徘徊在城南 / Wandering in the South City

Chinese

我又看见了他:他大约在四十岁上下,身材高大,骨骼匀称,一脸肃穆。他似乎喜欢夏行冬令,刚入夏时穿过一身破棉祆,现在盛夏了,他穿着的是从垃圾箱里捡来的一套厚厚的黑色呢西装,与此相配,又用同样是捡来的一簇亮闪闪米色丝绒窗帘布在脖子里挽起来,系成了一个特大号自制领带;他的鞋子已经破烂得看不出质地,不知是皮鞋布鞋还是胶鞋,鞋子很不合尺寸,脚趾全都大大咧咧地露在了外面;他的帽子呢,实在太与众不同了,用好几个盛装化肥的塑料编织袋子盘旋着扎系在一起,形成一个大大的环形,套在头顶上,帽沿厚实宽敞,很像十八世纪西方歌舞剧里王公贵族的帽子。他的头发不长不短,乱蓬蓬的,像刺猬,而胡子却不知为何剃得干干净净。

他就这样一身奇异装扮,走在城南大街上,穿过喧闹的菜市场,如同穿过无人区。他从不东张西望,对道路两旁的市井生活从未表示过兴趣。他从不打算正眼瞧这个世界一眼,他既不昂首阔步也不低眉顺眼,只是迈着匀速的步子旁若无人地走着,不卑不亢。

他总是在这个小区及其附近转悠,活动范围就是我们城南这片位于山间的市区,半径大约不超过五华里。他每天都在这城南徘徊,步态雍容。他的外表打扮貌似济公,但又没有丝毫济公的嘻皮劲头和反讽意味,我只能说,我只能说他实在是很有一些魏晋风度的。

有一天,他的胸前竟多出一朵绢花来,端端正正地别在左胸,是那种两三片绿叶衬托着的大红花,下面还有一条小飘带,用烫金字写着“新郎”或者“先进工作者”之类,具体写了什么字样,因为距离不够近,我没能看清楚。这朵从垃圾箱里淘来的大红花如此隆重地被别在胸前,他的身上终于多出了一抹亮色,竟如此鲜艳夺目,这是他的审美,很有些后现代或者黑色幽默。

经过长期观察,我发现他心智正常,绝不会是一个精神病患者,他的举止动作和表情从来没有出格的时候,从无扰乱社会秩序的迹像,他很守交通规则,他甚至很懂事,经过河上一座窄窄小桥时还会主动给老人或小狗让路。他脸上带着永远不变的沉静和温和,只是有时候略显凝重些,明显是在思索,像哲学家一样为了某个命题心事满腹。这个地地道道的无家可归的流浪者,他身上的文明和自律,还有那么一点不易察觉的书卷气,又表明他很可能是一个知识分子。

他绝不当乞丐,街上有许多卖食品的摊点店铺,他从来没有流露出过艳羡的表情,他在穷困得一无所有时仍保持着相当的自尊;他显然以捡垃圾箱里的衣食为生,但他决不是那种在城市边缘以此为职业来谋生的拾荒者,从来没见他与小区里骑三轮收购废品的人打过任何交道,他捡垃圾只为自给自足,没有丝毫屯积这些可变废为宝的东西化为财物让自己过得比现在更好的打算。

他永远没有同伙,总是孤单一人,真正是独行独坐独唱独酬还独卧,他看上去却似乎很充实,从来没有流露过烦躁不安,或产生跟任何人交流倾诉的愿望。我想他应该不是哑巴,他走在街上总能灵敏地躲开汽车和人,他的听力是好的,根据十哑九聋的说法,还根据哑巴面部普遍特征来分析判断,他都不应该是哑巴。他一定是会说话的,只是我从来没有听见他跟任何人讲过话罢了。我常常设想,如果有一天,他忽然抬起头或转过身来,望着我,张开了嘴巴,会说什么呢?

English

I encounter him again: about forty years old, standing tall, well-balanced, and always carrying a solemn look about him. It seems he likes to dress for the wrong season. He was wearing a battered padded cotton jacket at summer’s break, and now in the mid-summer he puts on a thick and dark-colored wool dress suit that was picked up at some waste dump. To match, a bundle of cream-colored velvet curtains of the same origin is wrapped around his neck to make an extra-large makeshift tie; his shoes are so tattered that one cannot tell if they are made of cloth or rubber. On top of that, the shoes are ill-fitting and his toes carelessly parade in the open. His hat is truly one of a kind, for it is a big ring thrown together from several plastic bags intended for fertilizers; its thick and wide brim rests on his head, like the hat of an aristocrat from the scene of an eighteenth-century Western opera. His hair is about the right length but is in a tangled mess, like a porcupine; his beard, however, is shaved clean for some unknown reason.

I have concluded, based on my long-term observations, that he is normal. He could not be a mental patient because there is never a moment his actions and expressions are out of the ordinary and he has never done something to disturb the social order.

In this unusual getup he ambles the streets of the South City, through the noisy farmers’ market, as if in a no man’s land. His eyes never wonder nor show any interest in the life of the city on either side of the street. He does not take a good look at the world around him, neither does he march with his chin up or project a submissive posture. All he does is taking a measured gait and remaining in a world unto himself that is neither humble nor haughty.

He always wanders in this neighborhood and its proximity, for his range of activity is limited to this part of the South City between the mountains, with a radius of less than three miles. Every day he wanders here, graceful and poised. He dresses like Ji Gong[1] but has nothing of Ji Gong’s mischief and satire. I must say — it just occurs to me — he has quite the demeanor of the literati in the Wei-Jin Dynasties.

One day a silk flower grew onto his chest. It was fastened upright on his left chest, the kind with big red petals set against a couple of green leaves. A little ribbon was attached below, on which “groom” or “model worker” were written in gilded Chinese characters, but I could not tell which it was because of the distance. Finally a sliver of color graced his body, with such a solemnly placed flower rescued from a garbage can. It was so bright and so eye-catching, a reminder of his aesthetics, located somewhere between postmodernism and black humor.

I have concluded, based on my long-term observations, that he is normal. He could not be a mental patient because there is never a moment his actions and expressions are out of the ordinary and he has never done anything to disturb the social order. He observes traffic rules; he is sensible enough to yield the way to seniors or puppies at the little narrow bridge over the river. His face wears a never-changing look of calm and peace, although sometimes it takes on a veneer of dignity, indicating that he is deep in his thoughts, like a philosopher consumed by certain vexing questions. As a homeless vagabond out-and-about, he demonstrates civility and self-discipline, plus an almost indiscernible air of bookishness. All signs point to him being an intellectual.

He does not beg. On the streets there are many food stands or shops, for which he never shows a craving. He remains dignified while penniless. Obviously he lives on pickings from garbage cans, but is unlike those who collect throwaways as an occupation on the margins of the city. I have never seen him dealing with vendors of recyclables riding on tricycles in the neighborhood. He gathers throwaways only for his self-consumption, harboring no intention of aiming for a better life by turning the collected waste into a fortune for the future.

He has no company. He is always by himself, walking, sitting, singing, drinking and sleeping alone. He appears very content and shows no sign of displeasure or irritation, nor desire to communicate with anybody. I don’t think he is a mute, for he is able to nimbly dodge automobiles and pedestrians, which suggests he has good hearing. According to the saying “Ten Mutes, Nine Deaf” and judging from the general facial characteristics of a mute, I believe he is not mute. He must be able to speak, although I have not heard him speak to anybody. I often wonder: if one day he suddenly lifts his head or turns around and looks at me and opens his mouth, what would he say?

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REFERENCES

  1. Ji Gong (1130-1209) is a Buddhist monk whose good deeds and eccentric behavior have become legendary in China.

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