Ch3 - Optimism is a facade, Misery is the norm
The weather was a little cloudy today. I was worried that it would rain, so I brought an umbrella when I went out.
The activity point of the psychological support group was not far from my home, about five kilometers away, in the indoor gymnasium of an elementary school.
I heard Shen Luoyu say that the person in charge of the group is an administrative staff member of this elementary school, so they were allowed to borrow the empty gymnasium at night.
My car was still being repaired so I could only call and reserve a taxi to pick me up. A car that can hold my wheelchair wasn’t available anytime, anywhere. It took a long time for a yellow taxi to arrive.
When I arrived at my destination, a middle-aged woman with a genial face and a plump figure was already waiting in front of the gymnasium.
When she saw me, her eyes narrowed with laughter. "Are you Bei Jie? Hello, I’m Liao Yinnian, the head of the optimistic psychology group. You can just call me Liao-jie. Miss Shen has told me about your situation before. You don’t have to feel pressured, just come over and make friends." she said, walking around behind me.
I saw through her intentions, and hurriedly stopped her, "No, I can do it myself, just help me hold the door."
Liao-jie was stunned for a moment, then nodded, "Oh, good."
A lot of people had already arrived in the room. They sat in a circle around the ping-pong table, and everyone had an English-style black teacup in front of them.
"Do you want black tea or coffee?" Liao-jie led me to the table.
I looked around, nodded slightly to a few people who were looking at me, and replied, "Tea, thank you."
Liao-jie grabbed the teapot from the side and filled it for me.
There were only about six or seven people present; old and young, male and female, all dressed differently. These people looked much healthier than me. They didn’t look like people who were full of sadness. If Liao-jie hadn’t confirmed with me before, I would have wondered if Shen Luoyu had reported the wrong group to me.
"Okay, it’s almost time, let’s start first." Liao-jie clapped her hands together, and asked everyone to look at her, "There was originally a newcomer, but I don’t think he will come, so let’s not wait…."
Almost as soon as she finished speaking, the door of the gymnasium was pushed open from the outside, and the faint smell of water rushed in with the cool night wind.
I turned to look along with everyone else, just in time to see Shang Muxiao stepping into the room with a dark face. It must have been raining outside, making his hair wet. A dark watermark appeared on the shoulders of his denim jacket.
He wiped his neck with the back of his hand, glanced around the room, and looked at me unexpectedly, and at the same time, his face darkened even more.
Who would see this scene and not say "damn" in their hearts?
"You’re Miss Shang’s younger brother, right?" Liao-jie was still enthusiastic and greeted him, "Come and sit down, I thought you wouldn’t come. Is it raining outside? You look wet, I’ll go and get you a towel, you wait."
Shang Muxiao looked at me for a long while, then withdrew his gaze and sat opposite me.
I picked up the teacup and took a sip, sighing inwardly. It was indeed true that enemies meet on a narrow road, how could there be such a coincidence?
Liao-jie quickly brought a brand new towel from the utility room. Shang Muxiao thanked her and took it, wiping his hair a little. "Everyone is here now." Liao-jie sat in her seat like a host, and announced the official start of the psychological mutual aid activity. "Let’s start with the self-introduction of the newcomers."
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After a moment of silence, and confirming that I had finished speaking, Liao-jie took the lead in applauding: "Welcome Bei Jie."
The rest of the crowd clapped, with friendly, scalp-tingling smiles on their faces.
"Next." Liao-jie squinted at the young man who was stirring coffee in boredom with a silver spoon.
Shang Muxiao felt the scorching gaze of everyone, raised his head, and let go. The metal silver spoon collided with the porcelain, making a soft sound, which was particularly prominent in a quiet environment.
"Shang Muxiao, a sophomore in the Finance Department of Qingwan University, 20 this year." He leaned back and made a brief self-introduction casually.
"Oh, both of them are from Qingwan University, what a coincidence." Liao-jie controlled the rhythm and asked the rest to introduce themselves one by one.
A housewife, a white-collar worker from foreign companies, a retiree, a bald man, a live streamer with goods, a high school girl… and Sister Liao. There were exactly nine people.
Next, Liao-jie asked everyone to tell us about their current situation, some changes this week compared to last week, or any kind of big and small things that happened around us. "My son is not sensible at all. This week I was called to school by the teacher again, and I lost my face." The housewife complained, "My husband is completely useless whether he is in bed or out of the bed. As soon as he gets home, he’ll say he’s tired. Apart from eating or showering there’s nothing else he talks to me about. Another week of wanting to give up."
"The tumor in my lung has grown. But I’m not going to have surgery, and I still plan to take conservative treatment. At this age, I don’t want to struggle anymore…" The white-haired old man said jokingly.
The white-collar worker said, "Actually, I have a granddaughter who will be 30 this year. If you are interested, I can help you connect with each other."
There was sporadic laughter at the scene, which eased the somewhat depressing atmosphere.
Shen Luoyu wasn’t mistaken. This was indeed an "optimistic psychological support group". Everyone seemed to have been abandoned by happiness. After removing their sturdy disguise on the surface, they all had the big word "decay" written on their faces.
Soon, by order, it was my turn to talk. In fact, I didn’t know what to say, so after a moment of hesitation, I came up with the reason for coming here.
"My family thinks I’m not positive about life, that I’m too pessimistic. They want me to make some changes, they want me to be happy, so they signed me up for this group." I looked up at everyone, "But I don’t mean to be unhappy on purpose. I just firmly believe… that life should be full of pain and unfulfilled desires. Optimism is an illusion, misery is the norm. I don’t have any desire to change the status quo, and I think I’m fine with that."
Live alone, eat alone; stay away from family, have no lover; be lonely, but enjoy loneliness.
Others thought I was pitiful, but "pity" was just a label of objectivity. As a subject, my life wasn’t affected by this label.
"If you could choose to restore your body to its healthiest state, wouldn’t you want to change it?" The sluggish voice echoed in the empty gymnasium.
The healthiest state… It should be when I was not paralyzed.
This question was quite torturous.
I looked at Shang Muxiao who was asking, and met his gaze without giving in.
"This question doesn’t make sense."
Time couldn’t be rewound, and my body couldn’t go back to its healthiest state. And even if I wasn’t paralyzed, human beings were born to die. From the moment they were born, they were doomed to decline step by step. The collapse of the body was inevitable, and immortality was just a dream of the First Emperor of Qin.
No one spoke for a long time. Liao-jie coughed lightly and said, "You don’t need to say too much for the first time. You can listen to others first."
In a clockwise direction, the bald man confided his troubles about being bald, saying that he was always teased by his colleagues and could not get a girlfriend. The live streamer who brought the goods was attacked by black fans all year-round, so she could only take sleeping pills to sleep every night. She was 165cm tall, but only weighed 80 pounds. The high school girl had been a good girl since childhood; excellent in character and studies, doted on by both teachers and parents. The only thing she didn’t have were friends.
In this gymnasium, in front of the ping pong table, all living beings were displayed incisively and vividly.
When it was Shang Muxiao’s turn, everyone was looking at him. He leaned back in his chair, his eyes fell under the table and combined with the slight movements of his arm muscles, I guessed that he was playing with his mobile phone.
"Muxiao." Liao-jie could only call out to him.
"My sister asked me to come. I listened to her, so I came." Shang Muxiao didn’t raise his head when he spoke, still maintaining the appearance of this having nothing to do with him.
Because Shang Muxiao was not very cooperative, Liao-jie had to act as a questioner.
"So, what is your problem?"
"My problem is that I don’t think I have a problem, but my sister thinks I have a problem."
If it wasn’t for their established contentious relationship, I would have liked to shake hands with him and sigh that "fellow sufferers empathize with each other".
"Then what does your sister think you have a problem with?" Liao-jie asked.
The chair swayed twice and fell back on the ground. Shang Muxiao finally raised his face, tossed his phone on the table, and threw a thunderbolt, "She thinks I want to kill her boyfriend."
Liao-jie was shocked, a little frightened, and she lost her voice.
"Do you really want to kill him?" I asked.
Shang Muxiao looked over and didn’t seem to expect that I would interject at such a time.
"Of course it’s a joke." He curled his lips and said unconvincingly, "That man is not worthy of my sister. I may have gone too far with my words and deeds, but I just want them to break up."
"However, your sister is also a free and independent individual. Love is her own business. You can listen to her thoughts and respect her choices, but you shouldn’t interfere. Whoever she falls in love with does not need the consent of others." Finally, the housewife couldn’t listen anymore and expressed her opinion.
Shang Muxiao nodded, completely agreeing, but resolutely did not change his thoughts.
"Indeed, no. But hating a person doesn’t need their consent either, right?" Even though his tone was not offensive, it was creepy.
The housewife may have never encountered such a thorn before, so she shrank, took a sip of her tea, and stopped talking.
Starting at 7:30 and ending at 9:30, Shang Muxiao left in the second half of the meeting in the name of going to the toilet and never came back. I thought he had left early, but when I went out, I saw that he was still smoking under the eaves of the building.
The rain had decreased a little, but it was still quite heavy.
The members of the group took their umbrellas and left without saying goodbye, not showing how enthusiastic they once were. Liao-jie said that after leaving the building, everything inside became a secret. Even if they met each other on the road, they couldn’t be regarded as acquaintances.
Don’t be stressed, don’t be burdened.
Gradually, there was only me and Shang Muxiao left under the eaves. He was on the far right and I was on the far left. There was a long distance between us. It looked like five or six meters of distance, but it was actually a whole Mariana Trench.
Perhaps because of the rainy weather, the car couldn’t be called for a long time, and I could not leave for a while. I could only embarrassedly shrink under this cramped roof with Shang Muxiao.
"Why haven’t you left yet?"
I turned to look at Shang Muxiao. He was leaning against the wall, his hands falling to his side. When I met his gaze, he slowly exhaled a puff of white smoke from his mouth.
The smoke caressed his cheeks and slowly dissipated in the air. The damp wind nudged it gently, dropping a faint smokey kiss on my face.
It was like… my favorite scene in "The Retrograde Wind".
I blinked, wanting to create a little more distance between us, but it was raining next to me, and I really had nowhere to go.
Annoying son of a bitch, simply standing side by side isn’t okay with you?
In order to avoid a misunderstanding again, I gave a rare comprehensive explanation, "Because someone crashed into my car, I now have to take a taxi when I go out. Unfortunately it is raining today so it’s difficult to catch a ride nearby. This is why I’m still not leaving." After I finished speaking, I ignored him, lowered my head and continued to try to use the app to catch a taxi.
After waiting for a timeout, the app asked me if I wanted to increase the price. I was about to click yes when my hands became empty. I looked up in astonishment and found that Shang Muxiao had taken my phone away.
"Since it’s my fault, I’ll take you back." With that, he threw the cigarette butt into the trash can.
I looked at him in disbelief. This person really did whatever he wanted. He clearly said before that he didn’t want to see me again, but now he wanted to take the initiative to send me home.
What? Regretting not taking my "opportunity"?