Tamera and Jay Get Married

Today, I accompanied my sister to her friend’s wedding in New Haven. It was small, humble, boisterous and beautiful.

Apparently the mother of the groom-to-be passed away last week, and her memorial was held just yesterday. Tamera, the bride-to-be, spent the entire year planning their wedding, and wanted to postpone the date because of the unfortunate circumstances. Due to the funeral costs, the groom, Jay, was worried about whether or not he could afford the wedding. At the same time, he did not want all of Tamera’s hard work to be for naught, and strongly refused to postpone it.

Tamera and my sister work together as infant-care specialists at a local daycare center. Earlier during the week, one of the parents asked Tamera about her wedding. She responded, “We might have to postpone it…” The parents nodded their heads and took their baby home.

Later that night, Tamera received a text message from the baby’s mother, “Just thinking about you. Was wondering if you could tell me the reason why you are postponing wedding…” Tamera didn’t want to delve too far into the actual story, so she simply told them, “Financial issues, we’re going through a rough time right now.” The baby’s mother texts back, “You’re like family to us, and you are so great with our kids, we are lucky to have you. Please accept $1000 from us so that you can keep your wedding. Don’t postpone it.” After much thought, Tamera texted back, “Thank you…but no thank you. We cannot accept that.” It was in a grey area of the daycare rules. Professional life should not be slipping into personal life. However, after one last push from the baby’s mother, “Please accept it as a wedding gift from me and my husband. We are lucky enough to have well-paying jobs, and we can afford to give you this money. Like I said, you are like family to us, and we want you to use it for your wedding. We insist.”

After my sister told me this story, I thought it was beautiful that there were still such generous people in the world.

And that’s how they kept their wedding date.

Anyways, I went to this wedding — the second wedding I’ve ever attended in my life (family don’t count). It was simultaneously happy and sad, loud and tranquil, disastrous and masterful, rude and respectful, and needless to say.. lots of shit happened.

I don’t even want to get started on what occurred on the dance floor. Those children were like baby professional dancers. I shit you not, there were four-year-old kids doing jump splits on the dance floor. FUCKING JUMP SPLITS! Everyone went up and did the electric slide, the walking dance, and it was also the first time I’ve ever witnessed a real-life soul train. Loved it. Everyone was free, uninhibited, and absolutely gorgeous.

You could feel the love the bride and groom had for each other. Tamera spoke about how she first met the man of her dreams. Her rock. She spoke about their family, and how she was so happy to spend the rest of her life with him. Jay pretty much said the same thing, and he hilariously compared her love to a three-layer chocolate cake — which has scarred me for life, since I LOVE chocolate — but his heart was in the right place.

What really hit home for me were the speeches from the Best Man and Maid of Honor. That shit really got to me. Even though the Best Man clearly prepared a lengthier and more quality speech compared to the Maid of Honor, both parties spoke positively about the bride and the groom. They spoke about how they respected them both so much because they each brought the other stability and happiness. They were perfect for each other, pushed the other up, supported one another, and completed one another. I listened to their speeches in both awe and sadness.

This was a solid foundation for a marriage.. with loving friends and family surrounding the bride and groom. Unlike the way I did it. No one was at my wedding, there were no vows. Tamera had a beautiful dress. Belle of the ball! I had a cocktail dress that I bought from Forever 21. We just walked into City Hall, said “I do” to a judge and BAM. We were married just like that. With none of our loved ones to see. I never want to do that again.

Watching Tamera and Jay’s wedding made me think. It made me realize that you should be proud of the love you have for someone. It also made me realize that marriage was more than love. It was hard work. It required trust and patience. It required a strong foundation. Something me and Pierre did not have from the very beginning.

(You can read my first post here: Back at Home)

Testing My Patience

Do you know what true stability is?

For me, true stability is not having to worry about what will happen to my dog for a month straight. Just the assurance that he will be in good hands. True stability is the ability to have a peaceful dinner with my grandmother and aunt without being bombarded by text messages and calls from my estranged husband, Pierre, who is lost in Los Angeles and needs my assistance to get to where he needs to be because he doesn’t have GPS on his phone. True stability is my knowing that if I wanted to stay at home for a little while longer, that my husband wouldn’t threaten to abandon our apartment for the month and complain about how lonely he is. True stability.

Most times I have no clue if I love him or hate him.

This is what happens when I give him another chance to prove if he is worthy. I had the option of short-term pain in exchange for a lifetime of peace — or at least my own definition of peace — versus short-term happiness in exchange for a lifetime of headaches. Dependence. Mood swings. Fear. Anger. What the fudge?

I realize that Pierre is making an effort. He has been attending his Alcoholic’s Anonymous meetings, and he has spoken to a therapist on the phone (supposedly). However, two and a half weeks of clarity and self-improvement is not enough time to heal decades of psychological damage and addiction.

Hope. I want to believe that our love is strong enough to defy all odds, and I want to prove all my friends wrong about us. Sadly, homeboy doesn’t even respect me enough to grant me some time to myself after I text, “Please don’t contact me for tonight. I will talk to you tomorrow. I need to calm down.” Scratch that. He gave me 45 minutes before he broke. On the bright side, after I chewed him a new one through a series of frustrated follow-up texts, he chose to heed my advice. That’s a start.

Everything was going well, but after two days of respectful texts, emails, and phone exchanges, my husband decided that it would be great to plan a month-long trip to Miami to visit his friend.

Positives: He needs to be around friends, and it would be good for him to be around people who love him. His friend is clean — meaning no alcohol, no drugs, but mostly no alcohol to tempt him. My husband was practically begging me to understand his point of view.

Negatives: It disrupts his daily pattern. Does he really expect to go to meetings in Miami when his friend is there? That shit ain’t weird? Another thing — suddenly, I’m the one who needs to figure out what to do with our dog, and I’m 3000 miles away. Pierre tells me his family will be paying for his flight out of town. He’s a 30-year-old man, and he’s still depending on them to do that when he would be perfectly fine staying put? He doesn’t see that this just stirs everything up? The one part that pushed me over the edge was when he told me that he would be staying in Miami for up to one month.

What the hell does he want to do there for one month? Because he can’t be alone? Suck that shit up, fool. If the situation were switched, I would happily embrace loneliness and time to improve myself. I’ve done it before for three months, and I grew into a much more independent and stronger woman because of it.

He tells me that I don’t understand. I really do understand, but what I’m looking for is seriousness and stability without worrying for my dog’s well-being every single day. Who’s going to watch Bear when he’s gone? Pierre made a deal before I left with my mom that he was responsible enough to watch him. He was still a puppy of 8 months. My mom was silly and believed him, when I wanted to take Bear with us.

I understand Pierre’s point of view as well. Truly. It’s not fair that he is alone in our apartment with no knowledge of when I’m coming home. He thought I would come home sometime this week — but I made it clear to him that would not be the case. In reality, I was thinking of staying here for another three weeks. I get it, but right now, his time alone is the true test of his endurance, dedication, and loyalty.

My therapist saved me from going Hulk on Pierre by sharing some coping techniques for anger. If it weren’t for her “take a step back and pull yourself out of the anger mode” chat, I would have unleashed a scary beast on him via crazy text message rants. Instead, I pulled back, watched half an episode of Grimm, smoked a cigarette, showered, and washed the dishes. Hooray for self-improvement.

However, this erratic behavior is forcing me to second guess my decision to give him another chance. The smart decision would be cutting things off permanently and experiencing that short-term pain. However, looming around the back of my mind is this. Will the pain really be short-term? Or will I be suffering from lost and disappointed love for the rest of my life? Has he really changed this time around?

I am pretty sure I know the answer, but I don’t feel like admitting it to myself right now. I’m drained. Je suis fatigue. Bonne nuit.

(To start over and read from my first post, click here)

Visiting My Dad in Prison

My mother and I both stayed up all night and left the apartment at 5:30 in the morning to catch the first train. Out of all the double-seaters to choose from, she decided to make a bee-line towards the lonely seats in the back of the train, surrounded by empty soda cans and trash. I don’t understand her. We managed to catch the 8AM bus to New York and slept the entire way through.

When I woke up, we were on Canal Street, New York City. My mom asked me to input the addresses for our Uber, and to be honest, I felt a slight discomfort entering in “Federal Bureau of Prisons” as our destination. Our driver, the owner of a modest Honda Civic, was a nice young man named Shondelle. He asked if we wanted to listen to any particular radio station, to which I numbly replied, “No, we’re cool with whatever,” and closed my eyes as the latest Drake song started playing. I fell back asleep and opened my eyes as we pulled up to the building. “You just beat the rain!” Shondelle smiled and waved as he dropped us off.

I was grumpy. Perhaps it was from the lack of sleep, or perhaps it was because I held some resentment towards my mother for dragging me out here to visit my dad. I hadn’t seen him in five years since my college graduation.

For as long as I can remember, conversation had always been superficial between us, barely lasting over five minutes per meeting. Now, I had to spend two hours speaking to a man I hardly knew. Though I’ve watched popular prison comedies on Netflix and understood that many people make mistakes, I felt deeply ashamed that I was here.

A bearded inmate tickled his laughing son while smothering him with kisses. An older prisoner rapt in an intense conversation with his brother. A jolly fellow finished off his buffalo chicken wings while asking his kid whether his Jordan’s were authentic or not. A dolled-up woman bragged to her man that she stayed home, while her friends went out to the club.

In all the bustle, my mother and I sat with an empty seat between us in silence as we waited for my dad to arrive. After a few moments, I saw him. He gained some weight and rocked a salt-and-pepper buzzcut. He looked almost natural in his brown jumpsuit and Nike sneakers. I couldn’t bring myself to stand up and hug him, so I just took his hand and gently squeezed. I didn’t know this man.

My father sat next to me, “Meimei, why you so skinny?” With all the strength that I had, I muttered, “I don’t know…” and the tears began flowing down my cheeks. Great. Just great. I felt like every cliche loved one going to visit their family member for the first time. Embarrassing.

I watched my mother buy snacks from the vending machine as I wiped my face dry. I could feel my dad staring at me, but in this uncomfortable moment, he just took my hand. Between my own shit and his shit, I’m overwhelmed, but was relieved the attention was taken off me when the inmate eating the buffalo wings looked up and greeted my father, “Doctor Chong!”

What the fudge? My dad was definitely not a doctor. I had absolutely no memories of him tending to any scraped knees or broken bones. I wasn’t even going to ask about that.

I decided to share more about my own life and be direct with him for the first time.

“So I got married,” I volunteered nonchalantly, “and I didn’t tell anyone.”

“Mommy told me.” He didn’t sound angry, “Why so fast?”

“I fell in love and didn’t realize he was crazy.” I gazed down at the floor, dejected, “I’m getting the marriage annulled.” The entire room was bursting with laughter and gregarious voices, but the silence between us was impalpable.

“You know, if this was in China,” he searched for the right words, “if you got marry in China, this would be bad.” Still not a reprimand, but I guess it was the truth.

My mom returned with a bag of Doritos and two cups of Yoplait. My dad eyed these snacks, picked up one of the yogurts and said, “Eat. You too skinny.” I shook my head because I wasn’t hungry. My mom opened the chips and slowly began munching away.

“In Chinese, we say, ‘Good looking guy cannot eat.” My dad gently tore off the yogurt lid and began eating, “For a husband, he must have good heart, good to you, good to people, good to himself and stable job.” I gazed blankly ahead, taking in what he just said, mute.

Growing up, my dad did his business elsewhere, and my issue was that he was never present as a father. Sure, my friends had fathers they weren’t particularly close to, but they always came home everyday. Mine didn’t. On the rare occasions he showed up, he was either passed out after a drunken haze, smoking cigarettes in the living room–regardless of the “no smoking” signs my sister and I plastered around the house, or making bets on the latest sports teams.

The man I was listening to now was old and weary. It was a departure from the man I grew up with. I remembered one particularly snow-flurried morning when I was thirteen-years-old, after missing the bus, I begged my sleeping father to drive me to school. The words he said to me were, “I don’t ask you for anything, so don’t ask me for anything.” My mother ended up calling a cab for me to get to class, and I never tried waking him up again.

Finishing up his second cup of Yoplait, he snapped me out of my reverie. “Daddy was not a good person. It’s why daddy is in prison.”

I really wanted to ask him if he changed now. I wanted to ask if he learned his lesson and if he would get his shit together and be a good person for the family. I wanted to scream at him for all the monstrous crimes he did over the past couple decades. I wanted to tell him that if he couldn’t do that for his daughter, he wouldn’t have me anymore. Instead, I asked, “What are you going to do when you’re out?”

“I’m going to work at 4th uncle’s restaurant, then I’m going to start my own restaurant. Or maybe do real estate with my friend.”

“I hope you do it legally.” I muttered, still avoiding eye contact.

“I learned my lesson. Of course” He turned to chat with my mom, who’s been quiet the entire time.

It was pouring rain when my mother and I left the facility. We grabbed another Uber back to Chinatown and bought tickets to go back home.

I checked my spam email and blocked messages on my phone and saw that my estranged husband, Pierre, had left a few messages. They were all encouraging, loving, telling me that he missed me and to come back home. He sent me pictures of our dog and emailed that he was very proud that I went to see my dad.

One email went, “You only have one dad in your life, and you are very lucky that yours is still in your life. I know your dad is very smart, and in the future, I can give him power, and we can make a lot of money together. I know, I’m psychic.”

Ladies and gentlemen, meet my husband.

Per my mother’s request, we snagged two seats on the third row of the bus. For the first time since we’ve been separated, I sent my husband an email that I would consider coming back home, and I slept the whole way back to Connecticut.

(To start over and read from my first post, click here)