Lost and Found by Haoyan Do

A man wearing a cream woolen coat decorated with red roses
Image Source: Snappa

Lana always thought that she had lost Bala forever. Even before high school graduation, she knew the gap between her and Bala was so huge that it’d be impossible that they would be together again. For one thing, Bala’s parents were against their relationship. For another, Bala, after going out with Lana in 10th grade, became the boyfriend of Amia, who was a Latina. In the township of Edison, New Jersey, people not only know their friends’ ethnic backgrounds but also the region their parents come from. Amia’s parents came from Puerto Rico; Bala is a Tamil and his parents came from Chennai in south India; Lana and her parents came from Penang, Malaysia and Lana is half Malay and half Chinese.

After college, Lana has had a stable job, a stable boyfriend, and a good-natured Shiba (a popular dog breed) named Tashi. One year ago, the two started to consider marriage, which seemed to be the inevitable step, but somehow they both experienced cold feet for inexplicable reasons. So the engagement and the matrimony have been postponed indefinitely.

For this particular week, Lana’s boyfriend is on a business trip to Atlanta. Lana came back to Edison to stay for a week. Lana didn’t want to come back, but she unwittingly told her mother on the phone about her boyfriend’s trip and her mother took the opportunity to tell her that she hadn’t been back for quite a while. Lana, always the negotiator and never the fighter, agreed to come back to stay for a week. She had been working from home since the pandemic started. For two months before the summer, she was called back to the office, but then unceremoniously she was asked to work from home again due to the delta variant.

Accident or fate, depending on one’s perspective. Lana thinks about Bala regularly. Living in Edison with her parents, she thinks about Bala even more. She has always loved Bala more than anybody else. She would love to get back with Bala if it is entirely possible, but of course it doesn’t seem likely. She has been following Bala’s social media account and regularly dropping a word or two. Nothing serious. Just keep in touch. She knows that Bala works in New York City after college, has an Italian American girlfriend, and is doing very well. However recently Bala’s social media posting is quite confusing. It seems he’s back in Edison, living with his parents again. Lana has intended to ask him, but doesn’t know how to broach the topic. Is he losing his girlfriend, losing his job, or both?

Lana is driving towards Roosevelt Park, where she has her daily walk. She deliberately detours to Bala parents’ house. She knows this is crazy. It seems weird if she knocks on his door and asks him if he’s available. She has to be a mad woman in order to do that. In addition, she also has to explain her own situation with her boyfriend. The whole thing seems out of ordinary. She doesn’t know what she is doing, but she does it anyway. Deep in her heart, she knows that all these obstacles are not going to be obstacles if she knows that Bala still loves her a little bit. If she can be sure of that, she’s not afraid to take action. However how can she know that before she acts?

As her car enters the neighborhood lane, she slows down considerably. As the car passes Bala parents’ house, she hears some noise from inside, the slamming of a door, and the gritting wheels of a garbage bin against the driveway. Something is happening. Her heart starts to pound and she stops her car at the curb. People in Bala’s household are too absorbed in their own affairs to pay attention to a strange car parked right next to their driveway.

Bala’s mother comes dragging the garbage bin to the curb. She stops and stares at Lana’s car to see who’s come. Now Lana can’t sit tight anymore. She comes out and walks towards her.

“I’m Lana. Remember me?” Lana says, a little embarrassed. “I was going to a house party and somehow lost my way.” What a lame excuse. Lana says to herself. Nowadays everybody has GPS and it is not even possible to lose one’s way. And what house party is that? She is the worst liar.

“Of course I remember you.” Bala’s mother says. She’s a very sweet woman and she likes Lana. However she’s afraid of showing any intimacy since her husband, Bala’s father, doesn’t like Lana at all. Bala’s father is a brilliant engineer and he has high hopes for Bala. A woman like Lana, who likes poetry and literature, will only lead his darling Bala astray. Lana also suspects that her own parents, owners of a Malaysian takeout restaurant, are not exactly the people Bala’s father wants to associate with.

“I met your mother the other day at Costco and she says you are getting married.” Bala’s mother says. Lana answers evasively. That’s the typical way of her mother, always wanting to show off. It would kill her mother to say that Lana is having trouble with her boyfriend and the marriage has been delayed, probably forever.

Bala’s father comes out too, with an armful of papers and cardboard. “These are the junks from his wall. He’s not a high school kid anymore. Look at this weird poster. I told him that he has to pull himself together and start anew.” The father is nerdy, blunt, and direct. He has always been very strict with Bala because he wants to mold him in certain ways. He would get very angry when disappointed. Lana has always thought it lucky that Bala didn’t take after his father. Bala inherits his good nature and good sense from his mother.

“This is Lana, Bala’s friend from high school. She’s getting married soon.” Bala’s mother says.

“That’s more than I can say for Bala.” Bala’s father says. He doesn’t stay with the two women. After throwing his armful of junk in the garbage bin, he strides back.

Something falls from the overstuffed garbage bin onto the pavement. Lana picks it up and it is a poem, written in colored letters and framed. It’s a poem Lana published in their high school newspaper sometime in her junior year about the love that might be irretrievably lost. Bala must have copied it and framed it.

Lana’s heart skips a beat and she’s brimming with joy.

“You want me to show you the way to your friend’s party? Tell me the address.” Bala’s mother says.

“No. I want to talk with Bala first.” Lana says. There’s so much confidence in her that she feels she may explode or burst into flames.

-HAOYAN DO

Haoyan Do is an Asian, living in Edison, New Jersey. She likes Central Jersey for its diversity, its immigrant population, its Asian grocery stores, its convenient distance to New York, its close proximity to the ocean. She translates, edits, and tutors. Haoyan loves languages, and is currently learning Thai and dreaming of studying Sanskrit.

Read more of her work at Haoyan Do.

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. Terveen Gill says:

    Haoyan’s story depicts a familiar tale of love, loss, and the hope of rekindling a sputtering flame. Families, especially Asian ones, put too much pressure on their children to be perfect in every way. At times, the only way to live is by putting one’s foot down and listening to the rhythm of one’s heart. An honest and confident tale.
    Congratulations Haoyan!

    Like

  2. Cassa Bassa says:

    I like the story set in now, and the cultural dynamic.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I thought this story, so relatable to many youngsters and was very excited to read a little about Penang and the Asian predicament. To top it off, I have a friend named Bala too, haha. Congratulations.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. jonicaggiano says:

    Yea, I am so excited to see your here my friend. I told you to keep writing and that you could get published. Congratulations for this wonderful short story now live on Masticadoresindia. Seriously, great story and I love the brave and bold woman in the story. So happy for you haoyan do. Sending my love, Joni

    Liked by 1 person

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