Roaring Monster, by Mengqi Wan

I love motorcycling. I rode a motor cycle the first time when I was 14 years old. I can still remember racing flashily through the streets. The sunshine shining warmly on my cheeks, I blasted the horn at pedestrians and yell at them to stay away. My motorcycle rushed out of the city. I kept accelerating; and finally, I could hear nothing but the wind. I felt like I was flying.

Memory is an interesting thing. It suddenly appears in front of you like an uninvited spirit. It takes you to a dream world and induces you to believe it’s true. But, later, you find yourself back in the cold real world again and feel even more desperate. Memory is a cruel trick we play on ourselves. I was thinking about motorcycle when the doctor mentioned cancer. I wish I could be fourteen forever and never wake up facing late stage stomach cancer by myself.

If my wife were still here, she would have already burst into tears.

I loved my wife. I was glancing at the crowd near the entrance to Mills Hall, like I always did during class break. A girl dressed in light blue jeans and a white T-shirt caught my eye. Suddenly the world went quiet; I was fascinated by the creature. I tried to calm myself down and walked over towards her. I didn’t know what to say really. When she saw me, I just asked her, “Where is the Room 203?” That was our first meeting. Our last was in this hospital.

I hate hospitals and I hate doctors. The doctor proceeds. He talks emotionlessly, like a judge, reading the death penalty sentence. No pity, no change in pitch, just the normal ritual doctors usually do before telling you are going to die. He told me I could die anytime or three months later. Finally, for god’s sake, he stopped. He glanced at me, stood up, patted on my shoulders and said, “Take care.”

I walked out of the hospital with the diagnosis in my hand. It’s typical Britain winter, freezing and damp. My thoughts charges wildly. What am I going to do? I don’t even want to tell my children. I have two very successful children I should be proud of. I couldn’t remember the last time we had dinner together. Maybe because I am an old man. At least they know my birthday. They call couple of times a year. “Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear father, dear grandfather. We will call you next year.”

Death, oh death! I hate Walt Whitman. Death is not a strange word to me. I watched my grandfather die when I was 10 years old. I saw a smile on his face. My father died of a heart attack when I was 30. I wasn’t there. I watched my wife die when I was 70 years old. I swear not to touch those memories again.

I come back home, if you want to call it that, and take off my coat. I walk onto the balcony and light a cigarette. I look blankly into the gloomy sky. I have no clue, now and the next three months.

What are people going to say about me when I die? I’ve been an ordinary person my whole life. I was not talked about very much when I was alive, and I will not be talked about when I am dead. Eighty years. Not bad for a stubborn old man like me. What I have done in that long time? Went to the best schools, got admitted to a not bad college and got my degree, found a decent job with a decent salary, bought a small apartment in the city and married a girl both my parents had seen before. Had two children and died of stomach cancer like one million other people. They could summarize my whole life for my tombstone in less 50 words.

What I have lived for? It is a ridiculous question for an 80-year- old man with cancer to ask himself. It’s dark outside as dark as my soul. I sigh and throw the butt off the balcony. I go inside and sit on the sofa. Looking at the clock on the wall, I start to feel sorry for myself. I am like waiting anxiously for a train. I fall asleep. I think of working on my will and my autobiography.

The roar of motor cycle engines disturbs the silence. I wake up. Bunch of young men were racing along the shore. I even rode on the motor with my wife. I rush downstairs to the garage without my coat. I turned on the light. Dust flew when I open the rolling door. After 30 years, both the motor cycle and I are dinosaurs. I could leave my competitors in the dust. My fingers are running on the cool metal. I poured a gallon of gas into the tank and I jumped onto the saddle. Then I kicked the starter. I could feel the pulse in its metal body. Motorcycles never grow old. An engine is hard to stop, once you start it.

I am almost about to set out, what I am going to do after the short trip. Go back home, spend whole day staring at the clock, waiting for my last gasp, like what a dying old man is supposed to do? Or something extraor- dinary-a longer trip. I chill out a little bit and go upstairs for a better sleep. I need a conscious mind to make a deci- sion, maybe the last decision in my life.

It is another sleepless night. The city experiences a storm actually.

6 o’clock in the morning. While I am heading to south along the shore, I almost start to regret how many beautiful sunrises I have missed. After the storm, the air is moist and chilling. I breathe the cold salty air greedily. It’s the smell of life. I am now like a Marlboro man riding on the horse, released from the burden and charging wildly. Cancer, go to the hell, so do the memories. It doesn’t matter where I come from, It doesn’t matter where I am going; it matters that I will never return.

-Mengqi Wan

Featured In:

Vol 1 Iss 9
Issue 9, Out of Print