Sunday, June 20, 2021

In Search of a Brother Thousands of Miles Away

At 6 years of age, Xiao Bei lost her parents in a car accident. She cried and screamed her heart out like any 6-year-old would. Her brother, 14-year-old Xiao Bao, neither cried nor screamed. He only held Xiao Bei closely until she fell asleep in his arms.

Xiao Bei began to depend on Xiao Bao as she had with her parents. She needed him to take her to school and to pick her up at the end of the day. Right from the moment that Xiao Bei realized that their parents would never come back, she became fearful that her brother would also leave her one day. That sense of insecurity made her meek and obedient. Nevertheless, Xiao Bao left in the end.

Xiao Bei woke up one morning and found herself sleeping on someone else’s bed. Her brother was nowhere to be seen. A neighbor whom she addressed as auntie told her Xiao Bao left to work in the city. From then on, she lived in auntie’s home. Although Xiao Bei knew that auntie and uncle were good friends of her parents, she was overwhelmed by a wave of hopelessness that was stronger than the time she lost her parents because the fear she harbored all along had turned into reality. She firmly believed that Xiao Bao had sold her to her new parents, left with the money, and dumped her.

Knowing her brother would never return, Xiao Bei accepted the total change of her life rapidly. Luckily, Xiao Bei’s adopted parents treated her nicely. She returned their sentiments with love, but more with gratitude. When the name of Xiao Bao was mentioned again, Xiao Bei was 11, already a fourth-grader.

A neighbor who she addressed as auntie told her Xiao Bao left to work in the city. (Image: Estial via wikimedia CC BY-SA 4.0)
A neighbor who she addressed as auntie told her Xiao Bao left to work in the city. (Image: Estial via wikimedia CC BY-SA 4.0)

That night, while she was helping to uncoil yarn, her adopted mother suddenly asked: “Don’t you miss your brother after all these years? He was so young himself, how could he raise you?” Xiao Bei tightened her lips and said nothing. She did not miss him, she hated him! She said: “Don’t talk about him anymore, mom.” She hated him indeed — she was not afraid of living the poorest life with him, even if she could not go to school, or had to beg for a living with him — he took away her devotion to the only family member she had. For that, she could never forgive him.

At 16, she was admitted with good marks to a senior high school. However, she decided to work when she finished high school. Her adopted parents had already provided her with more than enough. She did not want to burden them any further. The parents were adamant — Xiao Bei had to go to college. She was equally unyielding saying: “I will not apply. I am determined about that.” Her mother tried to persuade her: “You have to try, Xiao Bei. Let me tell you, Xiao Bao has saved enough for you to go to college. You have to continue your education. Don’t let him down. It wasn’t easy for him to save all that money.”

They told her that her brother knew he was incapable of taking care of a 6-year-old. He decided to go to the city to make a living for both of them. He sold the house and with the little money he got from it, he gave it all to them and entrusted Xiao Bei into their hands because he knew they would love and take good care of her. On the day he left, he promised solemnly: “Auntie, I will make a proper life out there and come back for my sister!” “Xiao Bao began sending money back every month since you became a fourth-grader. We have saved up all that money.”

All of a sudden, Xiao Bei was full of questions and those questions started filling in the void that she held in her heart since her brother left that morning. She was engulfed by a sense of happiness knowing that she was loved by her brother after all. Xiao Bao had never given her up. He had been loving and taking care of her all along. Why didn’t he visit? Didn’t he promise to come back for me?

At 16, she was admitted with good marks to a senior high school. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)
At 16, she was admitted with good marks to a senior high school. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

The money was sent from Guangzhou in China with no specified sending address. She made up her mind that she would go to Guangzhou to find him. Xiao Bei got into a university in Guangzhou when she graduated from high school. Guangzhou was a vast city. Finding a person was not easy at all.

While she was studying there, Xiao Bao kept on sending money back home. Xiao Bei found a job in Guangzhou after she graduated from university. She continued her search for Xaio Bao as much as possible. As she became almost hopeless after all the time she spent on searching for her brother and to no avail, she spotted a photo while reading news on the Internet. It was a photo of a tiny newsstand. What caught her eyes was a thin man holding a tool with his mouth and working with his only hand repairing a bicycle.

As she looked at his face, she almost fainted. Blood shot to her head — wasn’t that Xiao Bao? She hurried to read the news. Her pain after reading it was so intense that she could hardly breathe: Xiao Bao was working at a construction site when he lost an arm in a machine accident. That year he was 19. He could only wander around to try to make a living — picking odds and ends from refuse, selling newspapers, handing out flyers… until he opened up the tiny newsstand that enabled him to sell newspapers and magazines while mending bicycles.

Xiao Bao was busy changing a tire on a bike with some skill when Xiao Bei stood in front of the newsstand. Sweat ran down his rugged face, but he didn’t look bothered by his tough life. Reading the calm and easy nature, and even a subtle smile on his face, she seemed to have traveled through time and saw the 14-year-old brother who was holding her to sit on the carousel 18 years ago. “Madam, you…” her silence aroused his doubt. When he turned and looked at her, he was stunned! “Big brother! This is Xiao Bei…” The two finally united after being separated for nearly 20 years. The future might still be difficult, but the two had the courage to face anything — with one another.

Translated by Cecilia and edited by Helen

Source: Secret China

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