Please Pay Attention to the Signs

by Ginger wRong Chen

Saturday morning, Sha’r awakes to a peal of thunder. She looks out the window, rain is pouring down. Thrown by the wind, it sweeps in through the open windows, pattering on the floor which is already half wet. She wraps the blanket tighter, responding to the cold air. A flash of lightning strikes down from the sky. She trembles.

“Is this a sign telling me not to go on this trip?”

Sha’r grabs a shawl and approaches the windows with bare feet. Struggling with the window, she says to herself, “Not unless planes can’t take off,” she sneezes. “Five more hours to go.”


Four hours later, as she arrives at Xi’an Xianyang International Airport the rain has calmed down, turned into a whispering drizzle. She raises her head and speaks gratefully into the air, “I know you are emotional. You lose your temper now and then, I do the same thing too, but you get over it quickly.”

After checking in her luggage and passing the security check, she goes to the ladies’ room. There she realizes  she has forgotten her luck charm sea-star necklace at home.

Every night before she gets into a long bath she removes the necklace, then she puts it back on every morning after a quick shower. But she didn’t have time to take a quick shower this morning. She spent too much time packing. She wanted to pack light and smart. But the more she wanted to do it right, the more anxious she got. When she rushed out of her apartment, her neck was naked without the sea-star and she was carrying a suitcase weighing more than her allowed 20kg.

On a few occasions  in the past she forgot the necklace and she had had bad experiences of flying, almost without exception. Once the plane was delayed for five hours. Once she was seated next to a super-fat guy who’s body spread out to her side of the seat, taking up at least half of her space. He smelled like cheap baijiu mixed with raw goat meats.

She prayed deeply that she won’t be waiting at the boarding gate for more than an hour and she won’t be seated by anyone who is fat or smells bad.

They start boarding on time. And her seat is 13A. When she sees a slim young girl with sunshine smile sitting at 13B, she feels deeply relieved.

Everything is fine. Everything is going to be fine.

Sha’r buckles herself up. Through the tiny plane window, she sees the sky looking in good shape already. She smiles, “I will just go there and say hello, maybe for a dinner or a drink. Do it casually, not a big deal. It’s like a weekend trip. That’s it.” As these thoughts running through her mind, her fingers can’t help tapping on her thighs continuously.

“Are you afraid of flying?” The 13B girl asks attentively.

“No. I am fine with flying.”

“You sure? You seem nervous.”

“I am going to see a man.”

“Oh!” 13B gives an understanding look.

“But I’m not nervous about seeing him. Well…maybe a little. I have never seen him before. We met through the internet. So…”

“Oh, men really love that.” The man sitting in 13C leans forward and jumps into their conversation. He’s wearing a plaid shirt and dark-rimmed glasses.

“Really?” Sha’r is seeking whatever support she can get.

“Of course not. We think you’re nuts. I wouldn’t want a woman like that. She could be crazy. There’s got to be something wrong with her. What kind of woman would fly so far away to see a strange man anyway?”

“A romantic woman!” Sha’r argues.

“You never go being romantic. You play hard to get.” 13B girl explains.

“I don’t want to play games.”

“You call it games. I call it rules. There are things you do, there are things you do not. Trust me, I know men, they will be immediately turned off if you’re too proactive.” 13B girl turns to 13C man. “Am I right?”

“Absolutely!” he nods eagerly, then “Though I wouldn’t mind a bit of your proaction.” He winks at 13B through his dark-rimmed glasses.

“If I’m doing this wrong, there will be signs. But you know what, today everything seemingly bad turned out to be OK. This trip is going to be OK. I have faith.” Sha’r assures herself as the plane took off.

Two hours later, Sha’r landed in Shanghai Hongqiao Airport with the freshly minted couple 13B and 13C.

“If things don’t work out, call us. Let’s arrange a dinner together this weekend in Shanghai.” 13B says snuggling up to 13C.

“I really hope we can have dinner together next time I visit.” Sha’r waves good-bye to them.


A twenty-minute taxi ride takes her straight to her destination, putting her heart in a flutter. Rising up to his apartment in the elevator she struggles with the torturing thoughts; “What if they are right and I am a fool? Would he laugh at me, think I am a creep, or slam the door at me?”

At last, the elevator stops at the 20th floor. She inhales a long breath as the elevator doors open. A young man with a baseball cap is standing impatiently outside the elevator with what looks to be a hastily packed canvas bag in his arms. He jumps over her big suitcase and gets in, impatiently jabbing the close door button as she is walking out. The doors almost crush her pink suitcase

“That’s not a very welcoming sign,” but she dismisses it since she has come so far without any major setbacks.

Standing at the door of Room 2002, she knocks softly with eyes closed.

Then harder.

Then much harder…Till someone opens the door from inside.  The man looks at her and exhales a long breath.

She dares not look up at his face, holding on to the last bit of courage before it disappears,  “I came to see you. I have to. Otherwise I won’t sleep or eat. I will think I may have missed the love of my life. I know you probably think I am crazy. But I am not. I just need this peace of mind. And I think I love you.”

As she speaks the last three words, Sha’r slowly raises her head and throws a glance at the man she is talking to. And she sees a face so strange from the one burned to her mind.

Her mouth falls open with awkwardness and confusion. A few possibilities run through her mind like a bullet train: he gave her the wrong address; he showed someone else’s picture to her or she is really stupid and got the wrong apartment.

“Ha ha, you are such a silly girl!” She hears him laughing, “Do I look like the  man you are in love with? I’m a thousand times better-looking than him. I am just his roommate. You didn’t see him on the way up here? He left two minutes ago.”

It is a long while before she can reply properly, “The man with the baseball cap?”

“Yeah, you didn’t recognize him? He is a nut. You two are perfect for each other.” The roommate pulls out his iPhone 4 and begins to dial.


The man with the baseball cap is standing by the intersection outside his apartment. He just finished crossing the street as the phone in his pocket starts ringing. He answers it, “Give it a rest man,  I told you I have to go there. I have to see her, I don’t care how far away it is. I need this peace of mind…What?…You’re kidding!…You promise you are not playing a trick on me?”

He makes a swift 180-degree turn, failing to notice the traffic light has turned red. He runs toward the other side of the road. His body is lifted high to the air as a low riding Porsche sends him flying. He lands heavily on the road, blood already splattering the pavement before his baseball cap flutters back to the ground. Passers-by are drawn to him like flies to shit.

Twenty feet away, the driver is yelling in a fluster, “The light was mine. What the hell was he doing?  He’d got to be damn crazy to cross the road like that.  I didn’t see him coming. There was no sign. There were no signs. ”