“Xiao Ming, it’s so nice of you to call! How are you doing?”
Li Ming hesitated for a moment, not sure what to say. Usually, the answer to that should be ‘I’m alright, thanks for asking, mom’ but somehow, he didn’t feel like doing that today. He wasn’t sure if it was the whole situation he was in or maybe the fact that he had gotten a big dose of honesty in the conversations he had had today, but he just couldn’t bring himself to pretend to be doing alright.
“Actually … not that great. I broke up with my boyfriend a while ago. It’s been pretty hard on me.” He closed his eyes and held his forehead, not sure why he was even doing this. He probably shouldn’t have called in the first place.
“Oh … I didn’t know you were seeing someone.”
Li Ming nodded faintly, feeling even more that this had been a stupid idea. Their relationship really wasn’t all that close. Because ever since the day he had come out, he had always felt that his parents probably weren’t that happy about it. He just naturally kept his distance after that.
So when it came to his love life, he never told them anything. And because other than his job, there hadn’t been much else to say about his life before, the number of conversations they had had and the duration of those had dwindled quite a bit.
By now, he was hardly on top of major events happening in his family. It was sad but it was also something that he didn’t know what to do about it. Even the fact that he had called today … He couldn’t explain it himself.
The other side stayed quiet for a while as well but noticing that he didn’t say anything else, she probably felt that she should try and keep the conversation going. “Well, breakups are always hard. But you know, sometimes, it’s also for the best.” There was another pause before she picked up again. “Anyway, there are many other … nice men out there. I’m sure you’ll find the right one for you.”
Li Ming opened his eyes and couldn’t help but give a huff. His mother probably hoped that he wouldn’t find a nice man but a nice girl instead but it was already nice enough of her not to say that. “Yes, I guess so. I just … I thought he might be the one.”
This time, the pause from the other side was a bit longer. Finally, his mother sighed. “I’m really sorry to hear that. You know, sometimes, we’re wrong about people, and other times, we just need a little more time. Is there no way for the two of you to reconcile? You know, maybe there is something that could be worked out.”
Li Ming furrowed his brows, not sure how to explain. Really, he didn’t want to get into any details about his relationship with his mother. That just … didn’t seem like such a good idea. But then, he had called and brought the matter up so what was his problem now? It was just that he really didn’t know how to explain well.
Thinking about how awkward it was that the conversation seemed to consist of more pauses than actual talk, he finally just tried to ease her into the topic. “Say, has dad ever lied to you? I mean, on anything you know of?”
“Oh. It’s like that.”
There seemed to be a small smile in her voice once again even though Li Ming really couldn’t explain to himself why. If his father had, that didn’t seem to be a good idea thing. Why would she be laughing at that?
“You know, actually, he did. I think that he lied about quite a few things at first.”
Li Ming lowered his hand and his brows shot up, not quite sure if he had heard right. “I’m sorry? I feel like I heard that wrong.”
This time, his mother actually laughed out loud. “No, no, you heard that right. Your father … When we met, he wasn’t doing so well. I think he was embarrassed because I had my life together and he didn’t. But he loved me and he wanted to be together so he gave all those excuses and tried to explain things away, just to make himself look better in my eyes.”
Li Ming stared at the door to the living room, not sure how to deal with what he was currently hearing. His mother had told him some stories about her relationship with his father when he had been younger but not that much. And this was definitely a story he had never heard. “How did you find out?”
“Well, there is really only so much you can explain away. After being with each other for a while, it became really obvious. So finally, I confronted him and he confessed to everything. That day …” She fell silent for a moment but then sighed. “I probably shouldn’t tell you this but that day, your father was crying, pleading with me not to break up with him. He promised he would never lie to me again and said that he really regretted what he had done.”
“So you stayed with him? You weren’t afraid that he would do it again?”
“Oh, no, I was afraid. And for a while, it really made things difficult. In fact, a couple of months after that, I broke up with him because I couldn’t trust him anymore. It was difficult to bear, too difficult. It wasn’t a basis for any kind of relationship.
“So … saying all this, I can understand why you broke up with that boyfriend of yours. If he lied to you like your father lied to me back then, then it’s probably for the better indeed. Coming back from something like that … it’s not easy and maybe it’s not even the right thing to do. Staying broken up might be better.”
Li Ming stared blankly, not sure what to make of all this. “But you and dad …”
His other sighed and then gave another laugh, sounding a bit embarrassed this time. “Well, you might think I am disingenuous with my advice. Really, I don’t regret that I broke up with him back then. After everything had come out, we were arguing most of the time. It wasn’t a good relationship anymore and felt like it had run its course.
“That doesn’t mean that I didn’t love him anymore though. On the contrary. I had been very happy with him and it wasn’t easy to get over him. I tried but it didn’t really pan out. I still had the same issues with the men I tried to date after them.
“If the trust is broken by one person, it is difficult to trust not only that person but others as well. And it took a lot of time for me to figure that out. You know, your mother probably broke a few hearts in the process. I’m not proud of that. I should have realized that I wasn’t ready to be in another relationship and not gone out with anybody else. But I was also lonely and I didn’t want to put my life on hold for this matter. So it just happened.
“Anyway, in the end, we reconnected. After close to two years, we met in what was clearly not a coincidence and he had changed. Just as much as I probably had. And because we were both in a better place and had learned to deal with things, we were able to make it work when we tried to give it another go.”