“Yesterday I threw all his books out the window.” Lulu says to me.
“Really?” I feign surprise but I’m not really surprised.
“I made sure the car is not parked in the driveway first and the screens were taken down for the winter.” Lulu and her husband Tun live in a tenement style townhouse and the driveway is right underneath the living room window.
“I liked the sound of the books hitting the asphalt. He ran out to pick them up while shouting that I’m the meanest woman he’d ever known.”
We were sitting at the dining area of H Mart, a Korean grocery store, in Edison, New Jersey, and sharing several steamed red bean buns. Originally we planned to go to Menlo Park Mall together afterwards, but Lulu’s obviously not in the mood. I guess the shopping trip is off. I have to be careful when Lulu complains about her husband. If I don’t ask for details, she is going to be hurt that I don’t care about her; if I ask too many details, she is going to think that I am too nosy; if I don’t criticize Tun, she’s going to think I am not on her side; if I criticize Tun, she may be annoyed. Two months ago I gave Lulu several suggestions when the couple was having a spat. When they reconciled afterwards, she told Tun everything I said. Tun has not spoken to me since and probably will never speak to me.
“You know his parents were against our marriage and thought we are not suitable to each other. Now I think about it. They have a lot of foresight.” Lulu says.
“Why did they say you are not suitable?” I ask.
“His zodiac sign is sheep and mine is dog. They think the dog will eat the sheep. At the time I thought that’s just nonsense old superstition.” Lulu says.
“It is nonsense. You are not saying you start to believe it now?” I say.
Lulu and her husband Tun met in Singapore where she was working on her computer science degree. Tun moved there with his parents several years before Lulu. Tun’s father is the best player of an obscure string instrument in the world and also a rare scholar in a pictograph language with dwindling native speakers. Under a new diversity initiative of the Singapore government, scholars like Tun’s father were recruited to the universities there to give lectures and demonstrations. Tun’s father didn’t want to move. They were living in Northern Thailand at the time and had a modest income and a stable job and very high social status. However Tun’s mother were interested in the opportunity and persuaded her husband that it would be good economically for the whole family. In this tropical city state, both Tun and Lulu were immigrants with very few friends and very limited resources. The locals shun poor immigrants socially if not professionally, and the couple felt lucky that they found each other.
Several years later, Tun worked as his father’s assistant and Lulu’s company opened a new office in New Jersey. Tun and his parents didn’t want her to come, but she didn’t listen to them. She came and settled down and battled with her husband and in-laws, who eventually caved in. Her husband came but could only manage to get very ill paid jobs.
“I gave him an ultimatum–either he starts to learn computer to get a good job or…” Lulu says.
“What if he doesn’t want to learn computer? He’s not like you.” I shrug my shoulders.
“Oh, he has to. He has to sacrifice for our family.” Lulu says, “and you know we have an opening for web testers and document writers. If he just learns a little bit of computer and passes the entrance test, he can triple his current salary.” Lulu says.
Two weeks later, Lulu calls me. She kicks her husband out.
“Isn’t that a little too dramatic? What are you going to do?”
“I threatened to kick him out and now I did it.” She says with a sad triumphant tone.
Three months later, I meet Lulu again. She happily informs me that her husband has just moved back home.
“Is he learning computer skills now?” I ask.
“No. He’s just his old self.” She says, a little crestfallen.
“I am glad it’s blown all over now. Let’s just relax and be happy. This is love, you know? You just have to accept who he is.” I smile at her. There’s never a crestfallen woman happier than Lulu, I think.
“OK, I’m accepting him all right, but can you talk with him? I mean to persuade him to learn computer?” Lulu asks.
“What do you mean? You can’t persuade him yourself. How can I persuade him?” I’m a little panic.
“Well, you deal with people and you know how to persuade people.” Lulu insists.
Just when I think their battle of love is over, I realize it is not.