I stood outside of the entrance of the mall, trying not to look too disappointed. I was waiting for Ma Ma. I looked around. She was nowhere in sight. I grabbed my phone and checked my messages. There were no new messages. Weird, I thought as I took off my backpack to check if I had everything. My makeup was safely tucked into my bag and I was carrying the bags of new clothing in my left hand. A car honked and Ma Ma waved at me as I quickly ran over and hopped in.
“Hi, Ma Ma,” I greeted her as I slid into the car and closed the door, “Where’s Nai Nai?”
“Oh. I had extra time so I dropped her off first,” Ma Ma replied as she slowly drove forward, “That’s why I’m late. Anyhow, how was shopping with your friends.”
“It was good,” I replied as I took some clothes out to show her, “I just bought a few jackets and some jeans.” Ma Ma nodded in approval.
“Was there a good sale,” she asked. I nodded.
“Yea, it was pretty good.”
Ma Ma leaned over and turned on the radio. The two of us both began humming along to the song as we slowly cruised down the street before stopping at the traffic light. Ma Ma looked back at me and I smiled at her as I looked out the window. I looked back at her and Ma Ma gave me a weird look, before reaching to turn off the radio mid-chorus.
“Why did you-,” I begun to ask.
“Look at me,” she interrupted and I looked at her confused. She grabbed my face and turned it. “Why do you have bits of black lines on your face?” I looked at her confused and grabbed my phone to take a look.
“Oh. Sydney and I went to try on some eyeliner for some fun at a store. I must have missed some when washing it off,” I lied as I tried to use my hand to wipe it from my face. The light turned green and Ma Ma turned around and continued to drive. She was silent for a moment, but I knew that she caught my bluff.
“So you’re telling me that no one noticed you have that much left over eyeliner on your face,” she asked. My hands began to sweat profusely and I wiped them on my hoodie. Ma Ma noticed. “Don’t lie to me,” Ma Ma added, “You wore makeup, didn’t you?”
I bit my lip, hesitating if I should tell the truth.
“Yes, Ma Ma,” I said finally deciding.
“And you know you’re not allowed to right,” Ma Ma asked as she eyed me from the review mirror. I nodded. “Then tell me why did you decide that today would be a good day to do it behind my back, Aubrey.” I stayed silent. “We’ve already went over it. You can’t wear makeup unless it’s a special event,” Ma Ma said looking back at me.
“You have puffy eyes too. You’re literally going to make it worse. You know that you have to wear makeup tomorrow so why of all days did you choose today? Aubrey. Think,” Ma Ma replied, raising her voice. I didn’t know to respond to Ma Ma. She wouldn’t understand why I needed to wear makeup. She wouldn’t even understand if I told her everything from beginning to end. I looked down, but Ma Ma wasn’t finished.
“On top of that, Mr. Wilbert emailed me about your two bad grades. Why didn’t you tell Ba Ba or me? We could have helped you out, sent you to a tutor, or whatever you needed,” Ma Ma continued.
“But I did good on my progress report,” I mumbled under my breath as I stared out the window.
“Aubrey Wang. Don’t act smart with me,” Ma Ma said, looking at me. I looked down, avoiding her gaze, but even without looking, I could feel the heat of anger building up around Ma Ma. “You can’t always play by the chances. What if you didn’t get the good grade?” I rolled my eyes.
“Ma Ma, the point is I did well and next time I’ll let you know,” I said, “I got it. You can stop fuzzing over it.”
“Watch your attitude. This is not the first time. Aubrey, I’m saying that you should learn to ask for help when you need to,” Ma Ma said as her tone became sharper and sharper. “We’ve been over this over and over again, yet you still don’t listen.”
“But, YOU and BA BA can’t even help me,” I said, beginning to feel the tears bubble up.
“You don’t know that because you don’t even try asking,” Ma Ma said, barely being able to keep her voice leveled.
“No. I KNOW you can’t help me. Ma Ma, you can’t always help me with every single thing. These are MY problems. YOU can’t help,” I said, emphasizing each point. Ma Ma looked back at me silently.
“Then fix the problems,” Ma Ma said, quietly. I stared at Ma Ma in disbelief.
“Don’t you think that I’m trying to,” I exclaimed, “Ma Ma, I try my hardest every single day, but you don’t even acknowledge that. Don’t you know that I’m going through so much? Don’t you know I feel like I don’t fit in and when I try, you won’t even support me? You’re so SELFISH. ”
“How is hiding behind a face full of makeup solving a problem,” Ma Ma snapped, “You’re just hiding behind a mask. Besides, you’re born here. You should feel like you belong.”
“MA MA, I don’t belong,” I screamed and a lump began to form in my throat, but I swallowed it down anyways. “Only you and Ba Ba ever think that I’m American. Everyone else sees an Asian face and automatically assumes that I’m not here. Ma Ma, they think I’m a foreigner.” I repeated the word for emphasis. “Foreigner. Foreigner. Foreigner. They say I don’t act white, yet I don’t act super Asian either. What am I supposed to do then, Ma Ma,” I spat. Ma Ma grew silent and I paused for a second.
“Watch your attitude. I’ve don everything for you and this is how you treat me. You’re a terrible daughter,” Ma Ma whispered and she slammed her foot down on the gas and the car went faster.
“Well, you’re a TERRIBLE mother too. You’re selfish and you only care about yourself,” I screamed as the car sped down the street. My heart began to race as Ma Ma speeded down the street. Even, my breathing began to speak up and everything around me turned to a blur. I looked at Ma Ma, who continued to step on the gas. We finally stopped in front of our house and I pushed the car door open. I threw myself out before slamming the car door behind. I rushed up the stairs and dragged everything up with me.
The tears that I had bottled up inside me for so long, poured down my face and the anger and heat I had kept inside slowly began trickling out my ears. I heard Ma Ma enter in from the garage and she simply sighed before closing the door gently. Ba Ba rushed over to ask her what had happened and from upstairs, I saw that Ma Ma had simply shrugged and said that she was too tired to talk. Ba Ba nodded and simply left her alone.
Ma Ma slowly walked toward the stairs and I quickly disappeared into the room. I jumped onto my pillow and screamed into my pillow, cursing and yelling. How could Ma Ma just say to fix my problems? Doesn’t she know thats all I’ve been trying to? I’ve been trying everything. I try to make her happy. I try to make Ba Ba happy. I try to make everyone else around me happy, yet when I try to make myself happy no one supports me.
I sighed and dug my face into the pillow. I laid still for a few minutes. Slowly, my breathing slowed into a normal tempo and my heart leveled into a steady pace. After what I felt like forever, I lifted my head. My pillow was covered in tear stains and saliva and I took a deep breath. I heard Ma Ma close her bedroom door.
I got up and sat on my bed. A pair of footsteps, probably Ba Ba’s came up the stairs and stopped in front of my bedroom door. “Go away,” I whispered and the feet listened. I exhaled a sigh of relief as the footsteps went back downstairs. I walked over to the door and put my ear against it. There was only a bit of mumbling between my grandparents before I heard the TV get switched off. The house became a simple ghost town after that.
I stood in front of my door for a few moments. I locked the door before returning back to my bed. By now, the anger and heat seemed to have left completely out of my ears and flown out the window. My tears had dried up and my eyes could no longer cry anymore. I sat down on my bed and the expected wave of guilt soon crashed over me.
I probably had been a little too harsh with my words, I thought as I walked over to the open window. A light, winter breeze blew at my face and wiped the dried tear dust, away from my eyes. I stared out at the moon but she was gone, hidden between the clouds.
“I know, I shouldn’t have lashed out at Ma Ma,” I said to no one in particular. A stronger wind blew and the leaves on the tree all ruffled in agreement. “It’s late now, I’ll apologize to Ma Ma in the morning,” I added and closed my window for the night. I went to the bathroom and brushed my teeth as always and as I left the bathroom, I saw the dear moon peak out from a hole in the clouds. I smiled. “Glad you approve,” I said before tucking myself into bed and slowly falling asleep.