The Sky of Mei Mei (3) – Hope
Mei Mei had no other ways to break out from the cocoon! She had no courage, no money nor true friends! She tried many times timidly from dépanneur to dépanneur ( grocery store ) almost begging to be their helper, wishing that they would shed some sympathy on the pathetic little “Cosette”*. She would clean the floors and the toilets, carry heavy goods, put food on the shelves, gather empty cardboards; she would smile to the clients, say nice words and keep them happy for their stores…She would simply do anything if she could make $7 or 6, even $5 an hour. She tried so hard that she eventually got one!
Now her world turned a bit pinky. She started making “money” now! She felt really very happy! Ever since she moved to Canada, she lost her right to pocket money, not mentioning her grandpa’s spoiling smile and little red envelopes for her! But now, she was making her own money by working! She felt as if her spine was growing with this itch in her bone marrow. She was so itchy that she stretched backward from time to time to feel it! She also sensed that some creatures were creeping under her nipples as if they were getting bigger. She started to look at herself in the mirror!
“Aiyaya, what a slouch beaten dog I am!”, she murmured sadly to herself!
“Mmm, I’ve got to be different now! I have to be nicer! I will buy myself a nice dress NOT made in China, hehe! ” She was determined.
She smiled the first time since so long that her skin on the face trembled. Nothing, nothing ever would replace her revitalized feeling at this moment when this $140 CANADIAN money was in her little hand after one week of work at the rate of $7.45!
She bought a French-made dress! A pretty black low-cast blouse where she could show shyly a bit of still not fully developed breasts, a bit of her 15, soon-to-be 16 years old young Chinese lady’s pride!
With the dress right on after purchase, she dashed out of the store on Mont-Royale Street, Plateau Montréal and jumped on her bike! Flying, flying, she let the breeze wildly whisper into her ears some unknown words of joy. The fresh and exciting energy ran through her whole body, shocking her from inside out and reluctantly fainting away from the ends of her dark long hair!
With time eclipsing, she studied, and worked hard to put money aside, in the hope that she could leave her small exposed corner of the noisy unrest home for ever! She would rent her own little apartment, or share with a friend; she wanted to meet someone handsome, kind hearted and someone who would give her the peace she had been longing for and some sweet words she had never heard before; she wanted to have a sweet long kiss on her lips with her tired eyes closed, and maybe she wanted to pop up her foot in the air as well, like the Hollywood movie princesses always do.
Her life had been nothing else but studying 6 hours a day and working another 6 hours after school. She had no time to be friendly with any boy, nor did she have the interest! She told herself to study hard like the Ancient Chinese man (who hung his long hair from the ceiling pillar and put needles on his chair to stay awake ) and work her head off as the Chinese farmer workers in China.
The time for moving out had come when she turned 17. She was so afraid of her furiously tempered mom that she usually started a brain freeze thinking of her. She knew what mom would tell her and the dishes would be scattered on the floor again with deafening breaking noise. There had been too many of these unbearable dramas theatred by mom – a once loving, quiet and graceful mom, but now seemed seized by demons and lost all her senses and spirit.
Mei Mei did not know how to bring this matter up. Of course, she could always talk to dad, but she did not feel right to evade this matter and transfer the disaster to her dear dad. Her mom would get to know anyway, so she waited for the “right” time.
A sunny Saturday evening, she invited mom and dad to a restaurant, La Cuisine Sichuan, an authentic, therefore the best Chinese restaurant in town. Mom seemed happy! She surprisingly kissed her daughter before leaving home. Wow, that was something! Chinese do not touch or kiss each other! We do not convey emotions by these gestures, we are supposed to guess the emotions and keep them deep down in the bottom of our hearts. Kissing or hugging brings us too close and that intimidates us too much! We hide them, the deeper the better. We hide our good deeds to be “modest”. We hide our shyness in expressing love by actions. We hide our gratitude or even want to make it disappear to show that we do not owe anyone anything! Sometimes, we hope that we can also hide well our deepest dark desires for our little petty soul from each other. But, we just can not, because “God is awake” …
From the beginning of the meal, she had started choosing words and thinking of ways to break the news. She was just too nervous to have appetite! Looking at mom and dad enjoying so much of the delicious dishes with true Sichuan recipes and ingredients directly from Chengdu, China, she felt a great unnameable pain and also guilty to even tell them she was leaving.
Well, she had to do it sooner or later anyway. She hated her guts to see her mom everyday deep in the worries, or to hear her whining about petty stuff , or doubting about dad having affairs with other women. Now she was putting it to an end, for herself, even though she wanted very much to end it as well for her dad. She mustered up her courage and finally said something with her brain muffled and eyes filled with nervousness and anxiety.
“What did you say? What did you just say?” Actually, she herself did not hear what she said, but her mom’s sharp question woke her up! She quickly sat back into her chair and returned to silence as usual. Mom had been silent the rest of the meal without even looking at her or her dad. But she knew she had to harden her skin and tighten her ears when they would return home.
No need to describe further anything that happened after getting home. Mom, besides her usual despair, had a major break down! She cried hard and long, yelling: “You are 17 now, eh? You are grown up now, eh? You want to leave us now, eh? I have sacrified all my life for you, I have suffered so much for you! You have wings now and you make money now! You do not love us any more! Maybe you have never loved us anyway…We came to to this strange country with no money, no career, for YOU, and now you are leaving us…” She just cried on and on!
Mei Mei, no matter how tight she shrank her ears, how hard she held up herself, she could not maintain it any more. She had been brought up as nothing with no such thing as RIGHT, of course she did not know what to fight for and how.
But, life was just simply wonderful in its self adjusting abilities, as Mei Mei was learning about her rights as a HUMAN-being and using the most efficient ways of evading the negativities in life. She ran, yes, she COULD actually run away, run to a place where she was not the BELONGINGS and the CENTER of the universe of her parents, nor the carrier of her parents’ happiness and fate! She just could not bear the weight any more on her tiny, skinny and fragile shoulders, neither could she carry the shapeless responsibilities and guilt on her still undeveloped soul! She was leaving, leaving to her one-room apartment shared with another little struggling soul! She was definitely going on the path, searching for the return of nature of herself, searching for her OWN destiny!
My writing of Mei Mei’s story ends here, yet her life continues. She might already be out there some where living her own life as a doctor, a nurse, an engineer, an artist, or a business woman, a secretary or a waitress. I am sure that she has found her place in the new country, continuing blending into the multi-cultural Canadian society with profundity. She might also be creating a new different culture with her past Chinese cultural richness together with the existing wealth of the Canadian bi/multi-cultural heritage.