My first dinner with the family of my Chinese-American boyfriend was at a Hawaiian fusion restaurant. Andy’s mom Sunny chatted mainly about the chef, and how he was nice and fat. But once she got a glass of wine and our orders were taken, conversation lagged. Andy’s taciturn father Jay had forgotten the usually omnipresent video camera, but he still said nothing. I asked Andy’s brother Denny how he and Claire met. I asked Claire about her major (again). I told everyone how Andy and I met. I tried to fill the silence any way I could.
I fought a losing battle with monosyllabic answers.
“So, Jay, is this your favorite restaurant?’
“What is your favorite restaurant?”
“Um, what about you, Denny?”
Jay interrupted. “No.”
I laughed. “You’re not seriously telling Denny what his favorite restaurant is?”
He seriously was. Jay said to Denny, “No. Roy’s too expensive.”
Silence. No one argued.
“What’s Roy’s?” I asked Andy.
“It’s an Asian fusion place in Hawaii Kai.”
“We should totally take your parents there and pick up the check.”
Andy downed a large gulp of beer. “Bad idea.”
The food arrived. We ate in silence. I’m not good with silence. After a minute, I said, “Sunny, how did you and Jay—“
BOOM! Jay slammed both fist down on the table. Utensils and glasses rattled. We – and the rest of the restaurant — stared at Jay.
Jay barked across the table at Andy: “How you sleep!?”
Andy, bewildered: “In my new bed? Fine –”
Jay interrupted. “No, no! How you sleep she talk so much!?”
I stared at my plate, redder Hawaii’s dumbest tourist. Denny, Claire, Sunny, and even Andy (traitor!) snickered. I turned to Sunny when the hilarity subsided. “C’mon, Sunny, obviously I am talking too much and you have to help me out.”
Sunny gave me a glassy look and announced: “I’m drunk!”
“I thought you only had one glass of chardonnay?”
“I did,” laughed Sunny. “I am a cheap date!”
At least the laughter wasn’t at my expense this time. Andy signaled the waiter for another beer. I wondered where my boyfriend got his tolerance for alcohol. Jay was drinking only water, and not well. He choked on a sip a few minutes later.
I waited, and when Jay’s coughing fit finally died down, I gave Sunny my sweetest smile and loudly cooed, “How do you sleep, he coughs so much?”
Jay glared at me, but couldn’t think of a retort. Undoubtedly due to a dearth of practice.
Andy handed me the keys and ordered another beer.
I think I figured out where he got his his tolerance for alcohol.