“I’m old,” the man groans as he sits down on the bench. “I am old,” he says, “I won’t have long to live.”
“Don’t say that,” replies the woman. “You’re always saying that, and I told you so many times not to. Why do you keep saying it?”
“Wouldn’t you like that, though?” the man says. “When I die, you will get a large sum of money. Perhaps you would feel happier, too.”
“Stop saying that,” the woman says. “Why do you find the need to constantly bring this up?”
The man waves his hand in the air. A gust of wind covers up their voices, but the woman says something and then the man says something back. The woman crosses her arms.
“Stop bringing her into this, she has nothing to do with anything,” says the woman.
“Why not?” the man says. He is frowning, the wrinkles on his forehead casting deep shadows across his face. “She never wants to walk with us, no matter how many times I asked!”
“Maybe she doesn’t want to walk at night,” says the woman. “Have you ever thought about that?”
The man frowns again. “What’s so bad about walking at night? She’s going to be walking with her parents, not alone.”
The woman shakes her head. “You don’t know what she likes, do you?”
“That’s not the point,” the man says. He clenches his fists and leans back against the bench, staring up at the nearest skyscraper. “The point is how we need to do a family activity together, for bonding.”
“You can’t force her to do something she doesn’t like,” the woman says.
“What’s not to like about spending time with your family?”
The woman shakes her head again. “You really don’t know her.”
The man huffs and puffs and he stomps his feet. “Why do you always say that? It has nothing to do with anything,” he says. He twists his face and the corners of his mouth turn down. “She just doesn’t want to listen to me.”
“And why should she listen to you?”
“Because I am her father! She should listen to me.” The man turns to his wife again, his eyebrows furrowing. “Have you been teaching her to rebel against me, is that it? Is that why she never listens to me?”
“What are you saying?” the woman asks, voice high. “What do you mean by that?”
“She didn’t eat anything I ordered during dinner!” the man shouts. “Did you tell her to order something else?”
“Why would you say that?”
“She was throwing a temper tantrum,” the man says, waving his fist. “She must have been. Why else would she order something else?”
“Her throat is sore!” the woman says. “She needs to eat something mild. She can’t eat Thai food.”
“That’s rich,” the man says. “You’re covering for her,” he says, breath heaving. “You’re making up lies for her. You want me to suffer.”
“What are you saying?” asks the woman, covering her ears. “You are being hysterical. Stop it.”
“You’re turning my own daughter against me,” the man continues as if the woman said nothing at all. “You’re trying to ruin this family, aren’t you?”
The woman murmurs something but the man doesn’t hear it. “You’re trying to get rid of me, is that it? I bring all the money into this family and this is the thanks I get!”
The man slaps away the woman’s hand when she tries to reach for him. He stands up from the bench, stomping his feet and clenching his fists. “You need to teach your daughter to respect me,” he shouts. “That’s how it should be. The next time I tell her we should go for a walk after dinner, she must agree and come out with us!”
The woman covers her ears again and she shakes her head, her hair bouncing. She says something again and again and the man turns around to face her. He raises his right fist and the woman screams. Then, he lowers his arm and takes a deep breath.
The man sits back down on the bench and heaves out a heavy sigh. He places his hands on his thighs and smooths them down to his knees, then he repeats the process again and again until his breathing is back to normal.
“When I die,” the man murmurs, “you will understand. You will regret not respecting me.” He continues to mutter to himself, to no one in particular, as his wife sits next to him, shivering in the hot summer wind.