We were instant friends. Age was no matter to Mrs. Luo and Mr. Zhao, in fact, in spirit
and whimsy we were all still children. I used to visit them every week. Our conversations
touched on so many subjects, from China's history and intrigue, to Western culture and the
Bible. He was a romanticist ever able to add drama and passion to any subject. Words
were his art. For him they were like a brush in a painter's hand. He could move and
arrange them to express his thoughts with the precision of a surgeon. He reminded me to
make time for my passion in life.
I'll never forget when I first discovered he was a famous script writer in Shanghai. He
held his thumb and pinky together and said, "I am only this big", as Mrs. Luo peaked over
his shoulder rolling her eyes, a smile tugging at the corners of her lips. Their expressions
of affection came with many little giggles, eye rolls and "啊呀！他老是这样！” (aya! He/she
is always like that!). Reminiscent of my own parents, I always felt right at home, a player
in their little game.
Each day I spent with them my vocabulary grew and grew, although I'm not sure what
use being able to talk about left wingers and right wingers in the communist political
party will be for a young western woman. I'll think of Mr. Zhao if I ever get into that kind
of conversation, that's for sure. Teaching me those things was probably all part of a fun
game for him. Our knowledge of one another's cultures also expanded. Ever humble, they
allowed me, who truly is "only this big", to teach them. Sadly, my dear friend Mr. Zhao has
gone to sleep. I will always cherish the laughs we shared.
This painting depicts how I envision him when he lived in Shanghai, sitting by the bund,
soaking up inspiration for his next story. The words written across the buildings are from
a Farewell poem written by Wang Wei of the Tang Dynasty. I have included it here
because Mr. Zhao always encouraged me to study literature as part of the language
learning process, so I think of him when I do. This is how it reads:
A farewell in the mountains ends,
日 暮 掩 柴 扉。
Nightfall covers the wooden door.
Next year's spring grass turns green,
Will my beloved friend return?
Excerpt from my book Behind The Brush available at: https://www.blurb.com/b/9401726-behind-the-brush