Look at both sides of the coin.
JZ opened his eyes to the curtain not shielding sunlight from his eyes. He looked down on the floor beside him. The girl with long brown hair, wearing his navy blue dress shirt and black basketball shorts was missing from her spot.
“Elle,” he said a little loud.
“What?” she responded.
He bent his head to catch a glimpse of the open bathroom door, and thought, “Why does she sound like she’s in the shower?” “I have to go to the bathroom,” he replied.
“Wait a bit,” she said. Then he heard her bare feet hit the hard shower floor. Water running from the sink. Footsteps – tap, tap, tap – coming toward him. She said, “First,” and pointed at his curtain, “second,” and pointed at his hand in between the mattress and box spring, and “third,” wiggled her fingers in front of her face.
“Why is her face still expressionless? Is she still really mad or is she exhausted?” he asked himself.
She climbed on the bed and untied his wrist then his arm. She climbed back down, and waited for blood to flow back into his hand and arm. She got ready to push up the edge of the mattress, but remembered that she needed to remind him to push against the window. She pointed at his free hand and then the window. “One, two, three,” she counted and lifted the mattress to free his hand.
She climbed back on the bed. “Let me take a look,” she quietly said, taking his tied wrist. She rested his hand on her thigh, untied the cloth strips, and put the chopstick pieces on the window sill, freeing his fingers. “How are they?” she asked.
He bent and straightened them several times. “They hurt a little bit,” he quietly said, keeping his eyes on her. “This one hurts the most,” he said, pointing at the one she had to bend the opposite way. She massaged it between her fingertips for a minute, then asked again, “How is it?” “Much better.”
She took his other hand and freed those fingers. He bent and straightened them several times. “These also hurt a bit,” he quietly said. “Can I try them out again?” he asked with a sly smile, his fingers bending and straightening in front of her chest. Her face showed slight anger and she bent his injured fingers the opposite way. “We both know the answer,” she said with a hint of anger, as he cringed in pain.
She released his fingers and got off the bed. “I’m going to make you breakfast,” she said, putting on her flats, grabbed her purse, then left.
She returned about ten minutes later with a small bag with raw minced meat, and saw him sitting on her bed on his phone. She immediately went to the kitchen, rinsed a small pot, and put it on the Bunsen burner. She heated the pot dry over the heat, opened a water bottle from a case on the floor, and poured it in. She took a small plastic box of cold, cooked rice she had stored in the fridge, along with a small plastic box of bok choy she had already washed.
He came over and put his hands on her hips. As he slid his hands down her thighs, he whispered, “Would you like me to help?”
She quickly removed his hands and said evenly, “Go play with your phone on the bed.”
He took a step to the side and asked, “Are you still mad?”
“Why wouldn’t I still be mad?” she quietly snapped, as she washed the cutting board and knife.
“What can I say or do to have you not be mad at me anymore, baby?”
“You can’t say or do anything,” she said, cutting the bok choy into bite-size pieces.
“Really?” he asked confusedly, not wanting to believe what he was actually hearing.
“Really.” She put all the red-colored meat in the boiling water
“Can we at least talk about it? Maybe I can fix it.”
“If I have time, I can talk with you.” She took a spoon and broke the browning meat apart, seeing they were still red on the inside.
“How about starting now?”
“Type whatever you want to say,” she said evenly, waiting for all the red to turn brown.
He was stuck. He knew that girls liked to talk things out, but he did not know what to address first.
She put the bok choy pieces in the pot and washed the cutting board and knife, dried them, and put them away.
With an idea, he asked “What do you want to talk about first?”
“What I have to say will be in English,” she said under her breath, putting the rice into the pot and stirred.
“Say it simply to me in Mandarin.”
“I will not say it.” She added a few pinches of salt and stirred. “If you have nothing to say, don’t talk,” letting the pot boil.
“I am extremely sorry that I accused you of sleeping with your landlord in exchange for your rent,” he typed.
She retrieved a bowl from the cupboard poured the porridge, then sprinkled pepper over it. She placed it on the counter to cool and went to the bed. “Come,” she ordered. She sat on the bed and got the chopstick pieces and strips of cloth ready.
He sat and showed her the phone. She quickly typed, “Why are you extremely sorry for accusing me of that?”
“Because I was wrong,” he typed.
“Being wrong is not enough,” she said, and took one of his hands, and placed it on her thigh with a chopstick piece under his fingers.
“Can you be a little more specific?” he typed.
She tied it first then typed, “How were you wrong? Why did you accuse me?”
He scratched his head, uncertain of what she’s asking for. He typed again, “Can you be a little more specific?”
She clasped the other on his hand and tied it before typing back, “Why was sleeping with him your first thought? Why couldn’t it be what I had told you: he was helping me with a math problem?” and put the phone in his bound hand. “She wasn’t even doing a math problem,” he thought, but decided to keep it to himself.
After some thought, he said, “I don’t know why,” like he was sincere.
“Really? You do know,” she said, tying the first two chopstick pieces on his second hand.
He thought for so long that she finished tying his second hand and had brought the porridge over. “I really don’t know,” he said sincerely.
She fed him a spoonful then took the phone from him and typed, “Why did you think I was lying to you? Everything you asked, I answered truthfully.”
“I was very jealous,” he typed.
“You weren’t just jealous. I have three adjectives in mind that described you last night, so when you show me the phone again, I must see at least three adjectives,” she typed, and blew on another spoonful. The bowl was half empty when he showed her the phone.
“I was really heart-broken, sad, frustrated, concerned, protective, and a little aggressive.”
She read it with disapproval. “Heart-broken and sad are the same thing. You were dramatic, mistrusting, and merciless. Now compare mines to yours.”
“They’re very different.”
“Yes, they are. Now defend your adjectives, then defend mines.” She fed him the remainder and washed and put everything away. She looked at him and knew he was still thinking, so she went back into the shower to resume what she was doing.
He went to find her minutes later. She was high up near the shower head with her feet, athletic legs, and strong thighs holding her diagonally up against the shower corners. She saw him and slowly got down. He defended his first, and she nodded her head without changing her expression as she read it. But when she read how he defended her adjectives, her face showed disapproval. “I may have been a little loud when I asked if I was correct or not, but I was not dramatic. I trusted that your landlord was a man but I was not mistrusting. I may have been a little aggressive, but I was not merciless.”
“You defended your adjectives as I had expected: very thorough and clear to your perspective. However, you are entirely down-playing my adjectives, despite that they are from my perspective. Dramatic: You not only shouted to demand I tell you you were correct, but it was 9pm! Everyone on the entire street could hear you. You grabbed my arm and wouldn’t let me return to my apartment. When you took me inside, you restrained my arms like you were defending yourself, not me trying to escape an attacker. Mistrusting: If you had trusted that I was virtuous, you would never accuse me of prostitution or anything similar. Haven’t I showed you that I wouldn’t prostitute myself? I had plenty of chances to take advantage of you, but I didn’t. I already told you, you can’t buy me, and if you haven’t accepted it, I’m telling you again, you can’t buy my affection. Merciless: You think me being poor causes me to do bad things. If you think that, accepting your job offer was one of the worst decisions I’ve made in my life. The worst thing you could accuse a maiden is anything sex-based. If you cannot see how these things make you merciless let me show you my tattoos.”
She handed it back to him and he read it carefully. When he was done, he looked at her with the saddest face she had ever seen on anyone, and he waited for what her tattoos would reveal. She rolled up her sleeves to show him the black marks he had left. Fifteen fingers total forming three circumferences. He looked so remorseful but did not know what to do or say to fix it.
Knock knock knock. She nudged him back to poke her head into the main room. “Who is it?” she asked loudly and evenly.