Knowing Yourself And Others

Lulu has finished a long day’s work at the Ivy Training Center, which has established classes from 4PM to 9PM every weekday, and all day weekend to cater to students of all grades. She calls it Ivy, never using the full name, just like everybody else. Before 4PM, Ivy also helps translate, fill forms, make phone calls for all kinds of clients at a much discounted rate than professional offices of accountants and lawyers.

Foreign travelers, students, immigrant population have nosedived during the Trump era, which caused the disappearance of 80% of the after school training centers, translation services, and other agencies in New Jersey and New York. However Ivy is still here. If the trend continues, Ivy will be the last one standing. Or probably the last one going out of business.

Lulu should have opened her own business. She knows that she should, but she just puts it off while continue to work for Ivy. It’s not that she doesn’t want to earn more money, but rather she wants to have more time to read, write, and improve. If she were to open a business of her own, she would exhaust herself on all those petty concerns a business inevitably brings.

Isn’t that the same was her father? Isn’t it? Her father worked as a translator for the government. He could have earned better money somewhere else. Much better. He was pushed to do so by Lulu’s mom and all the relatives, but he wouldn’t budge. Lulu’s mom always complained about this, treating it as the obvious indication that he doesn’t really care about his family’s economic situation. Lulu thought so too, but from a different angle. She thought her father just liked the idleness of a government job. He’s a lazy man and he has the right to be himself.

But is he really as lazy as that? Probably she’s missing something about her father. This government job of his enabled him to travel to for contract negotiations or diplomatic missions. He enjoyed traveling, looking so refreshed when coming back from a trip, and being happy to look forward to a new journey soon after. So that’s it. That’s the reason. He traded his economic concern for what he loves–traveling. How come she didn’t think of this before? How come she only realizes this now?

Wait a minute. Is this the whole picture? Is it possible that he had a lover somewhere? Is it possible he traveled with one of his colleagues who’s his lover? Doesn’t her mom know or suspect something? Of course her mom suspected even though her mom has never dropped any hint at all. Her mom is not on intimate term with Lulu. Everything she said is proper and correct and distant. Somehow Lulu treats her more like a scolding teacher.

Now that she thought about this, she wonders if she should call her father up. What is she going to say? She can’t spell it out in a straightforward way. Actually she has never said anything straightforward with her father. Everything she said was deliberately phrased to be obvious in politeness and obscure in meaning.

She can talk about a fable, just like Aesop. A turtle and a frog fall in love in a pond by a big river. The frog likes her pond, but the turtle wants to roam. She can hear her father yelling at her, “are you crazy?”

Or she can bluff, “I received a phone call from a woman who asks for your contact info.” Or “I am writing a family chronicle and I need something from you.” Or she can submit her DNA to to find out if she has any unknown half siblings somewhere.

One thinks one knows somebody, until one realizes that one doesn’t.

One thought on “Knowing Yourself And Others

  1. This reminds of a time when I was researching the Indian independence movement from 1900 to 1948. Next thing you know it, my mother dropped a few hints about my grandfather’s place in history during that time. Everything I thought I knew of my family, especially on my mom’s side, changed drastically.


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