March 13, 2024

“Switch” A Short Story by Yuan Changming

“Switch” A Short Story by Yuan Changming

*Featured image courtesy of Shelby Deeter on Unsplash

Love can be many things: intimate, passionate, and also . . . complicated. Read along for Yuan’s take on an interesting and unique love story.

Before they joined each other in Zhuhai, Ming often complained to Hua that her love was like a loach in a rice field, full of splashing vitality, but really hard to catch, let alone hold it firmly in his hand. Given the fact that theirs was an unspeakable extramarital relationship, he knew that she had every reason to hide her affection even from herself, but since they began to honeymoon as temporary elopers on October 12, Ming has become increasingly aware that there seems to be an invisible switch that controls her emotional being.  

“What do you mean, what kind of switch?” Hua wonders aloud.  

As Ming sees it, the defining feature of this switch is no other than her passivity. Over the past few years, she has seldom initiated any communication. Widely separated by the Pacific Ocean as well as by the COVID pandemic, she acted as if always ready to welcome the invites he sent via WeChat, but most of the time she avoided reaching him actively even if he assured her over and over again that it was perfectly safe to contact him during certain periods of time every day. Though her reluctance could be taken as a reasonable “speech act” of not breaking her reserve – indeed, she would inevitably have become more self-critical or self-contemptuous should she have done anything intentionally to encourage him to develop their relationship – her stubborn passiveness is not only confounding but profoundly disappointing and frustrating.  

Now, after almost two weeks of living in total seclusion in her home, she still remains stuck in her old ways, rarely, if not never, kissing him, touching his body or talking about her feelings for him, much less starting sex in a spontaneous fashion. Each time he makes a bid for intimacy, she puts up no resistance of any kind; instead, she behaves cooperatively as if she had been looking forward to it all the time. But even after he has told her explicitly that he’d prefer her to be more aggressive in making love, she refuses to change.  

“If I don’t turn you on,” Ming explains, “you will never give any light or warmth, despite all the electricity charged into your emotional being. In this sense, you are a real switch.”    

“What about your wife or other women you’ve had an intimate relationship with? Isn’t every Chinese woman like this?” 

“Well, I guess every prim and proper Chinese woman is a switch, but . . .”. 

“We’ve been taught since little that we should remain passive in sexual love; else people would say we’re low, cheap or luscious.” 

  “Don’t you women have the desire to initiate sex at all?” 

  “I don’t know others, but I barely have it.” 

“This may be true of the whole animal world. After all, every female creature can only wait to be fucked.” 

“Watch your mouth, Ming!” 

“No matter what, like all other men, I would enjoy it tremendously more if you sometimes show more initiative in lovemaking.”    

“I just cannot! … Perhaps foreign women are different?” 

“That’s a million-dollar question to ask. I believe western women are less self-suppressing in this respect.” 

“Apart from your passivity,” Ming continues after a moment of hesitation, “you often switch easily and quickly from one state of affairs to another.” Infatuated as he is with Hua, he feels as though she were at the forefront of his mind almost every minute, no matter whether they are living together or not, but contrastively she seems to be able to ignore or forget him completely the moment they become separate, even though not necessarily in a physical sense. This is the other major reason why Ming tends to see her as a switch.     

“How? I don’t follow you there.” 

“For example, each time you audio- or video-chat with your husband in front of me, you sound like you’ve switched into another channel, a different world where I’m totally irrelevant.” 

Indeed, her switch-likeness becomes all the more palpable as their clandestine honeymoon is drawing to an end today. While the very idea of having to tear himself away from her in a few hours makes him feel sad and painful, she appears far less attached to him than the other way around. As she talks attentively on WeChat with her husband about her preparations for the impending trip, Ming collects some of her personal belongings, such as her baseball cap, her towel, her teacup and her comb, which, as tangible extensions of her physical being, he would use like instruments to help overcome his lovesickness. Once they kiss goodbye and depart from each other for their homes respectively in Melbourne and Vancouver, she would switch back to her routine life as a loving and diligent wife/mother/grandma and put him aside as her underground lover. While he is going to miss her day and night, she will switch her love off from her inner being completely. 

“How could I?” says Hua in a soft voice, as if she had been listening to his thought all the time. “I’ll keep you hidden in my heart as in my home here!”  

“But you’ll not think of me as often as I do you,” Ming replies.  

  “I admit I’ll be too busy to stop constantly to think and feel like you do, but time will tell everything.” 

For Ming, waiting for another whole year to see her again is simply too long and too agonizing. However, neither he nor Hua is prepared to change the situation and thus create a tsunami in their family lives, especially in their old age. They’ve decided to keep their relationship strictly between themselves because this is the only way to safeguard their innocent spouses, even if Ming and Hua have to do so at the cost of their own conscience or moral integrity.  

For the next eleven months or so, he certainly hopes that absence will make the heart grow fonder, but he really hates the way she feels like a switch.  

Author’s Note: 

This story inspired by Helena Qi Hong (祁红) 

Yuan Changming edits Poetry Pacific with Allen Yuan in Vancouver. Credits include 12 Pushcart nominations for poetry and 2 for fiction besides appearances in Best of the Best Canadian Poetry (2008-17), BestNewPoemsOnline and 2019 other literary outlets worldwide. A poetry judge for Canada’s 2021 National Magazine Awards, Yuan began writing and publishing fiction in 2022.

#Couple#love#Married#short story#yuan changming

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