A Woman And Her Store

Let’s just say her name is Vi and she is selling her little store, which she has been the owner for the last fifteen years or so. Let’s just say the buyer’s name is Tai, for whom I’ve done translation off and on for many years. The store is in the Princeton area and the business is not bad, even during the pandemic.

I can’t believe the transferring of such a little store requires so much paperwork and I have to translate line by line. Tai wants to know everything even the most mundane line such as the snow removal cost. However one thing nice about translating for Tai is that he regularly gives me compliments, like “your English is so good” or “I wish I have your language skills”. I just suck all the flattering comments up and bath in the fake glory of being admired. A girl can never get enough admiration. Every time I meet Tai, I come back more vain than before.

Then Vi suddenly said, “I don’t think I can pull through this time. I am dying.” I was so startled that I didn’t know what to say. So Vi is this lady who has been sick. Since I translate for a couple of people who know Vi, I heard about Vi’s story for at least one and half years. She has been sick and can’t eat anything. She’s losing weight. It’s not really stomach, not irritable bowel, not colitis. Cancer is suspected. However I didn’t know Vi myself and don’t know she’s the owner of a store or she knows Tai.

Vi is going to be 65 next month and she has been waiting all these months for it, the eligibility for Medicare. I mean if it is really cancer, she probably has doomed herself by waiting for so long without getting checked out promptly. Vi is not a rare case. It is such a common occurrence in the Asian immigrant community. My friend H told me several months ago that one of his friends was diagnosed with late stage colon cancer at the young age of less than 50. He has been feeling unwell for quite a while, but as a typical small business owner, he is too stingy to shell out the money for health insurance.

“I don’t think I can survive this time.” Vi sprinkled her breathless prognosis into our conversation, often quite out of context. I felt so oppressed that I didn’t know what to say. Sometimes tears just welled up in my eyes that I have to stop translating and looked away. Tai is very good at comforting her. “What’s the address of the management company? Vi? Please, don’t be too pessimistic. Next month, you’ll be saved. The best medical care is waiting to help you.”

“It’s at the upper left corner of the letter I gave you last time.” Vi answered,”I am dying. I have an ominous feeling. I can’t pull through. I don’t even cook these days since I don’t have the energy.”

“Stop discourage yourself, Vi. Oh I see the address. It’s a New York address. Fifth avenue Manhattan. I can’t believe your little plaza has a big management company like this. Vi, you are worrying too much. Sometimes worrying can make your symptoms go worse. Think about some pleasant thoughts.” Tai said.

As I drove home, I almost felt a little disoriented. It’s probably better if I stopped the car at the road side and cried for a while, but I didn’t. I continued to drive. When I got home, I had such a terrible headache that I went to bed with an empty stomach.

When I got up, I felt that I wanted to pray. I am not really religious, but instances like this make me want to pray to whatever gods who listen. Pray let me see all those success stories of American dreams. Don’t let me see failures even if it is so easy to fail, even if so many people fail. When it is time for me to die, please make it quick. I don’t want to be saddled with a chronic illness that is hard to diagnose. I know life is usually messy, but please don’t mess up my death.

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