Chapter 78: Chocolate and Forgiveness

Broken chocolate
I brought my Shanghai neighbor chocolate, as a token of forgiveness, but never expected her to come back with her own sweet reply (photo by Zsuzsanna Kilian).

One evening in mid-October, 2003, I visited my downstairs neighbors, bringing some fine chocolates and a little forgiveness over that stolen bicycle. Only the wife was there, but she welcomed me in. “Come in, please have a seat and enjoy yourself,” she said in Chinese, with her heavy Shanghai accent, motioning towards the couch inside.

“I hope you like the chocolates. I picked them up in the US during my trip back home,” I explained, handing them over to her.

She looked at the packaging, covered in the English she couldn’t read or understand, and smiled at me as she accepted them, and set them aside.

And then she set aside her usual pretenses, and said the last thing I expected to hear. “I’m really sorry about the bicycle. I feel so guilty about what happened.” Just weeks ago, she had shifted all the blame to me, even as she denied me that precious parking space. But now, here she was, admitting the words I wished I’d heard from the beginning.

And I said the words that come from time and distance. “Don’t worry about it. I’m not angry about it anymore.” And I wasn’t, really. My bicycle was gone, and no anger would bring it back. After two weeks of vacation in the US, I just let it all go. And while I didn’t know if she and I could ever be close friends, I knew that maybe, just maybe, we could begin to get along.

We chatted about this and that as I played with her black and white cat, a reticent feline who, for the first time, it seemed, purred with each loving stroke from my hand. I would have sat there longer to enjoy her company, were it not for my jet-lagged body aching for sleep.

And as I put myself — and the past — to rest that night, I slept as I’d never had in weeks.

Have you ever found unexpected forgiveness?


Memoirs of a Yangxifu in China is the story of love, cultural understanding and eventual marriage between one American woman from the city and one Chinese man from the countryside. To read the full series to date, you can start at Chapter 1, or browse the Memoirs of a Yangxifu archives.

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