In a way, it was a kind of ignoring that I did, an avoidance of her as Sunny—difficult, rash, angry Sunny—which I masked with a typical performance of consensus building and subtle pressure, which always is the difficult work of attempting to harmonize one’s life and the lives of those whom one cherishes. It is the systematic operation, which always and obtusely succeeds, the well-planned response to life’s uncertainties and complications.
Doc Hata offers this reflection at the end of Chapter 13, just after a conversation he has with Sunny reveals that he helped Sunny terminate her first pregnancy. Out of the blue, Sunny reflects that if she had kept her first child, she might not have had Tommy. She then immediately takes a confrontational tone and asks Doc Hata whether or not he had already paid Dr. Anastasia to perform the abortion. Doc Hata fervently denies doing any such thing. Sunny calms back down, confessing that she’s never blamed him for what happened. Instead, she asserts that she takes responsibility for her decision and for the pain it has brought her ever since. She then reflects again that if she’d had her first child, she might never have had Tommy, who has since saved her life “over and over, a thousand times.”
The quotation above appears immediately following this conversation, at which point Doc Hata reflects on the role he played in terminating Sunny’s pregnancy. Whereas Sunny claimed to feel responsible for making the final decision, Doc Hata knows that he took advantage of her vulnerable situation to ensure that she went through with the procedure. As Sunny herself pointed out during an argument in Chapter 4, Doc Hata frequently uses gestures of politeness and goodwill to get what he wants from others, all without appearing manipulative. Doc Hata himself recognizes this tendency when he admits that, at the time, he ignored what Sunny might have wanted. Instead, he engaged in “a typical performance of consensus building and subtle pressure” that coerced her into making the choice he wanted her to make, all the while leading her to believe the decision was hers. Doc Hata reflects that he has always used such “systematic operations” to respond to unwelcome surprises that have threatened to throw his life out of balance. In this case, as in several others throughout the book, his reliance on subtle gestures has caused harm to someone close to him but without reflecting negatively on himself.