1985, I came to America.
The following week was my birthday, and it was also the very first time I put on makeup, making myself look pretty–Because I can now, I’m in America. There was no birthday celebration–It coincided Cousin Robert’s wedding.
At the dinner reception, I quietly sat and watched people dancing with music, laughing through the night… Wishing a handsome boy would come to ask me for a dance. But, instead, there was a strange old man with a very long white beard sitting next to me, smiling. I smiled back. His wrinkled face bore a pair of white eyes… I mean his irises were white, he had white hair, and was all in white. But somehow he knew me, so he came to me. I didn’t know him, but I did not feel threatened, nor did I feel I was in danger. There we sat, and though he was blind (or was he?) He knew where I was, and he was facing me. Then he asked:
“剛到嗎？” (Just got here?)
“是，上禮拜剛到。” (Yes, just got here last week.)
“歡迎來美國，有沒有對相了？” (Welcome to America, do you have a boyfriend?)
Suddenly I felt my entire body’s blood rushed into my head. How did he know I was wishing for a guy to pick me up for a dance? I couldn’t say a word, wanted so bad to have a place to hide. By then I was convinced he was not blind, because he knew I was embarrassed… He laughed, so heartily, like Santa Claus, “Ho Ho Ho Ho Ho… 不要緊，我逗妳的！” (No worries, I was teasing you!) Then, with a long pause, he seemed to be studying me. He penetrated my eyes with his white irises, leaned closer and said slowly with a sincere and steady voice:
“妳遠從台灣來，是為了遇見妳未來的丈夫。但妳必須要爭取他、才能得到真正的辛福。” (You’ve come a long way from Taiwan, to meet your future husband here. But you must compete for him, in order to be truly happy.)
“但是媽媽說女生不應該追求男生呢… ” (But mama said a good girl shouldn’t be chasing a boy…)
Before I finished my sentence, a dancing couple lost control, and came fast towards us. They crashed between me and the old man. Luckily they didn’t knock over the whole table. By the time the couple got back on their feet, the old man was gone. I looked around, he was nowhere to be found.
Years gone by, his words were forgotten, through a brand new American western culture, a new language to learn, a new life to live, to fit in, to get by… But, no matter how much I changed, how well I spoke the English language, how much I became “Americanized,” how many boys I “chased,” deep down, I felt guilty to have chased boys, to have been intimate with too many friends who were not my type, to have been wild, bold and outspoken… Deep down I still love Mother’s cooking, still am humble for my achievements, still believe in fung-shui, still pray to Buddha during Chinese New Year, still believe my grandparents are watching over me, and I still believe there are people among us who are messengers of the gods, who can see the future, like the old man at the wedding.
About fifteen years later, I fell madly in love with a man whom I shouldn’t have been in love with, and he shouldn’t have been in love with me. But eventually, seven years after the fall, we got married. And through all of this rollercoaster ride, the old man never surfaced in my memory… Until almost thirty years later, I vividly recall–the old man at the wedding.