raindrops keep falling on my head.

the whole family got together last night, since ate, my uncle, and my cousin grace were visiting from the philippines. we all sat down to eat a meal that consisted of fish soup, crab, and pancit (noodles, vegetables, and chicken). sam lead the group in prayer in his usual manner: "in the name of the father, the son, the holy spirit. godisgoodgodisgreat thankyou forfoodfamilyfriends." he stopped to look around, as though he knew he was supposed to add something, but wasn't sure. his mom motioned toward ate, implying that he say something about the visitors. "and thank you for ate, grace, and uncle rebel coming to our house tonight. amen." my aunt, byron's mom, turned to me. "do you remember when you were young, and you had to led the prayers?" "no," i said, "i don't."

it was strange to be sitting down with everyone again. had anything changed in the last five, ten years, since this has happened? the obvious answer was yes, but it certainly hadn't felt like it. my suspicion was confirmed the moment my cousin byron showed up. he gave everyone awkward hellos, and he went over to kiss ate, the custom we all had grown accustomed to, and consequently, dreaded. suddenly, ate transformed into her old self. "you did not hug your ate," she said. i cringed, completely aware that my cousin is twenty years old, and deserved to be talked to like an adult. still, i couldn't speak, because with her trademark phrase, in which she referred to herself in the third person, we had all been transported back to a time when we were all helpless, submissive children. "i did hug you," byron said, further adding to the absurdity of the moment. "you did not," she insisted. he walked back to her, and gave her a one armed hug.

i don't know why she did this. maybe she equates domination with comedy, i'm not sure. that certainly wasn't the woman i met with in san francisco, the woman who is trying to get me a job in the city. sometimes, i really resent certain members of the family for giving me more respect and treating me like an adult just because i went to college. i think it's bullshit. don't they know i majored in creative writing, and that it doesn't really count? as i picked at my pancit with my fork, i felt the sudden urge to scream or go sit naked by myself in the backyard. anything to break away from this false sense of communion, this twisted sense of hierarchy and power dynamics imposed upon all of us by tradition. the rationale is simple: "i am the eldest, so what i say, goes."

during dinner, uncle tim showed up. he brought over his magic mic, a microphone that you can plug into any television set to sing karaoke. he was the first to sing. he chose the song, "raindrops keep falling on my head," and crouched over, possibly so he could read the words on screen better. when some of us had realized that uncle tim had either lost his mind, or simply didn't give a fuck about anything anymore, my cousin began to videotape the performance. the footage, though lacking audio, would fit perfectly into david lynch's next film. uncle remained crouched over like a gorilla, or else a rap superstar, and sung very off-key with no sense of rhythm. "rain. drops. keepfallingon. my head." in recent years, he has stopped wearing his black toupee, and he now resembles my deceased grandfather. his thinning gray hair was combed back, and his face remained bright red from all the bud lights he had been drinking.

byron's mom talked to me again. i think that she's expecting me to write about her and everyone else. she always approaches me about writing a book about my family (as others also do), as though it's the easiest and most natural thing in the world to just churn out a book about a bunch of people you hardly know, and find someone willing to invest thousands of dollars to publish it. "you know," she said, "i think that some people really like to write, and others don't. like that amy tan, you remember her?" "yeah. the joy luck club? i've never read it." "well yeah, amy tan wrote about her family, and she became very successful." "probably." i'll just keep blogging until someone offers me a book deal. and if it never happens (which will most likely be the case), so what? at least i'll have made an attempt to entertain bored and frustrated people at work.

my cousins and i decided to get away from my aunt and from the magic mic. we sat at the table in the backyard and chatted with my twenty-eight year old cousin grace, ate's adopted daughter. we talked about her job, the philippines, and how all of us would eventually like to visit. "but without our parents," rich added. "i wanna go to a resort," claire said. grace shocked us with her response: "yeah. me too." "what?" we asked, incredulously. "you've never been to a resort?" "no," grace said, "my mom won't let me." and that was that. my adopted cousin grace is a living gothic tale, her mother a svengali, (yes, i only know that term because of seinfeld) and again, i was powerless to do or say anything. my cousins laughed it off, but i could only think of the woman trapped in the attic, who eventually set the house on fire in jane eyre. claire tried to console her. "well, at least you got to visit l.a. without her, right?" "yeah," grace said, "but i had to delay the trip for a year before she would let me." "that sucks."

as we sat there talking of prisons, i noticed how the orange sunlight on the ground resembled that of a streetlight's. according to my cousin who works for the local news station, there are ninety fires burning all around the sacramento area, so for the past week, the entire city has been engulfed in a haze of smoke. people tell us to stay indoors and turn on the air-conditioner.

as for me, i still ride my bike and just breathe it all in.

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