Day 06 18:22
Having put down the large burden of his sexual orientation, Song Ran was able to speak frankly to Mr He of being gay; he was in very high spirits, the immediate result of which was that he spoke more cheerfully.
He Zhiyuan liked listening to Song Ran chatter, so he leaned back against the sofa with his legs splayed, accompanying the other man in making small talk and observing the situation of his underwear in passing; he hoped to calm down and bury his lust, considering it to be a kind of trial.
It was a pity that it wasn’t very effective.
Song Ran didn’t know that He Zhiyuan was in an ‘awkward situation’. As he chatted, he strolled back to the kitchen to attend to his ginger duck soup, smoothly dropping in some goji berries before picking up the half-eaten apple and biting it with a crunch. “Ah, Mr He, as a straight man, you got pulled into pretending to be gay by your room-mate. After painting little rainbow flags on your face along with shouting slogans, holding up signs, waving banners, and such, did you feel like the door of a new world had been opened?”
He Zhiyuan expressed his acknowledgement. “Indeed, a little.”
Song Ran asked, “Then you aren’t afraid of being misunderstood by others?”
“Why would I be afraid? Homosexuality isn’t something terrible.” He Zhiyuan smiled and said, “Song Ran, you may have misunderstood me a little. I’m not as straight as you think.”
The cell phone slipped out from Song Ran’s fingers and barely avoided bathing in the pot with the duck.
Song Ran was incredibly embarrassed. His hands scrabbled on the countertop, rescuing the spinning cell phone, before he heard He Zhiyuan say, “I agree with a particular theory: sexuality isn’t black and white. The people who are a hundred percent straight or gay are the minority, and most people’s orientations are between the two—it’s just the ratios that are different.”
“Uh… then, then you… What is your ratio?”
Song Ran’s tongue was tied into a thousand knots.
He Zhiyuan calmly replied, “When I was seventeen or eighteen, there was a period of time when I was especially confident in my sexuality and thought there wasn’t any possibility of me being gay. Later, about ten years ago, I did a Klein Grid at the student association and was a bit astonished by the results. While the heterosexual portion was dominant, I could also accept same-sex relationships on occasion. At this time last year, I did a more precise assessment at the doctor’s, and the result was similar: I don’t necessarily reject same-sex relationships. Therefore, precisely speaking, I’m not considered a completely straight man.”
In Song Ran’s left hand was the soup ladle, and in his right hand was the cell phone. With his dumbfounded expression, it was clear that he didn’t make the connection.
Wh-what was this situation?
He Zhiyuan had caught up and also straightforwardly ‘came out’ to him? But why would Mr He voluntarily offer up this information? It was too suggestive for both parties to reveal their sexualities at the same time.
Song Ran’s head was filled with fanciful thoughts—he briefly felt Mr He ‘had ulterior motives’ and was coveting his little chrysanthemum, but then he felt that he himself was too shameless, narcissistically making assumptions about Mr He’s thoughts. At this time, he didn’t know how to react, so he poorly attempted to cover it up by forcibly changing the topic; he discussed tonight’s dinner with He Zhiyuan for a while before finally using the excuse of the food being ready and needing to wake up Bubu to hastily hang up the phone.
Hearing the hurried busy tone in his ear, He Zhiyuan couldn’t help laughing.
Song Ran, what are you flustered over?
Even I could detect that something was not quite right.
We’re neighbours living across from each other, and there will be many opportunities to see each other in the future. When I genuinely want to make a move on you, you can panic at that time.
On this day, after their meal, Bubu once again lay on his tummy next to Song Ran and asked him to tell a story.
Song Ran picked a volume from a pile of books, but Bubu used his chin to push the pages shut before cutely handing over the new toy in his arms. “Big Brother, I still don’t know the story of this rabbit. Today, tell me that story first.”
Song Ran stared at that rabbit, feeling a bit worried.
Although he had read many fairy tales and illustrated them, he was not very good at coming up with stories. But Bubu had a unique conviction: he believed every toy that he received was alive and had parents, siblings, and brilliant and wonderful pasts; only by becoming aware of the toys’ stories could he truly become good friends with them.
Song Ran wanted to protect Bubu’s innocence, so every time he encountered this situation, he would rack his brains and make up a story, even if it was a mere seven or eight sentences long.
This time, he thought for a while, then said, “Just now, I was on the phone with your dad, and your dad just told me the story of this little rabbit. I’ll tell it to you, okay?”
“Eh?” Bubu’s eyes lit up, and he grasped the key point. “You secretly called Dad!”
“What secretly? We were completely open about it!” Song Ran raised his eyebrows and threatened Bubu, “You went wild for a day, running all over the place and getting wet—am I not supposed to report it to your dad?”
Bubu became unhappy. Pursing his little mouth, he protested, “Big Brother, it’s not right to tattle.”
Song Ran smiled. “I tricked you. How could I tattle? I praised you a hundred times. Your dad was especially happy, and he said that he wanted to tell you a story to reward you. Unfortunately, you were sleeping at that time, but now you’re awake and he’s asleep, so I’ll relay the story to you instead.”
Bubu opened his eyes wide in astonishment. “Dad can tell stories too?”
Song Ran nodded. “Of course. Your dad is so capable, there’s nothing he can’t do. This time, he told a story called… uh, called The Straight-Eared Rabbits and the Lop-Eared Rabbit.”
Bubu hurriedly crawled up and handed over the furry grey rabbit plushie with both hands. “Here, the main character is here. Big Brother, hurry and tell the story. I’m listening.”
Consequently, Song Ran pinched the two soft rabbit ears and began telling a story to Bubu.
This story took place in a big forest.
A little group of rabbits lived in the forest. They had round, ruby-like eyes, short tails resembling snowballs, and long, straight, ears that pointed up towards the sky. The most important thing was that all of them looked exactly the same, like a string of stamps printed on a paper using the same seal; nobody could find a difference. Therefore, the rabbits usually liked playing one game the most—facing each other and mimicking the other’s movements like reflections in a mirror.
But there was one little rabbit who couldn’t play these games because it looked different from everyone else.
Its ears were droopy from birth; they dangled on either side of its face without any way to stand up. The other rabbits all laughed at it, saying it had a pair of broken ears, so it also thought that its ears were broken.
Good ears ought to stand up, because the facts were plainly laid out—besides itself, the ears of every rabbit in the forest stood up straight.
Thus, from a certain day onward, the little lop-eared rabbit was determined to change itself.
On the first day, it found two ropes, tied them to the tips of its ears, and hung itself from a tree branch. It swayed back and forth, looking like a swing. The rabbit thought, After pulling them like this for a whole day, my ears ought to have been pulled straight, right?
After a whole day had passed, the little lop-eared rabbit untied the ropes and excitedly shook its head, but it discovered that its ears still dangled. The rabbit ran to ask the rabbit witch, who told it, “Silly child, ears are supported by cartilage. How could they be pulled straight with ropes?”
Thus, on the second day, the little lop-eared rabbit found two wooden sticks and tied its ears to the sticks. With this, it finally became a straight-eared rabbit, and it was so happy that it spun around on the spot. But it was easy for the sticks to become loose; as long as the rabbit walked a little faster or hopped a few times, they would fall to the ground, and the ears which had just been straightened would likewise sag.
As a rabbit, how could one not run or jump?
What this little lop-eared rabbit of ours usually liked doing the most was running and jumping.
On the third day, the disheartened little lop-eared rabbit had no choice but to buy a headband with straight ears. It rolled up its own lop ears into little balls and tried hard to stuff them into the headband. It hurt so much that the rabbit was constantly tearing up, but it believed the pain was very worth it because now it had finally become a straight-eared rabbit that fit in.
It squeezed itself into the group of rabbits, wanting to play the mirror game with everyone. But the sharp-eyed rabbits instantly uncovered the flaw, condemned it for being a fraud, and drove it out from the group.
The little lop-eared rabbit was so dejected that it walked all by itself in the forest, hating its own ears as well as its own eyes, tail, and paws.
It didn’t like itself at all anymore.
Finally, there came a day when the cold and starving little lop-eared rabbit came across another group of rabbits.
This group of rabbits was very strange; no two of them were alike. Some had vivid red eyes, and some had bright black eyes. Some had fluffy white fur, and some had sleek grey fur. Some were big like tree stumps, and some were small like mushrooms. Of course, their ears were also different; some of them stood up tall and straight, and some drooped low like pairs of little brooms sweeping the floor.
The little lop-eared rabbit immediately ran over to say hello, and the group of rabbits joyfully adopted it.
Here, nobody thought lop ears were something strange because whether many or few, everyone had their differences from everyone else. They also never played the mirror game because it really was too dull. Instead, they played by digging holes, planting vegetables, and running races; only these counted as the rabbits’ group games.
Here, the little lop-eared rabbit experienced a lot of goodwill.
The black-eyed rabbit gifted it a piece of precious radish cake, the big rabbit gifted it a big leaf that could block the rain, and the grey-furred rabbit gifted it a fluffy hay sofa—whether their eyes were red or not, whether their fur was white or not, whether their ears were straight or not, the rabbits were all good friends who helped each other.
The little lop-eared rabbit never again felt inferior because of its ears.
Now, it thought it was a beautiful, cute, and especially lovable little rabbit.
After hearing the story, Bubu hurriedly took the rabbit back into his arms, stroked its drooping ears, and comfortingly said, “Don’t be sad, you’re the best little rabbit. I’ll always like you!”
Song Ran asked him, “Which group of rabbits does Bubu like? The first one or the second one?”
Bubu’s answer was clear beyond a doubt. “The second one!”
When Song Ran asked the reason, Bubu said with his head tilted, “It’s so boring when they all look the same. Everyone has red eyes, white fur, and straight ears. I wouldn’t be able to buy this one.”
Then, he asked Song Ran in return, “What about Big Brother? Which one does Big Brother like?”
Song Ran smiled and said, “I also like the second group because I’m that lop-eared rabbit.”
“Liar, you aren’t!” Bubu rolled upright and deftly reached out to touch Song Ran’s ear. “See, your ear is here. It doesn’t droop at all.”
Song Ran grabbed Bubu’s small hand and held both him and the rabbit plush in his arms.
Already weighing more than thirty jin, the four-year-old darling child was a hefty weight, giving a warm and steadying feeling.
Song Ran said, “Big Brother might not have drooping ears, but Big Brother has one area that’s different from most people. In the past, I also lived unhappily, always thinking that I was lacking everywhere and that all aspects of myself were unlikeable. Today, while I was on the phone, I was chatting with your dad. I originally thought that he would hate me, but he was very open-minded and didn’t say a single harsh word. On the contrary, he comforted me the whole time.”
“Just like the second group of rabbits?”
Bubu tilted his head back to look at him.
Song Ran nodded. “Mm-hm.”
Bubu’s heart was full of smugness. He pounded his own little chest, saying with great confidence, “Of course! He is my dad. I like you this much, so he definitely will also like you. Big Brother, don’t worry, Dad and I are the second group of rabbits. You’re so nice, so we will be with you forever.”
The child’s eyes shone like the stars at dawn, yet were deep like the night sky. It was as if by saying the word ‘forever’, it would really come true.
Song Ran’s eyes prickled with hidden tears, but he tried hard to endure it to the end. With a smile, he said, “Okay, we’ll be together forever.”