Oh goodness, can’t the school be generous for once and install those damn heaters already? I moaned to myself as the final Maths class finally came to a draw. Well, it’s not like I listened to any of that mathematical nonsense anyway.
It’s 6 and already it’s awfully dark outside. I gingerly lift up my bag that’s heavy enough to do weightlifting thanks to all these dreadful textbooks and looked up at all the homework that we have to do which is written all over on the blackboard. Sherbert that’s a lot of stuff to do. I sigh. I miss Africa already?
Luckily it’s not my turn today to clean the classroom. Oh goodness no, some of us don’t want to spend another second in this freezing classroom. Run run like the wind away from this place.
Time to board the minibus for the long and squashed ride back home. Where’s my squad at? Oh right. I forgot that I don’t have a squad.
Lonely, I am so lonely, I have nobody to call of my own?
Well, I do have earphones and I do have Taylor Swift singing to me don’t I?
I looked across the street. Wow the minibus stop looks deserted today. Where did the masses go today? Usually it would be just a dark mass of folks there, chatting and randomly throwing all their half finished sugar cane sticks to the ground.
Well there is someone standing there. Can’t really see who it is though. Wait, isn’t that the top girl in our grade? That tall one that people call giraffe. Well, her short brownish hair looks cool though. Never really looked at her properly before .
Yep, that’s Tina.
I don’t really know Tina that well. Chinese kids that are top notch students usually are distant and difficult to talk with. There is just that assumed air of arrogance that they ooze out. I am not exactly an academic lowlife but I don’t call myself a genius either. I am top of the grade in English but that’s because I did all seven years of my primary school in South Africa so that’s not exactly an accurate measure of my intelligence is it? After all, it’s the good Maths marks that appeal to Chinese parents like it’s their G-spot or something. Maths marks that I am not getting and will probably never get.
Anyways, enough self bashing. What’s Tina doing all alone by herself there, doesn’t she have a squad? I started to think long and hard trying to remember who is in her squad.
Then I raised my eyebrows as I realized it. Oh right, she doesn’t have a squad. I can’t think of anyone that is her friend. Anyone. Literally her only friends are our teachers. Which most of us hate.
Oh great so now I have something in common with the top girl in our school? Well, maybe she doesn’t need friends anyway. She is probably married to the textbooks. Love sees no race, religion, gender or species right?
Why is this minibus taking so long to come though? I need my mom’s hot soup to replenish my whimpering soul. Oh goodness, that soup must have radish in it though or I am going to-
“Excuse me?” Someone suddenly softly pats me on my shoulder.
“Huh?” I turn around, confused.
Then I turn only to see straight into her eyes. Hazel brownish ones. Full of inquiring spirits but also with a touch of innocence. Curious but not threatening. Big and round ones though. Something inside me clicked. It’s Tina, beaming at me for no apparent reason.
“You are Yoon, right?”
I flustered. The academic star in our grade is talking to me face to face and it’s not “have you done your homework boy”! No this can’t be real?
“Um well yes that’s me, yours truly-”
“I am Tina. I have wanted to ask you something since Chinese class this morning actually.”
Huh? Did I say something foolish or shout out the author of that Qing dynasty novel wrong? It can’t be, I love that novel.
“Your remarks on Dream of the Red Chambers was really inspiring. I actually agreed with every word you said.”
Aww. What is this feeling? I feel…flattered?
“Wait a second, you read Dream of the Red Chambers? Oh my gosh, I didn’t know a star student like you reads these things. They are like-”
“Of course I do Yoon. Red Chamber is my ultimate favourite book, not one of my favourite books, the favourite book . Your argument about Baoyu being the reason why Daiyu committed suicide is spot on. It is indeed because he wasn’t decisive enough to confess his love for her that Daiyu chose to end her life. That love was going to end in misery anyways.” Tina clearly loves the book. Her face turned red with emotion and she even raised her finger as she was speaking.
Here was I, standing and staring at her in disbelief. No one in this school shared my interests. Absolutely no one. After all, who on earth bothers to read a classic Chinese tragedy novel written in the 18th century and researches about each of the hundreds of characters in that book when they can just go to their computers and play League of Legends and kill loads of mystical beasts the whole night?
Well, that’s until I realized Tina does. So maybe there is someone that has something in common with me in this school after all? That’s new.
Tina smiled. “Well if you want to disagree with me now, you are more than welcome to hey. It’s not like I am a Red Chambers expert.”
“No no Tina, I am just kind of surprised that you also love the book. I don’t know anyone in this school that does. Well, maybe the Chinese teacher?”
“Haha no, I asked her and she totally doesn’t. She even told me to stop distracting myself with it because it’s full of “adult themes” and focus back to the studies. But it’s like the only thing that I love to do other than all the academics I drain myself with everyday. Well, that and maybe listening to Taylor Swift songs?” She chuckled.
I gasped. No this can’t be happening. Shouldn’t Tina be listening to like, I don’t know, that American born Chinese dude called Leehom Wang or that Yoga Lin guy that always sings songs about breakups or something? All the other girls in our class do. This girl is like the male version of me now!
Um…no Yoon she’s not. She is the No. 1 student in our grade.
“You like Taylor Swift? Oh my gosh I did not know that!”
“Correction, Yoon. Not like. Love.” Tina declared.
I smiled. Haven’t smiled that much since I came back to China last year. Well, there has been no reason to. Until now.
“Come on Yoon hop on or else the minibus is leaving without you and I wouldn’t want that.” Tina teased.
Gee I was in such a daze I didn’t realise the minibus had come. I wouldn’t mind if it took a bit much longer though now after Tina’s revelations to me. I chuckled and hopped on the surprisingly empty minibus.
“Now let’s have a proper chat about Baoyu, Daiyu and Baochai’s triangle relationship in Red Chambers.” I jokingly offered.
Tina laughed almost hysterically and waved her fingers at me. “Don’t even get me started on that one Yoon. And if you think Baochai is not the evil antagonist that ruined this relationship between Daiyu and Baoyu which could have been the ultimate love in the history of mankind, I will tear you to pieces.”
I shook my head in disbelief and looked at Tina, who is staring back at me with an expectant look on her face. This is the real Tina that I am only starting to get to know now, not the cold “genius” that almost never talks to anyone in class about anything.
Oh please God, let the bus stop that Tina gets off be the last one on the route?