The woman was also Asian (Chinese), and seeing another Asian with facial piercings reminded her of all the things she had not been able to get away with as a kid. Nevertheless, the man complimented the waitress’s unremarkable black uniform. If anything, knowing that the pretty waitress had a boyfriend only made the flirtation more fun. The man nudged the woman, who was sitting next to him like a statue. Until now, the sushi chef had not said a word to the couple. He then held the mug delicately at the very top with two fingertips and a thumb. The couple tried to mimic the chef, but perhaps their skin was thinner than his; holding the mug the Japanese way didn’t hurt any less than sticking their hands into boiling water. The woman, however, did not want to offend the chef and held her mug until she felt her hands go numb. The next day, he sent her a picture of a Tang-dynasty camel with glaze.
Her immigrant parents had wanted the best for her, so imagine coming home to them with a lip ring. The waitress returned the favor by complimenting the man’s circular eyeglass frames. But it seemed to irritate him as he prepared the Pacific oyster (which turned out to be delicious) to see them not drink the tea. The other hand was placed under the mug like a saucer. Now that the man knew the chef could speak English, he tried to talk to him. It was the same camel that had sat next to her mother’s fireplace for the past twenty-five years. Most of them were Asian, but she had a few non-Asian friends as well. She did not want to continue with this man if he was interested in her only because she was Chinese.
The man said that she was nice, though a little neurotic. the woman asked again, and the man said, What do you mean? She was excited that he was turning out to be a regular guy.
For example, by the end of her first month the woman had already seen someone pee in the corner of a car. And, if she didn’t have money, the same person would ask her for food or a pencil or a tissue to wipe his nose.
She texted back a smiley face, then, later, pictures of her empty living room, bedroom, bathroom, and the pile of furniture and things she was donating so that, once they were living together, they would not have, for example, two dining-room sets, twenty pots and pans, seven paring knives, and so on.
She was one of those people—the kind to create an Excel spreadsheet of everything she owned and send it to him, so that he could then highlight what he also owned and specify quantity and type, since it might make sense to have seven paring knives if they were of different thicknesses and lengths and could pare different things. The mug is beautiful, and you should be proud to have something like this in your kitchen. The chef said thank you and served them their first piece of fish on similarly green-blue ceramic plates that the man promised not to scrutinize. By now, the woman knew that, although he worked alone in his studio, he not only enjoyed the company of others but needed it. Sometimes it was jokey talk, the kind he was having with the sushi chef. She was fine with watching something more mainstream, set in modern day, with story lines about non-Asians.
If she couldn’t enter society, then she might as well go to jail. As a potter, the man would obviously know about the history of pottery.
Ultimately, a lip ring could only land her in jail—what other purpose did it serve? And he probably just liked “House of Flying Daggers” as a movie.