Chapter 39: "My dad and mom divorced when I was very young," Oscar said. "My dad was a domestic violence monster, he used to beat my mom regularly." It was precisely because of this that Oscar had a strong aversion to any form of violence. "Oh, I see," Kevin nodded. Oscar continued, "After the divorce, I lived with my dad. After I graduated from high school, he stopped taking care of me and didn't encourage me to go to college..." "Your dad must have been very handsome," Kevin said. "Yeah, he was a playboy," Oscar said. Oscar then thought to himself with self-deprecation, "I'm also a playboy, aren't I? Why is it that as we grow up, we slowly become the people we dislike?" Kevin looked at Oscar in a daze, and Oscar continued, "There wasn't anything particularly memorable in my childhood. The most vivid memories were either helping out in the kitchen of a restaurant or asking my dad for money after school... It's been relatively better since I started working." "I'm sure many people like you," Kevin said. "Yes," Oscar replied, while also thinking about how he used to ask for money from his dad at home, and after leaving home, he asked for money from his male or female partners... Life seemed to have not changed much. "And then what happened?" Kevin asked. "After that..." Oscar said, "It's just how it is. I..." Oscar wanted to say, "After that, I just hooked up with people everywhere, fortunately, I didn't contract HIV." But he didn't say those words to Kevin. Instead, he explained, "After that, I realized that I was... very popular. I'm sorry, am I being too..." "No, not at all," Kevin said. "You're really handsome." Oscar said, "So, when something comes easily, you don't know how to appreciate it. Isn't that how people are? From eighteen to twenty-five, the love affairs were almost never-ending." Initially, Oscar didn't plan on having his girlfriends spend money on him, but later on, he gradually discovered that it was much easier to be supported by others. "I mean," Kevin curiously asked, "When did you realize that you liked guys?" Oscar replied, "There was this one girlfriend, and her boyfriend also liked me. After I broke up with her, that guy started pursuing me..." "He was handsome too, right?" Kevin asked again. "Yeah," Oscar thought of that guy. In fact, it wasn't exactly as he described. That guy was his junior high school classmate, and they had known each other for a long time. "He's actually my good friend," Oscar said. "We've known each other for eight years. He had a strong reaction when he found out that I and his ex-girlfriend got together." "Oh," Kevin said. "And then you went from rivals to lovers and ended up together?" Oscar's expression became somewhat lost, and even until now, he hadn't quite sorted out the confusion of those emotions and his own state of mind at that time. "His girlfriend liked me first," Oscar explained. "I... I didn't think there was anything I could do about it, but he was really angry, very angry. Or I should say, after senior high school graduation, our contact slowly decreased. We were still good friends in junior high, yeah, he was my best friend in junior high." "Where is he now?" Kevin asked. "He went abroad," Oscar said. "His family is quite wealthy, and he went to Australia. Now that I think about it..." Oscar fell silent. It was because on this night, he remembered some things from the past: Did he really like that girl back then? If it was about liking, it wasn't that strong. Perhaps he subconsciously hoped to maintain some connection with "him". He never truly confirmed his own homosexuality, the entire process of acknowledging his sexual orientation was not as clear as it was for Vincent or Geoff. "Who's the 'top' between you two?" Kevin asked curiously. "We switched roles," Oscar replied. "Let's go set off fireworks later," Oscar suggested. "I brought back some cold fireworks left from the set." "Sure," Kevin said. "But we're going out to play on the sixth day of the Lunar New Year, so let's save some for everyone." After they finished their New Year's Eve dinner, Oscar was cleaning up in the kitchen and couldn't help but think of many past events. After he broke up with that girl, his childhood friend reached out to him to chat. They sat in front of a flower bed, drinking and talking about their middle school days. His good friend still carried anger and, when talking about Oscar kissing her, Oscar lost his patience and said, "Is it such a big deal to kiss someone?" As he said that, he turned his head, as if asking if he wanted to give it a try. Then, he hugged his good friend and kissed him. They started kissing, and things quickly escalated. Driven by alcohol, Oscar went back to his place. Since they already kissed, why not do something even more forbidden? Oscar was the "top", and his friend moaned and groaned. Oscar was generous enough to let him be the "top" as well. Whether it was in their daily lives or in bed, they surprisingly harmonized. The accumulated years of knowing each other allowed them to have a deep understanding of each other, avoiding many conflicts and misunderstandings. Their similar living environments and experiences also made their values quite compatible. They were together like this, unclear and undefined, for nearly half a year. His good friend even bought him a camera, which he used for a long time before it was eventually stolen, just like his feelings. When his lover went abroad, the love that could have possibly lasted a lifetime came to an abrupt end. Oscar handed the cold fireworks to Kevin, who happily set them off in the garden. At this moment, he felt that perhaps he should give him a belated greeting, so he made an overseas call. "Hello?" came a slightly sleepy voice from the other side. They hadn't been in contact for a full seven years, and upon hearing his voice again, Oscar's heart skipped a beat. "Oscar?" The voice suddenly became alert. "Is that you? Oscar?" Tears welled up in Oscar's eyes. Perhaps his acquaintance with Eric and these dozen or so scenes made him nostalgic for the past and brought to light many emotions that had long dissipated, the melancholy hidden behind those subtle expressions, the true meaning lurking beneath the undertones. "Oscar," the voice said. "Yue," Oscar replied. "It's you!" Yue exclaimed. "It's really you!" Oscar chuckled. "You definitely didn't save my number." "You changed your phone number!" Yue's voice answered. "Where are you? What are you doing?" "Happy Lunar New Year," Oscar said. "Not doing much, just wanted to greet you for the new year." "Where are you?" Yue asked. Oscar thought for a moment and told him he was in River East. Yue then asked how he had been in these years, what kind of work he was doing, if he was doing well... So Oscar stood in the garden and talked to him on the phone. "You must be married, right?" Yue said. "Are you married or about to get married?" Oscar looked at Kevin's figure setting off the cold fireworks in the garden. As he turned his head, he smiled at Oscar. "No, no," Oscar chuckled and said, "I'm not married." Yue said, "I thought you would have a cute daughter." "Ah," Oscar said, "that kind of life isn't for me. I'm still single. How about you?" Yue said, "I live with Ann..." Oscar was shocked. "You two..." Ann was a close friend of the girl they both had a relationship with. "No, no," Yue quickly clarified. "She's staying in my house and paying me rent. She's studying for her master's degree in Melbourne." "Oh," Oscar understood. Yue added, "I'm still single." The two of them fell into a momentary silence. Suddenly, Yue laughed and said over the phone, "How about we do a video call? I want to see you." Oscar switched to the video call on his phone. Yue seemed to have just woken up. He looked more mature than Oscar remembered, wearing pajamas and turning on the lights in his study. They looked at each other in silence, only smiling, but Yue's eyes were slightly moist. "You look even more handsome than before," Yue joked self-deprecatingly. "I've gotten older and uglier." Oscar burst into laughter and said, "No way! You're still handsome, hmm." "Who is it?" Kevin asked, appearing in the video. Yue greeted him. "He's your..." Yue asked. "My good friend," Oscar answered and sat down in front of a lounge chair on the side of the garden. Kevin's cold fireworks had finished, and upon hearing Oscar say "good friend", he silently went back inside. "It's too freezing outside, be careful not to catch a cold," Kevin said. "Okay," Oscar replied. "You're just too picky," Yue joked from thousands of miles away, on the other side of the Earth. "That's why you haven't gotten married yet." "The one with high standards should be you," Oscar said with a smile. Snow started falling, tiny snowflakes drifting through the air, and sporadic firecracker sounds came from the distance. They both examined each other, as if trying to find the feelings of the past from each other's faces. "Do you now prefer men or women?" Yue asked, laughing. "I'm open to both," Oscar chuckled. "How about you?" "I'm open to both too," Yue blushed and self-deprecatingly said, "But the result of being open to both is that neither is good." They were quiet for a while again, and Oscar asked, "Are you working in Australia?" "Yes," Yue said. "I work in a software company as a product manager. How about you?" Oscar told him about some things happening on the set, and Yue nodded continuously, saying, "That's great." "My expertise is still lagging behind," Oscar said. "I'm planning to further my studies. Ah, this is the consequence of not studying hard back then." Yue was stunned, but then he said, "It's okay, many artists don't come from a professional background. But if you're interested, you can come to Australia for further studies." "Really?" Oscar said, "Does Melbourne have photography programs?" "There are plenty!" Yue said, "Do you want to give it a try? Send me your works, and I'll inquire at the school for you. You don't need to go through an agent." "But the language..." "There are preparatory courses here for learning the language," Yue continued, "English isn't difficult to learn, and you'll quickly pick it up for daily life." "How much money would it cost?" Oscar asked again, "It must be expensive." "It's not expensive. If you're serious, you can even apply for scholarships," Yue replied. "I'll consider it. After all, there will be significant changes in the living environment," Oscar answered. "Okay," Yue nodded and said, "That's indeed a big issue." He didn't try to persuade Oscar any further. After all, they were both adults, and if Oscar wanted to study overseas, he would surely contact Yue on his own. Oscar changed the topic and asked, "How is Ann doing lately?" "She's still the same. You know what? Ann used to have a crush on you too..." "No way!" Oscar exclaimed exaggeratedly, "That's so awkward..." "Half of the girls in our class had a crush on you," Yue said again, "There are several of them in Australia. We're even considering organizing a small reunion..." On this night, unexpectedly, a phone call awakened many memories from years ago. Each person involved seemed to be immersed in their own reminiscence: Geoff held sleeping Maggie, listening to his mother recounting amusing stories from his and his older brother's childhood. Kevin returned to his room, changed into a wig, put on makeup, and went online, chatting about many past events with Whiskey, who had finished his New Year's Eve dinner. Alex accompanied his sister to set off fireworks on the street and ran into a family of their middle school classmates, reminiscing about their student days. Shawn slept deeply, as if he had fallen into a coma... He had been sleeping after last night's dinner. Vincent even thought he might have died and went to check his breathing. On New Year's Eve, they had breakfast together and made love again. Shawn continued sleeping, only waking up in a daze to join the Lunar New Year's Eve dinner, as if he wanted to make up for all the sleep he missed in the past year. Vincent talked about his childhood memories of celebrating the Lunar New Year, when his grandparents would take him to the riverbank to set off fireworks. Everyone, bathed in the glow of memories and fireworks, welcomed another cycle of the seasons. And in this tranquility, entwined with the thawing river water amidst colliding shards of ice, spring arrived as scheduled.