Ming sat on the floor looking at family pictures again. He saw her put her finger on a picture of Quan at the locksmith’s shop.
Ben poured a glass of water and sat on the floor. “You and Quan seem very much in love.”
Her face flushed red. Her eyes flickered, but before she looked down Ben saw the unmistakable tugging of the smile on the edges of her lips.
“Yes,” she said with a girlish voice. “Very much.”
“Pam and I were in love too, once. It seems like a long time ago.” The moment he said it, he regretted it. Ming looked at him. He saw the pity in her eyes and squirmed.
“Quan knew you both in college,” Ming said slowly. “He does not understand why you would divorce.”
Ben shrugged. “Things happen. People change. We stopped loving each other.”
“What does this mean?”
“We lived our own lives. I had my career, golf, tennis. She had her writing, aerobics, the kids. You know how it is.”
Ming gazed at him, face blank. Clearly she didn’t know how it was.
“Did not your children bring you together?”
“For a time, I guess.”
“And do you not face difficulty together, hostility from the world, persecution that makes you stand together?”
“We had hard times. Real hard. But hostility, persecution? No. Those aren’t that common in America.”
Ming nodded. “Perhaps that was problem.”
“I’ve never thought of lack of hostility and persecution as a problem.”
“Wife and husband must be more than lovers. Must be comrades, soldiers fighting side by side for same great cause. Ming’s mother say, ‘Wife and husband should not only lie down face-to-face, but stand up shoulder to shoulder.’ They must face together the worst Mogui (Satan) can do to them. And when they draw strength of Yesu, (Jesus) he bind them together.”
“That’s what happened to you and Quan?”
“We depend on each other, need each other. Quan tell me couples in America speak very openly of love. But also that they lose love and move from person to person. This I do not understand. Ming miss Quan as lover,“ she said, voice quivering. “But especially as friend and comrade.”
Ben thought about his poor unsuccessful roommate, whose professional dreams had been dashed, who made a hundredth of Ben’s income and now sat in some godforsaken jail. What shocked Ben was the particular feeling he had toward Quan at this moment. He felt envy.