shrink, as with a loss of moisture
And just after my father died last year, she said she knew this would happen. Because a philodendron plant my father had given her had
withered and died, despite the fact that she watered it faithfully.
having a bearing on or connection with the subject at issue
Of course, all of it could have been just loosely connected coincidences. And whether that’s true or not, I know the intention was there. Because when I want something to happen—or not happen—I begin to look at all events and all things as
relevant, an opportunity to take or avoid.
the property of being wild or turbulent
Their faces were covered with every kind of misery I could imagine: pits and pustules, cracks and bumps, and fissures that I was sure erupted with the same
vehemence as snails writhing in a bed of salt. If my mother had been in the room, she would have told me these poor people were victims of future husbands and wives who had failed to eat platefuls of food.
I saw what I had to do so I would not have to marry Arnold. I began to leave more rice in my bowl. And then I extended my
prodigal ways beyond Chinese food.
strike with disgust or revulsion
When I fantasized about moving in with him, I also dredged up my deepest fears: that he would tell me I smelled bad, that I had terrible bathroom habits, that my taste in music and television was
something that is a counterfeit; not what it seems to be
And I think that feeling of fear never left me, that I would be caught someday, exposed as a
sham of a woman.
And I may not be a raving beauty, but a lot of women in my aerobics class tell me I’m “exotic” in an unusual way, and they’re jealous that my breasts don’t sag, now that small breasts are in. Plus, one of my clients said I have incredible vitality and
That was the night he decided to “go for it,” as he put it, which is a phrase I have personally
detested ever since a bank I used to work for adopted the slogan for its employee productivity contest.
the power of creative imagination
Get the Hong Kong investors who are willing to sink some bucks into American
"Ingenuity" also means "the property of showing inventiveness and skill"--this definition doesn't fit because "Harold is the concept man, the chief architect, the designer, the person who makes the final sales presentation to a new client"--which makes him more of a creative thinker than a skillful inventor (although according to Lena, he stole most of his ideas from her).
unobtrusively perceptive and sympathetic
“We’re out of rice,” I say, discreetly nodding toward my mother, whose back is turned to me.
irregular in shape or outline
Mr. Rory had styled my hair differently this time, an
asymmetrical blunt-line fringe that was shorter on the left side.
"Asymmetrical" also means "characterized by an imbalance in spatial arrangement"--both definitions fit Waverly at this point in her life. In additional to her irregularly shaped haircut, Waverly has an imbalance in the spatial arrangement of her apartment--both physically (toys, clothes, and exercise equipment are scattered) and socially (she is living with a man who is not the father of her daughter).
have a disagreement over something
“You shouldn’t get so upset,” I said to my mother after she
disputed a charge of two extra dollars because she had specified chrysanthemum tea, instead of the regular green tea.
expressive of low opinion
“Nothing is wrong with my heart,” she huffed as she kept a
disparaging eye on the waiter.
marked by tenacious unwillingness to yield
A Horse, born in 1918, destined to be
obstinate and frank to the point of tactlessness.
completely free from dirt or contamination
And so I watched her, seeing her reaction to the changes in my apartment—from the
pristine habitat I maintained after the divorce, when all of a sudden I had too much time to keep my life in order—to this present chaos, a home full of life and love.
incapable of being retracted
I knew what my opponents would do, move for move. I knew at exactly what point their faces would fall when my seemingly simple and childlike strategy would reveal itself as a devastating and
search blindly or uncertainly
It was as if she had erected an invisible wall and I was secretly
groping each day to see how high and how wide it was.
precisely and clearly expressed or readily observable
“Well, I don’t know if it’s explicitly stated in the law, but you can’t ever tell a Chinese mother to shut up.
become ground down or deteriorate
Then she would say a word about something small, something she had noticed, and then another word, and another, each one flung out like a little piece of sand, one from this direction, another from behind, more and more, until his looks, his character, his soul would have
found in the ordinary course of events
And even if I recognized her strategy, her sneak attack, I was afraid that some unseen speck of truth would fly into my eye, blur what I was seeing and transform him from the divine man I thought he was into someone quite
mundane, mortally wounded with tiresome habits and irritating imperfections.
full and loud and deep
He made everyone laugh and his own laugh was deep,
sonorous, masculinely sexy.
showing little or no emotion or animation
It went from disappointment to contempt to
apathetic boredom. It wasn’t until after we separated, on nights when Shoshana was asleep and I was lonely, that I wondered if perhaps my mother had poisoned my marriage.
"Apathetic" also means "marked by a lack of interest"--this could describe a marriage where the husband's eye wandered up and down other girls' legs and who thought waxing his sports car all day was more important than taking his wife somewhere in it. But the example sentence comes from Waverly, who is describing how her emotions for her now ex-husband never actually rose to hate, but fell to apathetic boredom.
immune to attack; incapable of being tampered with
From the very moment she flung her fist away from her mouth to cry, I knew my feelings for her were
an indirect and usually malicious implication
Because I knew my feelings for him were vulnerable to being felled by my mother’s suspicions, passing remarks, and
admitting of no doubt or misunderstanding
His love was
unequivocal. Nothing could change it. He expected nothing from me; my mere existence was enough.
the conscious exclusion of unacceptable thoughts or desires
But he was so attuned to my every movement I was sure he was reading my mind. He had no
inhibitions, and whatever ones he discovered I had he’d pry away from me like little treasures.
make dirty or spotty, as by exposure to air
I’d never known love so pure, and I was afraid that it would become
sullied by my mother.
"Sully" also means "place under suspicion or cast doubt upon"--this is the definition that Waverly intends, but her use of the adjective "pure" in the same sentence suggests that the more physical definition of "sully" is being emphasized.
uninterrupted in time and indefinitely long continuing
They were very close, which meant they were ceaselessly tormenting each other with boasts and secrets.
to look at critically or searchingly, or in minute detail
I had seen her expression when she opened the door, her forced smile as she
scrutinized him from head to toe, checking her appraisal of him against that already given to her by Auntie Suyuan.
free of deceit
With her smooth face, she looked like a young girl, frail,
guileless, and innocent.
to agree or express agreement
I had wished her out of my life, and she had
acquiesced, floating out of her body to escape my terrible hatred.
surpassing the ordinary or normal
And hiding in this place, behind my invisible barriers, I knew what lay on the other side: Her side attacks. Her secret weapons. Her
uncanny ability to find my weakest spots.
having a sense of what is considerate in dealing with others
And Rich grins, gestures his thumb toward my mother, and says to me, “Can you believe what comes out of her mouth? Now I know where you get your sweet,
Rich is being sarcastic here, because Lindo had just advised him against going to China in the summer because it is too hot and "you will only grow more spots and then your whole face will become red!" But Rich is not tactful either, because he called Waverly's mother by her first name, observed that her best dish needed a little soy sauce, and jokingly suggested she translate Chinese menus for them so they wouldn't be eating dogs or snakes by mistake.
And then without missing a beat, he proceeded to say what he really wanted, which was more
despicable than all the terrible things I had imagined.
smother or suppress
“What’s so funny?” said Ted angrily.
“Sorry,” I said. “It’s just that . . .” and I was trying hard to
stifle my giggles, but one of them escaped through my nose with a snort, which made me laugh more.
The pendant was not a piece of jewelry I would have chosen for myself. It was almost the size of my little finger, a mottled green and white color, intricately carved. To me, the whole effect looked wrong: too large, too green, too garishly ornate.
all future generations
What if they tell me this curving line branching into three oval shapes is a pomegranate and that my mother was wishing me fertility and
something serving to conceal plans
Two years ago, she had tried to evict them on the
pretext that relatives from China were coming to live there.
thrown into a state of agitated confusion
She was genuinely
I waited for her to