Walking on the road, everything seemed so new to Mr. Li.
The bodybuilder with his muscles exposed, the youth bouncing his basketball, the snake charmer wearing a Speedo, and the rollerblading Sikh bard: the boardwalk was extremely busy.
As they walked farther away from the beach, they left the bustle behind and the environment became quieter.
As the town was modeled after the floating city, there was also the complicated Venetian canal.
Unlike the floating city, the towns canal was man-made and because "Venice" cannot exist without water, the town had spared no effort in directing water from the sea into the man-made canal.
Li Du walked leisurely along the gravel road, which was next to the canal. The place still reflected its early days, with boatmen ferrying tourists in gondolas on the canal.
America was a melting pot of immigrants and many people who worked there were residents from Italy. The sounds of fluent Italian being spoken would mistakenly make one feel as though one were in the floating city.
Palm trees lined the two banks and among them were boutique hotels, cafes, yoga studios, art galleries, as well as antique shops and pawn shops. Such shops had the logo of the Association of American Treasure Huntersthis meant that they welcomed those in this trade to enter.
Li Du resisted his curiosity and did not enter. He was now on holiday and did not want to do anything related to work.
There were some seagulls and waterfowls in the canal; some people were sitting on the benches nearby and feeding them pieces of bread.
Li Du also sat on the bench. First, he called his parents up to tell them he was doing well. Then he transferred 50,000 dollars to them.
His parents were delighted that their son could make a living overseas, and that he had earned quite a bit of money.
But Mrs. Lis heart ached for her son. "Xiao Du, dont you only tell me good news. Tell us the truthhas anything unpleasant happened in America? Tell us."
Li Du smiled. "Im happy here, and Im even keeping a cat and a raccoon as pets. All that matters is that you and dad are well back home."
Before hanging up, Mrs. Li hesitated, then said, "Then, Xiao Du, this Chinese New Year, are you coming home?"
Last Chinese New Year, he had been dealing with the matter of the school being closed. With too many things on his mind, he had not gone home for the festivities.
Able to tell what his mother was hinting at, Li Du promised, "Definitely going back. Mom, dont worry. Ill be back for the new year."
Having his assurance, Mrs. Li was beaming with joy back at home.
After hanging up, he heard a strong southern accent in Mandarin: "Hey lad, are you here in America to study?"
Li Du turned around and saw an old Chinese man with a walking stick smiling at him.
He smiled as well. "Yes, I was here to study, but working now. What about you? Are you an immigrant?"
The old man smiled as he came over to take a seat. "Yes, I was an immigrant. When China fell in 1949, I came here with my family, and Ive stayed all my life since!"
Upon hearing this, Li Du knew that the old mans family background had much to do with the Kuomintang Party. Otherwise, he would not have used the term "fall of China."
Avoiding the topic, he asked politely, "How did you feel after coming here to America?"
The old man used his stick to tap on the gravel road, as a nostalgic look came over his wrinkled face. "How did I feel? Like a foreigner in a foreign landin a good place, but not a place to stay for long."
Li Du said, "If youd like to return to your hometown, then its no problem now. The national policy is quite open."
The old man gave a bitter laugh. "What hometown? Ive been back. Those I knew were no longer around. The place has changedthe whole village has been flattened into buildings."
As he said this, he shook his head. "Now I can only console myself by saying that wherever my family is is my hometown. But, actually, its like being in the company of demons in the land of barbarians sorry lad, my old grumbling problem is back."
Li Du replied politely, "Not at all, I understand how you feel. But I suppose since your family and children are here, its also a blessing to be with them?"
As he ended his reply, he began to laugh at himself.
The other person did not need his consolationafter all, while he missed his hometown, at least he was with his family. As for him, he was separated from both his family and his friends.
The gondolas in the canal floated by. Many tourists were chattering away happily and the seagulls flew off in groups; the place was bustling.
The bustle caused Li Du to miss his parents.
Ah Meow and Crispy Noodles, who had been fooling around, noticed that his mood had changed. They immediately ran over and leaped into his arms. Ah Meow licked his chin and mewed incessantly.
It was already sunset. The fiery dusk appeared on the horizon as the suns rays spread across the canal, illuminating it with a red glow.
Both he and the old man did not introduce themselves but just sat together chatting away. As the sun disappeared into the horizon, they bade each other farewell with a wave.
When Li Du returned, Hans and the rest were about to leave for a bar to have fun. They asked if he would like to join them.
He was still feeling a little low and so shook his head. "You guys are really energetic. Im sleepy, and going back to sleep."
Hans said, "We must be energetic at nightwere in the City of Angels! Theres plenty of time to sleep tomorrow. Tomorrow were going to Long Beach, to get some sun at the beach, and to watch the babes as they sleep!"
Li Du replied, "Then I better conserve my energy. Go have fun, and put it on my tab!" Upon returning to his room, he opened the window to look at the canal nearby. Then he turned on his phone to get in touch with his former classmates and old friends.
Some of his friends from college had also come to America to further their studies. But Mr. Li was prideful, and when his school closed, he did not contact them anymore.
Today, after he had chatted with the homesick old man, he had a few realizations and decided to regain contact with his friends and classmates.
Of course, the main reason was that he was doing well now. With 150,000 dollars made from a single auction, and about two million dollars with the Patek Phillipe watch, and about six million dollars in cash, his confidence had grown.
His group chats with his classmates could also be used overseas.
There was a time difference between America and China, and LA, using the west coast time zone, was about sixteen hours behind Beijing. Hence, while it was evening for Li Du, it was in the afternoon in China; his classmates were awake.
He sent an emoji as a greeting in the group chats and his classmates responses came fast and furious.
Yu Wenjie (shock): Holy Sh*t, is that you? Did you not get hacked?
Hu Haifeng: On my god, youre out? Ive already filed a missing persons report!
Li Zhihai (wail): What the hell, all of us couldnt contact you for a while, and thought you had gotten lost in the States. Finally youve appeared!
Su Nan: No problem, whats up?