It was green tea, the type that gives off a rich, sweet flavor. Mr. Wong poured a generous amount into Johan’s cup and a sweet aroma rose with the vapor from the cups and filled the two men’s nostrils. He brought out a pack of Chang Bai Shan and pushed it towards Johan. Johan accepted the offer. They lit the cigarettes, leaned back and puffed out smoke through their mouths and nostrils probably wishing they could do it through their ears as well.
“What about my classes?” Johan asked after a couple of puffs.
“Oh, no worry; just the students have activities, when everything back to normal classes be…”
A thin girl poked a pale, oval face at the door, interrupting Mr. Wong.
“Wong Laoshi,” she said. She always used the title laoshi or teacher after the name of any person working in an education-related field.
“Everything is done,” she added.
“Ah,” Mr. Wong said to her. “Wait in computer room; I’ll meet you few seconds.”
The girl’s head bobbed up and down in an affirmative nod and disappeared from the doorway.
Quickly, Mr. Wong turned to Johan.
“You wait me here; I come back soon, okay?”
“Alright,” Johan answered, even though he had no intention of keeping his word.
As soon as Mr. Wong left, Johan stood up and walked out of the office. He directed his steps towards the classroom where he usually taught. As he approached the first window, he noticed that the students were in the classroom. He could hear them laughing. Probably one of their classmates was doing something funny.
But why would Mr. Wong tell me that the cleaners were working in the classroom?
His mental question was answered by an unexpected sight that stopped him in his tracks, for a moment.
Mr. Wong and the sunflower seed-faced girl were walking towards the classroom as fast as they could.
Johan ducked behind an open window, hoping that they won’t recognize his legs. He shouldn’t have worried about that. Mr. Wong and the girl were talking at the top of their voices about something that took all their attention. They entered the classroom and Johan came out of his hiding place.
He sneaked a peek into the room and his heart almost stopped beating.
A slim, young white man was standing near the blackboard, wearing a red Santa Claus hat on his head. A fake, white beard dangled below his mouth, swinging from side to side as he screamed, “Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas!”
The students were splitting their sides with laughter.
Mr. Wong’s and the girl’s entrance halted the students’ rolling amusement. Some still sniggered in hushed tones. Mr. Wong glared at them and they hushed completely.
An itchy silence took over the classroom, causing the students to squirm in their seats.
Mr. Wong took three steps and stood face-to-face with the foreign teacher. He shook the man’s hand and then turned to the class and spoke some words in Chinese. At the end of his short speech, he pointed at the man and said in English, “Mr. Donald from the U.S.A. welcome to here!”
The applause the students gave was louder than that of fans at a popular rock concert. It tore Johan’s heart like the prick of a surgical knife. Tiny red drops of murderous envy were ready to drip off his wounded heart, but then Johan felt something else.
He felt the solid floor suddenly slip away from under his feet and just like that, he was falling wildly and blindly into a deep, dark abyss of betrayal, courtesy of Mr. Wong’s double-edged sword of treacherous cowardice.
How could the man be replacing him with a younger teacher and not have the courage to tell him? How dare he look Johan in the face and lie that lessons were being cancelled when all this time he was bringing in teacher after teacher to test the ground and see which one would finally replace Johan?
And now Mr. Wong actually thought Johan was in the office, innocently sipping green tea, waiting for him to return and flash him his false smile of nicotine-stained teeth.
This last thought shot through Johan’s mind like an angry bolt of lightning, sending waves of raw animalistic recklessness into his veins. Johan’s whole body leaped to attention. His brain screamed an instant command, and his body snapped into action. He charged into the classroom at full speed.
GO TO CHAPTERS…