“We bought this canary at the pet store last week. Look. Well, he is a little shy. Probably because this is a new cage for him in a new home.” Jasmin says. Jasmin and Wai just got married. Wai is Pammy and her husband Pan’s friend for many years. He’s a mathematician and has been a researcher in Rutgers University for more than a decade. However he’s quite unlucky in love. His first girlfriend broke up with him since she wanted to attend a graduate program in California; his second girlfriend got a job offer as an adjunct lecturer in North Carolina. His third girlfriend became his first wife who couldn’t bear children. They tried many years from acupuncture to fertility clinic, but all ending in disappointing result. The doctors said that his wife is more of a problem than he is. As a very filial son and a staunch defender of traditional Asian values, Wai had to divorce his wife. So they went their separate ways. Now finally, Wai married his second wife Jasmin, who looks very passive, quiet, submissive, and innocent.
Jasmin lived in Florida with her aunt who knows Wai’s mother back home. So the aunt and the mother talked about this. The next thing you know, Wai flies to Florida to marry Jasmin.
Pammy, Pan, Armei, Lulan are all Wai’s friends for years and they are all very happy for him. The newlyweds host this dinner party and all Wai’s friends are invited. After dinner, they all sit together to talk and this is when the bird cage is brought over to be admired.
The bird is quite passive and even still. He’s not singing or even moving.
“He’s shy, with so many strangers around.” Wai says.
“Yes, he sings beautifully, but not now.” Wai’s wife Jasmin echoes.
Pan comes over, trying to tease the bird to sing, but Pammy laughs at him a little.
“We are thinking of buying him a wife since he doesn’t look very happy.” Jasmin says.
“Yes, you are right.” All the guests nod their head and agree in unison.
Supported by the popular consensus, Jasmin continues, “If the wife dies, we will buy another wife for him; but if he dies, we will not buy a husband for his widowed wife. Is that right, Wai?” Jasmin looks towards Wai, who scratches his head and looks a little embarrassed.
The guests praise the plan as an excellent one, but are all a little puzzled by what Jasmin really means.
When Pan and Pammy were driving back home, Pammy says, “I wonder what’s going on between Wai and Jasmin. They sort of use the bird as a symbol of certain kind.”
“Oh, you are overthinking again. It’s just a bird. All we need to do is to give polite praise.” Pan says.
“Wai is a little insecure, right? I mean he has to secure this bird in a cage. I mean it is a symbol of comfort and security to him. I mean he lost two girlfriends and a first wife. He must be feeling a little unlucky and a little insecure.” Pammy says.
“What do you mean? Many people buy birds for fun, just like a cat or a dog. I’ve never heard you talking about a dog owner as insecure. Why owning a bird makes you think that Wai is insecure?” Pan says.
“I don’t know. It might be my imagination, but somehow I feel that Wai knows that the bird is unhappy but still insists that the bird will be happier when having a wife. Somehow he tells his wife so. While Jasmin looks passive but she is very determined…” Pammy says.
“How do you know? You only meet Jasmin once and you just come up with all these…” Pan says.
“Well, just listen to me. Jasmin knows the bird is unhappy and buying a wife for him will not cure his unhappiness, but she humors Wai and agrees with him. See? This is the kind of relationship that the husband deliberately says something untrue to make a point to the wife, while the wife pretends to agree even though she knows it is bullshit. And all’s well that ends well…” Pammy says.
“What? What? What are you saying? I am really not following you…” Pan says.
“I am glad I have you, Pan. You are such an honest, straightforward, clever, and lucky guy in life that you’ve never learned the symbolism of tradition and the trickery of human psychology. You don’t bully people even if the society gives you the opportunity; you don’t do propaganda even if it is to your advantage. You just say what you want to say. You are such a wonderful husband, so much better than Wai.” Pammy says.
“Thank you for the praise. But what are you talking about? You are talking in riddles.” Pan says.