The Robot Translator (Flash Fiction Part 4)

Image by kiquebg from Pixaba

This is the 4th part of the story. The previous 3 parts are here: 1, 2, 3.

If Tram doesn’t want to help her, she will do it herself. She has always been a resourceful girl even though she has never had much resources in her command. She is an expert in doing her best under limited circumstances, and steering away from the pitfalls life and society have arranged for her.

She thinks of her life in three distinct phases. The first phase was from her babyhood to high school, during which she was oppressed by her narcissistic parents, alienated by their antagonism, frightened by their bitter fights. She had to save up pocket money to buy things for herself since her parents refused to pay anything that was not bare essential. There were two kinds of parents in her neighborhood–those who considered girls valuable and wanted to help their girls, and those who considered their girls burdensome, and for them any expenditures on the girls were money down the drain. Unfortunately her parents belonged to the later kind. Still she eulogized her family in public while at the same time she would try to find chances to stay late in school or stay tutoring other students for the purpose of getting them to offer her a free meal. No matter how beastly her family was, she would always praise the beast; no matter how much she professed her love for the beast, she would always try to stay away. She performed her duplicity to perfection, even convincing herself that her relatives’ narcissism made them superior, and her instincts of avoiding them only boosted her admiration for them from a distance–most of the time it was a emotional and psychological distance.

The second phase was from the time she entered college to the time she finally married Tram. That was a span of 11 to 12 years. Her quiet and sulky temperament made it very difficult for her to find a suitable boyfriend. Her friends told her to be more caring towards boys or at least to be more fun to hang out with, but she didn’t know how to do that. They told her to fake it until she would make it, but still she couldn’t do it. Her mother was scolding her forever since her not being married was such a stain on her parents’ good name. Her mother was more vocal about it while her father kept his silence. In her mother’s opinion, Ayun had always been a liability and never an asset, and her not getting herself married was the biggest liability of all. To alleviate her mother’s shame and anger, she tried every trick she could manage at her workplace to find a project that would require travel, often for one or two months at a time. Fortunately there were many projects like that in her consulting firm. She was also learning Spanish since projects in Latin America would take people away for the longest time.

When Tram came back from America after his divorce, Ayun was pleasantly surprised. She just came back from a project in Thailand. Most of the girls around Ayun had already married, which explained why Ayun didn’t face any competition. It was so easy for Ayun to comfort Tram, and their meeting had been satisfactory to both. Tram had plenty of opportunities to date girls younger than Ayun, but they couldn’t connect with Tram as Ayun could, and also several vivacious and chatty and pretty girls scared Tram into thinking that they were similar to his ex-wife Pandi, and such a girl might dump him one day and run away with another Jewish businessman. For the first time in her life, Ayun’s quiet demeanor and sulky gloom were viewed as positive traits.

Ayun kept things secret from her parents. They didn’t know anything until she and Tram had decided on the date of their wedding. Her mother’s eagerness to marry her off would very likely terrify Tram at the early stage of their new romance, which was a risk she didn’t want to take. Anyway, when her mother finally heard of the news, she expressed more happiness than Ayun had ever seen before. However, her outpouring of parental delight was not transformed to a willingness to give Ayun any money or pay for the wedding. Not only that, her mother took the opportunity to complain to her about Ayun’s father’s indifference, his spending habits, his wasting of family funds, his suspicious behavior which might indicate that he had a secret sweetheart elsewhere. On top of that, her brother’s spending–he was in college at the time– was just as problematic as his father. “How can there be any money left? I won’t be able to find a penny if I search with a magnifier.” She came to this final conclusion after a long tirade.

Now that Ayun was finally “rescued” from the precipice of social disgrace–being a single woman–her mother warmed up to her in lightening speed. The motherly attention caught Ayun by surprise. As a child starved for parental regard all her life, Ayun was flattered and grateful. Actually she was so grateful that she thought her mother the most respectable long-suffering woman in the world, so grateful that she felt very guilty that she had not loved her mother as her mother deserved, so grateful that she thought her mother’s cunning and artfulness were justified since she didn’t have other choices.

“Am I becoming like my mother?” Ayun asks herself as she is riding the transit to come to Manhattan one morning. “She is always planning and scheming to achieve some goals, but only to make herself so miserable and everybody around her so unhappy. I am not like my mother since I love my husband and my son. I am so lucky. Now life forces me to be cunning and artful just like my mom. What choice do I have? I will damage the robot today and make it unusable.”

(To Be Continued Here)

10 thoughts on “The Robot Translator (Flash Fiction Part 4)

  1. What is Ayun’s third “distinct phase” of her life?
    Was it the moment her mother, let’s say, “opened up” to her? Or does that belong to the second phase, the married life and instead the moment she began fearing to turn into her likeness?
    (To quote Wilde’s however, “All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does, and that is his.”)

    There’s also quite a few things hitting close to home for me too, for sure…


    1. Yes, many people don’t even admit their narcissistic upbringing, let alone get healed. I wish Ayun can recognize her problem, but she has turned into her mother who schemed and planned all day long to survive and to get ahead.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hopefully those types don’t become narcissistic or vengeful, invalidating, depressed and inconsiderate people because a lot of them are.


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