A Tale Of Two Cousins (Flash Fiction Part 19)

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Flash Fiction #163

This is the 19th part. The previous 18 parts are here: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8,9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18.

Nalan, Right Now

I am not surprised that Uncle Big is a popular guy in the Lakeview retirement community, which has more than 300 independent units. And my uncle occupies a corner unit which is bigger than others of the same price range. He never fails to point this out to his visitors and if you don’t utter an instant admiration of it, he will feel a little mortified. There is a conference room, various event rooms, dining hall, gym etc. on the ground floor of the common area. The food is not very good here and many people choose to cook their own food at their apartment. My uncle and thirty other residents have formed a team, which hires a family to cook for them and delivers their lunch and dinner to the premise. This has enraged the Lakeview management. It’s an ongoing battle. Right now the management forbids this particular food seller to come in and do the delivery.

When I arrive, Arjin and Fanfan are standing outside of the Lakeview gate to get the delivered food. We carried all the food container in to Uncle Big’s abode.

At the table, a beautiful old lady is sitting with my uncle–obviously his girl friend. My uncle introduces her as a former diplomat whose husband died several years back. She is so elegant that even her wrinkles look refined and well arranged and properly subdued. Her hairstyle is distinct and vaguely familiar, and I guess it must be fashioned after a recent K-Drama character. Her name is Meili.

We all sit down quietly at the dining table. In our family, there is never a noisy or friendly gathering. People are always awkwardly silent or scrupulously polite. There’s never a word that is said spontaneously, never a feeling that is revealed except a narcissistic rage once a year or so, never a gesture that is not pre-sanctioned.

The star item of the table is a hotpot with geoduck, which is a huge sea clam indigenous to Pacific North America. However people in Americas don’t eat them and people in Asia love them. Thus it has to be shipped by air in iceboxes. Needless to say, it’s quite an expensive item to have, which fit in very well with my uncle’s narcissistic pride. Arjin and Fanfan, as if on cue, express their admiration of the food profusely, but I don’t say anything.

Waiting but not receiving my compliment, my uncle finally asks me, “Nalan, you haven’t tasted any goeduck yet. Here is a big piece. Let me get it for you.”

“I don’t eat meat anymore.” I tell him. It is actually considered rude in my family to say this during a meal when everybody else is enjoying meat. However I feel a strange sense of pleasure to be antagonistic towards them.

“Seafood is not meat, right?” My uncle asks.

“Of course it is. Arming.” Meili says and affectionately pats my uncle’s arm. My uncle’s nickname is Arming. Obviously their relationship has been progressing to a very intimate level.

“Meili was a diplomat. She has traveled everywhere and tasted everything.” My uncle says, glowing with pride. He obviously admires her and she fits in his narcissistic desire perfectly.

I wonder how much love bombing my uncle must have done to gain Meili’s affection. And Meili, being beautiful all her life, is probably feeling not sufficiently admired when she gets old and widowed. Then she meets my uncle, who flatters her exactly the way she wants.

After a silent meal, my uncle starts to talk and everybody listens. He speaks well. Years of being the head of a government department, he has learned to make formal or semi-formal speeches, even with pre-scripted jokes thrown in here and there to make what he says less boring. He talks about his regards for Arjin’s mom and her tragic demise; he talks about Arjin’s marital difficulty with Fanfan; he talks about my assistance to Arjin and Fanfan during their most challenging time.

Well, I think he hates me for helping Arjin and Fanfan to recognize a narcissist when they see one, but he doesn’t express that in his speech. In the end, he insists that his wife dies of an accident and he will fight anybody who says otherwise.

“And Meili is soon going to be a member of our family. I’ve never said this to Meili before, but now I want her to know this.” He says and looks at Meili with smile and admiration. And Meili returns his glance with the same contented smile.

I can’t say a word. What my uncle has said fits the occasion so well that it makes any alternative voice out of place. I just can’t bring myself to say one word of protest. I was prepared to fight him before I came, but I have been inexplicably incapacitated. My tongue is tied, my fighting spirit is gone. I almost forget everything I have prepared to say.

“Do you agree, Nalan? You are a researcher, working for a university. You need to uphold all the values that we cherish, right?” He says and stares into my eyes, demanding a response.

That’s a thinly veiled threat. If I do not agree with him, he is going to go to my university to complain of my “unethical” behavior of breaking Arjin’s marriage and smearing my uncle’s reputation. I may lose my job, which I cannot afford.

“OK.” I say with great unwillingness and stare him back. I have to admit temporary defeat right now, but I will not back down. I will eventually find my way to deliver my message to all the victims of my grandma and my uncle’s narcissism. I want to destroy the generational narcissism so that all my cousins can start to live a normal life.

(To Be Continued Here)

17 thoughts on “A Tale Of Two Cousins (Flash Fiction Part 19)

  1. Man, poor Nalan. I hate it when people use emotional blackmail like that.

    This same thing happened when I was in Thailand. I was at my desk studying the Thai script when a head teacher came to me demanding why I was trying to learn how to read Thai. She even tested my bad reading skills.

    Anyways because I was studying Thai, she basically demanded that I would spend two days a week after classes were over to tutor her kids. I knew that if I said no, she would demand that I don’t sign a new contract to work another semester.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is really outrageous. Of course you don’t want to tutor her kids. What was she thinking? She is just trying to frighten people to tutor her own kids for free. Don’t be frightened by these bullies. I think she must have done this many times before to frighten people into a free service to herself.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. She did pay me a little bit, but she is the type to try to become a Big Boss in a small town. A lot of the other teachers told me that she is into politics. She also took advantage of the fact that I am a foreigner with very little in terms of recourse.

        So there was not much I could do in that situation, unfortunately.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. You want to talk with other people about this since I am sure she has done the same thing to other people before. Don’t suffer in silence and try to find information to find the best way to survive. Don’t feel bad when you are a foreigner. And because you are a foreigner, it is even more important for you to talk with other people to seek help.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Actually you can ask people how to deal with this situation rather than making it sound like a complaint. Also there are techniques to deal with authoritative figures like this, like stalling, delaying, and other survival methods. I have to tell you that a lot of people don’t like you to learn new things. Growing up in a narcissistic family, I know this first hand. Try to keep your learning to yourself. Somehow I suspect that most of the teachers around you don’t really spend time to learn Thai, which make you too conspicuously different.

          Liked by 1 person

        3. I agree on that one. The other foreign teachers didn’t bother to learn any Thai or at least how to read it. This did make me stand out since most foreigners can’t read the language and don’t care to do so even if they lived there for many years.

          Liked by 1 person

        4. I’ve been learning thai for 30 min every day for almost two years and I am still not able to recognize all its alphabets. And recently I downloaded a thai app, which have thai alphabet games and it helps me to get all of them. After almost two years. That’s a long time. LOL. I am so slow. Haha.

          Liked by 1 person

        5. I think part of the problem is that you are in the US and not as exposed to the Thai script. I’ve learned a few letters and I basically forgot all of them once I returned to the US as well. (For some reason, I can still read the word for “chicken” haha).

          It’s not a bad idea for you to download pictures of Thai road signs and menus to help you out.

          By the way I recommend “Read Thai in 10 Days” by Bingo Lingo (not his real name). It helped me a lot when I lived over there.

          Liked by 1 person

        6. Haha, yes, I incidentally bought that book two years ago, but only read 10% of it. It is just too boring. Most of the language books are sooooo boring, which is always a problem of learning another language.

          Liked by 1 person

        7. PS I used to be able to read at least 2000 Chinese characters, but I have been forgetting it for awhile now to a point I can only read 100 at most. Again, it’s because I’m not in an area where Chinese is a predominate.

          Liked by 1 person

        8. Haha, it is true. Most of the Chinese American go to weekend language school, but their knowledge of the characters never gets to what their parents expect it to be. Eventually they forget most of it. And that’s a lot of wasted money there, but… since it is a ritual, it has to be carried on.

          Liked by 1 person

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