北京折叠在线阅读(中英对照)

4

老刀从西单出来,依原路返回。重新走早上的路,他觉得倦意丛生,一步也跑不动了。宽阔的步行街两侧是一排垂柳和一排梧桐,正是晚春,都是鲜亮的绿色。他让暖意丛生的午后阳光照亮僵硬的面孔,也照亮空乏的心底。
Lao Dao left Xidan and returned the way he had come. He felt exhausted. The pedestrian lane was lined with a row of weeping willows on one side and a row of Chinese parasol trees on the other side. It was late spring, and everything was a lush green. The afternoon sun warmed his stiff face, and brightened his empty heart.

他回到早上离开的园子,赫然发现园子里来往的人很多。园子外面两排银杏树庄严茂盛。园门口有黑色小汽车驶入。园里的人多半穿着材质顺滑、剪裁合体的西装,也有穿黑色中式正装的,看上去都有一番眼高于顶的气质。也有外国人。他们有的正在和身边人讨论什么,有的远远地相互打招呼,笑着携手向前走。
He was back at the park from this morning. There were many people in the park now, and the two rows of gingkoes looked stately and luscious. Black cars entered the park from time to time, and most of the people in the park wore either well–fitted western suits made of quality fabric or dark–colored stylish Chinese suits, but everyone gave off a haughty air. There were also some foreigners. Some of the people conversed in small groups; others greeted each other at a distance, and then laughed as they got close enough to shake hands and walk together.

老刀犹豫了一下要到哪里去,街上人很少,他一个人站着极为显眼,去公共场所又容易被注意,他很想回到园子里,早一点找到转换地,到一个没人的角落睡上一觉。他太困了,又不敢在街上睡。他见出入园子的车辆并无停滞,就也尝试着向里走。直到走到园门边上,他才发现有两个小机器人左右逡巡。其他人和车走过都毫无问题,到了老刀这里,小机器人忽然发出嘀嘀的叫声,转着轮子向他驶来。声音在宁静的午后显得刺耳。园里人的目光汇集到他身上。他慌了,不知道是不是自己的衬衫太寒酸。他尝试着低声对小机器人说话,说他的西装落在里面了,可是小机器人只是嘀嘀嗒嗒地叫着,头顶红灯闪烁,什么都不听。园里的人们停下脚步看着他,像是看到小偷或奇怪的人。很快,从最近的建筑中走出三个男人,步履匆匆地向他们跑过来。老刀紧张极了,他想退出去,已经太晚了。
Lao Dao hesitated, trying to decide where to go. There weren’t that many people in the street, and he would draw attention if he just stood here. But he would look out of place in any public area. He wanted to go back into the park, get close to the fissure, and hide in some corner to take a nap. He felt very sleepy, but he dared not sleep on the street. He noticed that the cars entering the park didn’t seem to need to stop, and so he tried to walk into the park as well. Only when he was close to the park gate did he notice that two robots were patrolling the area. While cars and other pedestrians passed their sentry line with no problems, the robots beeped as soon as Lao Dao approached and turned on their wheels to head for him. In the tranquil afternoon, the noise they made seemed especially loud. The eyes of everyone nearby turned to him. He panicked, uncertain if it was his shabby clothes that alerted the robots. He tried to whisper to the robots, claiming that his suit was left inside the park, but the robots ignored him while they continued to beep and to flash the red lights over their heads. People strolling inside the park stopped and looked at him as though looking at a thief or eccentric person. Soon, three men emerged from a nearby building and ran over. Lao Dao’s heart was in his throat. He wanted to run, but it was too late.

“出什么事了?”领头的人高声询问着。
“What’s going on?” the man in the lead asked loudly.

老刀想不出解释的话,手下意识地搓着裤子。
Lao Dao couldn’t think of anything to say, and he rubbed his pants compulsively.

一个三十几岁的男人走在最前面,一到跟前就用一个纽扣一样的小银盘上上下下地晃,手的轨迹围绕着老刀。他用怀疑的眼神打量他,像用罐头刀试图撬开他的外壳。
The man in the front was in his thirties. He came up to Lao Dao and scanned him with a silver disk about the size of a button, moving his hand around Lao Dao’s person. He looked at Lao Dao suspiciously, as though trying to pry open his shell with a can opener.

“没记录。”男人将手中的小银盘向身后更年长的男人示意,“带回去吧?”
“There’s no record of this man.” The man gestured at the older man behind him. “Bring him in.”

老刀突然向后跑,向园外跑。
Lao Dao started to run away from the park.

可没等他跑出去,两个小机器人悄无声息挡在他面前,扣住他的小腿。它们的手臂是箍,轻轻一扣就合上。他一下子踉跄了,差点摔倒又摔不倒,手臂在空中无力的乱划。
The two robots silently dashed ahead of him and grabbed onto his legs. Their arms were cuffs and locked easily about his ankles. He tripped and almost fell, but the robots held him up. His arms swung through the air helplessly.

“跑什么?”年轻男人更严厉地走到他面前,瞪着他的眼睛。
“Why are you trying to run?” The younger man stepped up and glared at him. His tone was now severe.

“我……”老刀头脑嗡嗡响。
“I…” Lao Dao’s head felt like a droning beehive. He couldn’t think.

两个小机器人将他的两条小腿扣紧,抬起,放在它们轮子边上的平台上,然后异常同步地向最近的房子驶去,平稳迅速,保持并肩,从远处看上去,或许会以为老刀脚踩风火轮。老刀毫无办法,除了心里暗喊一声糟糕,简直没有别的话说。他懊恼自己如此大意,人这么多的地方,怎么可能没有安全保障。他责怪自己是困倦得昏了头,竟然在这样大的安全关节上犯如此低级的错误。这下一切完蛋了,他想,钱都没了,还要坐牢。
The two robots lifted Lao Dao by the legs and deposited his feet onto platforms next to their wheels. Then they drove toward the nearest building in parallel, carrying Lao Dao. Their movements were so steady, so smooth, so synchronized, that from a distance, it appeared as if Lao Dao was skating along on a pair of rollerblades, like Nezha riding on his Wind Fire Wheels.

小机器人从小路绕向建筑后门,在后门的门廊里停下来。三个男人跟了上来。年轻男人和年长男人似乎就老刀的处理问题起了争执,但他们的声音很低,老刀听不见。片刻之后,年长男人走到他身边,将小机器人解锁,然后拉着他的大臂走上二楼。
Lao Dao felt utterly helpless. He was angry with himself for being so careless. How could he think such a crowded place would be without security measures? He berated himself for being so drowsy that he could commit such a stupid mistake. It’s all over now, he thought. Not only am I not going to get my money, I’m also going to jail. The robots followed a narrow path and reached the backdoor of the building, where they stopped. The three men followed behind. The younger man seemed to be arguing with the older man over what to do with Lao Dao, but they spoke so softly that Lao Dao couldn’t hear the details. After a while, the older man came up and unlocked the robots from Lao Dao’s legs. Then he grabbed him by the arm and took him upstairs.

老刀叹了一口气,横下一条心,觉得事到如今,只好认命。
Lao Dao sighed. He resigned himself to his fate.

年长者带他进入一个房间。他发现这是一个旅馆房间,非常大,比秦天的公寓客厅还大,似乎有自己租的房子两倍大。房间的色调是暗沉的金褐色,一张极宽大的双人床摆在中央。床头背后的墙面上是颜色过渡的抽象图案,落地窗,白色半透明纱帘,窗前是一个小圆桌和两张沙发。他心里惴惴。不知道年长者的身份和态度。
The man brought him into a room. It looked like a hotel room, very spacious, bigger even than the living room in Qin Tian’s apartment, and about twice the size of his own rental unit. The room was decorated in a dark shade of golden brown, with a king–sized bed in the middle. The wall at the head of the bed showed abstract patterns of shifting colors. Translucent, white curtains covered the French window, and in front of the window sat a small circular table and two comfortable chairs. Lao Dao was anxious, unsure of who the older man was and what he wanted.

“坐吧,坐吧。”年长者拍拍他肩膀,笑笑,“没事了。”
“Sit, sit!” The older man clapped him on the shoulder and smiled. “Everything’s fine.”

老刀狐疑地看着他。
Lao Dao looked at him suspiciously.

“你是第三空间来的吧?”年长者把他拉到沙发边上,伸手示意。
“You’re from Third Space, aren’t you?” The older man pulled him over to the chairs, and gestured for him to sit.

“您怎么知道?”老刀无法撒谎。
“How do you know that?” Lao Dao couldn’t lie.

“从你裤子上。”年长者用手指指他的裤腰,“你那商标还没剪呢。这牌子只有第三空间有卖的。我小时候我妈就喜欢给我爸买这牌子。”
“From your pants.” The older man pointed at the waist of his pants. “You never even cut off the label. This brand is only sold in Third Space; I remember my mother buying them for my father when I was little.”

“您是……”
“Sir, you’re…?”

“别您您的,叫你吧。我估摸着我也比你大不了几岁。你今年多大?我五十二。……你看看,就比你大四岁。”他顿了一下,又说,“我叫葛大平,你叫我老葛吧。”
“You don’t need to ‘Sir’ me. I don’t think I’m much older than you are. How old are you? I’m fifty–two.” “Forty–eight.” “See, just older by four years.” He paused, and then added, “My name is Ge Daping. Why don’t you just call me Lao Ge?”

老刀放松了些。老葛把西装脱了,活动了一下膀子,从墙壁里接了一杯热水,递给老刀。他长长的脸,眼角眉梢和两颊都有些下坠,戴一副眼镜,也向下耷拉着,头发有点自来卷,蓬松地堆在头顶,说起话来眉毛一跳一跳,很有喜剧效果。他自己泡了点茶,问老刀要不要,老刀摇摇头。
Lao Dao relaxed a little. Lao Ge took off his jacket and moved his arms about to stretch out the stiff muscles. Then he filled a glass with hot water from a spigot in the wall and handed it to Lao Dao. He had a long face, and the corners of his eyes, the ends of his eyebrows, and his cheeks drooped. Even his glasses seemed about to fall off the end of his nose. His hair was naturally a bit curly and piled loosely on top of his head. As he spoke, his eyebrows bounced up and down comically. He made some tea for himself and asked Lao Dao if he wanted any. Lao Dao shook his head.

“我原来也是第三空间的。咱也算半个老乡吧。”老葛说,“所以不用太拘束。我还是能管点事儿,不会把你送出去的。”
“I was originally from Third Space as well,” said Lao Ge. “We’re practically from the same hometown! So, you don’t need to be so careful with me. I still have a bit of authority, and I won’t give you up.”

老刀长长地出了口气,心里感叹万幸。他于是把自己到第二、第一空间的始末讲了一遍,略去依言感情的细节,只说送到了信,就等着回去。
Lao Dao let out a long sigh, congratulating himself silently for his good luck. He recounted for Lao Ge his experiencing of going to Second Space and then coming to First Space, but omitted the details of what Yi Yan had said. He simply told Lao Ge that he had successfully delivered the message and was just waiting for the Change to head home.

老葛于是也不见外,把他自己的情况讲了。他从小也在第三空间长大,父母都给人送货。十五岁的时候考上了军校,后来一直当兵,文化兵,研究雷达,能吃苦,技术又做得不错,赶上机遇又好,居然升到了雷达部门主管,大校军衔。家里没背景不可能再升,就申请转业,到了第一空间一个支持性部门,专给政府企业做后勤保障,组织会议出行,安排各种场面。虽然是蓝领的活儿,但因为涉及的都是政要,又要协调管理,就一直住在第一空间。这种人也不少,厨师、大夫、秘书、管家,都算是高级蓝领了。他们这个机构安排过很多重大场合,老葛现在是主任。老刀知道,老葛说的谦虚,说是蓝领,其实能在第一空间做事的都是牛人,即使厨师也不简单,更何况他从第三空间上来,能管雷达。
Lao Ge also shared his own story with Lao Dao. He had grown up in Third Space, and his parents had worked as deliverymen. When he was fifteen, he entered a military school, and then joined the army. He worked as a radar technician in the army, and because he worked hard, demonstrated good technical skills, and had some good opportunities, he was eventually promoted to an administrative position in the radar department with the rank of brigadier general. Since he didn’t come from a prominent family, that rank was about as high as he could go in the army. He then retired from the army and joined an agency in First Space responsible for logistical support for government enterprises, organizing meetings, arranging travel, and coordinating various social events. The job was blue collar in nature, but since his work involved government officials and he had to coordinate and manage, he was allowed to live in First Space. There were a considerable number of people in First Space like him—chefs, doctors, secretaries, housekeepers—skilled blue–collar workers needed to support the lifestyle of First Space. His agency had run many important social events and functions, and Lao Ge was its director. Lao Ge might have been self–deprecating in describing himself as a “blue collar,” but Lao Dao understood that anyone who could work and live in First Space had extraordinary skills. Even a chef here was likely a master of his art. Lao Ge must be very talented to have risen here from Third Space after a technical career in the army.

“你在这儿睡一会儿。待会儿晚上我带你吃饭去。”老葛说。
“You might as well take a nap,” Lao Ge said. “I’ll take you to get something to eat this evening.”

老刀受宠若惊,不大相信自己的好运。他心里还有担心,但是白色的床单和错落堆积的枕头显出召唤气息,他的腿立刻发软了,倒头昏昏沉沉睡了几个小时。
Lao Dao still couldn’t believe his good luck, and he felt a bit uneasy. However, he couldn’t resist the call of the white sheets and stuffed pillows, and he fell asleep almost right away.

醒来的时候天色暗了,老葛正对着镜子捋头发。他向老刀指了指沙发上的一套西装制服,让他换上,又给他胸口别上一个微微闪着红光的小徽章,身份认证。
When he woke up, it was dark outside. Lao Ge was combing his hair in front of the mirror. He showed Lao Dao a suit lying on the sofa and told him to change. Then he pinned a tiny badge with a faint red glow to Lao Dao’s lapel—a new identity.

下楼来,老刀发现原来这里有这么多人。似乎刚刚散会,在大厅里聚集三三两两说话。大厅一侧是会场,门还开着,门看上去很厚,包着红褐色皮子;另一侧是一个一个铺着白色桌布的高脚桌,桌布在桌面下用金色缎带打了蝴蝶结,桌中央的小花瓶插着一只百合,花瓶旁边摆着饼干和干果,一旁的长桌上则有红酒和咖啡供应。聊天的人们在高脚桌之间穿梭,小机器人头顶托盘,收拾喝光的酒杯。
The large open lobby downstairs was crowded. Some kind of presentation seemed to have just finished, and attendees conversed in small groups. At one end of the lobby were the open doors leading to the banquet hall; the thick doors were lined with burgundy leather. The lobby was filled with small standing tables. Each table was covered by a white tablecloth tied around the bottom with a golden bow, and the vase in the middle of each table held a lily. Crackers and dried fruits were set out next to the vases for snacking, and a long table to the side offered wine and coffee. Guests mingled and conversed among the tables while small robots holding serving trays shuttled between their legs, collecting empty glasses.

老刀尽量镇定地跟着老葛。走到会场内,他忽然看到一面巨大的展示牌,上面写着:
Forcing himself to be calm, Lao Dao followed Lao Ge and walked through the convivial scene into the banquet hall. He saw a large hanging banner:

折叠城市五十年。
The Folding City at Fifty.

“这是……什么?”他问老葛。
“What is this?” Lao Dao asked.

“哦,庆典啊。”老葛正在监督场内布置,“小赵,你来一下,你去把桌签再核对一遍。机器人有时候还是不如人靠谱,它们认死理儿。”
“A celebration!” Lao Ge was walking about and examining the set up. “Xiao Zhao, come here a minute. I want you to check the table signs one more time. I don’t trust robots for things like this. Sometimes they don’t know how to be flexible.”

老刀看到,会场里现在是晚宴的布置,每张大圆桌上都摆着鲜艳的花朵。
Lao Dao saw that the banquet hall was filled with large round tables with fresh flower centerpieces.

他有一种恍惚的感觉,站在角落里,看着会场中央巨大的吊灯,像是被某种光芒四射的现实笼罩,却只存在在它的边缘。舞台中央是演讲的高台,背后的布景流动播映着北京城的画面。大概是航拍,拍到了全城的风景,清晨和日暮的光影,紫红色暗蓝色天空,云层快速流转,月亮从角落上升起,太阳在屋檐上沉落。大气中正的布局,沿中轴线对称的城市设计,延伸到六环的青砖院落和大面积绿地花园。中式风格的剧院,日本式美术馆,极简主义风格的音乐厅建筑群。然后是城市的全景,真正意义上的全景,包含转换的整个城市双面镜头:大地翻转,另一面城市,边角锐利的写字楼,朝气蓬勃的上班族;夜晚的霓虹,白昼一样的天空,高耸入云的公租房,影院和舞厅的娱乐。
The scene seemed unreal to him. He stood in a corner and gazed up at the giant chandelier as though some dazzling reality was hanging over him, and he was but an insignificant presence at its periphery. There was a lectern set up on the dais at the front, and, behind it, the background was an ever–shifting series of images of Beijing. The photographs were perhaps taken from an airplane and captured the entirety of the city: The soft light of dawn and dusk; the dark purple and deep blue sky; clouds racing across the sky; the moon rising from a corner; the sun setting behind a roof. The aerial shots revealed the magnificence of Beijing’s ancient symmetry; the modern expanse of brick courtyards and large green parks that had extended to the Sixth Ring Road; Chinese style theatres; Japanese style museums; minimalist concert halls. And then there were shots of the city as a whole, shots that included both faces of the city during the Change: The earth flipping, revealing the other side studded with skyscrapers with sharp, straight contours; men and women energetically rushing to work; neon signs lighting up the night, blotting out the stars; towering apartment buildings, cinemas, nightclubs full of beautiful people.

只是没有老刀上班的地方。
But there were no shots of where Lao Dao worked.

他仔细地盯着屏幕,不知道其中会不会展示建城时的历史。他希望能看见父亲的时代。小时候父亲总是用手指着窗外的楼,说“当时我们”。狭小的房间正中央挂着陈旧的照片,照片里的父亲重复着垒砖的动作,一遍一遍无穷无尽。他那时每天都要看见那照片很多遍,几乎已经腻烦了,可是这时他希望影像中出现哪怕一小段垒砖的镜头。
He stared at the screen intently, uncertain if they might show pictures during the construction of the folding city. He hoped to get a glimpse of his father’s era. When he was little, his father had often pointed to buildings outside the window and told him stories that started with “Back then, we…” An old photograph had hung on the wall of their cramped home, and in the picture his father was laying bricks, a task his father had performed thousands, or perhaps hundreds of thousands of times. He had seen that picture so many times that he thought he was sick of it, and yet, at this moment, he hoped to see a scene of workers laying bricks, even if for just a few seconds.

他沉浸在自己的恍惚中。这也是他第一次看到转换的全景。他几乎没注意到自己是怎么坐下的,也没注意到周围人的落座,台上人讲话的前几分钟,他并没有注意听。
He was lost in his thoughts. This was also the first time he had seen what the Change looked like from a distance. He didn’t remember sitting down, and he didn’t know when others had sat down next to him. A man began to speak at the lectern, but Lao Dao wasn’t even listening for the first few minutes.

“……有利于服务业的发展,服务业依赖于人口规模和密度。我们现在的城市服务业已经占到GDP85%以上,符合世界第一流都市的普遍特征。另外最重要的就是绿色经济和循环经济。”这句话抓住了老刀的注意力,循环经济和绿色经济是他们工作站的口号,写得比人还大贴在墙上。他望向台上的演讲人,是个白发老人,但是精神显得异常饱满,“……通过垃圾的完全分类处理,我们提前实现了本世纪节能减排的目标,减少污染,也发展出成体系成规模的循环经济,每年废旧电子产品中回收的贵金属已经完全投入再生产,塑料的回收率也已达到80%以上。回收直接与再加工工厂相连……”
“… advantageous for the development of the service sector. The service economy is dependent on population size and density. Currently, the service industry of our city is responsible for more than 85 percent of our GDP, in line with the general characteristics of world–class metropolises. The other important sectors are the green economy and the recycling economy.” Lao Dao was paying full attention now. “Green economy” and “recycling economy” were often mentioned at the waste processing station, and the phrases were painted on the walls in characters taller than a man. He looked closer at the speaker on the dais: An old man with silvery hair, though he appeared hale and energetic. “… all trash is now sorted and processed, and we’ve achieved our goals for energy conservation and pollution reduction ahead of schedule. We’ve developed a systematic, large–scale recycling economy in which all the rare–earth and precious metals extracted from e–waste are reused in manufacturing, and even the plastics recycling rate exceeds eighty percent. The recycling stations are directly connected to the reprocessing plants…”

老刀有远亲在再加工工厂工作,在科技园区,远离城市,只有工厂和工厂和工厂。据说那边的工厂都差不多,机器自动作业,工人很少,少量工人晚上聚集着,就像荒野部落。
Lao Dao knew of a distant relative who worked at a reprocessing plant in the technopark far from the city. The technopark was just acres and acres of industrial buildings, and he heard that all the plants over there were very similar: The machines pretty much ran on their own, and there were very few workers. At night, when the workers got together, they felt like the last survivors of some dwindling tribe in a desolate wilderness.

他仍然恍惚着。演讲结束之后,热烈的掌声响起,才将他从自己的纷乱念头中拉出来,他也跟着鼓了掌,虽然不知道为什么。他看到演讲人从舞台上走下来,回到主桌上正中间的座位。所有人的目光都跟着他。
He drifted off again. Only the wild applause at the end of the speech pulled him out of his chaotic thoughts and back to reality. He also applauded, though he didn’t know what for. He watched the speaker descend the dais and return to his place of honor at the head table. Everyone’s eyes were on him.

忽然老刀看到了吴闻。
Lao Dao saw Wu Wen, Yi Yan’s husband.

吴闻坐在主桌旁边一桌,见演讲人回来就起身去敬酒,然后似乎有什么话要问演讲人。演讲人又站起身,跟吴闻一起到大厅里。老刀不自觉地站起来,心里充满好奇,也跟着他们。老葛不知道到哪里去了,周围开始上菜。
Wu Wen was at the table next to the head table. As the old man who had given the speech sat down, Wu Wen walked over to offer a toast, and then he seemed to say something that got the old man’s attention. The old man got up and walked with Wu Wen out of the banquet hall. Almost subconsciously, a curious Lao Dao also got up and followed them. He didn’t know where Lao Ge had gone. Robots emerged to serve the dishes for the banquet.

老刀到了大厅,远远地观望,对话只能听见片段。
Lao Dao emerged from the banquet hall and was back in the reception lobby. He eavesdropped on the other two from a distance and only caught snippets of conversation.

“……批这个有很多好处。”吴闻说,“是,我看过他们的设备了……自动化处理垃圾,用溶液消解,大规模提取材质……清洁,成本也低……您能不能考虑一下?”
“… there are many advantages to this proposal,” said Wu Wen. “Yes, I’ve seen their equipment… automatic waste processing… they use a chemical solvent to dissolve and digest everything and then extract reusable materials in bulk… clean, and very economical… would you please give it some consideration?”

吴闻的声音不高,但老刀清楚地听见“处理垃圾”的字眼,不由自主凑上前去。
Wu Wen kept his voice low, but Lao Dao clearly heard “waste processing.” He moved closer.

白发老人的表情相当复杂,他等吴闻说完,过了一会儿才问:“你确定溶液无污染?”
The old man with the silvery hair had a complex expression. Even after Wu Wen was finished, he waited a while before speaking, “You’re certain that the solvent is safe? No toxic pollution?”

吴闻有点犹豫:“现在还是有一点……不过很快就能减低到最低。”
Wu Wen hesitated. “The current version still generates a bit of pollution but I’m sure they can reduce it to the minimum very quickly.”

老刀离得很近了。
Lao Dao got even closer.

白发老人摇了摇头,眼睛盯着吴闻:“事情哪是那么简单的,你这个项目要是上马了,大规模一改造,又不需要工人,现在那些劳动力怎么办,上千万垃圾工失业怎么办?”
The old man shook his head, staring at Wu Wen. “Things aren’t that simple. If I approve your project and it’s implemented, there will be major consequences. Your process won’t need workers, so what are you going to do with the tens of millions of people who will lose their jobs?”

白发老人说完转过身,又返回会场。吴闻呆愣愣地站在原地。一个从始至终跟着老人的秘书模样的人走到吴闻身旁,同情地说:“您回去好好吃饭吧。别想了。其实您应该明白这道理,就业的事是顶天的事。您以为这种技术以前就没人做吗?”
The old man turned away and returned to the banquet hall. Wu Wen remained in place, stunned. A man who had been by the old man’s side—a secretary perhaps—came up to Wu Wen and said sympathetically, “You might as well go back and enjoy the meal. I’m sure you understand how this works. Employment is the number one concern. Do you really think no one has suggested similar technology in the past?”

老刀能听出这是与他有关的事,但他摸不准怎样是好的。吴闻的脸显出一种迷惑、懊恼而又顺从的神情,老刀忽然觉得,他也有软弱的地方。
Lao Dao understood vaguely that what they were talking about had to do with him, but he wasn’t sure whether it was good news or bad. Wu Wen’s expression shifted through confusion, annoyance, and then resignation. Lao Dao suddenly felt some sympathy for him: He had his moments of weakness, as well.

这时,白发老人的秘书忽然注意到老刀。
The secretary suddenly noticed Lao Dao.

“你是新来的?”他突然问。
“Are you new here?” he asked.

“啊……嗯。”老刀吓了一跳。
Lao Dao was startled. “Ah? Um…”

“叫什么名字?我怎么不知道最近进人了。”
“What’s your name? How come I wasn’t informed about a new member of the staff?”

老刀有些慌,心砰砰跳,他不知道该说些什么。他指了指胸口上别着的工作人员徽章,仿佛期望那上面有个名字浮现出来。但徽章上什么都没有。他的手心涌出汗。秘书看着他,眼中的怀疑更甚了。他随手拉着一个会务人员,那人说不认识老刀。
Lao Dao’s heart beat wildly. He didn’t know what to say. He pointed to the badge on his lapel, as though hoping the badge would speak or otherwise help him out. But the badge displayed nothing. His palms sweated. The secretary stared at him, his look growing more suspicious by the second. He grabbed another worker in the lobby, and the worker said he didn’t know who Lao Dao was.

秘书的脸铁青着,一只手抓住老刀的手臂,另一只手拨了通讯器。
The secretary’s face was now severe and dark. He grabbed Lao Dao with one hand and punched the keys on his communicator with the other hand.

老刀的心提到嗓子眼,就在那一刹那,他看到了老葛的身影。
Lao Dao’s heart threatened to jump out of his throat, but just then, he saw Lao Ge.

老葛一边匆匆跑过来,一边按下通讯器,笑着和秘书打招呼,点头弯腰,向秘书解释说这是临时从其他单位借调过来的同事,开会人手不够,临时帮忙的。秘书见老葛知情,也就不再追究,返回会场。老葛将老刀又带回自己的房间,免得再被人撞见查检。深究起来没有身份认证,老葛也做不得主。
Lao Ge rushed over and with a smooth gesture, hung up the secretary’s communicator. Smiling, he greeted the secretary and bowed deeply. He explained that he was shorthanded for the occasion and had to ask for a colleague from another department to help out tonight. The secretary seemed to believe Lao Ge and returned to the banquet hall. Lao Ge brought Lao Dao back to his own room to avoid any further risks. If anyone really bothered to look into Lao Dao’s identity, they’d discover the truth, and even Lao Ge wouldn’t be able to protect him.

“没有吃席的命啊。”老葛笑道,“你等着吧,待会儿我给你弄点吃的回来。”
“I guess you’re not fated to enjoy the banquet.” Lao Ge laughed. “Just wait here. I’ll get you some food later.”

老刀躺在床上,又迷迷糊糊睡了。他反复想着吴闻和白发老人说的话,自动垃圾处理,这是什么样的呢,如果真的这样,是好还是不好呢。
Lao Dao lay down on the bed and fell asleep again. He replayed the conversation between Wu Wen and the old man in his head. Automatic waste processing. What would that look like? Would that be a good thing or bad?

再次醒来时,老刀闻到一碟子香味,老葛已经在小圆桌上摆了几碟子菜,还正在从墙上的烤箱中把剩下一个菜端出来。老葛又拿来半瓶白酒和两个玻璃杯,倒上。
The next time he woke up, he smelled something delicious. Lao Ge had set out a few dishes on the small circular table, and was taking the last plate out of the warming oven on the wall. Lao Ge also brought over a half bottle of baijiu and filled two glasses.

“有一桌就坐了俩人,我把没怎么动过的菜弄了点回来,你凑合吃,别嫌弃就行。他们吃了一会儿就走了。”老葛说。
“There was a table where they had only two people, and they left early so most of the dishes weren’t even touched. I brought some back. It’s not much, but maybe you’ll enjoy the taste. Hopefully you won’t hold it against me that I’m offering you leftovers.”

“哪儿能嫌弃呢。”老刀说,“有口吃的就感激不尽了。这么好的菜。这些菜很贵吧?”
“Not at all,” Lao Dao said. “I’m grateful that I get to eat at all. These look wonderful! They must be very expensive, right?”

“这儿的菜不对外,所以都不标价。我也不知道多少钱。”老葛已经开动了筷子,“也就一般吧。估计一两万之间,个别贵一点可能三四万。就那么回事。”
“The food at the banquet is prepared by the kitchen here and not for sale, so I don’t know how much they’d cost in a restaurant.” Lao Ge already started to eat. “They’re nothing special. If I had to guess, maybe ten thousand, twenty thousand? A couple might cost thirty, forty thousand. Not more than that.”

老刀吃了两口就真的觉得饿了。他有抗饥饿的办法,忍上一天不吃东西也可以,身体会有些颤抖发飘,但精神不受影响。直到这时,他才发觉自己的饥饿。他只想快点咀嚼,牙齿的速度赶不上胃口空虚的速度。吃得急了,就喝一口。这白酒很香,不辣。老葛慢悠悠的,微笑着看着他。
After a couple of bites, Lao Dao realized how hungry he was. He was used to skipping meals, and sometimes he could last a whole day without eating. His body would shake uncontrollably then, but he had learned to endure it. But now, the hunger was overwhelming. He wanted to chew quicker because his teeth couldn’t seem to catch up to the demands of his empty stomach. He tried to wash the food down with baijiu, which was very fragrant and didn’t sting his throat at all. Lao Ge ate leisurely, and smiled as he watched Lao Dao eat.

“对了,”老刀吃得半饱时,想起刚才的事,“今天那个演讲人是谁?我看着很面熟。”
“Oh.” Now that the pangs of hunger had finally been dulled a bit, Lao Dao remembered the earlier conversation. “Who was the man giving the speech? He seemed a bit familiar.”

“也总上电视嘛。”老葛说,“我们的顶头上司。很厉害的老头儿。他可是管实事儿的,城市运作的事儿都归他管。”
“He’s always on TV,” Lao Ge said. “That’s my boss. He’s a man with real power—in charge of everything having to do with city operations.”

“他们今天说起垃圾自动处理的事儿。你说以后会改造吗?”
“They were talking about automatic waste processing earlier. Do you think they’ll really do it?”

“这事儿啊,不好说,”老葛砸了口酒,打了个嗝,“我看够呛。关键是,你得知道当初为啥弄人工处理。其实当初的情况就跟欧洲二十世纪末差不多,经济发展,但失业率上升,印钱也不管用,菲利普斯曲线不符合。”
“Hard to say.” Lao Ge sipped the baijiu and let out a burp. “I suspect not. You have to understand why they went with manual processing in the first place. Back then, the situation here was similar to Europe at the end of the twentieth century. The economy was growing, but so was unemployment. Printing money didn’t solve the problem. The economy refused to obey the Phillips curve.”

他看老刀一脸茫然,呵呵笑了起来:“算了,这些东西你也不懂。”
He saw that Lao Dao looked completely lost, and laughed. “Never mind. You wouldn’t understand these things anyway.”

他跟老刀碰了碰杯子,两人一齐喝了又斟上。
He clinked glasses with Lao Dao and the two drained their baijiu and refilled the glasses.

“反正就说失业吧,这你肯定懂。”老葛接着说,“人工成本往上涨,机器成本往下降,到一定时候就是机器便宜,生产力一改造,升级了,GDP上去了,失业也上去了。怎么办?政策保护?福利?越保护工厂越不雇人。你现在上城外看看,那几公里的厂区就没几个人。农场不也是吗。大农场一搞几千亩地,全设备耕种,根本要不了几个人。咱们当时怎么搞过欧美的,不就是这么规模化搞的吗。但问题是,地都腾出来了,人都省出来了,这些人干嘛去呢。欧洲那边是强行减少每人工作时间,增加就业机会,可是这样没活力你明白吗。最好的办法是彻底减少一些人的生活时间,再给他们找到活儿干。你明白了吧?就是塞到夜里。这样还有一个好处,就是每次通货膨胀几乎传不到底层去,印钞票、花钞票都是能贷款的人消化了,GDP涨了,底下的物价却不涨。人们根本不知道。”
“I’ll just stick to unemployment. I’m sure you understand the concept,” Lao Ge continued. “As the cost of labor goes up and the cost of machinery goes down, at some point, it’ll be cheaper to use machines than people. With the increase in productivity, the GDP goes up, but so does unemployment. What do you do? Enact policies to protect the workers? Better welfare? The more you try to protect workers, the more you increase the cost of labor and make it less attractive for employers to hire people. If you go outside the city now to the industrial districts, there’s almost no one working in those factories. It’s the same thing with farming. Large commercial farms contain thousands and thousands of acres of land, and everything is automated so there’s no need for people. This kind of automation is absolutely necessary if you want to grow your economy—that was how we caught up to Europe and America, remember? Scaling! The problem is: Now you’ve gotten the people off the land and out of the factories, what are you going to do with them? In Europe, they went with the path of forcefully reducing everyone’s working hours and thus increasing employment opportunities. But this saps the vitality of the economy, you understand? “The best way is to reduce the time a certain portion of the population spends living, and then find ways to keep them busy. Do you get it? Right, shove them into the night. There’s another advantage to this approach: The effects of inflation almost can’t be felt at the bottom of the social pyramid. Those who can get loans and afford the interest spend all the money you print. The GDP goes up, but the cost of basic necessities does not. And most of the people won’t even be aware of it.”

老刀听得似懂非懂,但是老葛的话里有一股凉意,他还是能听出来的。老葛还是嬉笑的腔调,但与其说是嬉笑,倒不如说是不愿意让自己的语气太直白而故意如此。
Lao Dao listened, only half grasping what was being said. But he could detect something cold and cruel in Lao Ge’s speech. Lao Ge’s manner was still jovial, but he could tell Lao Ge’s joking tone was just an attempt to dull the edge of his words and not hurt him. Not too much.

“这话说着有点冷。”老葛自己也承认,“可就是这么回事。我也不是住在这儿了就说话向着这儿。只是这么多年过来,人就木了,好多事儿没法改变,也只当那么回事了。”
“Yes, it sounds a bit cold,” Lao Ge admitted. “But it’s the truth. I’m not trying to defend this place just because I live here. But after so many years, you grow a bit numb. There are many things in life we can’t change, and all we can do is to accept and endure.”

老刀有点明白老葛的意思了,可他不知道该说什么好。
Lao Dao was finally beginning to understand Lao Ge, but he didn’t know what to say.

两人都有点醉。他们趁着醉意,聊了不少以前的事,聊小时候吃的东西,学校的打架。老葛最喜欢吃酸辣粉和臭豆腐,在第一空间这么久都吃不到,心里想得痒痒。老葛说起自己的父母,他们还在第三空间,他也不能总回去,每次回去都要打报告申请,实在不太方便。他说第三空间和第一空间之间有官方通道,有不少特殊的人也总是在其中往来。他希望老刀帮他带点东西回去,弥补一下他自己亏欠的心。老刀讲了他孤独的少年时光。
Both became a bit drunk. They began to reminisce about the past: The foods they ate as children, schoolyard fights. Lao Ge had loved hot and sour rice noodles and stinky tofu. These were not available in First Space, and he missed them dearly. Lao Ge talked about his parents, who still lived in Third Space. He couldn’t visit them often because each trip required him to apply and obtain special approval, which was very burdensome. He mentioned that there were some officially sanctioned ways to go between Third Space and First Space, and a few select people did make the trip often. He hoped that Lao Dao could bring a few things back to his parents because he felt regret and sorrow over his inability to be by their side and care for them. Lao Dao talked about his lonely childhood.

昏黄的灯光中,老刀想起过去。一个人游荡在垃圾场边缘的所有时光。
In the dim lamplight, he recalled his childhood spent alone wandering at the edge of the landfill.

不知不觉已经是深夜。老葛还要去看一下夜里会场的安置,就又带老刀下楼。楼下还有未结束的舞会末尾,三三两两男女正从舞厅中走出。老葛说企业家大半精力旺盛,经常跳舞到凌晨。散场的舞厅器物凌乱,像女人卸了妆。老葛看着小机器人在狼藉中一一收拾,笑称这是第一空间唯一真实的片刻。

It was now late night. Lao Ge had to go check up on the event downstairs, and he took Lao Dao with him. The dance party downstairs was about to be over, and tired–looking men and women emerged in twos and threes. Lao Ge said that entrepreneurs seemed to have the most energy, and often danced until the morning. The deserted banquet hall after the party looked messy and grubby, like a woman who took off her makeup after a long, tiring day. Lao Ge watched the robots trying to clean up the mess and laughed. “This is the only moment when First Space shows its true face.”
老刀看了看时间,还有三个小时转换。他收拾了一下心情,该走了。

Lao Dao checked the time: Three hours until the Change. He sorted his thoughts: It’s time to leave.

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