Nothing can stop love

  The Bund at night belongs to couples, couples who don’t have money. People who are not yet couples swing here and it’s almost time to break up, just like Peter and me.
  I also spoke about myself. Chattering a young woman, is probably the impression I left Peter that night. I was afraid that as soon as it got quiet, Peter would conclude by saying, “Thank you for this wonderful evening.” The sound of the river grew louder and louder. We cast our four beams of eyes into the distance, into the bad-smelling depths of the night. I turned my face, my mouth very close to his ear. His hair was so dense, three hairs must have grown from one pore. Only when the wind blew his hair up did I realize how wide his forehead was, the typical Jewish forehead. When he waited for me to turn away and go back to face the river, he turned his face to look at my side view as well. My profile was not much to look at, lacking a bit of undulation, overly contained but not exposed – a not very pretty side. I caught his gaze before he could turn his head.
  ”I didn’t used to be this skinny.” Peter apologized for his thinness.
  I just looked at him like that. It wasn’t like I was looking at how he looked. He got it, put an arm around me, and my waist and back were his. Gradually, my shoulders, hands, neck, cheeks, all of them were his, my whole person was his in a minute.
  I said some silly things, silly things that are not hard to imagine. He said fewer silly things. But I knew I shouldn’t ask too much of a man who hadn’t been out of a concentration camp for long. If he had said as many silly things as I did, I might have been disappointed.
  I said, “I’m getting old waiting for you.”
  He understood that I meant that I had been waiting for this destiny. He held me tightly in his arms.
  The customs clock struck 12:30.
  I hailed a yellow cab and squeezed into the seat with him. The car took him to the Waibaidu Bridge first, because there were twenty minutes to go before martial law, and then took me back to my ten-square-meter pavilion room so that Peter would not have to pay for the car. But when I arrived, the car driver told me that Peter had secretly paid for both of our rides in full. He had already started to advance the money for the work I had casually promised.
  It occurred to me then that I couldn’t keep my promise. We had swung around the Bund so much that we both forgot about the world, and when it was finally time to exchange addresses and phone numbers, we exchanged one long stare. A Jewish boy who desperately needs a job and money should be realistic! And it was his brief neglect of reality that moved me. Nothing can stop a love affair, not hunger, not a promising future.
  So, you see, I took my love affair with Peter so seriously at that time. For men and women of our age, we could live without bread, but not without love. Our interpretation of Homer, Shakespeare, Heine, Pushkin, Byron, Shelley, as well as Beethoven, Brahms, Mendelssohn, Schubert, in fact, always left some messy code, until a real love explosion, to decode them. This is the twenty-year-old me.

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