The toughest part about coming home is also the most wonderful part. Mostly, making time for everyone I want to see.
Except this time, people were expecting more than just me.
“Where’s POI?” Aunt Angelina exclaimed when I showed up for dim-sum.
I shrugged, “He had plans.”
“Is POI here too?” a friend texted.
“Plans,” I texted back, “He had some.”
“Your friend is welcome to come too,” Aunt Jin-Feng said, inviting me to my cousin’s fancy birthday party at Souplantation tomorrow night.
“My friend?” I was confused, then realized I was Chinese and my aunt was Chinese and I shouldn’t have been confused because while the term “boyfriend” exists in Chinese, its application is like that of a pistol: just because you have one doesn’t mean you should use it.
“Ah my ‘friend’ is not here,” I said, “He had some family plans. But perhaps next time.”
The men were less fussed. POI included.
I texted him this morning, “My entire family is like, ‘Where’s POI?’
“Next time,” he wrote.
“Yeah, otherwise they will think I made the whole thing up.”
“You’d be a fiction writer then.”
My uncle Louis swung by and gave me a big hug.
“You’re back!” he said, then nodding almost gravely, asked, “And school. How’s that going?”
“I’m on summer break,” I said, “I start school in two weeks.”
“Great,” he said, then looked around with an expression that said, ‘Something’s missing.’
I braced myself.
“Where’s your mom? I’m supposed to take her to the car dealership.”
Later that afternoon Uncle Jin picked me up for dimsum and asked how my boyfriend was doing in San Francisco.
“SF? He lives in New York.”
He scratched his head, “That’s odd. Why did I think San Francisco?”
I opened my mouth, ready to explain that E, the girl who’d set us up lives in San Francisco and perhaps facts had gotten scrambled while the details of my relationship were being passed from mom to aunt to aunt to uncle, but my grandpa came out of the house just then.
Grandpa waved to me, “Welcome back.”
He gave no indication that he expected anyone else. Asked no questions. I smiled.
“Let’s go,” he said, “Lunch.”
At dimsum, my aunt bemoaned the fact that two years ago my cousin had brought her then boyfriend to meet the grandparents. They broke up less than three months later.
“Had I known they wouldn’t be together three months later I would never have arranged that dinner!” She put her hands to her forehead, “And at this very restaurant!”
I assured her, sitting atop the pile of wisdom I’d accrued in the last year, that she couldn’t have known. No one does, really, until it happens.
“Still,” my aunt said, putting her hand on her forehead, “Grandpa must think she has a new boyfriend every few months.”
I looked at Grandpa, who didn’t appear to be listening. He had eaten more than usual and was probably looking forward to his afternoon nap.
“Do you want to meet POI?” I asked him.
He sighed and shook his head, leaned back.
“You young people. It doesn’t matter if I want to meet him. If you like the person and want to be with him, then I’ll meet him.”
“Good point Grandpa.” I reached for another cream bun, a dessert we both loved, and asked if he wanted half.
“No no,” my aunt said, “just put it on his plate.”
“I’m good,” Grandpa said.
“Put it on his plate.”
I put it on his plate. He smiled, and shaking his head, ate it.