Friday, October 22, 2010

Skin Deep

The box of glass plates removed from the display rack was heavy. Mr. Wong offered to lug it for Mrs. Liu, who was a tiny woman in her seventy’s. She was so tiny, in fact, that she had to shop her clothes in children’s department, then had them altered to fit her properly.

Mom’s display rack had some knickknacks only she found precious. The rest of us were happy to see it go--especially Mr. Wong, who was also our realtor.

I opened the front door for them. The cold air and grey skies reminded me again this was not California, and how I missed it.

Mr. Wong was supposed to hold the dolly that had the box of glass while Mrs. Liu and I unloaded the plates from the box to the back of her car.

He let go and the box fell, without my knowledge, behind my back, hitting my right heel.

I grabbed my heel and stopped breathing. They were shocked and asking me if I was alright. I couldn’t speak for a few seconds.

When the pain subsided I lifted the pant and found a piece of skin missing. Some blood was dripping and the heel around it already turned blue.

I assured them I was fine, but might need to put a Band Aid on it, and went back upstairs half limping.

Mom was either trying to call someone or playing her handheld toy. She asked me if I remember to take the keys back and I told her what happened.

She said, “You sure know how to pick a fine place to stand.” without once looking up.

I found a Band Aid and went to the bedroom.

Of all the arguments we had over throwing her possessions away, this comment hurt me the most.

It was understandable she was infuriated by my actions in the past two weeks, even though she knew they were the right actions, and she had no idea where to begin if I hadn‘t done it for her. I knew it must be hard to be parted with her worldly possessions and move eight hundred miles away.

She was not trying to be cold. I was expecting too much.

I was silly to think now that she was going to live with me, somehow I would get a loving mother that I never had.

Growing up with a pair of self-centered parents, I should know better. They both were buried in their own miseries that life, and themselves, had brought on. No one had doted on me since I was a child. I should know not to rely on anyone emotionally. I have finally learned to be happy.

So why couldn’t I stop my tears?

Am I still trying to fill that void unconsciously no matter how hard I tried to ignore it consciously? I’m relatively smart and somewhat educated. I know a lost cause when I see one--most of the time.

What stubborn and unexplainable force possessed me to think if I looked hard enough I would find what I was missing?

Sometimes, some people are just skin deep. They are what you see.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Like Thunders to Ducks

She must have been watching me. As soon as I finished the form she gestured “Can you do this for me, too?” while holding up her form.

I guessed it. I didn’t understand a thing uttered from her mouth. Thank goodness hand gestures are mostly universal. The smile didn’t hurt either.

I could see the plot she and her husband secretly came up when I was writing. “Look, she knows English! She can help us!” Two heads nodded eagerly.

I assumed they were a couple. I know her culture. She wouldn’t be traveling with a man who was not her husband. But wait, they had different last names...

Two different passports for a couple. Interesting… Maybe they were brother/sister whose life paths led them half a world apart. I have never met my uncles, aunts, and cousins from either side of my parents, except for the one uncle who fled to the island. The war tore the families apart.

“Do you have meat, poultry, or food with you?” He shook his head. I didn’t think he knew what poultry was.

“Do you have over ten thousand dollars with you?” He showed me his index finger and said slowly: “One thousand.”

That was five times of my cash on hand. No wonder she wore pure gold earrings and ring.

“Do you have any guns?” I formed a gun with my fingers and aimed it at him. He laughed and said no. This question never ceased to amaze me. Do they really expect me to say “yes” if I had a gun in my bag and somehow escaped the baggage screening?

I skipped the question about the farm. It would be too much work to explain a farm. The local agricultural bureau would have to be on guard without my help.

“Sign here.” I pointed the form and handed over my pen. They both signed. She thanked me in her dialect.

It appeared they wanted to stay quiet and subdue. They didn‘t get such luck from me. I opened the booklet and showed them the choices of snacks available for purchase. They smiled and nodded, then shook, their heads.

Our abilities of understanding each other fit the saying “like thunders to ducks” perfectly. We knew something was making a lot of noise, but had very little idea what was really happening.

This must be how my mother used to travel to see me. She always called me after she arrived home, describing the trip to me loudly. The flight was delayed. I met a person on the plane who spoke my language. My friend picked me up. I ate the sandwich you made for me. A woman at the customs questioned me on the jewelries I wore. Etc, etc.

I always thought it was silly to make a less-than-two-hour trip sounded like a big ordeal.

The couple made me see that it was a big deal for my mom. She couldn’t fill the customs form. She couldn’t order anything to eat or drink. Somebody had to help her. With a lot of patience while doing it.

My eyes welled up. I was full of gratitude to those strangers who helped my mom on the numerous flights she took. I now know why she was so excited when she got home safely.

I ordered a box of snacks and forced the couple to eat it with me.

Let them think I was a strange and crazy woman. I don’t care.

(I’m visiting my mom who broke her wrist recently. I will be mostly missing from the blog world for a while since there’s a lot to do.)


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