The man staying at my parents’ house has been in prison.

People whisper in hushed tones about his incarceration and subsequent release.  The details are vague and hard to follow, particularly in a different language.  A white collar crime and a refusal to rat.  How scandalously delicious and atypical for the household.

He doesn’t look like a prisoner, whatever a prisoner is supposed to look like.  He wears worn jeans, soft flannel shirts, and a baseball cap.  In short, he looks like most every other dad in the world.  The prisoner speaks softly in low tones, asking me several times what I’ve been reading lately and if I take good care of my vision (a common Asian parent concern).  My limited Mandarin doesn’t allow me to hold much of a conversation.  My mom tells me that he has stories to tell, that that’s why his children seek him out and favor him over their mother, to hear those stories.

Later he accompanies my dad to the grocery store, where my dad explains the banality of grocery shopping in the US where every store is the same down to the tinny music piped through the speakers.  He takes pictures of the meal my dad makes and send them off to his children, receiving a multitude of emojis back as a response.

There are so many questions I want to ask him, most of which I imagine would be offensive and embarrassing.  I create a fake interview in my head, complete with Barbara Walters crying moment.  His daughter and son-in-law arrive to pick him up this weekend, and then he’ll be off on the rest of his whirlwind US tour.  So maybe it’s better left alone, a permanent air of mystery around the prisoner at my parents’ house.