My friend H told me this story, and I have since changed the location and the background setting of the original story to make this a fiction of fictional characters.
It’s about the neighbor of my friend H, an Asian immigrant couple, both engineers, which are not uncommon among Asian immigrants in New Jersey. They have twins, one boy and one girl, who are attending the same local middle school. Let’s just call the boy B and the girl G for the sake of this story.
The couple is continuously putting pressure on B to perform better in school. B’s not a bad student, but not as good as what his parents expect him to be. The thing is G always outperforms her twin brother B academically, which gives their parents the ammunition to press B. They often point out B’s deficiencies in comparison with his twin sister G. They tell B that he is the hope of the family and will carry the family name. B’s current performance just can’t live up to the name he’s inheriting. Actually B’s grandparents are farmers turning shopkeepers in a huge Southeastern Asian city. There’s nothing glorious about B’s heritage, but the couple see no harm, and only benefits, in glorifying the nonexistent ancestral title and upholding an imaginary family tradition of excellence.
One day the neighbor, only the wife not the husband, comes to knock on the door and tells my friend H that they just had a big row at home. B runs away and G is crying. H promises to take care of G while the parents go out to look for B. It turns out G just received a scholarship to go to a summer camp somewhere, which triggered a new wave of criticism from the parents and pushed B’s response to a new dramatic height.
“It’s said every family is a Greek tragedy.” I say but regret immediately that I’ve said that.
“It’s an Asian tragedy.” My friend H says. “A Greek tragedy is more bloody.”
“The Greeks dramatized and stretched a real life story into a bloody tragedy, don’t you think?”
“Well, how do you dramatize and stretch this real life story into a bloody tragedy then?” H asks.
“I can’t. I feel uncomfortable to add more drama to your neighbor’s story.” I said. “However I heard this one a while ago that a boy was pressured by all his relatives to be a medical doctor. When he didn’t get in the medical school, he faked it. He pretended that he went to medical school every day just to make his relatives happy. When it eventually revealed that he’s never admitted, he just bought a gun and killed all of his relatives. And himself.”
“Does it qualify as a Greek tragedy?”