“I want to stop all the lies. From now on, no sugarcoating, no spinning, no prevarication. I will be honest, straightforward, open.” Pammy says to her friends Armei and Lulan.
It’s Sunday morning. The three women are sitting at one of the outdoor tables of the Korean bakery Paris Baguette in Edison, New Jersey. Armei and Lulan looked at Pammy wistfully.
“I’m fine with your resolution, as long as you don’t reveal our girl talk to my husband. It’s our girl talk. It stays with us.” Lulan says.
“Oh well, I am not too crazy about this new aspiration of yours.” Armei says. Armei is never very crazy about Pammy’s various schemes, like eating healthy food, practicing yoga, planning her time in her scheduling app like an American businessman etc. Armei is OK with Pammy’s enthusiasm for trying new things, but Armei is a little miffed that Pammy once or twice criticized Armei’s more reserved and conservative approach to life. Once Pammy said to Armei: “I am arguing with my husband Pan so much because we have a more open and honest relationship.” Armei was a little too astonished to reply. However she thought to herself that Pammy was really feeling too good about herself–she really thought she had a better marriage, being more open etc. Basically she thought she’s better than Armei. “One day I would have my revenge.” Armei thought to herself at the time.
Just then, Pammy’s phone rings with a social media call coming in. It’s Pan’s mother–Pammy’s mother-in-law, who is living in Pan’s hometown in a bustling city in Southeast Asia. Pan has been a little out of spirit recently and he hasn’t returned his mother’s messages as promptly as before.
“Oh, I am with my friend Armei and Lulan here. I will talk with you later when I get home. Pan is at home sleeping I think.” Pammy says.
“Oh, Pammy, how’s Pan? Talk to me. I am going to sleep soon and I can’t wait when you get home. He’s not returning my messages recently. I called him and he’s not answering. What’s up with his promotion? Did he get the bonus?” Pammy’s mother-in-law says.
“Go ahead, Pammy. Be honest, straightforward, and open.” Armei says, her eyes staring at Pammy as if to challenge her. This is the moment of revenge for Armei. “Remember you once said you have a more open and honest relationship?”
Pammy shot an annoying glance at Armei.
“Go ahead, Pammy. What are you waiting for? Tell your mother-in-law…” Armei looks at Pammy, as if it is a duel.
“Tell me what? Pammy?” The mother-in-law asks and she too stares at Pammy through the screen of the phone. In many crowded stores, the wifi is not so good, but today the signal is especially strong.
“OK, let me tell you the truth. Pan has never been considered for promotion since he lacks the people skills and the language skills. He’s a wonderful financial analyst, but he has to work twice as hard as others in order to keep his job. Being an immigrant, that’s the deal one gets. He told you about the imaginary promotion and bonus, only to make you feel good and feel proud of him, like most of other immigrants. They never tell their relatives back home how difficult a life they have in America. They paint a beautiful picture for you. It’s just a sugarcoat to hide their real struggle.” Pammy says.
“This can’t be true. Are you talking about Pan? Are you talking about my son and your husband? He’s the smartest boy in town. He won all the math and physics awards. He went to Singapore for college on scholarship and then went to America for graduate school. His high school has his pictures in the trophy room and adores him like a god of science and wisdom. He told me he is going to be a manager of a team of fifty engineers and analysts. He is going to buy a big house for his brother in his hometown and a big plot in the cemetery for the family here. He is my pride. He can do anything. He’s my dream boy.” The old mother-in-law is so shocked that she starts to ramble almost incoherently.
“Guess what. He lost money on the stock market and cryptocurrency he invested. He went to the casinos and lost more. We probably will lose our house just to pay for Sam’s college. And with the current inflation level, I am afraid that we won’t even have money for retirement, let alone tombstones or a burial plot. He’s depressed and he won’t be able to function without his anti-depression drug. I am sorry to tell you the truth here.” Pammy says and her tone has a bit of savagery in it.
Her mother-in-law let out a big scream and the call is disconnected. The next day, Pan receives a message from his relatives that his mother has died of a massive heart attack.