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TALES OF THE TOWN: Part 15

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Mrs. Wu Tries to Reason with Danny

Mrs. Wu’s emotional and physical health continued to deteriorate, even after she was discharged from the hospital. Her daughter was now gone; Mrs. Wu’s phone calls to her went unanswered. Dr. Wu, on Cindy’s sudden leaving home, retreated even further into his normally stolid shell. The house felt like a funeral. During the day, when Dr. Wu was at Kaiser, Mrs. Wu watched hours of daytime television. Every so often, she would pick up a photo of Cindy, hold it to her breast, and weep.

She told herself “I have to do something.” She was in danger of losing her daughter, and possibly even her husband. Cindy would not talk to her; perhaps the boyfriend would. His name was Danny; that was all Mrs. Wu knew. She let herself into Cindy’s bedroom. Maybe somewhere in here was an address or phone number. It didn’t take her long to find what she was looking for: a Lyft printout of Cindy’s customers for the previous quarter. Mrs. Wu went down the list. There it was:

Eagleton, Danny

737 Perkins

510-555-1445

She called him immediately. He answered; she explained who she was. Danny said he remembered her. She asked to meet with him. He accepted. Their rendezvous was at Whole Foods. Mrs. Wu had a cup of tea, Danny a cappuccino, which she paid for. They found seating out front.

“I am here as a mother, and as a wife. This has not been an easy time for me. You are causing great dissension in our family.”

Danny did not want a fight. At the same time, he did not wish to be railroaded. He had done nothing wrong; neither had Cindy; she was an adult. Her parents should stop trying to control her life.

“You perhaps do not understand our tradition,” said Mrs. Wu. “Tell me, your religion: what is it?”

The question annoyed Danny, but he was determined to be as polite as he could be. “My mother is Catholic, although not very religious. My father is Episcopalian. I was raised as a Christian, but I’m not a very good one.”

“And tell me, in your family, what is your heritage?”

“We’re mostly English, Welsh and German. I think I had a Belgian great-grandmother.”

“And all these parties intermarried freely?”

“Yes.”

“But there was never a union outside the white race?”

Danny saw where things were going. “No, Mrs. Wu. But had one of my ancestors fallen in love with a non-white person, I’m sure the family would have welcomed them with open arms.”

“Can you be so sure?” Mrs. Wu looked doubtfully at Danny. “Perhaps. But in our culture, things are not so…well, loose. Never in the history of either Dr. Wu’s family or of mine—a history we can trace for more than 500 years—has anyone married a non-Chinese, except for one unfortunate recent case, which ended in disaster.”

“Yes, Cindy told me about that.”

“I appeal to you as a gentleman. I know that you care for my daughter and that she cares for you. However, I beg you to understand the difficulties such a union would entail. It will present roadblocks to your happiness, and Cindy’s, and will certainly not be welcome by our family.”

Danny looked at this frail, small woman incredulously. “That is so racist.”

Mrs. Wu now was offended. “Racist? That, it most certainly is not. I have said nothing offensive towards you or towards any white people. Many of my husband’s colleagues are Caucasian. Among the members of the clubs and societies with which I am involved are Caucasians. The Doctor and I live in a mostly-white neighborhood, where we enjoy excellent relations with our neighbors. To suggest that we are racist is insulting.”

“Well, Mr. Wu, I don’t know what you would call it, but we have a saying: If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.”

“We too have a saying. ‘Even a hare will bite when it is cornered.’” She looked at Danny with flat, insolent eyes that took him aback.

“Is that a threat?”

“I ask you once again. Please stop seeing my daughter. If you know what is good for you and for her, you will break this off.”

Danny had had enough. He stood, nodded to Mrs. Wu, and said, “Please give my regards to Dr. Wu.” And with that, he strode off.

It had been only a day since the theft of all their possessions. He and Cindy had spent the night at Nick’s place, after striking the tent, which they stored in Nick’s basement. Cindy was driving for Lyft; Danny had to get back to Creava. On the walk to work, his mind was troubled and turbulent. Between the theft and Mrs. Wu’s amazingly patronizing words, his thoughts raced and crashed into each other, in a spiral of over-thinking that formed a pattern he knew all too well. He wanted only to be with Cindy, to lay with her in a warm, safe place of their own—preferably with plenty of vodka. On Webster he passed yet another high-rise going up, undoubtedly more condos. Square would soon move into the old Sears Building, now redubbed Uptown Station. There would be more young techies, with more money, looking for more places to live in Oakland; prices would only continue to rise. Depression cast a black cloud around Danny. He needed a drink.

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