The Acupuncturist and the Melons: A Story of Love and Sacrifice

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Orange fury swirls on a silver platter, melting and contorting. It teases and torments me with tears of sweet juices, flowing uncontrollably. Perfume saturates the air with its sick, citrusy scent, making the room sticky sweet and unbearable. The culprit: a plate of melons.
The unidentifiable fruit was meant to be dessert after a Chinese supper of bitter leek soup and blue fish balls, but was no more than a doomsday trap to me. You see, those melons were the most vile and disgusting delicacies to ever have the misfortune of resting on my tongue, not to mention that I was allergic to them. They tasted terrible, and I had been given an entire plate of them to finish. I was about ready to run away and never return, all for the sake of avoiding the hazardous dish.
I had put up with a lot in my time at my Chinese ‘mother’s’ house. She was the CEO of the company that I was interning for in Boston and she had volunteered to take me in for the week. It was a kind offer, but she was slowly killing me with the kindness. She had a stereotypical view of American children that was scarily inaccurate and there was nothing for me to do except to smile and act the part. She was my boss; what was I supposed to do?
I stared down the melons and they stared back at me. I thought over my options. I could just let them sit on the plate, uneaten and decaying. That might hurt her feelings though, and the last thing I wanted to do was make her sad. She had worked so hard to provide for me; I couldn’t just reject her hospitality. She had even gone out and gotten me a full gallon of milk because “American children love milk and drink it all the time.” She forced me to drink almost a quart of milk in one sitting, and expressed great concern when I couldn’t finish, so why wouldn’t she force me to eat the disgusting fruit? No, I couldn’t just leave them there. That would not work; she would be devastated.
Perhaps I could squeeze them out of existence; liquefy them until they dissolved into a pulp of sticky, orange mess? Would a plate full of orange liquid be better than one of sickly chunks pierced with toothpicks? No, probably not. She spent so much time worrying about my health: giving me acupuncture, coating my back in powder designed to burn the bad qi out of my system, and forcing me to eat her ‘healthy’ food. I could let her burn holes in my back, and fill my skull and wrists with needles, but I couldn’t bear the pain of letting her see my crushed fruit; that would be too disrespectful.
What if I threw them out of the window? My room was above the front porch, so I feared that she would see them. If she went to check the mail and saw the pile of melons hanging off of the bushes or splattered on the pavement, I think that I would die of shame. I imagined the pile of goo coating the ground; it looked like how my heart felt when I first met the shrewd old Chinese grandmother of the home. I’d been confined to the sofa, acupuncture needles pinning my arms and legs down, while the old lady stared menacingly at me, adding to the discomfort I already felt. She was sitting under what looked like a heating lamp for desert amphibians and she looked like a lizard as well, wrinkled and dry. She alternated between glaring at me and watching the credits roll on Chinese TV shows. She never liked to watch the shows, only the scrolling names of foreign actors. I could feel myself shrinking under her cold glances as I turned into a pile of vulnerable mush on the sofa. I couldn’t subject the fruit to a similar fate. I had to be nice to it, just like the grandmother. My relationship with the household depended on it.
Maybe I could sneak across the hallway and flush them down the toilet. Of course, I would have to wait until the dead of night to perform the deed, for my ‘mother’ slept in the room across from me. On more than one occasion during the week, I had gotten out of bed, unable to sleep with the multitude of blankets that covered my bed. Every time, I had emerged from my room, only to find her standing outside my door waiting to ask if I was okay. She also got up very early to run in the mornings so I would really have to be careful. She had taken me on one of her hikes earlier in the week and, to my dismay, was bitten by a frog that I pointed out to her. It startled her and I knew that my lack of respect for her plate of melons would come as a shock to her as well. That simply wouldn’t do.
I stared at the melons, contemplating everything that I had been through over the past week. Her children had moved out long ago and I was all that she had left to baby and nurture. Even her relationship with her husband did not provide an outlet for her loving heart; I was her project and her new daughter. I had done so much for the sake of making a good impression on my boss, but it almost meant more than that now. She hugged and kissed me like I was the love of her life. She talked to me deeply about life, thoroughly interested in what I had to say. She wanted to spend time with me after work and even rented a movie for us to watch together. I thought back to those hours curled up on the couch, eating Mexican food and discussing A Beautiful Mind. I knew that I couldn’t disappoint her.
I lifted a piece of the juicy and sour fruit to my lips and tenderly bit into it. The taste was overwhelmingly terrible and literally made my mouth break out in hives. I knew that I was allergic to it, but I couldn’t bring myself to let her down. She was no longer just my boss, but my second mother, only trying to please me. The experience had not only made me adapt to a new culture, but it had also shown me the true meaning of satisfaction and purpose. I wasn’t tolerating her behaviors for my benefit; I was tolerating them for hers. I took another piece of melon; we do crazy things for love.





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