Lulu doesn’t know why Cindy wants to Iowa. Can’t she just find a writer’s workshop in New Jersey or somewhere close by? Lulu doesn’t want to ask in case it is a common knowledge and the very inquiry reveals her ignorance. Lulu’s proud that she’s read a lot of books and knows a lot of things–as an anthropologist, she has to. She even wants to talk about Kuching and East Malaysia with Cindy, its formation at the end of the British colonial period, its colorful ethnic conflicts between people from Philippine and Indonesia. However, she thinks Cindy doesn’t know much about her parents’ background or the place they came from.
“So what’s happening in your life?” Cindy suddenly asks.
Lulu suddenly realizes that she hasn’t revealed much about her own life while she has known a lot about Cindy’s, more than Lulu has ever wished to know.
“Not much, really. Just same ol’ same ol’ every day. I have aging parents, quiet husband, a little place often untidy, no children, and a dream of an anthropology job somewhere waiting for me.” Lulu says.
“Untidy? I have to tidy up before I can write anything. It’s owing to my mother that it is so tidy and even the deepest corner of the refrigerator can’t escape her cleaning pad. Not only that. She even watch that Japanese woman Marie something. She tidies and cleans in a TV series. Can you believe my mother? She spend half of her spare time to tidy and to cook. When she finally has time to relax, she watches shows to tidy up and to cook. Don’t you think she’s a little too obsessed with domesticity? I hope I don’t inherit the same clean gene from her. If I do, I probably won’t… Oh, never mind. I really want to be a writer, like Amy Tan, who wrote ‘Joy Luck Club’. You probably don’t know her. You do? You like her too, don’t you? I just read ‘Between The World And Me’ and I really like it. I wish there are Asian writers like that. Unfortunately no. There’s no genre called Asian literature within the English literature at all. Probably the Asian writers are too white. I mean in our thinking. My mother tells me almost everyday that I think like white not like Asian. Don’t you just get tired of it if you hear something day after day. However I have better relationship with my mother now. When I was a teenager, we argued a lot, but then I guess we both grow out of it. You must be surprised that I talk about my mother so much, but what can I do. I mean I live with her right now. My boyfriend left me… Well, he says I left him, but I think he left me first before I left him. He was really handsome when I first met him. First time I saw him, he was playing basketball with several guys much taller and stronger than him, but he’s not afraid. I was so inspired by him even if he didn’t play that well. We were in Rutgers together and we worked to save money for a trip to Malaysia and then Taiwan. We both tried to connect with our roots. I think it was in Kuching we met this girl, a tour guide, who insisted on giving us a secret tour of Rajah of Sarawak, whatever that means. I thought I would look up later, but I never did. I ended up not going due to a little argument, but he went despite my objection. And that’s it. He eventually wrote his graduating thesis on East Malaysia, with the girl’s help, I bet. I probably should have kept him since I haven’t found anybody since. I’m so busy with my full time job and this part time job. Also living with my mother makes dating more difficult. What do you think?”
“What do I think of what? Living with your mother?” Lulu asks.
“No, of course not. I mean do you think I did the right thing to end my relationship with Ki? That’s his name, Ki.” Cindy says.
“There’s no right and wrong in such a case. If it were me, I probably will continue since I don’t have anybody else.”
“That’s the thing. I ended the relationship, thinking that I would start anew, but I didn’t realize that I have this goal of saving money for Iowa Workshop and no time to date.”
Suddenly they fall silent and Lulu understands that it is her turn to talk about her relationship, but Asian immigrants like Lulu just don’t do conversations in this style. Cindy’s mother is right that Cindy is not really an Asian. The conversation style is completely different. Lulu tries to talk about her husband in Cindy’s style, but she doesn’t know how.
“I’m not good at cleaning and cooking like your mother, and I’m not a good wife material. I think my husband is the only decent man who can accept that in a woman. I mean in my circle, which tends to be conservative. I think I’m very lucky to have him.” Lulu says.
“Wow, that’s really… I guess …”
“Honest and unromatic, isn’t it?”