrils. Tanned skin. A face full of pimples.

         Long hair.

         His hair is curly.

         Puts on a high-necked shirt. Pink. He has multiple shirts. Every single one is high-necked. That’s the trend. A young man ought to wear high-necked shirts.

         Takes out a black suit from the closet.

         Last night, at a party, he had worn a striped blue suit.

         What happened yesterday is like a dream. To think of it now, it doesn’t seem real. … I have never met a girl so beautiful. She was about 17 or 18, but she already looked so well developed. What full breasts she had. Yes, they were plump. She wasn’t wearing a bra. Her hair was like Sylvia Lai’s. Big eyes. Those eyes were extremely seductive, otherwise I wouldn’t have asked her to dance. That took some guts. At the sight of such a woman, even a coward would man up. …Alluring big eyes. That pair of big eyes was so alluring. …She danced beautifully. She was the most elegant dancer at the party. …She was different. She was innocent. Her figure was different from a young girl’s. …Does she have a boyfriend?

         This question, like a long needle, stings his heart.

         Puts on leather shoes. Walks out the door.

         His mother comes out of the kitchen and asks, “Where to?”

         He doesn’t answer.

         There is a woman in the elevator.

         She is a middle-aged woman with well-developed breasts.

         A middle-aged woman with breasts like these, normal. A seventeen or eighteen-year-old girl with breasts like these, pretty rare. …It’s impossible for a young woman with such stunning breasts to not have a boyfriend. …Why should I even care? Even if she had a boyfriend, so what? She had feelings for me, for sure. Or else, she wouldn’t have asked me to go have for a drink at the bar after our dance. …Unforgettable. The brief exchange we had while we drank is hard to forget. …“Did you come to party by yourself?” “I came with Hau-ling.” “Who’s Hau-ling?” “A coworker.” “At where?” “A factory.” “Which factory?” “I don’t work there anymore.” “What do you do now?” “Nothing.” “What’s your name?” “Auyeung Nei-nei.” As the last word rolled off her tongue, a long-haired fellow took her away to dance. …

         The elevator arrives at the ground level.

         The middle-aged woman walks out gracefully.

         He follows.

         At the building’s entrance, two men are arguing. One owns a dog. One owns a newsstand. The first man’s dog peed on the second man’s newsstand. 

         Incidents like this happen often.

         He stands on the sidewalk to wait for the minibus.

         Sitting on the minibus, he still feels jealous when he thinks of the scene where Auyeung Nei-nei and the long-haired fellow danced together.

         …That long-haired fellow must be a good-for-nothing; he looked horrible when he danced. …Some of his moves even seemed insulting to Auyeung Nei-nei. If I were Auyeung Nei-nei, I would have never danced with him. I am not Auyeung Nei-nei. Auyeung Nei-nei is not me. She didn’t think he insulted her. She continued to dance with him. When she danced with that long-haired fellow, she closed her eyes and her hair swung left and right to the music’s rhythm. She seemed to really like that guy. She seemed to like every single guy. …But I don’t like him. I don’t like Auyeung Nei-nei dancing with him. I like Auyeung Nei-nei. She has a pair of big eyes. She has remarkable breasts. That man must have liked her as I have. Or else, he wouldn’t have pulled her over to the back of the bar. …He was such a jerk. …Why did he take her to the back? …I’ve been thinking about this all night. So far, I still have no answer. I only have guesses. Unsettling guesses. I get uncomfortable when I think of them. Auyeung Nei-nei shouldn’t have followed him to the back. Is Auyeung Nei-nei a bad girl? ….

Looks outside of the window.

Wan Chai is always so crowded. There are too many people. Too many vehicles. Dust swirls like a sandstorm. The car exhaust is nauseating. New construction is squeezed in between old buildings. Old buildings look like pigeon coops.

The minibus cuts through the traffic of a long street.

Suddenly there are ambulance sirens. 

The ambulance can’t speed up in crowded Wan Chai.

Too many vehicles in Wan Chai.

Too many residents in Wan Chai.

The family planning association near Southorn Playground advises people to limit births.

There are many bars along Luard Road.

The minibus stops at the intersection of Hennessy Road and Luard Road.

A girl boards the minibus.

She looks very unattractive; there is too much makeup on her face. She has very long hair, much longer than Auyeung Nei-nei’s.

Is Auyeung Nei-nei a bad girl? …No, of course not. When she walked out from the back, she came to me. She smiled at me; it was an adorable smile. I have never seen a smile so lovely. …I remember every single sentence she said to me. …“Dance?” “I don’t really like dancing.” “Drink?” “I don’t really like drinking.” “If you don’t dance and you don’t drink, why did you come to the party?” “I like the hustle and bustle.” “I—” She didn’t finish her sentence; another long-haired fellow asked her to dance. While she was dancing on the dance floor, she looked at me with widened eyes. … 

The minibus drives past a dangerous turn on the road.

This place is as quiet as a residential area. It’s quite a stark contrast to Wan Chai. 

Hong Kong is transforming.

Old barracks will be demolished sooner or later.

The minibus crosses an overpass. Appearing before his eyes are the Hilton Hotel and the Cricket Club. 

“HSBC, please!” a passenger calls out loudly.

The vehicle stops in front of HSBC. Three people get off. He is one of them. He crosses the street with butterflies in his stomach, walks through Statue Square that is missing its statue, passes through a pedestrian tunnel, follows the crowd, and walks into Star Ferry Pier. 

Feels nervous sitting on the ferry.

Too many vessels in Victoria Harbor.

The party was bustling. I believe some people were on drugs. I didn’t dare to take drugs. I only wanted to be with Auyeung Nei-nei. Auyeung Nei-nei was always dancing with other people. My heart ached whenever she danced with someone else. I don’t know why I felt that way. …Auyeung Nei-nei had feelings for me. There’s no doubt about this. She smiled so charmingly whenever she saw me. As I think of her mesmerizing smile now, an itching develops in my heart. …Although a lot of people asked her to dance, I was treated best. She would come over and chat with me whenever she was available. …Anyone could tell that she had feelings for me. Why was she so sweet to me? I am not handsome; my striped blue suit is not that chic. Why was she so sweet to me? Perhaps—perhaps this is fate. …Oh yes! This is fate! If we weren’t meant to be, she wouldn’t have told me her address when I asked where she lives. She told me her address because she wanted me to visit her. This is obvious. …Why am I so nervous? I didn’t tell her beforehand, but I think she is going to be thrilled to see me. Maybe she’s waiting for me at home. I’ll disappoint her if I don’t show up. …There’s nothing to be anxious about, so why am I so nervous? I’ve got to be slicker. A man going after a woman mustn’t be too amateurish.

Pong!

The sound of a dropped gangplank interrupts his train of thoughts. The ferry has arrived at Tsim Sha Tsui. He follows the crowd and exits the pier. Too many pedestrians in Tsim Sha Tsui. Too many vehicles in Tsim Sha Tsui.

Heads over to the bus stop.

Can’t get on without a fight even though this is the first stop.

Gets more agitated once seated.

The bus drives past the Peninsula Hotel and turns into Nathan Road. The road is spacious. The trees on both sides add a picturesque touch to the modernized street.

Not in the mood to admire the scenery. 

So out of place.

In just a few more minutes, I will meet her. Her address is 11/F, Block A, H Building, Austin Road. I’ve never been to H Building, but it shouldn’t be hard to find it if I just ask someone… What should I say when I see her? …I should ask, “How about some dim sum?” …No, don’t say that. I should ask, “How about a movie?” …She’s probably a fan of movies. Girls like movies. She’ll most likely say yes to seeing a movie. I mean, she wants me to visit, so she won’t turn me down. If I ask her out to a movie, there’s no way she’ll say no… And after the movie, what next? Ask her out to a diner. Diner food is usually cheap… But it’s fine since I’ve got a hundred-dollar bill on me. More than enough even for a meal at a rooftop restaurant. But… After dinner, where do we go? …

Gets off at the stop next to London Theater. A few steps down is Austin Road.

No idea which way to go.

Asks someone and finds out that H Building is on the other side.

Crosses the street.

Pulse begins to race once H Building is in sight.

Doesn’t have enough courage to take the elevator when standing in front of the building.

I am already here, why should I be scared? This is nothing to be afraid of. If Auyeung Nei-nei didn’t want me to visit her, she wouldn’t have told me her address. I’m usually not a coward, why am I so timid now? I need to muster up some courage. If she agrees to go to a movie with me, we’ll get to hang out often. She’s gorgeous. She has a pair of lovely big eyes. I’ll be overjoyed if she goes out with me. …Watch a movie, have dinner, take a walk in the park…

Has already stepped into the elevator while his mind wanders.

The elevator ascends.

Heart beats like a drum.

The elevator doors open. Nervous as a pregnant woman at the onset of labor.

He got it right; there is a plastic sign on the wall. It clearly states in black ink over a white background: 11/F.

Finds Block A.

Grits his teeth and rings the doorbell. 

The one who answers the door is a middle-aged woman.

The expression on the middle-aged woman’s face is stern.

He gives her a strained smile.

He asks, “Is Miss Auyeung Nei-nei here?”

The middle-aged woman sizes him up from head to toe; she then answers in a gruff voice, “The Auyeungs moved out last year!”

June 4, 1972


The short story “The Day After” 第二天的事 (1972) is written by Liu Yichang 劉以鬯 (1918-2018), a Shanghai-born and Hong Kong-based writer, editor, columnist, and publisher. One of the “writers who went South” 南來作家, a significant group of Chinese writers who relocated to colonial Hong Kong due to the mainland’s instability during the Chinese Civil War (1945-1949), Liu did not see Hong Kong as a transient haven (Chen; Shih 18). Instead, he developed a much closer bond with the city, dedicating himself to the establishment of Hong Kong’s modern literature. Experimental in nature, his writing highlights Hong Kong’s hybrid voices during the mid-twentieth century.

Edelyn H. Lau ‘22 is a concentrator in the Department of East Asian Studies at Princeton University. She is also pursuing a certificate in Translation and Intercultural Communication. 

Acknowledgment: This translation would not have been possible without the support of Professor Karen Emmerich, Damion Searls, and my eight classmates in “TRA 501: Practicing Translation” (Spring 2020). I am deeply indebted to them for their insightful comments and suggestions. Their voices had in turn prompted me to refine and redefine my own voice as a translator. As such, I ask readers to consider this translation itself as a piece embedded with multiple voices as well.

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