Chapter 1: One Ungrateful Life
I lied there for about fifteen minutes, spaced out over that spectacular dream I just had. It pretty much signified everything that I could only think to have in my life, but could never get. And well, I got it--in my dreams. I somehow acquired the ability to fly, and travel to a whole bunch of exotic and probably nonexistent places on the planet, or beyond, if such places even exist. There was even this one spot that I couldn't get off my mind. I remember watching myself being transported across an oversea highway in this roofless jeep. In my dreams, somehow, I'm able to shift between two personas of myself--one as an "out of body" spectator, and the other as my actual self. In this case I had spontaneously shifted from being the former to the latter--don't ask me how. Well, I was sitting in the back seat of this viridian jeep, feeling the cool wind whipping past me, and surveying this spectacular 'seanery,' when something striking caught my eyes from out across the sea. They lined up against the highway, and appeared to be complex-looking structures surmounted atop of the water. I conjectured these to be houses of enormous size, but they looked nothing near to houses. Each of these was about a hundred feet tall and about seventy-five feet wide, though their sizes varied. And they varied tremendously in style. Some were perplexedly shaped like murex shells, while others appeared to be distortions of ginormous raw minerals. They almost appeared to be works done by nature. I remember seeing this one structure that did not take in any particular shape, and was formed from some sort of a fusion between stone and light blue crystal. What really made this 'house' stand out from all the others was it's unusual disarray of tiny archways where streams of glistening waterfalls burst lively out from every angle. It was an eye-blinding sight against the sunlight, but altogether the most remarkable thing I've ever seen. I'm pretty sure people have seen more remarkable things in their lives, but well, I never really had a life. So as you can guess, I'm the type of person that gets easily fascinated by things that anyone might raise an eyebrow on.
And I actually wasn't anywhere near finished with that dream. I'd tell you the whole story, but it'd be in a really dreary monotone, and no one wants to hear that. When I tell dreams, I tell it as it is. I couldn't overexaggerate because it just wouldn't give the genuine feel of what the dream was like. And I don't tend to overexaggerate, that is, unless I get really, really frustrated. When I get frustrated I also tend to laugh maniacally. I don't know what causes it, but I just happen to have strange impulses. Back when I was in school, I practically laughed at everything that happened in class that nobody thought was funny. I was usually the only one laughing and it was highly embarrassing. I don't know why, I just couldn't control it. I'd laugh for twenty minutes, or longer, until the period ended, and I'd get a surge of people gossiping behind my back with typical sayings like, "that girl's weird" or "is something wrong with her?" I was used to it, eventually. Or at least, I had to cope with it. And to someone like me, it was hell.
Back in school, I never stood up for myself. That was the one primary default I had in life, but there was another. Maybe the frequent gossips I could put up with but what I could never put up with was that torturous disorder that I was inbred with--the tormenting swallowing disorder. Although this has not been classified as an actual disorder yet, I will take the damn obligation to classify it in this book because I feel that it really deserves the attention. Now I hope I'm not going to bore you with minute details about this disorder, but I'll try to describe it as briefly as I can.
So obviously what the swallowing disorder is, is what it states--a disorder in swallowing. You've probably heard of the more recognized disorders people have with the "fear of swallowing pills" or the "fear of eating" (likely anorexia), but my disorder is nothing of the sort. The problem with my disorder is the "nail-board scratching" sound that it makes. Not that it sounds like actual nail-board scratching, but yes, the sound can be that painful to listen to. And what makes it even weirder is that it tends to vary occasionally, but it does have one distinct sound that masks all the rest as being very grating to the nerves. The most I can relate the sound to is that of tape being pulled. Or you can try to imagine the sound of something sticky and slimy being peeled off of some hard surface. A very horrible sound if you ask me. Nerve-wracking, and ultimately embarrassing. And this is what I had"for eleven plus years. I've shown obvious need for treatment when I was around eleven, but because my parents were always hard at work, or at least my mom was, I was never able to receive treatment. So I was expected to cope with the problem on my own, and it did a great deal in screwing up my life. Real bad.
I always had this intention to tell my parents about my disorder, but knowing how they were, I knew what I was going to get met with. I come from a very cultural family with very superstitious values. My mom, above anyone I've ever met, has the most bizarre superstitions that I sometimes wonder if anyone else believes in them. One of these involves her postulation on ice. So listen to this: she claims that by consuming ice, one grows hair all over their body, not just on their head. I asked her one day why she held this belief. Her response was, "Of course you grow hair all over your body! Look, look at me--do I have hair on my legs? I do not have any hair on my legs because I don't eat ice! Look at you--hair all over your legs. It of course means you eat too much ice!" Some Chinese folk hold some bizarre speculations. You might also like to hear her superstition on the moon. So basically if you point at the moon (doesn't matter which finger it is even if it's your entire fist), you'll get your ear cut off. I'd guess that she probably got the idea from an ancient tale of some individual who pointed at the moon one day and only coincidentally did he get his ear cut off. How that managed to happen--I have no idea. My mother never bothered to explain anything to me simply because she wasn't a woman of reason. And this is exactly why I never bothered to tell her about my disorder because I'd know exactly what she'd say. Most likely (the furrowing of the eyebrows and the clumsy half-smile), "A swallowing disorder? You can't be making it up, can you? Who in the world has a swallowing disorder? I think you're just being over-exaggerative!" And yes, she does have a way of emphasizing and tensing her words up, and I don't want to sit long listening to that, despite the fact that I tend to do it myself a lot. But still, this is a woman who's always telling me I'm being "over-exaggerative" while she's running around making wild assumptions about growing hair on the legs when eating ice. I really don't know how to talk to her anymore because doing so would only make me crazier by the minute. And that is the primary reason why I try to avoid her most of the time. Because I don't want to become a clone of her. Sometimes when people try to compliment me about looking like the spitting image of my mom, I just want to yank my hair out and scream.
For as long as I can remember, I've always hated my dad. Every memory of him was never a good one. But what makes it all so ironic is that he's more reasonable and understanding than my mom is; though it's only because he received higher education than she did. While my dad was able to get past eighth grade, my mom only passed the fifth. And he actually did very well in school, but was forced to give up his career to work at a restaurant business. My mom on the other hand, did badly in school. She stopped at the fifth grade, but only because that was the highest level of education her school could offer her. She lived in a village back in China, and she lived in a pretty trapped lifestyle. Most of the girls that lived there either ran away to distinguished cities like Hong Kong to escape these trapped lifestyles or sadly stayed behind to care for their families and desperately look for jobs, which were very meager. My mom, being the shy and servile girl that she was, took the latter and lived a pretty sad life. When she turned eighteen, she was betrothed to a pretty miserable man. I don't know how my mom managed to put up with my dad. I'm sure if it were any other woman, she would've left him within the first week (or she'd probably wouldn't even last the first day). But in Chinese culture, it's scandalous to get a divorce or to cheat on your husband. Anything that deals with the woman taking charge is beyond the Chinese 'ideal' (at least I think that's how it is). This is something I've come to believe as I examine the culture's family structure; but then again, maybe I'm just making assumptions and it's just my family. My dad, the total authoritarian as he is, cannot stand feministic values. And this is clearly why he chose to marry such a hopeless woman as my mom. He married her so he could dominate over her and use her to his liking. And my mom worked immensely as the man's wife, while he barely lifted a finger. I'll tell you, I never seen a man so lazy in my life. Even all my uncles in my mom's side aren't like that. Besides his absolute patriarchal values, his laziness was another reason why I couldn't stand him, though I can give many more reasons.
Since I was a young kid, I never liked my dad. When I was two, I bawled my eyes out when he awkwardly and uncomfortably tried to hold me in his arms to get our picture taken. Usually it was him doing all the photo shoots--and that was the only activity I ever recalled him doing and enjoying. He was never really good around kids, especially towards my brother and me. He always screamed the literal crap at us, and dictated us to do more schoolwork than we were given. When he felt we didn't do enough, he'd bombard us with a range of other written work he make up and throw random texts at us to read. The worst moments came when report cards were sent home. That was bad news because I knew I did badly in school, and would have to face my dad when I handed it to him. And he was not the kind of man you could look at straight in the face. When he'd frown, he'd transfix you with this deadly glare for several minutes. It was almost like a warning sign that if you did something bad, he wouldn't hesitate to take lethal action upon you. I never knew what it was with the man, but he always took his anger out on me.
When he'd find anything below a "B" on my report card, he'd incisively inquire why I did so badly, and I'd jump with living fear. Because of the man's horrible temper I was too scared to say anything in fear that I'd get beat. One time I was tempted to believe that he'd take the fork he was holding and pack it downwards into my cranium. But what he actually did occasionally was bash me in the face and make my nose bleed. When my mom was there she usually had to interfere, and they'd get into a heated argument resulting in him throwing dishware all over the place and smashing dents all over the walls. It was utter chaos. Most of the time my brother had to stand up to my dad just to protect me. I felt bad because he started doing this when he was six, and usually got beat for interfering. So he'd take a lot of the hits that were meant to be directed at me. When my mom was not around, my poor grandmother had to put up with him. She'd always have to get in between my dad and me, while he yanked my hair and sent a series of punches swinging at my face. I could put up with the pain, but what put me in serious distress were the crazy thoughts roaming around in my head of what he would do to my grandma. The woman was like my guardian angel. She was always there to comfort me, and to give me the love and support that I was lacking from my parents. On nights when I'd slip into bed and cry, she'd beckon me to get up and kneel beside her on the floor to pray. She'd listen to my enraging prayers, all while nodding silently to herself and patting me on the back to calm me down. When I lied back down in bed, I was still thinking of all the bad things that just happened and couldn't get myself to stop crying. My grandma then, would lie down beside me and repeatedly pat me on the arm until she saw that I was asleep. Sometimes I'd listen to her sad, soothing humming of gospel songs she sang at church. Within a couple minutes, I was asleep.
My mom was always one to spoil me. She gave me everything I wanted, and she loved me too much. Even more than she did my brother. But because I was so absorbed with her affection, I cared for nothing else. Her unconditional love filled in the gap that my dad couldn't give. And it was better that way because I did not want to receive affection from a repugnant man like that. He was not only an abusive man physically, but psychologically he was tormenting. The older I got, the stranger the man became. Especially on days when I dressed up, I'd catch the man staring at me captivatingly, and the look sickened me to no end. I'd already known him to be a pervert. Back then when my brother did badly in school, my dad took all his gaming console and hid them away somewhere in his room. When my dad wasn't home, my older cousin and brother would sneak into his room and try to get all the games back. They found it eventually, and they found something else. There were boxes after boxes of pornography cassettes, and he'd openly let them sit there in his closet floor. Apparently, he did a good job hiding his children's toys, but did a bad job hiding his own vices. So this is another reason why I dislike the man.
As I mentioned earlier, he was undoubtedly lazy. The man never lifted a finger to do household chores because he believed this was the "woman's job" and children's responsibility. Many times I felt bad for my mom. She was a timid girl, yet she was forced to marry a man she had to be a slave to. She took the man's job at the restaurant business they owned, working as the chef, and carrying burdensome loads beyond the weight she could take. She was small and fragile-boned, yet she could surpass handling more labor that most of our worthless male chefs could. She worked fifteen hours a day, from nine in the morning to twelve at night, for seven days a week, and took not a single day off from work. And she worked like this for over thirty years of her life (she's fifty now). She's been known for her reputation as an intensely dedicated worker, but it's only left her impaired. When she was nearing her forties, she was already walking like a ninety-year old woman with a hunched back and crooked legs. I've never seen anyone work like her; and above all, I don't want to see her work like that. It's sufferable just watching her. And she doesn't just take the man's duties; she has to handle the house duties as well. She comes home, feeds her family, and does all the chores: washing the dishes, cleaning all the laundry, and mopping all the floors; and it drives me absolutely insane just to see her work. She simply can't work because she's already malformed from it, but she believes it's her "duty" to do this, and would not quit. And it's not to say that my brother and I haven't done anything to help her, we have.
The main reason why we mostly did badly in school, even though we could've easily surpassed it, was because we were pushed to work at a young age. I started working at the restaurant business when I was seven, and I was put to the cashier when I was eight. I was expected to do all my schoolwork at the restaurant and to try studying there, which was literally impossible. Most of the customers were loud and did not have the least bit of courtesy to lower their blasting volumes. Also, I didn't even have the time for schoolwork. There were complaints after complaints, and I had to tend to every single one of them when I was the only one working in the cashier (my brother and I interchanged with these duties). And there were three separate jobs that one person alone couldn't handle: these included the call-in orders, the carryout, and the cashier duties. My brother and I mostly had to take care of all of them. And it was worst during the busiest hours. There'd be a line of customers waiting to pay for their meals, and nearly everybody used credit cards, which took the longest to process (because our machine was old and we only had one); and there'd be customers glaring irascibly at me from the take-out box side, waiting to get their meals paid for; then there'd be those menu-ordering customers who tap impatiently at the counter waiting to get their orders taken; and then there'd be two damn phones ringing at the same damn time. It was unbearable. It took a lot of running around business, especially for customers who placed orders, and so I had to leave a whole line of customers to run all the way to the back end of the kitchen to place their order. The most irascible of the customers, were the ghetto women (I'm not going to lie). They would talk endless smack about me right in front of my face, and joke amongst each other about how disorderedly I was and shake their heads and gesticulate to me in the most condescending manner. I never knew what it was with the women, but they had the most horrible attitudes, that I simply couldn't stand working at the cashier because of that.
What I really couldn't take was the fact that I was not able to stand up for myself because I was this weak-minded and positively stunted midget. I hated working in the cashier because I hated working amongst impatient customers who towered over me and spoke to me in condescending tones. It really frustrated me, and made me think of how repugnant the human race is. I wasn't even apt to working at the restaurant anyways because I had a severe swallowing problem, so I could barely talk to them. But I didn't have a choice, I was forced to work in it, and made to work that way for seven years. It was absolutely terrible. Seven years of my childhood wasted on dealing with fretting customers. And some people would fret over anything. One unbelievable customer had a six-foot daughter that she claimed was six-years old. She fought and fought for getting her daughter the child discount price, that even her daughter expressed discontent with her actions. But anybody could clearly tell that this girl was about fifteen or so. My aunt eventually settled the dispute by saying that she wouldn't charge her for the child price unless she saw the girl's ID. The woman raged and ramped, talking about "Chinese people this" and "Chinese people that," and "Oh Chinese people--they come to America to take away all our jobs and all our money! You Chinese people take away everything from us!" Honestly, this was exactly what the woman said. You really don't know how much racism I've had to put up with in my life. And I've had to put up with it with races of every kind in the world. I could go on about these crazy customers, but the more I talk about these crazy people, the crazier I end up getting. So I'll put an end to that topic from here.