Mary’s Story (Chapter IV)

The Quick Wedding

Midway into her second year in college, Mary met Paul through a mutual friend. He was a graduate student at HKU although they never met on campus. Paul was in computer science. In their first meeting at the friend’s birthday party, Paul told Mary that he and his team of three other students were working in a pioneer project that would integrate China’s pinyin system with the Taiwanese method of phonetics. The goal was to enable the user to input with either method, and at the same time allow the reader to read and print in either the traditional or simplified
characters. That really interested Mary as she had to read books, journals and research papers from both China which used the simplified words, and Hong Kong and Taiwan which used the traditional forms. Paul suggested that if she was interested, she could help him as a beta tester. As a Chinese literature major, her background and feedback would be very valuable to his project, he said.

Mary Story (4)_1So out of academic curiosity she unofficially signed on with his team. At first she would go over to Paul’s lab once or twice a week. As she got more involved she started going over there almost daily after her own classes. To show those computer geeks that she was no dummy – and perhaps they were outside of binary equations — she would give them old archaic poems and proses to input. Once she gave Paul a composition called Zhu’s Family Aphorisms 朱子治家格言. To her surprise Paul actually knew some portions of it and for the parts he didn’t know before, he could almost recite them verbatim the next week. Every time he started repeating from memory something back to her, he would have a funny expression in his eyes, as if saying, “You got any more strange ones next week?

You guessed it, Mary and Peter were not seeing each other much anymore. They were still friends but the closeness they had in secondary school had atrophied to “how are you these days” when they sometimes ran into each other at East Wind Groceries 東風雜貨店, the town’s major produce vendor.

While Peter was tall and lean and almost muscular, Paul was somewhat chubby and clearly not in shape. But what a brain he had, Mary thought. Despite all his physical and habitual short-comings such as smoking and not caring for vegetables and fruits in his red-meat diet, Mary found herself attracted to his diverse intellect. Paul was obviously in love with her as he would ask her to go everywhere with him ever since their first meeting. In two months he was asking her to pick “lucky” ties for him for his presentations in front of software companies that were interested in his group’s creation.

Mary Story (4)_2Six months after they met, Paul got accepted to the doctoral program in computer science at the University of
Washington (UW) in Seattle, Washington, USA. Two months before he went to Seattle, he proposed to Mary. Although she had been impressed by Paul’s intelligence, she was not really sure about wearing his ring, especially in light of his smoking and general lack of discipline to take care of his own health. So she went to talk to all-knowing Mom. Mom wasn’t sure either and she told Mary to perhaps wait a year. But Dad thought it was a match made in Buddhaland.

“So Paul smokes and is a little overweight. But he’s smart like nobody I’ve ever seen. The research he’s doing now, he’s going to revolutionize how Chinese words are written. If that doesn’t work, at least he’ll be a hot-shot professor in some elite university.” Dad said.

“Dad, the way you pick a son-in-law, I may as well marry myself to a main-frame computer,” Mary protested.

“Funny. Honey, as far as I could tell, he loves you like he’s never loved anybody else before.And you love him too, right?” Dad wouldn’t give up.

“I do like him a lot.” Mary admitted.

So a quick wedding was planned and announced. Because of Paul’s departure in August for Seattle, he and Mary were married in late July, the summer before Mary’s last year at HKU. They had a two-week honeymoon in Hawaii, after which Paul was off to UW while Mary stayed behind to finish her degree at HKU.

*** To Be Continued ***

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