Tracy 罗奥 180110729
“So are you happy now? Finally happy now, are you? This innocent feminine voice haunted Susan’s mind. Susan felt that someone might have asked her this question, but she was not sure because it seemed to hide in the distant reminiscence, and it was so painstaking to figure out where or who. Instead, she was inclined to linger on the illusion that everything was the same. She still looked as resplendent as the previous Susan. She desired to mutter “Yes, I’m happy...” But she felt that an invisible palm was suffocating her to stop the lie and made her too breathless to utter a word. This mighty palm might be a good assistant. An ching feeling disillusioned her and prevented this ineffective indulgence. She feebly lay in the wheelchair and struggled to figure out her situation.
Susan Smith was a beautiful and intelligent girl. Born in a middle-class family, she had received an elite education since her childhood. Susan Smith rose all the way along her primary, junior, high school, college, and her career. Her life seemed nearly perfect, and everyone might have had good reason to envy her. But the fact was that other people shouldn’t have done so at all because Susan was just like a delicate puppet, controlled by her parents to be displayed on the stage. Her parents imposed their eccentric doctrine onto her. They told her that she must become an excellent student with perfect behavior on campus and making friends was merely a waste of time. From an early age, Susan had regarded it as truth. She was preoccupied with study and extracurricular activities. In reality, she wasn’t interested in these activities at all, but the reason why she engaged in them was so that she could glorify her application for prestigious colleges to become Perfect Susan. She didn’t have any dreams; all she did was to win admiration and compliments from adults like teachers or the parents of her classmates. She was joy when praised by other people and this was her happiness. She didn’t need friends because she believed that her peers were so naive that getting on with them couldn’t provide her sense of achievement or gratification. She treated peers with a little bit pride and prejudice. She was a perfectionist and longed for flawless marks, behavior, and occupation. She never felt fatigued and her constant goal was to be perfect every day. She thought only when equipped with praise or reward was she happy.
Susan had turned 25 this year, and it seemed that she had realized her hopes: she was admitted to a famous college and received a desirable offer. She was surrounded by roses and leading a perfect life every day. But all of these had changed due to a car accident. When her family were heading for a ball in their car, another car suddenly emerged, and they crashed together. Unluckily, her parents didn’t make it. She survived but with a disfigured face, a heavy head, and paralyzed legs. She was sent to a local convalescent hospital under close watch. She had dizzy spells for half of a day and for the other half she was in a daze, staring at the sea outside the window. Once in a while, she would smile. But compared to others’ smile, she seemed more likely to be smirking. A superficial smile on a disfigured face made it look terrible, even distorted. According to her attending doctor, it was strange that there was no signs to show the improvement of her state; maybe she needed more care and company from her friends. The fact was that she had no friends, no other links with the world, and she preferred to sink in the past rather than recover in such a physical condition.
Susan lay in the armchair and observed the sea level as usual. The hospital was near the sea but scarcely any violent wind disturbed the sea level on ordinary days. The sea had been dead calm, but she would rather make a wild guess that turbulence must have been concealing itself from the sea bottom, and it would burst out one day. Gradually, it was raining outside and the mist condensed above the sea. Susan felt drowsier, and then she yawned. She strived to open her eyes but suddenly, turbulent flows were rapidly sweeping over her.
She felt herself dragged into the torrent, but after a while, she felt relieved. She gulped the air heavily and realized that she wasn’t still in the convalescent home but now was standing on the beach outside her ward. She was at a loss because her feet could move freely now. Exhilaration surpassed bewilderment. The sea was not raging but exuberant with waves. She walked in the soft sandy beach, walked the waves. She felt a secret pleasure: I am so happy now. The car accident must have been a nightmare. But why am I standing on the beach now? Abruptly, she noticed an adolescent girl sitting in a wheelchair and taking care of her hair with a mirror. Susan thought she could get information from the girl. She gradually approached her but as she got closer, she felt weirder because this pretty girl resembled herself. The girl perceived the movement and turned her head. Susan was plunged into shock and rendered speechless. This little girl was another Susan, 15-year-old Susan. Susan remembered that she had stayed in a similar hospital near the sea at the age of 15 because she had slipped and fallen from the stage when performing ballet at some festival. Her family had arranged for her to stay in a hospital. At that time, she had low spirits, isolated herself from the outside world, and refused all her classmates’ visit. She assumed that no one was really cared about her, and they merely wanted to deride her unlucky accident.
An indifferent voice broke Susan’s contemplation about the remote past. “Lizzy, I don’t need your visit; I am quite well. So could you please go away now? By the way, the sands stick to your face.” Little Susan added, passing her cosmetic mirror. Susan blankly took over, stared at the face in it and eventually understood why she had called her Lizzy. The familiar common face with freckles, but it might be described as lovely. Surprisingly, Susan naturally replied with girlish tone, “I am just missing you so I decided to pay you a visit.” Little Susan didn’t want to continue this conversation because to chat eagerly was meaningless, and Susan shouldn’t do that. Susan undoubtedly caught on the minds of herself so she chose to sit on the sand and watch seagulls flying under and over. Susan helped, asking the question “Are these seagulls happy now?”
Seagulls were forever free to hover through the sky. Beyond question, they were happy. “Happy, happiness....” A pivotal clue struck Susan. It was Lizzy who had probed into the philosophy of happiness with her. Lizzy, Susan’s deskmate in junior school, was an extroverted and amiable girl. She had many freckles on her face so classmates gave her a nickname Little Freckle. But she didn’t fret about it; instead, she considered it as the friendly proof of her fellows’ affection. Without doubt, it was very easy for her to play well with others. Lizzy had many friends, and she invariably held the belief that friendship was the most gorgeous thing in the world. She adored Susan and appreciated her beauty, wisdom, and courtesy. She concluded Susan’s indifference and self-containment was just part of her introverted and shy personality. On the moment they became desk mates, Lizzy made much effort to develop an intimate relationship with Susan. Lizzy always took the initiative to greet her whenever she could, approached her to chat, and even actively invited her to join their girl group. However, Lizzy had met the first person who wouldn’t be her friend; Susan was always absorbed in book heaps and only nodded or replied with a decline facing the greetings or invitations. It seemed that Susan begrudged a smile or small talk. After nearly a month, Lizzy gave up and realized that to harmoniously get along with Susan was nearly impossible. After Susan had a stage accident, Lizzy insisted on going to the hospital with her best regards but was refused. Upon Susan’s return to school, she found the seat next to her vacant. Lizzy had transferred to another school but the paper and study materials she had organized for Susan remained. Susan accepted the fact in silence and after that, Lizzy was merely a blurred image in her mind.
What occurred to Susan now was an episode from their relationships. It was a PE class in the afternoon. Other classmates were playing on the playground while only the two of them had remained in the classroom. Susan found an excuse to do one of her most important experiment reports. Lizzy had a headache and lay on the desk with her elbows, listless. Observing Susan’s struggle with her report, Lizzy also struggled with her inner heart and asked the doubt that had long been circling around her: “Susan, so, are you happy now? Finally happy, now are you? I had been betting that you must be happy because you are endowed with a fairness and wit that are difficult for us to acquire. But after we became deskmates, I became a little confused. If you are happy, why don’t you smile even if it’s just for one second? But actually, I have never noticed that. But I also can’t figure out the exact reason why you are not happy. Lizzy turned around because she thought Susan wouldn’t respond as usual and it was more like a monologue to herself. Nevertheless, what Lizzy didn’t know was that Susan stopped the report thing and finally wrote down “perfect” after tough meditation.
After ten years, sitting on the beach, recalling that little interlude and various things with Lizzy, Susan seemed to comprehend the connotation of Happiness. She couldn’t see herself buried in solitude and monotonous life for pursing so-called perfectionism any more. Happiness signifies individual freedom, ideal pursuit from the inner heart, and solidarity and friendship with other people. Beauty and intelligence are important because they could make human beings charismatic, but they can’t compare to happiness. Happiness makes a person a real person because he or she can start to experience the emotional feeling by oneself. Instead of the extreme perfectionism displayed on the stage, happiness in real life is more vivid and appealing.
Susan mustered up her courage to break the silence as breaking the cocoon she had been stuck in. “Susan, are you happy now? But I can tell you I am happy finally. I know in all probability you won’t reply, and you might think it’s a silly question. It’s okay if you don’t answer but please spend your several minutes listening to me. Just now I understood the precious truth that I have been ignoring. It’s not because no one had not told me before but the point it that I had been forcing myself to ignore it deliberately. I didn’t have the determination or nerve to admit it so I chose to avoid it all the time and indulge myself in the shackles my parents had been imposing on me. The shackles had been my negative comfort zone, and I didn’t have the might to get rid of them. You are the same, too. You have been telling yourself that you need no friends and perfectionism is your perpetual goal. But are these true words from your inner heart? Are compliments and admiration from others your real happiness? Or are they simply your parents’ requirements or long-cherished wishes? In fact, you must have been hesitant when encountering others’ friendly moves. But you forced yourself to neglect them. If you couldn’t cope with normal interpersonal relationships, how dare you allege yourself perfect? Pay attention to your ambient world and give away your care and good faith. Relationships are mysterious and reciprocal. They are the bonds you have with the world. If you pay with sincerity, you will receive affection from your peers. Embrace them boldly and wherever you go, you won’t be lonely, unlike me...”
Susan was still staring at the sea level. The sun was up, adding vigor and vitality to the world. With golden sunlight, the sea looked more colored and dazzling. Susan couldn’t ensure whether Little Susan would respond, and she kept focusing on her past memories. The seagulls were gone. Maybe they had flown to another, freer region. With the breeze and sunlight, Susan slowly fell asleep. Ultimately, Little Susan turned her head as if deep in thought. As a matter of fact, 10 years ago, 15-year-old Susan also turned her head to Lizzy and thought about her real happiness.