Just Go With It

June 5, 2013
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Mom walks into Macy’s with that characteristic stiff-yet-confident gait while I trail her, rolling my eyes at the hordes of middle school girls sporting Abercrombie & Fitch outfits with arms laden down with bags from Victoria’s Secret and Hollister. They are no doubt taking full advantage of the Memorial Day sale. The heavily air-conditioned space has a certain dry feel to it, adding to the drabness of the stark white walls. The faceless mannequins positioned into supposedly visually appealing poses mock me with their flawless trendy clothes that I know are never in the clearance rack. As I stroll past racks of clothing with tags sticking out at every angle, Mom rambles on incessantly about whatever comes to mind and, unsurprisingly, begins informing me about the virtuous past of one of her newest lab workers.
“He likes Star Trek a lot you know, he says he has seen all of them.” I stay quiet. “You want to see it?”
I’m thrown back into a hazy memory from a some time ago, during my unfortunate middle school years. It’s the first few days of summer, and both the temperature and my laziness are at a high. With the rolling waves of heat come an inevitable feeling of lethargy, and who was I to go against the will of my body? Back then, I had not yet explored the wilderness that is the internet, and therefore relied on pre-teen aimed books with predictable plots and blandly comedic endings to further the ruin of my eyesight. I had gotten my first pair of glasses in the first grade, and by the end of middle school, my prescription was a monstrous -6.50. With this vision came endless torment; strangers in school, upon seeing the thickness of my lens, would ask me to take my glasses off, and proceed to show me their fingers, asking the dreaded question, “How many fingers am I holding up?” I, being the ever meek character, would comply, albeit unwillingly. If only I’d had the courage to tell them that their hand was only blurry, not sprouting extra fingers. Unfortunately, or fortunately, rather, my family also did not have cable television, leaving me to absorb strange shows such as “Arthur” and “Cyberchase”. Consequently, the majority of my free time was spent clicking through the five available channels and dreaming up scenarios with fairytale-worthy settings.
However, I had read every book in the house, excluding the multiple thick volumes that were titled “The Modern Renaissance”, “Primates: The Orangutan” and such. I had even reread the Junie B. Jones and Magic Treehouse series my brother was reading at the time, much to the dismay of my parents. Apparently, reading low-level books reflected my intelligence, and I would be much better off reading some of their medical reviews and journals.
That particular day, I would have been spending my time watching PBS Kids, but alas it was eleven o’clock in the morning, and they weren’t airing anything of importance to me. Aimlessly, I wandered around the house, opening various drawers and cabinets in case there were any hidden items of interest. By chance, I managed to find my old copy of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the fourth installment in the series.
My head swam with visions of that magical world, filling me with happiness as only a large mug of butterbeer would. I grabbed it and crossed over to my kitchen table, staring at the nostalgic cover art. The characteristic swirls drew me in as I hurriedly opened the cover and flipped to the first page. With only the midday light filtering in from the small kitchen windows, I made it a few pages before feeling the need to rest my eyes. I pressed two fingers to each eye until the static image filled my eyes, all the while remembering the taunts about my “goldfish eyes”, how they seemed to pop out of my face as if pulled by an invisible magnet. Releasing the pressure from my eyelids, I waited a few seconds for the static to fade back into a complete darkness again. I then opened my eyes, located the sentence where I’d left off, and promptly immersed myself. This happened more times than I care to admit, before I heard footsteps making their way down the stairs. My body moved on its own. I lept from the chair, flung the book towards the other end of the table, grabbed a half-finished bowl of rice, and sat back down with the spoon poised in front of my mouth, all in one fluid movement. Mom walked in at that very moment, and I began shoveling plain rice into my mouth, hoping she didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary. But of course, as if we were in a bad movie, she does.
Though I kept my eyes fixed on a particularly shiny piece of metal in the granite countertop, my ears listened for any sudden changes. Mom had stopped moving.
“Nancy, what is this?”
She said this in Chinese, in a deadpan tone that implies an explosion triggered by a wrong answer. Except that this bomb was timed as well. I turned around in a false surprise, muttering a barely audible “Hm?” She stood at the entrance to the kitchen, and hadn’t made any gestures as to whatever it is she might be talking about. I struggled to keep my aloof expression intact as I attempted to gauge her reaction. Her expression is divisible by zero, so frighteningly unemotional that I can feel the pressure growing within the bomb. Strolling past me, as I hold the spoon halfway to my mouth, she walked toward my book, which laid teetering at the edge of the table, and flipped it over to expose the front cover.
“Were you reading this?”
At this point I knew it was futile to lie outright, and began blabbering random excuses while blinking rapidly.
“Oh I just found it on my bookshelf, you know, I-I thought I’d read it just for fun...I don’t have any camps this week remember? I mean I was going to do some pages of my math packet but...you know...”
I winced at my meager defense and involuntarily contorted my face into a ‘that’s embarrassing’ grimace before remembering the position I was in. As I braced myself for the rant, a million different scenarios formed in my mind. A few arbitrary thoughts about how I’d love to be a witch wormed their way in as well. I was suddenly a fourth-year witch at Hogwarts, the most intelligent one of my age, as well as the star Seeker of the Ravenclaw Quidditch team. I was walking into Honeydukes with a dragon-skin pouch full of the Sickles and Knuts I had just withdrawn. It only seemed as if a second had passed before I heard the last few words of Mom’s speech about laziness and how no college wants a lazy person. After another few minutes of hearing my poor The Goblet of Fire called variations of ‘trash’ and ‘a little-kid’s book’, I tried to throw myself back into the wonderful world I had fabricated, but the most I could do was stare blankly at my rice bowl. Was it even my rice bowl? It could very well have been Alex’s, or Dad’s, or-
Mom yelled my Chinese name, and my head involuntarily snapped up toward her. Satisfied that she had my attention, she continued her tirade, and snatched the book off the table. She began shaking it furiously, as if the frantic movement of the novel added meaning to her words. Giving an extra heavy shake on her last word, she took a deep breath. A few seconds of silence passed as I tried in vain to block out the intensity of her gaze by listening to the faint chirps of the birds outside, wondering how it would feel to have wings. As the time dragged on, I began to relax, mentally patting myself on the back for not saying anything that would instigate a completely different lecture. And out of the blue, Mom grabbed a few chapters worth of pages and ripped them clean out of the binding. As I stared, wide-eyed, she pressed the trash can’s foot pedal and unceremoniously dropped the pieces into the open mouth. My book made a thud.
Fast forward back to the present, and Mom is looking expectantly at me. I feel a strange compulsion to remind her of her extreme reaction to me reading Harry Potter, but I hesitate for two long breaths. This could go very badly.
“Mom,-” I give a little sigh-laugh. “Do you remember that time I was reading a Harry Potter book and you ripped it and threw it away?” She thinks for a bit, then nods.
“I just-” I hesitate. “You ripped my book because you said I shouldn’t read stuff like that, but...now you want me to see Star Trek? Isn’t that kind of hypocritical?”
Mom shrugs in a nonchalant manner. “If you don’t want to see it, that’s okay.”
Of course she completely avoided my question.
We walk past a few more sections before it occurs to me. Mom just asked me if I wanted to see Star Trek. Did I just ruin her attempt at initiating some mother-daughter bonding time? I’m a horrible person, I think. Before the whole topic can expire I quickly interrupt her.
“Hey Mom, want to go see Star Trek?”

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