Replying a letter does make me flinch; however, unreplied letters allow me no release at all. Dozens of unreplied letters pile up on my bookshelf, like a sum of debt waiting to be paid. Some have been waiting there for over one year, while some have newly arrived. The pressure from paying off that debt is far beyond what a junior debtor can endure. The stack of unreplied letters are, like a group of haunting ghosts, continually pestering my guilt-loaded soul. Conventionally, the letters will certainly be replied. I can even swear by heaven that never do I have the intention not to reply when my mind is clear. The problem is how to reply. Even if I spared myself a whole summer night, I would be wavering on which letter to reply first, the 18-month-old one or the 7-month-old? The reply has been delayed for so long that I’m afraid even a heartfelt apology has already lost its power. In friends’ heart, I’ve been marginalized as a cocky man unworthy of care. “Unaccountable”! That is their unanimous comment on me.
回信，固然可畏，不回信，也绝非什么乐事。书架上经常叠着百多封未回信，“债龄”或长或短， 长的甚至一年以上， 那样的压力，也绝非一个普通的罪徒所能负担的。一叠未回的信，就像一群不散的阴魂，在我罪深孽重的心底幢幢作祟。理论上说来，这些信当然是要回的。我可以坦然向天发誓，在我清醒的时刻，我绝未存心不回人信。问题出在技术上。给我一整个夏夜的空闲，我该先回一年半前的那封信呢，还是七个月前的这封信？隔了这么久，恐怕连谢罪自谴的有效期也早过了吧。在朋友的心目中，你早已沦为不值得计较的妄人。“莫名其妙！”是你在江湖上一致的评语。
In fact, even though I pull myself together and settle down at the desk, ready to pay off the debt, my determination will easily be split up by doubts. Old and new letters, replied or yet-to-be, cram the shelf and the drawer in disorder, which reminds me of two verses: “He’s simply in the very mountain. In the depths of clouds, his whereabouts are unknown.” (from Calling on a Hermit in Vain by Jia Dao). Picking out the letter I decide to reply from such a mess will cost multiplied time and energy as replying the letter does. Moreover, on visualizing the facial expression of friends when they receive the reply — reburned lingering anger rather than surprised delight — my tiny amount of determination dwindle into naught. Consequently, the date when my debt is paid off extends into eternity. Although I haven’t replied the letters, I can never forget my friends, any more than a debtor can forget his creditor. In the depth of my disturbed and apologetic heart looms the indelible angry and icy look of my friends. Never can I forget them. Friends who really fall into oblivion, from which guilt is totally absent, are those who have received my reply.
其实，即使终于鼓起全部的道德勇气，坐在桌前，准备偿付信债于万一，也不是轻易能如愿的。七零八落的新简旧信，漫无规则地充塞在书架上，抽屉里，有的回过，有的未回，“只在此山中，云深不知处”，要找到你决心要回的那一封，耗费的时间和精力，往往数倍于回信本身。再想象朋友接信时的表情，不是喜出望外，而是余怒重炽，你那一点决心就整个崩溃了。你的债，永无清偿之日。不回信，绝不等于忘了朋友，正如世上绝无忘了债主的负债人。在你惶恐的深处，恶魇的尽头， 隐隐约约， 永远潜伏着这位朋友的怒眉和冷眼，不，你永远忘不了他。你真正忘掉的，而且忘得那么心安理得，是那些已经得到你回信的朋友。