The Corn Seller
The dim, warm, yellow lamplight floated down the not-so-wide two-way street, and through it one could even see the dust falling slowly from the sky, floating on the white clouds that people breathed out and fading into darkness again silently. By and by, the crowd grew bustling with activity and the passing cars also parked on the congested street. Gradually, the faint street-light melted into the blinding white headlights, and the air sped up so that the dust was no longer visible.
Hordes of students, haphazard cars, and assorted vendors who sold appetizing late supper fare stuffed the not-so-spacious street. The woman selling corn and her husband, wearing dark sunglasses, were among them. They were both dressed in puffy gray cotton-padded clothes that were supposed to be black but had been washed countless times and faded to gray. The woman's hair was tucked haphazardly into the pilling woolen hat, exposing her comical, slovenly sideburns; her husband, with his hands in the pockets, who rested all his weight on his right leg and shook his left leg constantly, matching with his green-gray sunglasses, looked exactly like a hooligan.
"Look! So unhygienic and unclean! Who would dare to buy your corn?" I thought angrily and indignantly. But I tried to control my dissatisfaction and kept telling myself that contempt would be more humiliating to them than anger. So, I continued to cast disdainful eyes, as if expecting them to do something funny and tacky.
Sure enough! She looked like as mad as a hatter about money! I saw she reach into her well-worn, baggy, thread-covered army green fanny pack, zipped and unzipped again, and pulled out a wrinkled black cloth bag, a handful of crumpled, neatly folded yuan inside. As she went through such a "complex process", she also glanced at her corn and ran her sharp triangular eyes over pairs of students' hands. Facing the impatient expressions and frowning eyebrows of the crowded students, she didn’t care at all and was not even guilty for letting others unnecessarily wait in the cold wind! She touched the saliva on the tip of her tongue with her fingers, began to count the money expertly, and then handed it to the skinny, booklish-looking student wearing glasses with a grip of iron. The student did not get the money out of her hand immediately for her grip, causing chuckles all around. Then he pushed his glasses with shame and rage, snatched the money and the corn, and ran out of the crowd hastily.
I had great sympathy and deep experience for the student wearing glasses. For only a few days ago, the same black hands, like iron pincers, had also taken my fifty yuan and all my good favorable impressions of her.
On that chilly morning, everyone wanted to clench their hands tightly into fists and tuck them into their warm coat pockets. I was no exception. So, after taking the woman's corn and a pile of change, out of confidence in her, I quickly put the money into my pockets. However, I was still too young, to naive! When I discovered that fifty yuan was missing, I even politely asked her to return it as soon as I had finished school. After all, I thought she must have had been neglectful. But then she bursted out, as if trying to attract everyone's attention, "What! I couldn't have failed to give you the fifty! Don't think that because you're a student that you can slander me like that!" She cried out as if she had no shame, but my pride was squeezed more and more as the crowd gathered more and more around me. I threw in the towel and fled, but my heart was screaming curses at her.
As for her husband, "Humph!”, I let out a sneer, just a tool for her to gain sympathy. He wore a pair of dark sunglasses, and he did not move about at will. Also, he always stood beside the woman, creating the appearance of an affectionate couple in company with each other. So many of the caring and unwitting students thought of him as a poor blind man, a good husband who would accompany his wife to sell corn, even if he could not see and help. However, I could see through his impatience in the way he put his hands in his pockets and shook his legs. Not only that, but I also knew that he was not blind at all! Because I had seen him in the vegetable market near our school the other day recently. He was still wearing those sunglasses and his hands were in his pockets. However, instead of standing silently, he was swaggering and sweeping around the vegetable market. With an indulgent and unrestrained appearance, he was exactly like a hooligan who had just got money and then couldn’t wait to go to the Internet bar.
The greatest humiliation for them is to be ignored more so than to be despised. With that in my mind, I ended my memories and turned to leave without looking back.
After walking down the cold, dark path, I arrived at the bus stop and unconsciously reached into my pocket for my bus pass. The first time, nothing! In disbelief, I yanked it into my pocket again. There was still nothing! I hurried to open my bag. Not in this pocket! Not that pocket either! I made a list of everything, and even pulled open each page of my books to look for it. However, not my bus pass but a fifty dollar note drifted from the page of the book...
Along the way I came, I searched every corner, but there was no bus pass. The closer I got to the school gate, the more desperate and anxious I felt in my heart. Students had drifted away, and the street vendors of all sorts had left by twos and threes, dragging their carts with them. Suddenly, I saw that woman selling corn, but I hesitated to move forward. Not knowing why, I deliberately avoided her and continued to look for my bus pass, but I glanced at her again uncontrollably out of the corner of my eyes. She still remained in the cold wind, even though she was trembling with cold and could only walk to and fro to warm herself. It wasn't until the traffic had cleared from the streets, the school gates were closed, and there were no more students on the path that she began to gather her corns and zipped up her cloth bag.
"Hey! Are you looking for something, girl? See if this is your bus pass." Her voice was still so loud. Obviously, there was no one around, so I did not know who she was trying to attract. But thanks to her loud voice, I heard her after I had walked a long way away.
I took a deep breath, shuffled over, looked down, and took the bus pass. Looking up, I saw her eager eyes with a smile, and...and her husband, sunglasses off, beside her; under the corner of his left eye was a ferocious scar with stripes, like a centipede... I stared rigidly, at a loss. My thanks and apology stuck in my throat and couldn't get out. They looked at each other simultaneously, smiled helplessly, and walked away together.
The woman dragged the wooden trolley away, and the man followed her in silence. There were two mini coal stoves on the old trolley, an iron pot for boiling corn on the top, and inflexible wheels hitting the rugged, cracked tiles of the floor. The tinkling pots, the creaking of planks, and the sound of their heavy breathing mingled, far away...