Flash Fiction #133
“Look, Ivy, nobody wants to tutor Susu. We are here to tell you that we don’t want Susu.” Lulan says.
Ivy looks at Lulan, Tin, Cindy, and then the new employee San. They all look back at her while nodding their head to agree with what Lulan just said.
Ivy and her husband Tom Tsai run the Ivy Training Center for the Asian community in Edison, New Jersey, where they offer language assistance, after-school training on various subjects, and other services. The pandemic has made her business more complicated than before. Some parents insist on face-to-face classes, while other parents prefer Zoom class. The worst come from those parents who insist that everybody gets tested for Covid before a class begin and those who tested positive should be quarantined at home. And all these headaches stress Ivy out. And on top of all these, there’s Susu.
Susu Ond is the third daughter of Arming Ond and his wife Jasmin Ond, who own two nail salons in Middlesex County, where Edison Township is located. Jasmin has become a personal friend of Ivy for ten years since Susu’s two elder sisters were students in the Ivy Training Centers for years. Ivy likes Susu’s two elder sisters very much–they are not really academically strong, but they are good kids. However Susu is very different. She is not just a normal sulky teenager, who the teachers at the center know how to deal with. She is impatient, impertinent, and rude even. She is also argumentative and even aggressive in her attitude.
“I was asking students what they want to be when they grow up. I mean normally students will say, ‘I want to be a doctor’, or ‘I want to work for Wall Street.’ However Susu said she wanted to be a philosopher. So I asked her why she said that. And she became a little belligerent. I mean verbally belligerent. Of course I was a little skeptical, but that’s just normal since people don’t say they want to be a philosopher every day. I guess my tone was not entirely encouraging and she was very upset. She started to argue with me…” San says. “I mean I like interesting argument, but she is quite rude in her manner and she makes the conversation quite unpleasant. I mean she’s like 16, right? I mean how can a 16-year-old girl be so rude? I think she’s a smart kid, but something is a little wrong in her.”
“Look, don’t make a big fuss about her manners. She’s still a kid. I mean it is strange though since Susu’s two sisters are so polite and sweet. Isn’t that strange?” Ivy says.
“No, Ivy. We are all united here. None of us wants to teach Susu. You need to call her mother and tell her we don’t want Susu here.” Tin and Cindy speak in unison.
“You know what I think is the case here? Susu’s parents tried to have a son but couldn’t. Most of Asians only have one or two kids now and can’t afford more, but Susu’s parents have three children, just because they wanted to have a son. When Susu was born, they just raised her like a son and deliberately tried to push her to be smart, strong, ambitious etc. And you know for minority and marginalized people, there’s this practice among parents to push kids to excel, to stand out, to the point of twisting a child’s normal psyche and usual grow-up process. It’s called a special kind of parental narcissism that can happen among marginalized people. Some kids survive their parents without too much damage, but for kids like Susu, it is a disaster.” Lulan says.
“OK, Lulan, you are such a quack psychologist. Your analysis doesn’t help the situation.” Ivy says.
Somebody pushes the door and comes in–Susu’s mother Jasmin emerges.
“Look, I have homemade rice cakes for everybody. And thank you for helping Susu.” Jasmin says and presents a container of sticky rice with red bean fillings covered in sweet soybean powder.
“I wonder if Susu can have private lessons? She is really smart, isn’t she? She thinks she is hindered by her peers. Private one-on-one lessons will be better, don’t you think?” Jasmin says and stares at Ivy.
Ivy hesitates. She really wants to eat the rice cakes in front of her, but what can she say in response? How can she tell Jasmin that nobody likes her daughter? Jasmin works 16 hours a day and saves every penny, but for Susu, Jasmin spares no expense.
“Such a good mother with such good intentions, only to be labeled a narcissist and to bring up a emotionally and mentally damaged daughter.” Ivy thinks and tears well up in her eyes.