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It had been week 2 for Mike since he had been in Japan and seemingly enough, his homesickness was growing to its peak. Even during the night Mike would have random outbursts about his longing for…
“JOE!!!” he would yell in his sleep. “WHY!!! Why are you so far away from ME!?!”
“SHUT UP, SHUT UP, SHUT UP!!!” his fellow roommates would scream back at him in anger with their heads shoved deep into their pillows.
For Mike, even though this was a golden opportunity, he wanted to go back home to see his family and friends. Work was one thing, but family was another. He missed his visits to the hospital to see his mother who had been fighting a sickly disease for the past 5 years, he missed playing basketball with Joe and bickering with him every chance he got. One good thing did come out of his trip to Japan though, Mike thought. Rainie.
During the past couple of days, Mike had been living it up in Japanese town restaurants, trying every type of new cuisine and of course accompanying him would be Rainie, laughing and giggling behind him. Tonight however, was another dinner service. It would be the second time in about a week that Mike had catered for the Yang family since his stay in Japan.
This time it was just for the business associates her father had invited to their family celebration. In hopes to gain some alliances and interests within each corporation, her father decided that it would be best to eagerly establish a friendly bond with them in order to work beside them. For Mike it was another opportunity for business as well, hoping to spread his catering service and his restaurant name further and further into the social world.
“Mike!!” yelled a distraught waiter.
“Yeah?” he yelled back as he prepared one tray after the other with absolute concentration.
“We have a problem! I think you’d better come quickly,” he urgently ordered.
Mike made his way through the kitchen and finally onto the actual dinner floor, he realizes that the dishes he had prepared were not being as well received as he had hoped.
“This is disgusting,” commented an elderly woman who took a bite out of the quiche. “What kind of food are they paying for?”
“I agree, this is definitely not up to par with the other caterers from last week,” another young man in his 20’s added.
Mike was in trouble. He had prepared a night’s worth of food already, but he couldn’t throw them away just because of a few harsh reviews. But as the night went on, so did the criticisms.
“Excuse me?” a young woman asked Mike.
“Uh, yes ma’am?” he answered.
“Are you today’s caterer?” she asked.
“I’m afraid so,” he shyly said. “I’m sorry, is the food not good?”
“What?” she shook her head smiling. “No, that’s not the problem at all. I am madam Clarisse’s secretary. That elderly woman over there is who I work for. I just came over because I was wondering if you have overheard some of the rumors among tonight’s festivities. Well, I was just worried that you didn’t realize that for this particular dinner party, the guests tend to be really stubborn when it comes to taste. So if you heard a few bad things about the food, it’s quite natural. I hope you will not be offended by them.”
Completely relieved from the stress, he sighed deeply.
“Well thank you for telling me ma’am,” he smiled his signature smile at her. “But even though that takes a load off my shoulders, it doesn’t make my food taste any better.”
And with that he silently walks to the back of the kitchen unmotivated to complete his dinner service. Just as he was about to turn a corner, he feels someone pull him to the side.
“Rainie!” he screamed back from the fright.
“Hey!” she laughed. “It’s been a while.”
“It’s only been a couple hours,” he smiled.
“Still,” she quipped. “So how’s the food coming along?”
“Horrible,” he sighed. “Everyone hates my cooking!”
“Don’t listen to those old geezers. They would even call a fillet mignon cooked by the best chef in Japan, trash. You shouldn’t think so much about it,” she tried to relieve him.
“It doesn’t make me feel any better,” he pouted.
“I never asked you why you went into cooking, have I?” she asked out of the blue.
“No, no you haven’t,” he answered.
“Well…” she giggled.
“Well…” he said apprehensively. “I’m doing this for my family.”
“Really?” she asked curiously. “I thought your philosophy was to follow your dreams that involve a quest for internal happiness and all that mumbo jumbo.
“You really shouldn’t make fun of me, or God will strike you three fold,” he retorted back.
“I wasn’t making fun of you,” she giggled a bit. “I was just wondering. You told me to follow my dreams instead of my father’s. What’s so different about what you’re doing? Isn’t it the same?”
“I told you before. Family comes before everything else,” He explained. “That is what I chase after; a happy family. This might not be my passion, but it’s just a course I have to take to meet my dream half way.”
“I don’t see why it’s so important,” Rainie began to reminisce. “Sometimes families aren’t always harmonious. They can be broken, taxing and inevitably deteriorating; full of obstacles to try to overcome and yet no one ever meets the expectations. You can’t have that whole ‘perfect’ family ideal, when perfection is already flawed.”
“You sure do throw around a lot of big words for a girl who apparently has no idea what she’s talking about,” he joked seriously.
“What?” she laughed in disbelief.
“You say that perfection is flawed; I wholeheartedly agree,” he explained thoughtfully. “But family is considered perfect in my eyes. As long as love and fear can be accepted so willingly by family, it is perfect.”
Rainie stood silently bewildered by Mike. It was outrageous for her to take him seriously in his stained white apron and his smoked chef’s hat, but his demeanor and his spirit made him understandably convincing.
“What about my family?” she asked.
“What about your family?” he asked back.
“What would it take for them to accept my love and fear so willingly?” she asked profoundly.
“They’re your family. It’s inherent,” he naively deduced.
“That’s where you’re wrong,” she answered back. “Not every family is what they seem. You may have the perfect family, but it’s not the reality of every situation.”
“I have what they give me, and that is all I ever asked for,” he debated back smiling. “Every situation has its own problems and grieves; even me. But you’ll never hear me say I regret having them in my life.”
“Even you?” she questioned. “Give me one example of grief in your world.”
“Um…” he nervously answered.
“Can’t answer can you?” she smugly asked.
“I can,” he nodded. “It’s just that…”
“What’s the matter? Embarrassing?” she giggled.
“I became a chef for my mother’s sake,” he answered in all sincerity. “She’s been in the hospital for a while now and I didn’t know what else to do other than this. Even though cooking is not my dream, it helps pay for everything I need. What I need is for mother to live. I can’t afford to fail.”
“M-Mike…” Rainie apologetically said. “I didn’t know.”
“You should meet her,” he chuckled sadly. “You would understand this conversation a lot better. Till tomorrow, Ms. Yang.”
Finally ending their conversation, Mike leaves Rainie in the state of awe. Again, she couldn’t believe this man. Every time she meets him, she learns something new about life she never knew. Life becomes that much more bearable with him. This made her think about her own family; were they as terrible as she first thought?
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