This Is Your Life, Wang XianSheng. Part 2.
Posted by MyLaowai on Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Part 2 in a 3-part series on the life of Wang XianSheng, an ordinary citizen of the People’s Republic of China.
When last we saw Wang, he had, at the age of 27, just become a father. His wife, with whom he has a loveless relationship, was alone in the hospital and Wang was spending his misbegotten gains on a KTV hostess.
Wang’s life is a good one: he has an apartment (which he shares with his wife and parents), he has a television (everyone needs a hobby), and he has a son (so no more pressure from his parents in that department). He also has a job at a State-owned company (which allows him to earn a significant under-the-table income), and he has a mistress on which to spend it. Yes indeed, life is fine for Wang XianSheng.
The next few years are fairly uneventful for Wang. His wife is unable to find a new lover, so she continues to act the good wife at home, and keeps her normally sharp tongue in check. His parents spend their days taking care of his son and doing the housework, so he is spared the bother of having to worry about the chores, and his KTV hostess finally agrees to have sex with him. Wang installs her in a nearby apartment so that he can spend the evenings with her, instead of having to deal with his family.
Behind the scenes, though, trouble is brewing. His wife, from the first day of their marriage, has been slowly siphoning Wang’s finances into her own secret account. She, of course, sees this as only natural and if she ever thought about it, would argue that it’s the duty of every wife to do so. Nevertheless, she is a long way along the path of being able to leave Wang, and she has begun to press him to buy her a second apartment, as an ‘investment’. His mistress, too, is plotting for control of Wang’s finances, and has started to suggest that he should divorce his wife and put the apartment into her own name. Wang of course, hasn’t the courage to leave his wife, and hasn’t the integrity to stay. Although things could well continue on like this for some time, a confrontation is almost inevitable at some point.
Wang is thirty two when his father dies of a heart attack. This unfortunate event opens a wholly unexpected can of worms, as before the body is even cold, several of his uncles and cousins start squabbling for control of the assets, including the apartment. This is the beginning of a family feud that will last years, and although Wang will eventually win control of the apartment and ninety percent of his late fathers’ assets, it will be a pyrrhic victory.
Thirty four and Wang’s mother is diagnosed with gastric cancer. The doctors prescribe lots of different Chinese medicines for her, including anti-cancer herbs, qi (chi) tonics, blood-vitalizing tonics, and phlegm-resolving herbs, but nothing seems to help. Wang is told that she might need Western radiation treatment, which will be expensive. This requires a great deal of thought, as Wang is about to buy a car. A car will certainly show everyone he is a big man in the world, but on the other hand, his mother does do all the housework and raises his son for him. Eventually, Wang decides to beg some money from a relative for her operation, thus ensuring a win-win (two wins) scenario for himself.
Wang is thirty seven when the foreigner moves into his apartment building. Really, this is intolerable! Why can’t the foreigner go back to his own country? Wang quietly starts a one-man campaign to have the foreigner evicted, but he is unsuccessful. And fortunately so, as his wife points out to him one night, for his son is at school now and some free English language tuition would certainly be useful. Wang agrees, and asks a friend (who speaks a little English), to enquire as to whether the foreigner can give free English lessons to Wang’s son. The foreigner politely declines, and Wang is incensed – who does this laowai think he is, anyway? Doesn’t he know that Wang is an important man? China should be for the Chinese, and Wang vows to have the last word on the subject.
Thirty eight, nine months later, and Wang gets his last word, when he tells a friend in the Public Security Bureau that this foreigner regularly invites prostitutes back to his apartment. In fact, the foreigner is living with his Taiwanese girlfriend, but that all ends when the police knock on the door one night. The end result is that the girlfriend dumps the foreigner, who is asked to leave the country with a big red ‘Prostitution‘ stamp in his passport. Wang celebrates with a prostitute of his own.
Forty two, and Wang’s mother dies. Wang is devastated – how dare she? Wang has spent all his life caring for her, and now she leaves him with a son to raise and housework to do! Wang has never loved his wife or son, has never had real friends, and even his father was just a person who was there, but his mother, the only person he has ever trusted has finally, in the end, betrayed him. The fucking bitch. Who will look after him now? Two weeks after the funeral Wang’s mistress, seeing her chance, delivers an ultimatum: leave your wife and give me the apartment, or else. Wang, furious and unable to cope with the pressure, beats his mistress and tells her she is finished. Later the same day, he beats his wife and son, too. He is a big man, and nobody should dare to threaten him!
Forty three now, and things have settled down again. His mistress has left him for one of her other lovers, but Wang doesn’t care – she was getting old, there are plenty of other fish in the sea, and he has just had a promotion. Wang has been put in charge of approving applications for certain licenses. As a result, he can now earn more through graft every month than some of his colleagues earn in a year.
The next eight years are good for Wang. His son does well at school and then college, and though Wang isn’t sure exactly what his son studies, it is enough that he can boast of the boy’s success. His wife is still with him (having lost a lot of money gambling at the mahjong table, she can no longer afford to leave). And of course, he has the ‘respect’ of the community.
And it all ends for him one morning in August. At seven forty five in the morning, Wang XianSheng, aged fifty one, dies of a heart attack. Wang leaves behind a twenty four year old son and a forty seven year old widow. He never knew his son, never loved his wife. Wang XianSheng never had a true friend, never knew trust. He did not marry for love, nor ever understood the concept. He did not travel to other countries, and he never understood anything about the people who live there. He never thought thoughts that were truly his own. He never appreciated art or poetry, never understood philosophy, never read a book for pleasure. And though he spent virtually all of his life in the company of others, he lived out his existence completely alone.
Wang was not unusual, there are nearly a billion and a half other people just like him. He was a product of his society, and this was his life.
Part three coming soon…