I am a fraud, she wipes off the sweat with the serviette.
Watching the reactions of other dinner guests, she imitates and bobs her head in unison and lets out a guffaw of laughter a few seconds too late, following everyone else’s. She could hardly taste the food, concentrating on not making mistakes, on reacting appropriately.
“To ideologies and agendas.” A gray-haired gentleman at the end of the table lifts his glass.
His audience raises their glasses.
She drops the fork and grabs the glass, missing the timing to clink with the person next to her. “Sorry…”
“How was your vacation?”
“Fabulous. Unplugged for a week. Just what I needed.” A lady in a white linen shirt has a wistful look.
“Oh, where did you go?”
“Did you see any of the Hindu temples?”
“That’s in Cambodia, isn’t it?”
“There’re some in Vietnam, too.”
“…No. I didn’t go to any of those places,” the white linen sleeve waves off. “I didn’t want to be a tourist, but a traveler.”
Hmm, I wonder what the difference is, she gnaws a piece of steak smeared in the fond de veau sauce.
“Asian people are genteel and hard-workers, aren’t they? My mother-in-law lives in a nursing home, and Angelica, the caretaker, is from the Philippines, and she’s wonderful.” A lady with perfectly coifed blonde hair turns her head to her and smiles.
A few people follow the lady’s eyes and look at her. Some avert their eyes, focusing on their plates.
“What did you say you do?” The person sitting across from her leans over.
“I…I don’t currently work. I…I’m getting ready to move back to Japan.”
“Are you. Why?”
“M…my mom’s getting old, and I…I need to take care of her.”
“Filial piety is still taught and honored in Asia.” Someone from the far end of the table declares.
“I heard there are many cases of dying-alone elders in Japan.” Someone else counters.
“That’s true…” She mumbles.
All eyes are on her.
She drops her eyes. “Sorry.”
“Why do you always apologize?”
“Frankly, I don’t think parents should expect their children to take care of them. It’s too much to ask.” The blonde lady with the Filipino caretaker sits straight.
On her way home, she goes back to the store where she bought the bottle of wine earlier.
“Um…you overcharged me…” She pulls the receipt out and places it on the counter. “…It was supposed to be $19.99…”
“You have the wine with ya?” The young female clerk keeps her eyes on the receipt.
“…N…no. It was a gift, so…”
“Well, without the merchandise, I can’t do anything.”
“B…but, it says here…the name of the wine… And, today’s date… You can check the price…? Refund the difference…?”
“No merchandise, no refund.”
She looks at the clerk, who never looks at her, and takes a deep breath before walking away. “Sorry to have bothered you.”