MRS CHU'S STORY
Mei-Ling “Lola” Poon was born frustrated. She was also born in the Year of the Rat.
From the moment Lola Poon was delivered into the cold, sterile environment of the labour ward of Mount Sinai Doctors – Chinatown, she was not a happy camper. The first thing she did upon entering the world was cry loudly, expressing her displeasure at having her warm, comfortable intrauterine existence rudely terminated. Lola then lapsed into a stern, sullen, silence that lasted until her second birthday . . .
While Lola was healthy and of average weight at birth, she gained minimal weight through the first six months of her life because she simply refused to feed. Even when Lola was clearly hungry, and quite frankly desperately in need of nourishment, she adamantly would not swallow her mother's milk. The doctors suspected Lola may have a mild case of pyloric stenosis, or perhaps an intestinal mal-absorption syndrome of some sort, but the absence of vomiting and diarrhoea, and a normal upper GI endoscopy, made these diagnoses unlikely; Lola Poon was simply a wilful infant. She had steadfastly decided that she did not like the taste of her mother’s milk—nor nine out of ten of the baby formulas that were on the market at the time. Months later, having finally found the one milk formula that she would actually drink, Lola started putting on weight, and she bounced back to a generous 125% of her expected body weight by the time she was 12 months old. It was as if she was stocking up in case her favourite milk formula might no longer be available in the future.
Soon after Lola’s second birthday, her mother, Mei-Yee, went through another round of frustration with little Mei-Ling: toilet training. For no reason that Mei-Yee could determine, Lola simply would not open her bowels when given the opportunity to do so. The outcome of this new form of defiance were some prolonged and painful bouts of constipation that required a number of visits to the emergency room, and many doses of laxatives and the occasional suppository.
By the time Lola turned three, Mei-Yee had a number of other disturbing behavioural issues to worry about. When Lola would play, she would line up her collection of dolls—as well as those of her older sister, Sui-Feng “Hilary”—arranged in order from smallest to tallest, and she would shout orders at them. More disturbing was Lola’s habit of punishing the dolls who didn’t do as she commanded. The non-compliant dolls would be positioned facing the corner of the room with their hands pinned, with clothes pegs, behind their backs for days at a time. When questioned what they had done wrong, Lola would simply say: “They haven’t learned how to play properly. They will. They just need to spend some time alone.”
Despite Hilary being three years older than Lola, she was always afraid of her. The two siblings never played together even though they shared a room for the first five years of Lola’s life. For her fifth birthday Lola insisted that the Poon family move to a larger apartment—one with three bedrooms. She got her way, of course. Lola always got her way. No one in the Poon family was willing to disagree with Lola. They all knew what the consequences of such action would bring; the wrath of Lola was not something any of them would ever choose voluntarily.
Lola’s father, Chi-Kung “Henry” Poon, had met and married Mei-Yee only months before moving from Guangzhou to New Eden to further his studies in engineering. Henry and Mei-Yee had been born in the same village—which was in the hills above Guangzhou— but Henry’s family had moved to the city when he was a young boy. It was Henry’s parents who had arranged the meeting with Mei-Yee; they couldn’t bear the thought of Henry moving to New Eden and marrying an American girl.
Henry had taken to his adopted country enthusiastically; Mei-Yee pined for her homeland. She desperately wanted to be with her family, particularly to aide her with the rearing of her two daughters. It was lonely for Mei-Yee in New Eden despite living right in the middle of Chinatown where there was no shortage of native Cantonese speakers. Mei-Yee couldn’t understand the obsession Americans had with consuming, and the busy lifestyles that the people all around her seemed to thrive on. She craved quiet and solitude—things nigh on impossible to find whilst living at the corner of Grand and Bowery . . .
Upon starting elementary school, Lola’s difficult and unpredictable behaviour changed precipitously; her mother couldn’t believe what she was seeing. Lola stopped expressing her displeasure and being wilful when things weren’t going her way, and she started being kind and helpful. Mei-Yee was even more surprised when Lola’s first report card came home describing her as the model student: courteous, helpful, hard-working, and disciplined. Mei-Yee could see how hard-working, and disciplined might apply to Lola, but courteous? Helpful? Who was this child, and where had this new, compliant version of Lola come from?
The simple answer was that on arriving at school it was glaringly obvious to Lola Poon that she couldn’t get her way there by being defiant. She realised that she had to control her environment in more subtle ways. This meant being good. Lola learned quickly that a good student was given options. Good students got to make decisions, whereas bad behaviour only lead to having freedom and control taken away.
It was soon after starting school, and developing her new behavioural strategies of compliance, that Lola started to mumble. The mumbling was subtle at first, but by the time she turned eight Lola’s mumbling was quite noticeable to everyone around her. It was one of her fellow students—and Lola’s closest friend at the time—Angelina Winkelstein, who had first pointed the mumbling out to Lola. The two girls were sitting on a bench in the playground eating their lunch one day when Angelina decided she would ask Lola about it. Lola was fond of Angelina because she spoke her mind when other less interesting students, who didn’t appear to have opinions of their own, kept their mouths shut. Lola despised people—children and adults alike—who didn’t have an opinion about important matters. What’s the point of life if you don’t think about stuff? Are they completely stupid, or just plain lazy?
“Why do you mumble all the time, Lola?” asked Angelina, genuinely interested to hear Lola’s response.
“I don’t mumble,” was Lola’s matter-of-fact reply.
“Yes you do. You mumble a lot actually.”
“No I don’t.”
“Yes you do.”
“No I don’t.”
“Yes you do.”
“NO . . . I . . . DON’T!!”
“But you do mumble Lola. Why is that?”
At this Lola jumped up, threw her cha siu bao sandwich in the dirt, knocked Angelina’s bagel with lox onto the ground beside it, and started pulling on Angelina’s ponytails with all her might, all the while shouting “LIAR! LIAR! LIAR!” into Angelina's face.
“Nooooooo. Oooooowwww. Let go Lola. What’s wrong with you?” Angelina tried to pull away from Lola’s grip, but by this time Lola had wrestled Angelina off the bench and onto the bitumen of the playground. Lola straddled her friend, pinning her arms against her body with her legs—she was strong for her age—and started slapping Angelina’s cheeks with her open palms. With each slap she shouted into Angelina’s face: “I DO NOT MUMBLE! I DO NOT MUMBLE! I DO NOT MUMBLE!”
Lola was red in the face and breathing heavily when the lunch duty teacher grabbed her from behind, under the arms, and lifted her kicking and screaming off her friend. Lola was marched to the principal’s office where she appeared to be in some kind of trance, unable to speak, and the principal was unable to make any sense of what had happened. Lola was taken to the school nurse for observation. An hour later she sat up, looked around, and asked the nurse politely:
“What am I doing here?”
“You don’t remember what happened, honey?”
“What do you mean, what happened? I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
A letter was sent home to Lola’s parents outlining the incident. Mei-Yee and Henry weren’t surprised by what they read. Nothing more was said—either at school or at home—though Angelina Winkelstein transferred to another third grade class, and her friendship with Lola came to an abrupt end. Lola noticed more of her fellow students eyeing her suspiciously, and avoiding sitting next to her. She also found herself strangely—though not unpleasantly for Lola—more often alone at lunch time.
Lola’s mumbling continued unabated. No one, not even her mother, was game to mention it to her, though. After the incident with Angelina, however, something changed on an unconscious level for Lola, and she did become aware of her tendency to mumble little by little. She found she could control the mumbling when she was in company, but when she was alone she mumbled louder than ever. Lola knew that only insane people mumbled out loud for no reason, and she certainly didn’t want to have that label attached to her—it could result in more of her own authority being taken away from her—so she kept her mumbling to herself.
If someone had made a tape of Lola’s mumblings, it might have sounded something like this:
“That boy doesn’t even know what religion the people of Pakistan follow. Stupid idiot. My handwriting is too messy. I must make more effort to be neater when I write; nobody respects someone with messy handwriting. Why does the government think they can cut spending on education when no one I know has received enough education to even get a job, let alone make a difference in the world? How stupid are politicians? When I grow up I’m going to run for Congress and start cleaning up the mess this country is in. Can you believe that car just ran a red light and almost knocked that old lady over? He should be locked up. Harsher penalties for driving badly; that’s what’s needed. Look at my hair. It’s out of control. I must get it cut shorter so that is behaves better. Stupid Hilary just started dating a boy, and she’s only thirteen. What does she think? That they are in love, and that they will get married and live happily ever after. She’s the stupidest one of all. In fact, I think Hilary is the stupidest person on the planet. She’s so obsessed with her appearance. She doesn’t ever think about anything that’s important, like neighbourhood safety, childhood immunization rates, the availability of abortion, the cold war in Eastern Europe, the nuclear arms race. All she ever thinks about is herself. She's such a mindless twit . . . “
Lola Poon proved time and time again that she was smart; no one ever questioned the fact. Academically she was the top student in her class by a proverbial mile every year through elementary school, and her outstanding scholastic achievements continued unabated into high school. Lola Poon was also judgmental; no one ever questioned that fact either. No one was game, however, to mention it to Lola. That would not have been a safe course of action.
Throughout high school Lola developed a reputation for being the most reliable source of up-to-date information on any and all social and political issues. Her fellow students learned they could approach Lola for advice on these subjects . . . so long as they were prepared to sit through the lengthy discourse that would follow such a request. When it came to being informed about politically sensitive issues, Lola was in a league of her own. At Seward Park High School—located at the corner of Grand and Essex streets in the Lower East Side—Lola won the annual school debate each year from 6th grade onwards. In her senior year Lola applied for, and received, a full scholarship to study political and environmental science at the low-key—but highly socially conscious—Evergreen State University in Washington state . . .
It was at college that Lola really discovered her life’s passion. The world was dying, she learned, and Lola increasingly came to the realization that it was her solemn duty to save it. To most mere mortals, this mammoth task would have been simply overwhelming. For Lola, however, it lit a fire in her belly. The anger she had suppressed for so many years was now allowed a means of expression: she could rant and rave as much as she desired when delivering her arguments outlining the impending ecological disaster associated with global warming, and sometimes people would even pay attention to her.
It was also at Evergreen that Lola found her own kind, her own tribe, united through a shared love of political correctness. She could finally breath a metaphorical sigh of relief: she wasn’t alone on this mess of a planet after all. Lola had felt isolated and different—not in a good way—among the mind-numbing mediocrity that surrounded her on the Lower East Side, where no one cared about greenhouse gas emissions, depletion of the ozone layer, or global warming. In fact, in 1980 no one living on the LES of Manhattan had even heard about greenhouse gas emissions. A little bit of hype was just starting up in the media about ozone depletion, but knowledge about its cause and treatment were rudimentary. Lola felt people didn’t care about their planet home. They simply used it, abused it, and expected it to provide for them. This laissez-faire attitude towards the planet infuriated Lola Poon more than anything else.
At Evergreen Lola learned she could monitor the United Nations Environment Program in order to keep up to date on the issues that were so vitally important to her. Along with two of her fellow freshman environmental science majors—Gareth Bradley and Dilip Shah—Lola started the Evergreen Environmental Action Group (EEAG). A handful of passionate devotees, numbering five at the height of the group's popularity, would meet each Tuesday evening to discuss the state of the planet. The atmosphere at EEAG was generally grim. They were able to see where the accelerating rape and pillage of the environment was heading, but they were generally unable to envision solutions. Despite the general gloom, Lola always remained energized and positive in her fight for reform: “Education is what’s needed,” Lola declared. “We have to let the people know what we know, and make them start caring, or else the Earth is doomed.”
Lola, clearly the leader of EEAG, was unanimously voted into the role of spokesperson for their cause. Initially this involved filling a 5-minute speaking slot each week in the cafeteria at the Evergreen Union. Most speakers used this forum to promote their upcoming social event: the Evergreen Gays annual cake bake-off; the Evergreen Engineers Who Love Beer spring keg party (free entry for girls); the Evergreen Theosophists attempt on the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest group Ouija board séance, etc. The other students quickly came to despise Lola and her 5 minute chastisement of their part in destroying the planet. Backs were turned, conversations were started, and whole tables of students would collect their things and flee the building en masse when Lola started to speak. Dilip offered to take over the slot, but Lola wouldn’t hear of it. Gareth made some helpful suggestions about how Lola might improve her delivery, but Lola’s high-decibel reply had burst Gareth’s left eardrum, and left him doubting his commitment to the group. Just nine months after its inauguration, EEAG’s numbers had dwindled to just one remaining member, and Lola made the difficult decision to disband the action group indefinitely . . .
Back in New Eden after college, Lola aligned herself with the most left-wing political groups she could find. While her political beliefs were generally in alignment with the Egalitarian Party, Lola just couldn’t believe how ineffectual they were when it came to governing the country. It came as no surprise to Lola when they lost their majority in the Senate to the Partisan Party in 1981. Lola did her best to find groups interested in climate change, but these were sorely lacking, even in the progressive atmosphere of New Eden in the mid 1980s. Lola soldiered on regardless, standing alone on street corners spruiking her views to passersby. Occasionally someone would stop and listen to her speak for a few minutes. Sometimes a hand would even be thrust into a pocket to retrieve a few coins—their contribution to Lola Poon’s heartfelt cause. Lola’s response to such a donation was usually to retrieve the coins and throw them at the back of the retreating stranger while yelling, “A few pennies won’t save the planet, you idiot. Wake up. WAKE UP! WAKE UP EVERYONE! WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE! Don’t you see?"
To make a living during this period, Lola started doing what she did best (other than stressing about the state of the environment)—cleaning. She loved to remove dirt wherever she saw it. Re-arranging and re-organizing other people’s mess was also a great joy to Lola. Cleaning offices at night was where Lola started, but her reputation for her exceptional cleaning abilities and attention to detail quickly grew. Lola's services became sought after for private residences, and she soon had to hire an assistant to help her with the labour intensive work. This was problematic for Lola because any assistant—even the hardest working and most capable—was never going to achieve Lola’s standards of perfection in cleanliness. Pretty soon Lola realized that her best course of action was to hire two assistants to do the physical work, while she supervised each step of the process.
Within a year Lola needed to expand her horizons even further as her reputation grew, and she started running cleaning workshops to educate her growing staff on how to achieve the results she aspired to. Another year and Lola was ready to franchise. Lola had branded her business Perfect Clean, and she now shifted her role to one of inspector. She would drive around New Eden, day and night, stopping at each of the cleaning locations to inspect the final state of the job before dismissing her staff to go on to their next assignment. In keeping with her new title of Quality Control Officer (as well as CEO, CFO, and Head Educator) of Perfect Clean, Lola adopted a more corporate look that she felt was needed to command respect in her rapidly expanding company. Along with a crisp new uniform of dark grey cotton twill with red piping and trim—jacket, shirt, pants, cap—Lola’s lips became tighter and thinner, her forehead more furrowed, and her already small, narrow eyes somehow became even smaller and narrower. Add to this the heavy eyeglasses she now wore on a chain around her neck—required to magnify her vision in order to spot any lurking dust particles—the tight bun that she now pulled her prematurely grey hair into, and the hunched posture she had developed with all of the bending, cleaning, and squinting, Lola’s appearance as she approached 30 was anything but attractive. Lola wasn’t concerned, however. She did want a husband—and perhaps a child one day—but she wasn’t interested in dating, or going out to bars to find one. Lola had decided to simply allow life to find her a future mate, and she put no conscious effort of her own into the process . . .
Lola’s future husband, Lawrence Chu, was living just a few blocks from Lola when they met at a speed dating evening held at the Chinatown Community Centre: the year, 1993. Lola had been escorted to the event by her new friend, Angel O; she wouldn’t have gone to such a banal gathering voluntarily.
In 1991, with the money that was rolling in from her burgeoning cleaning business, Lola had purchased the middle two floors of a four-storey apartment building on Eldridge Street in the Lower East Side. She had moved Mei-Yee and Henry into the first floor apartment, and taken up residence herself on the second floor. At the time of her purchase, the below-street-level ground floor apartment was occupied by a sour-natured bachelor banker named John Buchanan. A charming and interesting young neurosurgeon/cabaret singer named Angel O Williams had recently moved into the top floor. A few years later Lola purchased the other two apartments and became the owner and supervisor of the whole tenement.
The LES was not a sought after neighbourhood in New Eden in the early 90s, generally reserved for migrants and coloureds, with a lot of low-income social housing. Lola liked the mix of down-to-earth people living there, however. Most were living below the breadline, had real problems related to survival to deal with on a daily basis, yet they remained friendly and supportive as a community. Lola couldn’t think of anything worse than living uptown amongst the privilege and paranoia of the wealthy of New Eden.
Despite significant cultural differences, and despite her/his sometimes shy awkwardness, Lola and Angel O hit it off and became the best of friends. Angel O was open and friendly without being intrusive or needy, and s/he liked to talk about—and offer her/his own opinions on—weighty issues. Initially their relationship consisted of short conversations snatched when passing each other on the stairs. Later Lola would invite Angel O to her apartment for tea and more lengthy discussions on politics, art, literature, and, of course, the environment. It was during these discussions that Angel O introduced Lola to a previously unknown aspect of life: the metaphysical. Lola was skeptical at first—she needed tangible proof before she could be convinced about the reality and relevance of anything—but once she had performed her own thorough investigation into the numinous and all things spiritual, Lola admitted that perhaps she had overlooked this rather important aspect of her education after all.
Later, Lola became deeply grateful to Angel O for introducing her to spirituality. In fact, it was Angel O’s friendship, and Lola’s discovery of spirituality, that was the turning point in her life. Through both her voracious intellectual pursuit of the many esoteric spiritual traditions—Kabbalah, Sufism, Gnosticism, Tantra, Taoism, Vajrayana Buddhism, Advaita Vedanta—and the regular Transcendental Meditation practice that she embraced with a passion, Lola came to realize that she didn’t need to always be angry and judgmental towards people and the world, and she didn't always need to be right either. This was a great relief for Lola . . .
Lawrence Chu was tall, big-boned, and heavy-set. He was also charming, fun-loving, and he possessed a booming laugh that he gave away liberally and often, and which made people smile. Lawrence's family had emigrated from Hong Kong four generations before, and the Chu’s had made the East Village their adoptive home.
Lawrence had found himself a comfortable position as a Notary Public that required him to sit around in a small office all day doing very little. He would occasionally witness documents for people when they happened by, and on the side Lawrence sold imported Chinese candy bars, as well as illegal Chinese fireworks. Lawrence was well known in the Chinese community of lower Manhattan so he didn’t need to promote himself or his work—legal or illegal. Lawrence’s work as a Notary made him a small regular income. His income from the sale of the illegal sweets and fireworks, however, far outstripped his legal earnings.
Everyone liked Lawrence. He would gather his friends together for large, rowdy dinners at restaurants run by various relatives, and he was generous with his time and money. Lawrence also liked to drink. His drink of choice was whisky. The more the better. He kept a bottle of the finest Scottish single malt in his desk drawer, one in his car, one beside the La-Z-Boy armchair in his living room, one in his bedside table, and one in his bathroom cabinet. The first thing he would do when a client sat down in his office was offer them a shot. Lawrence wasn’t a drunk—that is, he didn’t get inebriated, often—he just liked to drink, often.
The other compulsion that Lawrence had developed over the years was a love of gambling. Horses mostly. While Lawrence had never physically set foot at a racetrack, the path from his E 10th St office to the illegal, Vietnamese mafia-run, gambling ring on Avenue C was a well-worn one.
It was Lawrence’s upbeat demeanour, sparkling eyes, and his infectious laughter that had caught Lola’s attention. With her freshly open and optimistic worldview, Lola decided to give Lawrence a chance. They courted for a few months, dining and drinking together, walking Tompkins Square Park in the evenings, taking the ferry to Ellis Island, and even strolling across the Brooklyn Bridge one especially warm, clear summer night. It was on this particular outing that Lawrence had proposed to Lola, and she had accepted without hesitation.
The wedding was quite a big affair thanks to Lawrence’s large network of friends and family. Angel, looking stunning in peach satin, acted as Lola’s sole friend and bridesmaid, while Mei-Yee and Henry were Lola's only relatives in attendance; Hilary was called away suddenly on an unscheduled work trip.
The reception took place at Chong’s restaurant on Canal Street. The traditional twelve course Cantonese banquet, as well as the consumption of numerous bottles of the finest Scotch whiskey, continuing well into the early hours of the morning. The newlyweds enjoyed a relaxing honeymoon at the Florida beachside destination of Boca Raton before returning to their new life together in New Eden.
Lawrence Chu was happy to move into Lola’s apartment on Eldridge Street. He didn’t own real estate of his own, and his spiraling gambling debts meant it was unlikely he would do so any time soon. This caused Lola some short- and medium-term consternation as she soon realised that Lawrence’s off-hand and fun-loving way of living translated directly to his level of household cleanliness; picking up after Lawrence became another task that needed to be added to Lola’s ever-growing list of daily chores.
The one area of life with Lawrence that Lola was extremely pleased about, however, was the enjoyment she experienced with him in the bedroom. Lola had lost her virginity at Evergreen—that had happened before she had burst Gareth Bradley’s ear drum and lost his respect—and she had maintained one long-term sexual liaison with an older male acquaintance in New Eden in the late 80s, but she had never found sex entirely satisfying. With Lawrence, however, Lola discovered she could relax and let him pleasure her without needing to offer advice on how to do so. Surprisingly, Lawrence seemed to know what to do all by himself. Lawrence’s performance in the bedroom was always enhanced with a few extra whiskeys under his belt, and Lola was happy to allow him this indulgence. On some occasions she would even join him, and have a couple of whiskeys of her own. She found it relaxed her, and enhanced her enjoyment significantly too.
Three pregnancies and three miscarriages followed in successive years, then—in April of 1997—Lola gave birth to a healthy baby boy who the couple named William, after Lawrence’s grandfather.
As the turn of the millennium approached, Lawrence’s gambling debts became unmanageable. The debt-enforcers from the Vietnamese mafia on Avenue C began to put increasing pressure on Lawrence to pay up. Having been on the receiving end of Lola’s temper on a number of occasions by this time, Lawrence was unprepared to reveal the extent of his debts to his wife, so he agreed to act as a drug courier—one time only—for the ring. This job, they informed him, would wipe his slate clean.
The risky endeavour involved a quick-turnaround plane trip to Hanoi, a visit to the processing and packaging factory on the outskirts of the city where sheets of heroin were strapped to Lawrence’s body, a nerve-racking security check-in at Hanoi airport, then a sleepless 18 hour plane trip, via LA, back to JFK. Once back on U.S. soil Lawrence passed through immigration and customs without incident, and he felt he was home free.
Lawrence was picked up outside the terminal building at JFK by a limousine containing some of his Vietnamese associates. Despite the trip having gone without incident, the gang had never intended for Lawrence to be let off the hook. He was taken to a remote warehouse on Jamaica Bay, the drugs were removed from his body, and he was unceremoniously shot in the forehead at close range. The end came so quickly that the omnipresent smile on Lawrence’s face didn’t even have time to transform into a look of surprise or horror. His body was bound, weighted, and dumped into the sea, never to be recovered.
On the fifth day after Lawrence failed to return home, Lola filed a missing persons report. She hadn't been concerned at first; Lawrence had an annoying habit of forgetting to tell Lola where he was going and what he was doing. By the time the second week rolled around without any word, however, Lola really started to worry. For Lola, to have no idea where to even start looking for her missing husband was the worst part of all. She was not used to being this out of control, and it ate away at her insides.
On the anniversary of Lawrence’s disappearance, finally resigned to the undeniability of his permanent absence, a memorial service was held at the East Village Uniting Church, and Lola made the decision to move on with her life, leaving Lawrence Chu firmly in the past . . .
The following year, 2002, Lola—by this time known to everyone simply as Mrs Chu—leased the below-street-level ground floor apartment to a young scientist, Bernard McCall, and his four-year-old son, Adam. Mrs Chu warmed to Bernard immediately. She liked his quiet intelligence, his pragmatism, and his withdrawn, gentle, sensitive nature. While Bernard was less inclined to come for tea in her apartment—as Angel O still liked to do—Lola and Bernard had ample opportunity to communicate with each other as he rarely left the building. Mrs Chu also discovered that Bernard was a suitable babysitter—much needed since Lawrence’s disappearance—for her now five-year-old son, William. William and Adam loved playing together from their very first meeting. They quickly became the best of friends, and were inseparable. This was the start of a long, close friendship between Mrs Chu, Bernard, Angelo O, Adam, and William that blossomed and grew progressively over the years.
With Lawrence’s disappearance Mrs Chu felt an unfamiliar emptiness in her life. To fill this void she decided to throw herself back into the political arena once more. She had been a founding member of the New Eden branch of the Progressive Liberal Party in 1989, and she now devoted more of her time to promoting the PLP’s extreme left-wing agendas. As the deadline approached for nominations for the mid-term congressional elections of 2006, Mrs Chu found herself the unopposed PLP nomination for US district 7. Now 46 years of age, Mrs Chu had acquired the maturity to deliver her opinions with conviction and gravitas that she had so blatantly lacked when she was in college. Through the large network of people she had become connected with courtesy of her marriage to Lawrence, Mrs Chu’s popularity in the polls rose to a level that became troublesome to both the sitting Egalitarian Party member, as well as the new Partisan Party hopeful. Early on in the campaign it had been the polished face of Ken Abercrombie that Lola saw as her fiercest competition, but a news scandal erupted in August that had resulting in Ken pulling out of the race completely. Lola knew nothing about the Partisan Party’s replacement, although the rumours did not paint a pleasant picture of Dennis Green’s character. Lola campaigned tirelessly, visiting factories in Brooklyn, community centres in Queens, and of course every home, office, shop, and school she could manage in her backyard of the Lower East Side.
On the eve of the elections, however, a Partisan Party sponsored newspaper published a front-page article outlining Lawrence Chu’s illegal business activities and gambling proclivities. The following day Lola lost by the smallest of margins to her opposition candidate, despite his obviously poor moral standing.
While it was impossible to remove her political passion entirely—and she continued to be involved in the PLP for the remainder of her life—the spark went out of Mrs Chu’s political drive for some years after the humiliating election scandal . . .
It was in 2009 that Mrs Chu and Angel O first heard of Satsang (a Sanskrit word meaning a gathering of Truth-seekers). While Lola was quite content with her daily TM practice, and a monthly Theosophical Society discussion group continued to stimulate her intellectual inquisitiveness into spiritual matters, she knew on a deep level that something was missing from her spiritual growth that was yet to be revealed to her. When Gangaji—a Satsang teacher of considerable renown—came to New Eden, Mrs Chu and Angel O were in the front row. Neither of them really understood what was being said that night, but something about the experience lit a fire in their hearts, and they were drawn to attend meetings and retreats with Gangaji whenever they had the opportunity.
Over the course of the next ten years, Angel O and Mrs Chu became heavily involved in Satsang, offering their time as volunteers whenever they could. Mrs Chu started hosting video Satsang in Bernard's Bookstore, attracting a small, dedicated band of Truth-seekers to the LES each month. What dawned on Mrs Chu, thanks to Gangaji's teaching, was that the happiness and fulfilment attained from things in the outside world didn't last, while the happiness and fulfilment that resulted from quieting the mind, and looking inside oneself, were unconditional and endless. This discovery served to completely alter Mrs Chu's view on activism and change in the world. It wasn't all about them, she realised, it was all about her . . .
And so we arrive at the present: July 2020. Mrs Chu is keeping a keen eye on the presidential race, but with the clean-cut, charismatic Ken Abercrombie of the Partisan Party currently holding a commanding lead in the polls, it feels like the result is a foregone conclusion. Mrs Chu knows in her bones that Ken Abercrombie has some dirty laundry in his past that he is hiding, and she would dearly love to be the one to expose it; a little pay-back to the Partisan Party and their smutty rumour-mongering had a certain appeal to Mrs Chu. At present, however, she has not been able to find out what his secrets are. Time will tell.
William is currently living back at home with Mrs Chu for a few months before he heads off overseas on another one of his adventures. He is doing his stand-up comedy routine at Angel's club, The Garden Cabaret.
Members of the newly formed Eco-Vigilante Action Group (E-VAG) are gathering in Bernard’s Bookstore, and Mrs Chu—the convener and leader of the group—is speaking with Bernard and Amir prior to the meeting starting. Angel O, Adam, William, and Alex Abercrombie arrive and the meeting gets underway . . .