“Isn’t this childish? I mean it’s been two days and how long is this going to be? How long are you going to stay mad, for just a word I said. Or a phrase. Or probably a sentence. So what? I apologized, didn’t I?” Nu says to his wife Nilan. Nu is standing at the edge of the living room looking towards the sofa area where his wife is sitting, watching TV with the space heater right next to her. He can see that the heater is turning left and right slowly even though he can’t hear the whirring sound of it.
Nu just comes back from his friend Lu’s place, where he fixed Lu’s computer, which had been slowing down considerably due to a virus problem caused by an image of an actress. Nu works as a computer engineer. In his spare time, he refurbishes old computers and sells them on Ebay or Amazon for some extra income. However what he really enjoys doing is to help his friends fix their electronic devices, for which they feed him a good dinner and load him with packages of homemade dumplings, fishcakes, or dubious goods of affordable price they bought from under the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City.
“I am sorry. Now I apologize again. How many times do you want me to apologize? Let’s patch things up. What do you think?” Nu is watching intently at his wife, but there’s nothing. If she makes a slightest movement, he will advance his steps towards her, but without any kind of signal from her, he decides to stay where he is and waits.
The house is freezing. They have decided, or rather his wife has decided, to keep the temperature at 50F (10 degree Celsius) to save on the heating bill. They mostly rely on the one space heater for the living room, one in the bedroom, and a more portable one to take to the bathroom while needed.
“Look, Lu gave me a whole basket of fish dumpling here. Lu went fishing in the ocean in one of those commercial boats operated by fishermen. One person is allowed 30 to 40 pounds of fish and he didn’t know what to do with so much fish. So he and his wife made dumplings and froze them. You want to see it?” He says, almost begging, but his wife has no response. He thinks he will waits. It is strange though. Usually she would respond very warmly to such kind of food overture.
“Lu’s son Jeff brings his college sweetheart over. Can you believe that? The girl is one year older than Jeff. We always say that when a women is older than man, it’s no good. No good. That’s my opinion. I think that’s your opinion too, isn’t it?” Nu says, trying hard to excite his wife’s interest from 20 feet away, but there’s no response.
Nu has been a most vocal advocate of his opinions and values in the community. He is outgoing, sociable, clever. If his loud voice is mistaken for charisma, and his good manner misunderstood for agreeableness, that’s not his fault. Many people hold the same kind of opinions and values as he does, but none is as vocal as him. One family spends money on their girl to go to Juilliard School in Manhattan for weekend classes and Nu would say, behind their back, that it’s a waste of money and it will only make girls overvalue themselves. When an actress married an actor many years her junior, Nu had a tirade for a week and sporadic outbursts of condemnation ever since. Such a serious breach of “correct” social protocol. How could he take it?
His wife was always his staunchest supporter when they first married. Then he started to feel that she didn’t agree with him, which made him more eager to express his opinion while passionately soliciting her agreement. She played along at first and then started to turn a blind ear to his speeches. Now after 15 years of marriage, they have settled in a kind of truce, which is punctuated by occasional domestic fights as the one they are in right now. His wife always wins. He just can’t understand as intelligent and experienced a man as he is, he just can’t win once.
“Sweetheart, are you listening to me? The frozen dumplings are going to melt and my feet are cold and numb now by standing here too long. Are you listening?” He can’t stand her silence anymore. So he steps forward. When he comes to the sofa, he realizes that it is a pile of sofa pillows and the blanket. His wife is not there.
“You are not here. Well, why don’t you say so? You have been torturing me for so long. Do you hear me? You have been torturing me for too long. I am not going to stand this anymore.” He starts to hit the blanket with his fists repeatedly and throws the pillows in the air.
“And you are leaving the heater on for nothing. Now I finally catch you doing something wrong. Finally. Haha. I am going to take a picture of this and use it as evidence of your wrongdoing.” He says. As he is fumbling for his phone in his pocket, he hears steps behind him.
“What are you doing? I went to the bedroom to look for the knee warmer we bought last year. What are you saying?” She asks.
I was trying to write a story of a man's two faces--one public and one private, but I didn't produce the effect I wanted to produce. Anyway, it is an attempt.