Do You Recognise Me?
The day he graduated from the Eastman School of Music was a clear summer day.
Leaving New York City and stepping into his long-lost homeland, familiar scenes unfolded in front of him like a yellowed film reel.
Arriving at the International Art Exchange Centre in A City, Ying Ruoyun went to the music rehearsal hall.
The place was not much different from what he remembered, except that it had been renovated several times and had a more modern atmosphere than in the past.
The A City Symphony Orchestra, which he joined, is one of the most famous orchestras in China, and enjoys a high reputation in the international music scene.
The rehearsal hall was filled with the melodious sound of music.
Looking in through the clear glass, the performers were focused and absorbed.
Ying Ruoyun's hand tightened on his bag, he could not wait to join the musical feast.
“What? So excited?” Li Yao, the staff member who greeted him, teased, “Later on, during the intermission, you'll meet our chief conductor and he'll arrange your placement.”
“If I may ask, who is the chief conductor?”
Li Yao looked inside, “Unfortunately, he's not here at the moment.
You can wait here, or you can take a look around, I'll go to his office.”
Passing through the long, dark corridor, Ying Ruoyun went straight up to the second floor, where there was a blue floor-to-ceiling glass window facing the fountain and rose wall in the courtyard.
Leaving his violin case in front of the glass window, Ying Ruoyun left for a short while, just to get a glass of water in the lounge.
When he returned, he saw someone picking up his case and looking at it carefully.
For any performer who loves music, his instrument is more intimate than his girlfriend, how could he let anyone touch it? A wave of heat rushed to his head and Ying Ruoyun couldn't help but reprimand him: “You're really too rude! Without permission, how can you…”
The moment the man turned around and his face entered his eyes, Ying Ruoyun froze in place.
Dust-laden memories were like spring buds breaking out of the ground, and a familiar image came pouring in.
An alumnus from Ying Ruoyun's university days, a senior he had once admired, a lover he had briefly dated.
They met unexpectedly without warning.
Shu Jingzhi put his case back in its place.
He hadn't changed at all from before, Ying Ruoyun thought, he was still elegant and handsome, just standing there made people uncontrollably admire and adore him.
But this time, there was no way he could be charmed by him again.
Quickly calming down, Ying Ruoyun picked up his violin case from beside him, adjusted his mind and took the initiative to greet him, “Hello, I am Ying…”
Before he finished his words, Shu Jingzhi turned away without mercy, as if he did not want to have any entanglement with him at all.
He was really, really, so rude!
Ying Ruoyun's hand was trembling slightly as he held the violin case, was this still the Shu Jingzhi he once knew?
Back in the rehearsal hall on the ground floor, Li Yao waved at him from the doorway, “Come with me, I'll take you to see the chief conductor.”
Already at intermission, Ying Ruoyun followed Li Yao through the crowd and behind the curtain of the rehearsal hall stage.
Once again, he met Shu Jingzhi.
Li Yao introduced him, “This is Conductor Shu, the most senior leader of our orchestra and the soul of the entire orchestra! Conductor Shu is also the most prestigious and talented performer in the music industry of City A…”
“That's enough.” Shu Jingzhi interrupted him, “Stop talking nonsense.”
Li Yao coughed awkwardly, “Conductor Shu, this is Ying Ruoyun, he studied at the School of Music at the A City University of the Arts and is an alumnus of yours.
He just graduated from the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester…”
“You're good with the violin?” Shu Jingzhi asked.
This was simply asking him knowingly, Ying Ruoyun thought, it's only been two years since we've seen each other, yet he's forgotten me so completely?
“Yes.” Ying Ruoyun was still in a state of confusion, he had thought that the two of them would just be ordinary colleagues in the future, who would have thought that Shu Jingzhi would actually be the conductor of the orchestra?
“Second violin, your position.”
The string section is the foundation of the entire symphony orchestra and is typically represented by the violin, which is divided into the first and second violins.
The principal player of the first violin, also known as the concertmaster, is not only the principal of the bowed string instruments, but also of the whole orchestra, with a position just below that of the conductor.
At the Eastman School of Music, Ying Ruoyun had always been the principal, but when he came here, he had to start all over again.
He understood this, so he had no objection to Shu Jingzhi's arrangement.
“Starting now, join the rehearsal.”
Ying Ruoyun sat in the second violin seat, and the colleague next to him kindly handed him the score for 'Symphonie Fantastique' by French musician Berlioz.
This symphony is masterful and a great example of musical romanticism.
Ying Ruoyun loves this piece, and in normal times he would never have made a mistake.
But this was a totally unfamiliar environment, he had joined an orchestra that was totally unfamiliar to him, not to mention that, looking at Shu Jingzhi's face, he was restless.
Momentarily lost in thought, he slowed down a beat.
Shu Jingzhi's tone was cold: “Get out.”
The music abruptly stopped.
Ying Ruoyun nervously said, “I'm sorry, please give me another chance.”
Shu Jingzhi looked at him and repeated, “Get out.”
There were whispers from the crowd, and Ying Ruoyun was so embarrassed that his ears turned red.
To be expelled by the conductor on the spot at a rehearsal would be an unbearable humiliation for any performer.
Ying Ruoyun could not understand it at all.
In the past, Shu Jingzhi would never have done such a thing.
In his memories, Shu Jingzhi was synonymous with being a calm gentleman, he never did anything embarrassing.
Why had he become like this?
During the afternoon practice, Ying Ruoyun returned to the second violin position.
This time he performed as usual and worked very smoothly with his colleagues.
During the intermission, the colleague beside him reassured him: “Conductor Shu's character is like that, somewhat arbitrary and maverick.
But he has no ill will towards you, you've just arrived and need a bit of time to adapt, you've done well.”
Ying Ruoyun smiled, showing his understanding, but his heart was still in turmoil.
He even thought about quitting the job, he still couldn't keep his mind off of Shu Jingzhi.
In order to get familiar with the orchestra as soon as possible, Ying Ruoyun did not leave work as scheduled.
He asked for all the scores that the orchestra had played and rehearsed recently and intended to spend the evening practising them over and over again.
At nine o'clock at night, he left the rehearsal hall and went to the lounge on the second floor, where he poured himself a glass of plain water.
Standing by the blue floor-to-ceiling window, the bright red roses in the courtyard appeared delicate and charming as they were drenched in rain.
It had been two years since he had left A City to study in New York, and two years since he had broken up with Shu Jingzhi.
He thought he had put himself back together and was able to embrace life again.
But the heavens just had to tease him, reuniting him with this man on his first day back here.
And it was, in fact, a very unpleasant reunion.
Ying Ruoyun looked gloomy at the thought.
It was raining outside, and the rain fell on the glass window, leaving pearly shadows.
Someone with a white umbrella was in the courtyard, picking a red rose.
It was Shu Jingzhi.
Ying Ruoyun watched him with rapt attention as he remembered the scene of their first encounter.
It was his third year of university, and it was also raining heavily.
He was suddenly inspired to compose in the rain, so he threw away his umbrella and stopped a passer-by to ask for a pen and paper.
The person he stopped was Shu Jingzhi.
This was the beginning of his downfall, but it was impossible to anticipate their separation.
Watching his figure disappear, Ying Ruoyun's heart was filled with an unspeakable melancholy.
Just as he was about to return to the rehearsal room, a deep voice rang out in his ears: “Why did you come back?”
Ying Ruoyun's breath trembled as Shu Jingzhi came very close to him.
His hair was damp with moisture, and he looked at Ying Ruoyun with eyes like deep pools.
Shu Jingzhi stepped closer to him, and Ying Ruoyun leaned against the glass window.
Outside was the summer rain, dense and flustered, as if it was pounding on his heart.
Ying Ruoyun could smell alcohol.
He had been drinking.
How could he drink?
He had never drunk alcohol before, because he was extremely self-disciplined and alcohol corrupted people.
These were the things he had told him.
Everything was different.
Ying Ruoyun looked at him.
Shu Jingzhi propped one hand on the glass window, his warm breath sprayed on the side of his neck, and the tingling sensation stirred up an electric current of excitement.
It reminded him of the first time they had kissed, on a similarly wet and rainy day.
Shu Jingzhi's lips were so close to his, if he tiptoed slightly, they could touch each other.
Their breath entwined, and the ambiguity festered in the silence of the night.
Shu Jingzhi wrapped his arms around his waist, and the heat of his palm was hot through his thin clothing.
Pushing him away, Ying Ruoyun left the concert hall and rushed into the rain.
The rain drenched his hair and lapels, flowing over every inch of his eyelashes and face, as if it could flow into his heart and quench the screaming restlessness.
Shu Jingzhi is my unspeakable past and the secret I keep in the bottom of my heart.
And this reunion, is it my destiny that I cannot escape?
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