He shared my story with at least 14,000,000 people

Seven years ago today, on December 6th, 2009, my father passed away after two years of battling cancer. Since then, I grew insatiably curious about the idea of an afterlife to cope with my own grief. I also had a lot of questions unanswered. Between spending four years away from home when I was young, and coming to the U.S. as a high school student, I only had 12 years together with my father.

He often said he was proud of me, but what did he actually think of me?

A few months ago, I decided to spend some time in China. Because my mom had planned our trip, there were groups people I barely recognize surrounding us all day everyday.

A middle aged man walked up to me while I was in the middle of having breakfast with my mom. Please leave me alone, I thought to myself while trying to look away.

He pulled up a chair, sat down firmly next to me. "Fei-Fei, remember me? I met your dad 40 years ago, way before you were born." He took out his cell phone, put on his glasses trying to search for something. That is how most stories start in China. I knew then that he wasn't leaving us alone anytime soon.

[Sigh]

"Your dad, Mr. Chen and I were very good friends back in the old days. Since then, Chen moved to New York and became a writer and he blogs constantly."

"So whenever Chen came back to Beijing, the three of us made sure to hang out. He loved your dad, because your dad was such a great storyteller. He made everyone laugh. Apparently he told Chen a story about you when you were still in high school in Maine, right?" His eyes lit up.

"Yes, I did." I started to blush. "What is this story about myself that I have not heard?"

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"Look." He put his phone in front of me and kept scrolling down on a rather lengthy essay. I spotted a few words here and there. My fake name "Jane", my high school, and the title was, The Young National Flag?!

"This is the story!" I could tell that this man was about get ecstatic. "Fei, Chen's article was featured in the Best Short Stories in 2014 AND the same article was chosen by the Chinese High School Entry Exam Committee in 2015."

"What? Are you kidding?" I shouted out, turning my chair toward him. "Seriously?" I said, "The entry exam is like the SSAT in America. Millions of kids go through every year."

Forget about the Best Short Stories Book for a second, I desperately pulled out my cell phone and started Googling the number of Chinese middle school graduates in 2015: 14,000,0000 people. 

"Your dad told 14,000,000 people about you! You can see just how proud he is." The man smiled.

I read the entire article that morning, word by word. Then a few more times in the next few months. I could imagine my dad telling the story to so many people, not just Chen. I could also imagine him writing the story himself, in a tone that's funkier, perhaps humorous and lighthearted. There were so many more stories he told about me, about us that weren't written on a blog, shared with millions, I can imagine all of them now.

I am working on an English version of this story to publish on Feisworld.com. Sign up for the newsletter to receive it as soon as it comes out.

The Young Flag 年轻的国旗

Author: Jiu Chen (Originally published by Chen's blog)

(1)这是由陈九[注]先生讲述的一个真实的故事。

(2)小镇只有一所大学,不大,但哪个国家的学生都有。中国来的一共五名,巧了,全是女生,名付其实五朵金花。珍妮是她们的头儿。五朵金花同吃住同进出,像一家子出来的。其实本来就是一家子。

(3)学校每年春天搞一次隆重的国际街坊节。在小镇主要街道、广场上,让各国来的师生穿上自己的民族服装载歌载舞,当街展示自己国家的食品和工艺品。到那天,各界名流与方圆多少里的男女老幼都会来凑热闹,在此欢歌笑语,尽情玩乐。

(4)五朵金花耐不住好奇,头天就跑上街看街坊节的准备情况。她们要挑选有利地形,来个穿旗袍炸春卷,外加毛笔字,够中国的吧?几个姑娘这儿走走那儿看看,嘻嘻哈哈,踌躇满志。突然,一个姑娘说,好像,我好像没看到中国国旗。广场上空飘满各色国旗,赤橙黄绿青蓝紫,她们一面面数过,就没中国的,咋回事?

(5)姑娘们一下懵了,她们此刻感到国旗对自己竟如此重要。珍妮的脸涨得通红,跟国旗那么红。现在只有一个办法,找校长当面问清楚。找校长?对。珍妮拔腿要走,等等,咱们一块儿去。姑娘们捆成一捆儿,碧草蓝天,斜阳映着她们匆匆的背影。

(6)白发苍苍的校长先生面对为何别国的国旗都有,却偏没中国国旗的提问,很显窘迫。是吗?让我了解一下,保证尽快答复你们。好,珍妮说,明天是街坊节,我们就在这儿等。五朵金花走出办公室,在门前的草坪上坐下来。天角渐渐泛红。

(7)春日黄昏那么短暂,像脸盆里的水,洒洒就没了。当校长走出办公室,夕阳已在天边闪烁。校长对姑娘们说,校董们大都同意悬挂中国国旗,并为这个疏忽向中国同学道歉。明天一早,你们会在广场上看到中国国旗的。真的吗?真的。

(8)那本该是个安详的夜晚,人在心愿满足后睡得最甜。万万没想到,珍妮她们突然接到校长秘书的电话。秘书说,找来找去,就是找不到一面中国国旗——我只是说,我找不到中国国旗。如果我借你一面你会挂吗?珍妮问。你有?对,我有。当然,当然挂。好,一言为定,明天一早广场上等我。

(9)你有国旗?姑娘们把珍妮围起来。咋不早说?害我们紧张半天,死多少细胞!珍妮红着脸低下头,憋了好一会儿才说,对不起,我没有。可我不信就找不到一面国旗!姑娘们立刻打电话到北京,到纽约,到所有可能有国旗的地方,最后终于联系上位于波士顿郊外的哈佛大学中国同学会。怎么给你们?电话里的人问珍妮。麻烦你把国旗放在你家门前的信箱里,我这就去取。珍妮,你疯了?珍妮笑笑,开车单程五小时,争取九小时赶回来。你们明儿一早直接在广场上等我,别忘帮我带好旗袍和化妆盒儿,咱广场见。

(10)不知那一夜姑娘们是如何度过的。特别是珍妮,迷过路吗,吃没吃罚单,饿不饿,打盹儿了没有?可以确定的是,太阳升起时,广场上的中国姑娘是五名,一个也不少。珍妮把鲜红的中国国旗交到校长手里。就在校长秘书升旗的瞬间,姑娘们一字排开,请校长为她们在国旗下合影。一,二,校长喊着。等等!珍妮挽起身旁两位姑娘的手臂,接着,她们每个人都相互挽起手臂。现在可以了,校长先生。

(11)清晨很美,像一支奏鸣曲,随风飘荡。

[注]陈九:华裔作家,现为纽约市政府资深雇员。