The World Behind Closed Doors (part 6)

30 11 2011

While his father was mainly away on business in Hong Kong, his mother was suspicious of anyone he would have over, even friends.  Her world consisted of God and suspicion.  She was perceptive of people and lies.  She was – and still is – extremely conservative; Kem had told me that were he to come out to his parents, he truly believed his mom would kill him.  Her conservatism made my mother seem like Siddhartha Gautama.

After Kem’s graduation ceremony in April, there was a reception in the music building where parents and now post-graduates took pictures, told each other of future plans, and thanked teachers that they had known since freshman year.  I somehow found myself standing across from his mom, who I recognized from earlier when he was taking pictures with his family.

“You must be so proud of him,” I said.

She smiled at me, and I wondered if Kem’s description of his mother as a follower of the Westboro Baptist Church might be an exaggeration.

“I am.  He’s tried to teach me music but I don’t understand it.  I just like to listen to it,” she replied in Cantonese, chuckling.

Unlike Kem, my Cantonese is very much broken.  I can understand it fairly well but when I speak, it often comes out in fragments and I’m usually left to say what I mean in English, hoping the other person knows what I’m talking about.  I knew my flawed Cantonese would not impress her.

“That’s good,” I managed to say, beginning to sweat from high use of translating power.

There was a brief pause before the expected, yet unexpected, question: “How did you two meet?  Do you go to school here too?”

Being accustomed to the lie by now, I casually responded, “No, I’m going to film school.  Kem’s helping me with applying to UBC next year.”

“Oh.  So how did you two meet if you don’t go here?”

In that moment, I realized what Kem meant when he told me his mother was a perceptive person.  I saw her take a glance at my shoulder bag, which, among other things, had a Mickey Mouse pin coloured with rainbow colors and another one that said “Queer” on it.  I swallowed hard, not knowing if she was going to bludgeon me with her purse right then and there.

“Ohhh, yeah, I don’t go here.  I met him through a friend,” I said, managing a half-smile and nodding along as if I was just clarifying myself while her eyes bore into me, a lie detector trying to decide if what I was saying was real or not.

“Oh.   Okay.”  Her eyes left mine and it appeared I was out of the clear.


“Do you think she knows?” I asked Kem one night while we were lying in my bed, the lamp on my table illuminating his face.

“I don’t know.  Do you think your mom knows?”

“I don’t know.”

We certainly weren’t going to be addressing the issue anytime soon and like Chinese mothers, if they did know, they wouldn’t say anything either.  It was a stalemate.

(continued in part 7…)