Every time after I hang up the phone with my mother, I just want to throw everything in my office in the air and bang my own head on the table. She is such an unreasonable, stubborn and annoying woman sometimes that at those moments I just wish she doesn’t exist, that there is no such a person called Linyun Feng on the earth. My life may have been more miserable without a mother, but at least now in my adulthood I can avoid this periodic mental torture, this insurmountable challenge to my patience and virtues.
This is usually how the conversation unfolds.
“Ma, did you call my office number?” I get in work and when I see that she called I dial her right away.
“Yeah, are you at work? I saw on the news that an American flight almost crashed into the ocean and 40 people are injured…really scary. It’s the holiday in America, I thought you may be traveling, so I called you.”
“Oh, Ma, I am fine. I am not going anywhere this holiday, I am staying here. This kind of thing happens. No big deal. Why does Chinese news always report bad things happening in America?”
“Oh, no, they report stuff happening in other places, not just America.”
So far, the conversation is still peaceful. I feel warmth and being loved because my mother worries about my safety.
“Oh, Ma, could you ask Dad to take a trip to the bank and find out how I can wire money to you from America?”
I had just received my year-end bonus, majority of which will go to my parents so that they can buy a house or condo in a nearby town and move out of the Shen Hamlet, a polluted industrial dump at this point.
She acknowledges my request and then starts to tell me about the local real estate market. Property prices have been skyrocketing lately, and for a family like us it is really difficult to find a decent property without a hefty price tag.
“Oh, Ma, can you not pressure Spring to fork out her share too? Her gift shop hasn’t been open for a year, and right now it’s tough to even make ends meet. Besides, she is a single mother now, and life is not easy for her.”
“I know. But every one of us knows that eventually everything will go to her. You are not coming back. And if I don’t give her some pressure, how is she going to be careful with money and being frugal?”
I sigh. “Ma, I don’t think she wants pressure. She’d appreciate some support from her parents instead I think”
“Don’t talk much about her. How about yourself? It’s going to be another year since your divorce…the new year is coming. And look at you, still single. What are you doing? Are you planning to become a nun?” She questions me in a seemingly joking manner.
“Who says I am not looking? I am looking every day, just not desperately. You cannot rush this kind of thing. Ma, do you want me to just grab someone from the street?”
My voice is raised. I want to force her to listen to me. I want to get this idea across her head—that I had enough with my nine-year marriage unsuccessful marriage and this time I will be very careful.
But she refuses to answer my question. Instead, the usual whining and weeping starts: “Can you imagine our anxiety level as your parents? We are here worrying about you, and thinking how bad it is, that you are still alone at this age. How can we parents be happy?”
“Well, Ma, just because you are not happy, it doesn’t mean you can transfer your unhappiness to me and add to my own happiness! Do you know sometimes I am jealous of those kids who can get support from their parents instead of complaints?”
“Those kids…those kids have happy families, stay with their parents, and their parents are happy! What about us…how can you make your parents feel like such failures?”
“Ma, do I live for you or for myself? Do I owe you my whole life?” I am yelling to the phone.
“Stop talking now.”
“Yeah, stop, I don’t want to talk any more.” So I hanged up the phone. And I am puffing and huffing. I am so angry at this point that my mind is like a vacuum, like a blur. I try to read my morning emails but I cannot concentrate at all.
It’s a one-way street between me and my mother. The purpose of my existence is to make her happy by improving her life quality, by giving her money to get a better place to live, which I am happy to do, by marrying myself to a man as soon as possible so that she feels I have completed my duty and she can feel good in front of every villager or acquaintance. Every time when I question her ultimate motives, she gets offended, she weeps and cries, because of course she wants to see us happy, she says, and in her opinion happiness means lots of money, a husband and a child. So no matter how explosively angry I get, no matter how distraught she makes me and my sister feel, she will continue torturing us until she sees what she wants to see. Does she really love me? My mother. I ask myself this question every day but I still haven’t gotten my answer.
Christmas is two days away, and I don’t feel any family joy at all. In fact, at this moment I wish I were an orphan.