Selected Modern Chinese Essays: I’m Your Bride Tonight

◎ Ye Meng

Yesterday you said to me, “Let’s get married!” That’s something you’ve said for the first time in twelve years.

And you added before I could reply, “How about tomorrow!I can’t wait any longer, not even a single day. Let’s get married tomorrow.”

So it was all set. There was little time left for me to weigh and consider.

The irreversible was to become a fait accompli in a little more than twenty hours.

All would be very simple. No wedding banquet or ceremony. No need to notify friends and relatives. All I had to do was inform my parents, and put on brand-new bed-clothes.

To me, marriage is a very solemn matter in one’s life and therefore it is absolutely unnecessary to invite a great many people to the wedding, both related and unrelated, and announce to them our matrimony with cigarettes, wine and sweets like at a news briefing, so that they can indulge in wining, expressing good wishes, chatting about the bride’s appearance and what not.

I’m not vain. I don’t want to go in for pomp and celebrate our nuptials in a big way. I don’t seek the approval of anyone, nor do I try to buy over those holding conventional views on marriage.

Marriage is our personal business. We are fully entitled to go about it in a way of our own choice, unconventional as it may be.

I don’t expect the presence of many guests at my wedding because tranquility plus an air of mystery is what I design for this once-in-a-lifetime sacred ceremony.

My life, at the end of the thirty-five years, is going to take on a new pattern. It will mark the end of the old phase of my life and the beginning of the new.

On the last day of my virginity, I stayed indoors alone, quietly decorating my wedding chamber. I diverted my mind from a medley of thoughts by keeping my hands busy with this and that.

A joyful feeling came over me stealthily, together with fear and worry, and helpless sorrow too.

I felt like a pale canvas soon to be daubed with a multicoloured pattern. I felt sad as if I were faced with a big disaster.

It was a long day, long enough for me to muse over the past thirty-five years. The beautiful dreams of romance in early girlhood were vague and far off. But the bitter experience of courting in later days were still clear before my eyes. Beautiful or bitter, both are of another day. And I’ll never regret at all.

Correct or not, the decision is made and allows of no hesitation. I’ll go ahead resolutely to live a new life.

The unshirkable night came at last.

An oppressive silence reigned in the wedding chamber. Suddenly, there broke out outside a deafening sound of gongs and drums amidst loud music. Firecrackers and fireworks sent the dark night blazing with colour.

Was the music for us?

The night finally relapsed into silence. The music was no more. All was quiet. The light was switched off, leaving two red candles burning away in the room.

I sat by the red candles.

You sat in an armchair in the drawing room.

I suddenly wished we would both remain permanently where we were as if separated by a ravine between us.

Just then you began to move towards me.

I listened to your heavy steps with a throbbing heart.

You came nearer and nearer.

My limbs went ice-cold when suddenly there came over me the presage of coming ravages. I uttered abruptly from my heart.”I’m done for.”

I could not escape becoming a real woman.

As you came to my side, I was afraid to look at you like you were a stranger.

The wedding chamber was permeated with the aroma and smoke of the red candles.

“I’m your bride tonight!”It took me quite a long while to utter these words from the bottom of my heart, though with a touch of grief.