Fiction: The Empty Room

The distance in an intimate relationship—a short story from our issue “High Steaks”

Author: Li Wenwen 李稳稳

Born in 1990 and based in Hangzhou, Li Wenwen has a bachelor’s degree in history from Zhejiang University. Her short stories have been published in literary magazines such as Youth Literature and Changjiang Literature & Art. She also published three short story collections and one novella on, the thriving online literary base of young Chinese writers. “The Empty Room” is part of her collection, Falling Asleep in Four Seasons (《四季入眠》).

They bought the apartment in April, but were waiting for the smell of fresh paint to wear off before moving in. There were three other families living on the same floor. Nianqi sidestepped the blue stroller in the hall; a few more steps, and she was at the door of her new home.

She could feel Zhang Yibai’s presence behind her. She took a moment to dig for the key in her bag. It wasn’t hesitation; she was just a little confused—about why she had invited her ex-boyfriend to visit the apartment that was bought for her marriage.

It didn’t start out that way; she had simply called to invite him out to eat. It was the best season for mitten crabs from Yangcheng Lake. They used to go to a restaurant located in an alley near Huzhou Street to eat them. The restaurant was bare-bones; when it was crowded, they would put some tables on the sidewalk. The pavement was always covered with a layer of grease, and a few red and yellow leaves poked out of the top of the trees by the road. The crabs were steamed, but the restaurant had a unique sauce: vinegar, oil, and spices perfectly mixed together, which set off the freshness of the crabs.

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Fiction: The Empty Room is a story from our issue, “High Steaks.” To read the entire issue, become a subscriber and receive the full magazine. Alternatively, you can purchase the digital version from the App Store.


Li Wenwen is a contributing writer at The World of Chinese.

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