I started secondary school when I was 12, which lasted for three years. During these first two years, I was the study representative for my class, presumably due to my good reputation (as a high academic achiever) carried forward from my primary school years. I was even put in charge of preparing my class’ wall paper and other activities.
But the turning point came in the early part of the second year, when I was assigned to sit next to a boy who did very poorly in all subjects except essay-writing. Our teacher-in-charge hoped that by seating close to him, I would be able to set a good example, and he would improve his academic performance. However, the opposite happened. This boy liked to read novels (which I did not know where he got from), and he would often lend his novels to me. And sometimes during self-study sessions, he would ask me what I thought about the certain characters in these books. So I got involved in discussions, and became unaware of the rules that one should not talk during self-study sessions. The class monitor would rightly tell us to shut up, and she would undoubtedly report our activities to our teacher-in- charge.
Slowly, I was lumped with badly-behaved, problematic student group, and my study representative duty was removed from me from the third year onwards, and finally I became a “white expert”, and a “capitalist roader”. In the third year, I was assigned to sit next to a quiet girl in the last row of my class by my teacher-in-charge, with two girls sitting right in front of me, the aim being to keep me well-behaved, as teenager boys and girls were not supposed to talk much in those days. My teacher’s tactic apparently worked, as I became a little better behaved, but my “white expert” hat remained with me.
To be frank, prior to my 14 years of age, I hardly noticed any differences between boys and girls. The fact that three girls were sitting around me everyday somehow hastened my development from a boy to a young man. I started to get wet dreams during sleep, in which I would sometimes hug the girl sitting next to me, and sometimes hold the hands of the girls sitting in front of me, sometimes chase the girls from another class, and sometimes play with two or three girls together. This was kind of strange, as I would not have the courage to stare at the girls face to face next day, whom I met, chased, held and played with in my dreams during the preceding nights. In fact, my face would turn crawfish-red when I talked to these and other girls during the day. In a way, my battlefield was in my dreams, in which I was a brave young man who would climb up mountains of knives, jump into seas of fire, fly into the sky to fetch moon, dive into oceans to catch turtles, in order to be with his dream girls. And if there were no other things that helped divert my attentions, I would not say that I might not end up in a jail one day for committing some severe crimes under the influence of puberty hormones.
Fortunately, a diversion came right in my third year of secondary school with the arrival of a new language teacher. Just graduated from a Teacher’s College majoring Chinese language, this teacher was assigned to teach our class. He was full of energy and also talents, being well-versed Chinese classics and history, with excellent verbal expression and handwriting. He also played beautiful musics with erhu, and was a sharp shooter in basketball games. If he liked you to do something, he would not say it directly. He would tell a few historic stories which were interesting and relevant. After the stories, you would know what to do for sure. During his class, no one would make any noises, as to miss any parts of his lectures and stories would be deeply regretted later. We would copy his handwriting style, try to learn erhu ourselves, read classic old books such as “Sanguo”, “Shuihu” and “Shiji” in secret, and play basketball like there was no tomorrow. Having had so many teachers in my life, the influence of this particular one in shaping my thinking, my outlook, and my future development was unparalleled, unsurpassed, and unforgettable.