“I’m going to see Paris,” I say defiantly, striding towards the room. I positively itch for a confrontation, but this officer, yet a different one, lets me in as soon as I give her my name. I sit down. “It’s a mess, Paris. I’m no closer to finding out who did this to you, and worse yet, I quit my job today. Sort of.” I pour out everything, not wanting to bottle up my feelings. As I’m talking a glimmer of something comes to my mind, but it’s gone. I don’t try to push it because I know it’ll come to me sooner if I let it simmer. I want more than anything for Paris to open his eyes, for him to smile at me, for him to come home. “Oh, god,” I sob, my head dropping forward. How much longer can I stand to see Paris like this? I long to shake him by his shoulders until he awakes.
“Ma’am, it’s time.” The officer carefully places her hand on my arm, her eyes showing sympathy.
“Mom, let’s get out of here for a bit,” I say to my mother in Taiwanese. “Just you and me.”
“What about Lyle?” My mother asks, casting a worried glance at Lyle who isn’t paying any attention to us. “We can’t leave him here by himself.”
“That’s rude, you know,” Mr. Jenson says suddenly, interrupting our conversation. “Talking in a foreign language in front of people who don’t speak it. Besides, this is America. Speak English.”
“There’s no mandate that says we have to speak English,” I say heatedly, a flush creeping up my neck. We had been rude, but I am too edgy to apologize.
“Rayne and I are going to run back to her apartment for a bit,” my mother says evenly. “Lyle, would you like to come with us?”
“I’ll stay here,” Lyle says, glaring at the Jensons. Mrs. Jenson avoids his eyes, but Mr. Jenson glares right back.
“You sure, honey?” Mom asks Lyle, squeezing his arm solicitously. He nods, not taking his eyes off Mr. Jenson. My mother and I reluctantly leave them.
“I can’t believe it’s already after eight,” I murmur as we stroll to my mother’s car. We are silent for the first few minutes of our drive to my apartment. “Let’s have sushi,” I say. “I don’t want to go back to the apartment.” She drives to Country Station which is on Mission, but easy to miss if you blink. It’s a hole-in-the-wall place with a kooky-but-lovable owner and reasonably-priced sushi that tastes pretty damn good. They have an eggplant roll that is out of this world. As for their mango hamachi roll—it’s heaven, when you can get it.
“I worry about that boy,” my mother says after we order. “He needs to be realistic.” For a confused minute, I think she’s referring to Paris, then realize she’s talking about Lyle.
“Realistic about what?” I ask defiantly, because I think I know the answer.
“You, too, Rainbow,” my mother says, gazing into my eyes. She has faint smudges beneath hers, and I’m sure I have the same. She takes a deep breath. “Honey, you have to face the idea that Paris might die.”
“No, I don’t,” I say resolutely, trying to block out the word die. “He’s not going to die. He won’t.” My mother sighs sadly, but doesn’t let it drop.
“There’s a good possibility he won’t survive,” my mother says softly, reaching over to take my hand, but I pull away from her. “Honey, the hospital has already talked to the Jensons about donating his organs if he dies—that way someone else can live.” She pauses, then plunges on. “They’ve also talked to the Jensons about taking Paris off the life-support machine.” I let out an involuntary cry of protest. “He’s in a vegetative state, Rayne,” my mother says emphatically. “Comatose.”
“What did the Jensons say?” My voice is harsh from holding back unshed tears.
“They’re leaving it up to God,” my mother replies. It’s such an expected response, I can’t stop myself from smiling. My mother smiles with me and soon, we’re both doubling over with laughter. It’s a mixture of exhaustion and stress, but it feels good to actually laugh.
“Your sushi,” our diminutive server beams at us, enjoying our enjoyment. She slides a tray redolent with raw fish—enough for three meals. We don’t talk as we work at putting a serious dent into the food. The wasabi stings my nose, clearing my sinuses. I read an article that said most Japanese restaurants in America use horseradish and green food dye to effect their ‘wasabi’ because authentic wasabi is prohibitively expensive. I’m ashamed to say, I don’t much care if this wasabi is real or fake as long as it can make me tear up. The thing I like best about wasabi is that it’s a clean burn. Once it sears the hairs off your nostrils, it’s but a faint memory. I dig happily into the Rock and Roll because I love eel.
“You have to face it, Rainbow,” my mother says finally, setting her chopsticks down. “Paris is in bad shape. He might not make it out of the hospital.” I set down my chopsticks as well, unhappy to be having this conversation. “Do you know if he has a will?”
“No, I don’t,” I say with a sigh. I’m no longer denying out loud that Paris might die, but I’m denying it in my head. After what I’ve been through the last few months, it would be supremely unfair if Paris was taken from me as well. I am aware that I’m being selfish in my view point, but I’m entitled to be.
“Ask Lyle,” my mother advises. “He might know.”
“They’ve only been together a few months!” I say indignantly. I think I’d know before Lyle did, but perhaps I’m being replaced in Paris’s confidence as well as his heart.
“Paris loves you,” my mother says firmly, reading my mind. She begins eating again, popping an edamame in between bites of hamachi and unagi. She eschews the ginger routine to cleanse the palate because she hates raw ginger, which I love. “It’s only natural to share some things with your partner before you do with your friends.” I open my mouth to argue, but I know it’s true. “Call him,” my mother urges. “No, let’s wait until we get back to your place.” She has a true hippie’s horror of whipping out a cell phone in a restaurant and disturbing other people’s dinners, especially if it’s not urgent.
We continue to eat, talking about anything but Paris. I need to take my mind off him, or I’ll lose said mind. We talk about the man my mother’s seeing, someone she likes, but isn’t wildly excited by. Since my father died nine years ago, my mother has dated casually, but nothing serious. She’s incredibly busy with her committees, her painting, and her volunteer work in addition to being an adjunct professor, though, so I don’t think she’s lonely. She takes trips every three months or so with friends of hers, and even takes various dance classes now and then. I’ve never heard her complain about the lack of a steady lover. If she is lonely, she’s not telling me about it. It’s a thought that makes me uneasy, but I quickly dismiss it. She would tell me if she needed more company.
We talk about my sister Libby’s upcoming nuptials. I have been ignoring her emails which makes me feel slightly guilty, but not enough to answer. I have the damn dress which makes me look like a bottle of Pepto-Bismol, the necessary accessories, and it’s too early to think about makeup and hair. No way I’m having my makeup professionally done—or my hair for that matter since I don’t have enough to cut. The more I ignore my sister, the less I have to worry about developing an ulcer. My mother is more accommodating, which means she’s actually trying to negotiate with the brat. She broke the news to Libby that she couldn’t go out a month early, but will shoot for two weeks. My sister threw a hissy fit over the phone, but eventually accepted that my mother just could not up and leave her life here in the Bay Area for a whole month. You would think she was fucking Princess Di or something, the way Libby is acting.
“I’m worried, though,” my mother confides, sipping her tea. “The last time I talked to Liberty, she said something about if there is a wedding at all. When I asked what she meant by that, she clammed up.” My mother looks at me beseechingly. I know she wants me to talk to my sister, but I’m less likely to get anything out of her than my mom was. Still, I promise to do the best I can. It’s ten o’clock by the time we return to my apartment. I haven’t been home all day, so I go to grab the mail as soon as we go inside—the mailbox door has been forced open.
“Oh my god,” I say, pressing my hand to my mouth. My mother, who is behind me, can’t see what’s happening. “Someone broke into my mailbox!” I can see mail still in the box, which doesn’t tell me much.
“Oh, no!” My mom and I look at each other before racing up the stairs. There are scratches around the door, but it’s still locked. There’s a slip of paper on the floor, partially under the door. My mother reaches over to pick it up, but I stop her.
“Fingerprints,” I say, rummaging through my purse for a napkin or tissue, pulling out my keys in the meantime. My mom taps me on the shoulder and hands over a small pair of tweezers. I lift an eyebrow.
“Eyebrow tweezers,” she shrugs. I use it to carefully pick up the piece of paper. My mom grabs the keys from my hand and opens the door. I set the piece of paper on the coffee table in the living room, face up, then we both read it. It’s the text from an email.
B—You don’t believe me? You think I am dramatizing as usual? You are as foolish as ever. Check his apartment if you think I am lying to you. I sent him a copy.
“That’s it?” My mother looks at me in bewilderment. My address is printed below the text, making it easy for “B” to find me. I shrug my shoulders, then go to my room. Nothing is out of place. I walk purposefully towards Paris’s room. I hesitate, then go in. It’s the first time I’ve entered it since his accident. Everything seems to be in order. A business-sized envelope peeks out from underneath a stack of books on his desk. Giving into my nosy nature, I slip it out and open it. The envelope isn’t sealed, and there is a lone sheet of paper which I pull out. In his neat handwriting, Paris has written up his will. One-third of his assets go to me. One-third goes to Lyle. One-third goes to his mother. It’s dated approximately a month ago, and is witnessed by two names I don’t recognize. I don’t know how legal it is, nor if it advances the case any. I slip it back into the envelope, then put the envelope back where I found it. I return to the living room where my mother is sitting, and I call Inspector Robinson.
“Hello?” Her voice is tight, as if she doesn’t have time to talk.
“Inspector Robinson? It’s me, Rayne. Ms. Liang. Uh, someone broke into my mailbox and tried to break into my apartment.”
“Why call me?” Inspector Robinson says, not unkindly. “I’m Homicide, if you recall. I can get you someone from Robbery, if you’d like.”
“I found a note,” I say patiently. “It points to someone wanting something of Paris’s.”
“Shit,” Inspector Robinson mumbles under her breath. I don’t think I’m supposed to hear her, but I do. It’s oddly endearing.
“I received a call on my cell phone, too,” I say, explaining the exchange. The inspector doesn’t say anything for a few minutes.
“I’ll be right over,” she finally says, slamming down the phone. I don’t take it personally as I’m sure she has a lot on her mind these days.
“I finally get to meet your inspector,” my mother says, her lips curving into a smile. “See what has you smitten.”
“I’m not smitten!” I say hotly. “I have a date with Vashti tomorrow.” Wisely, my mother holds her tongue. I flick on the television to catch the news until the inspector comes. There’s nothing further on Paris, but there is a sound-bite from Jimmy—Paris’s boss—about him running for mayor.
“I believe in morals and family values,” Jimmy says firmly, smiling slightly at the camera. “But not in the old-fashioned way. I don’t mean I’m against homosexuals; they can form just as meaningful bonds as can heterosexuals. What I’m referring to is taking responsibility for the family you’ve created, placing them first in your life. I have two kids—Jared and Janie—who are the most precious people to me in this world—not to mention my wife, Janet.” He flashes a wide grin for the cameras. “We eat dinner together at least four times a week; we have family nights where we spend meaningful time together, and I try to make as many of my children’s activities as possible.” He sums it up by saying that he thinks of San Francisco as one big family, and he would treat it with as much respect and commitment as he does his own family.
“That’s Paris’s boss,” I explain to my mom. “He’s got some bug up his ass about Paris.” I fill my mom in on that story.
“Perhaps he views Paris as the black sheep of the family,” my mother quips, chuckling at Jimmy’s down-home manner. “Is he for real?”
“I don’t know,” I say, frowning. “He’s more real than that in person, but I don’t know him very well.”
“It’s hard to seem real when you’re spouting crap,” my mother says dryly. She is about to say more when the buzzer buzzes. I let in the inspector, who is looking particularly fetching in a lilac pantsuit. I lead her to the living room so she can meet my mother.