countess from hong kong.

i've been writing like a fool lately, careless with my words, unable to explain things objectively. there was that one letter i sent to a friend after a day of work, and i don't even remember what it was about. it was probably just some crazy rambling, and i haven't heard back from her since. the point is that i want some structure to this, to make this readable, to take myself and my stories seriously. maybe even start capitalizing.

but lord knows i won't. i just need to get it all out there, to say what i'm thinking even if i'm full of shit, even if i don't really mean a single uncapitalized letter i write. it's just that jose rizal wrote a poem called "my last farewell" and it wasn't the greatest poem i'd ever read, but i could tell it meant something, even if it just meant something to him. and it feels as though nothing has meant anything to me for a long while. and there's rilke's "letters to a young poet," and i think about how those letters have lived on. i hope my friend destroyed that letter i sent her.

i want to be able to remember this, all of it, to look back on it and remember exactly what that was like. i was twenty-six years old, and i went to hong kong with my parents and my aunt and my cousin. our first few hours there were kind of crappy. we just walked around looking at stores and when my aunt asked if we wanted to shop, my mom and i said no. after all, who went to another country to go shopping? i hated it, and i felt like capitalism ruined everything. it felt like it didn't matter where in the world i went because there would just be a stupid starbucks, louis vuitton and mcdonalds staring back at me.

there were people everywhere, and i was alone, so naturally, i got to thinking about soulmates again. it still doesn't make much sense to me. the whole idea of a soul is that it's eternal and that it could be anywhere. so maybe my soulmate was born in the 1300's and lived in spain and i'll never meet him/her/it. as hundreds of chinese, filipino and european people rushed past me in mid-day subway traffic, the thought of soulmates was ridiculous. you just find someone you can stand and who can hopefully stand you and that's that.

our first night in hong kong, i walked along the avenue of stars with my cousin. we were on the kowloon side, and across the water, all of hong kong was lit up with christmas lights and other lights and it didn't even seem real. there were tall buildings with giant lights that read: sanyo, hitachi, samsung, phillips, sony, etc. these giants, i think, made the great city what it was.

the transporation was ridiculous. we rarely ever had to wait more than three minutes for a train. everyone there dressed better than anything i had ever seen. my cousin said, “yeah, it always looks like they’re going to a party.” I thought again about the movie up in the air, and the way i now saw the united states was that one scene where there’s a completely empty office save that for a desk or two, and then I saw this sign that read china leads the world in…something…i can’t remember what it was. but it might as well just have read: china leads the world.

i didn’t get it. why’s everything made in china? why do they have all our money? they’re living it up with their fast-ass trains, designer suits, giant skyscrapers and all that shit. american fools always say the liberals hate america, or the conservatives hate america, but really, aren’t the assholes who decided everything should be bought and sold in china really the ones who hate america? it’s just that empty fucking office now…that one guy who’s still on the phone making his last call, just waiting for the blade to come down.

the other things was, is there really a god? i looked around at all these people. how could god, if there really was such a person or thing, keep tabs on all these fools? and because there are so many of us, does it really matter what any of us does? if we fail, if we succeed, aren’t there just millions of others who have or will also fail, also succeed? it was ridiculous how many people there were, there are. i can’t get over it.

no one’s watching, no one cares because there are just too many of us.
just throw me in the trash.

on christmas day we went to the cemetary. i guess that's what filipinos do. we went to the cemetary and it was probably eighty degrees, and tony unlocked the gate to the mausoleum where my grandfather (dad's side) is buried. he's buried there with his sister-in-law, his brother, and his mother. we drove past other mausoleums, some of which looked very nice and expensive. we drove past them, and they looked like small homes. i got to thinking. "they can do this, but there are so many squatters everywhere." my mom said i was right. what a terrible thing that some of the dead are a lot better off than the living. danny devito was right. when i die, just throw me in the trash.

ate made us light incense and say a little prayer to my grandfather. i didn't know what to say inside my head, so i just held the incense (ha-po-pi). well, old man, it's christmas day and you've been gone for 17 years, yet here we are. i wonder if you're living it up in some crazy place, or if it's just like the way i think - absolute nothingness just as we were before birth. whatever the case, ha-po-pi. keep it real. i was probably being disrespectful, but what else could i think? he fathered a bunch of children, and then he had an affair, and then he beat some of his kids, let them grow up poor and lose all their teeth, called me a "has-been" and "poor sport" before i turned five, and then he got diabetes and died and everybody mourned. was i crying because i was sad, or was i crying just because everyone else was?

ate and my parents and tony cleaned off the vaults and tables. i just sat there and tried not to think about death, about how the mausoleum was going to one day be completely full of dead family members. i thought about the movie volver, and how they cleaned the graves in the opening scene. how did it start? was it a spanish thing? why do they do that? those crazy catholics. either way, penelope cruz was incredibly hot in that movie. penelope cruz and her cleavage are a good way to stop thinking about my mortality.

after we left the cemetary, ate gave me and my parents three small pieces of green and red paper. "we do this because we just came from the cemetary," she said. then she said to copy what she does. she blew on the paper three times, brought them down to her thigh and waved them three times, and then she threw it behind her. she does this because she's superstitious. i saw it as a good opportunity to continue my tradition of littering in other countries, so i followed suit. also, i wanted lunch.

we ate at zuni again, and i had just enough.
they never should've left.

just yesterday, it occurred to me that i'm turning twenty-seven, and i'm on vacation with my parents. well, maybe it wasn't just yesterday. i thought about it in boracay. before i left for the philippines, my co-workers asked what my holiday plans were. i told stacey about going to boracay, and she said she had heard about boracay. apparently, it's a well-known resort. anyway, while i was walking around boracay, i thought about how stacey would probably enjoy going to a resort like boracay with her husband. it's a place for couples, a romantic getaway. hell, even a place for kids in their twenties to party it up with other kids in their twenties, and not, you know, their parents.

i don't know why it didn't occur to me sooner. i figured, hey, a discounted trip is a discounted trip. and most of my meals are paid for. and i get to do something other than rot in my apartment where i'm too cheap to turn on the heat. i get to get away from the cold. in manila, it's sunny everyday and it's always in the seventies or eighties. it's rained one day in the two weeks that we've been here, and my cousin aileen said, "this is rare. rain in december?" i get to forget about my job, forget about the cold, forget about how i'm not living the life that i want.

i met with my nieces and nephews last night. we did the same thing we did last year. drinks and karaoke and trying to break across the language barrier. darlene asked me if i was still working on the short story i sent her. j.r. asked if i had a girlfriend in the states. jam asked if i watched new moon. it was the same thing we did last year, but it didn't feel the same. something has felt a little off the whole time i've been here. mom keeps saying it doesn't feel like christmas. yesterday, she asked me, "does it feel like christmas to you?" i said, "no, it hasn't felt like christmas since i was about 8."

i guess this is the part where it just starts to feel sad. last time was all culture shock, and now i just feel bad for this place. the way my nephew, milo, orders his maid to turn on the air-conditioner. the way my cousin, jun-jun, demands a refill for his water. the way little dark children come up to the window and sing a little song, and ate ging knocks three times to make them go away. the way we drive and drive and there's nothing but squatters, whole villages of sheet metal and trash and dirty clothes hanging from wires. these are fucking human beings we're talking about. how can they live there? how can we live the way we do, knowing others have to live like that?

my dad loves it here, but my mom always jokes about wanting to go home right away. i see my dad sitting with his brothers and uncles and they're drinking beer and eating shrimp chips and talking about the good old days and they're really laughing it up. i don't think i've ever heard my dad laugh that hard. and then i think about him in sacramento, lying down on the couch, watching the gma network. i tell my mom that his side of the family never should have left manila. "yeah," she said, "they never should've left."

my mom describes how things used to be. her alma mater, university of santo tomas, used to be beautiful. she said it used to be clean. the japanese used it (and other universities all over the city) as a prisoner camp for the americans in world war II, and it got the shit bombed out of it. manila was the second most destroyed city in that war after warsaw. my mom took me to see her elementary school, san augustine, and she said it didn't used to be like that. it didn't used to be all gated and ugly. the traffic wasn't so close to the school, and the light rail, courtesy of imelda marcos, didn't used to be there. poverty shit on everything and made it poorer. "ma hirap pa sa daga," my mom likes to say, meaning, "poorer than a rat."

another year over, and what have i done?
it hurt.

the thing of it is, she still sleeps in a bed with her twenty-nine year old daughter. it's a little weird. she brought us over in mabuhay class, though, so nobody says anything. her daughter, my cousin, has a curfew. we'll be out at a starbucks or some party, and the driver will be waiting in the maroon toyota to pick her up. it's eleven p.m., and she's six months shy of turning thirty, and she has to be home, in bed, with her mother. it's a little weird, but her mother takes us out to dinner almost every night, so nobody says anything.

her best stories are the ones where she scolds some naive employee at the airport. the way she tells it, the employee, some new kid, asks her where she's going, who she's going to pick up. you see, the new kid doesn't know who she is, doesn't know her position, that she's the vice-president of the airline. he asks a simple question like who she's picking up, and this irritates her, and she tells him he's cocky, and who's his supervisor anyway? you don't talk to anyone like that, she says. and she recounts this story at the dinner table, and she's visibly angry, and we all act like it's a story worth telling.

and at the dinner table, the tv is turned on, and there's news about brittany murphy's death, or the climate summit where nothing happens, or the pending eruption of a volcano. we eat quietly while she tells these stories from her day, the ones where she gets pissed off or gets to chew someone out. and then she tells us these things about feng shui and taoism, and we all nod along as though she were a child talking about the existence of santa claus. when someone dies, she has to burn all kinds of colored paper, and jump over the fire, and then shower immediately afterward. and did i remember when we did that when grandma died? of course i remember. how could i forget.

the way my grandparents on my dad's side met. my grandma was walking along the street, and my grandpa threw a basketball right at her. it hurt, my grandma said. that's how it happened, though. true story. lolo was playing some basketball, and he thought lola was very pretty (she was), and he chucked a basketball right at her chest. and it hurt, and then they had seven children. and then lolo had an affair (maybe more than one), and now i have relatives in canada and who knows where else? that man chucked a ball at a woman and got what he wanted.

and then my grandma got upset about something, the affairs probably, and she went off to the united states. for one reason or another, she could only take one child, so she took uncle reb, and ate ging was left behind. ate ging had to stay behind with lolo and she didn't see her mother for five or seven years. and as the story goes, ate ging was rebellious. she stayed up as late as she liked and got in all sorts of trouble. and then when lola came back from the states, she got upset at ate ging's rebellious ways, and she sent her to a place where nuns watch over bad children. and uncle reb remembers visiting ate ging at that reformatory or whatever it was, and when he'd leave, he'd smile a big smile and wave goodbye to ate ging, who watched from a window as her mother and brother left her behind.

and i could see it when she punched uncle reb in the arm. she punched him hard, and she meant it. he was making some comments about uncle tim's new chairs. uncle tim got some new chairs for his new townhouse, and the upholster or cushion guy or whatever didn't complete the task. he put cushions on the seats and arms, but not the back. ate ging said he was supposed to do the back, too, but he failed. so ate ging got upset and uncle reb said it didn't look that bad, and then she punched uncle reb in the arm. more than once. and then when i heard about him waving goodbye to her at the orphanage or reformatory or whatever it was, i could see why she hit him so hard.

and then my nearly-thirty cousin and i were talking, and she said that ate ging has to go to these cocktail parties for work. she has to dress up for these because her boss is there, and she has to talk to a bunch of people she'd rather not talk to. you see, she hates most people. and so, she'll show up to these parties for like ten minutes or so, and then leave. she likes the food part. she loves to eat and talk about the kind of food at these lavish parties, the way johnny nolan tells it in a tree grows in brooklyn, but as for the people part, she could give a shit. the only time i hear about people in her stories are when these people really screw up.

and tony the driver has to wait on her, wait on us, wait on everybody. he'll just be sleeping in the driver's seat when we're finally done doing whatever it is we're doing. he's a driver, and he knows it. he doesn't dine with us, doesn't do lunch with us, doesn't even walk with us when we're in the malls. he just sits in the car and drives us wherever the hell we want to go. he could be waiting hours in there, and it doesn't even matter. if i were him, i'd probably explode. but he has a wife and two kids to think about, and if he went off, if he even said a single negative thing, all bets are off. the negotiation is over. i don't know what else he could do.

ka wawa.
moving is living.

one night in boracay, i dreamed she didn't want to be my friend any more. she didn't say why. she told my coworker, kayla, the reason why, and kayla just looked at me like i had done something awful. but i didn't know the reason. all i knew was that we weren't going to speak to each other ever again. and it was kind of upsetting, but i think that a big part of me didn't care much at all. i really liked up in the air because i think the main character had it right. all other people do is make that backpack a little heavier. i don't want to feel the straps digging into my shoulders anymore.

the fact is, i don't miss anything, anyone, or any place at all. it's kind of sad, and maybe it's not entirely true, but it's what i've been feeling lately. i leave seattle, i leave sacramento, i leave manila, and it's like nothing. not a damn thing at all. i lie down in a hotel bed and i think, well, this might as well be my bed in seattle. and then this might as well be my bed in my parents' home. all that's gonna happen is that i'm gonna lie down and i'm gonna look at the ceiling and i'm gonna wonder when i'll ever feel okay about anything ever again.

my aunt and my uncles really want me to move here. everyday, it's pretty much the same speech. you know, you're not a spring chicken anymore. you know, you should take advantage of your ate's connections while you can. you know, your masters program will be a lot cheaper over here. you know, you're gonna love it over here. but then i see all the young women in their yellow sm uniforms, all the security guards who don't do anything but pat your lower back, all these broke-ass filipinos who would do anything - and i mean anything - for a u.s. citizenship, or even just a fucking visa. and then i remember that i am just a privileged idiot who takes every good goddamn thing for granted.

today, i ate a bunch of oysters with my parents and uncles and cousins. i swam in the hotel pool yesterday, and yes, i think at twenty-six, i can finally swim (although not very well). i went bowling with grace, and i scored a 116. all my relatives ask if i have a girlfriend in the states. my mom jokingly says i should get married, but i know she isn't really joking. all i want to do, though, is get wasted and go clubbing. i wanna suit up and hit up titty bars. i wanna get lit and clear the buffet and then feel awful when the high wears off.

i want to stop feeling bad for wanting.
she doesn't like.

"is that your girlfriend?"
"no," the fat man said, "it's my daughter."
"oh. i was gonna ask her to dance."
the fat man said something to his daughter.
"she doesn't like," he said.
"she doesn't like."
zazie fait de la tricyclette.

we rode the tricycle from asya, our hotel in boracay, to the church. it cost ten pesos per person. ten pesos is maybe less than a nickel. the church was packed, so we had to stand outside. i liked the church and that it was crowded. outside the church, there were some kids playing basketball, some people buying food and snacks from random shops, and a street full of tricycles, shuttles, and motorcycles. everything was warm and full of life.

i couldn't understand most of what the priest was saying, but it didn't matter because it was a typical catholic mass. when it started to rain, everyone standing outside rushed towards the door to seek shelter. the music was really good, all harmony and electric guitar and piano. it sounded like old radiohead music. they even sang the lord's prayer, and it was the greatest catholic thing i'd ever heard.

we went to the asya premier suites, and i was standing on the balcony of one of the rooms. i wondered if i had ever seen a better view. there were a bunch of steps and a pool and a fantastic view of the ocean. i had to question whether i'd seen a better view in real life or in the movies. it didn't feel real, the way the sun kept showing up and then disappearing because of the clouds. for a moment, i envied the staff that worked there, riding around in golf carts all day.

it was ten thousand pesos to stay at one of the asya suites, but that was just a promo deal. after christmas, it would be twenty-seven thousand, and a presidential suite would cost about thirty-five thousand a night. that's almost $10,000 usd a night. i couldn't imagine anyone who could afford that. but i imagined some young rich couple could do it, and they would probably have a great time.

there are some things i forgot to write about during the last trip. like the skyways with the pink and blue railings, the skyscrapers with the rusted windows, the potent smell of cooked chicken and pollution, the grayness that occasionally envelops the entire city. and then there's the standard greeting, "hi, sirma'am," the groups of three or four playing a game on the side of the street, cigarette and newspaper vendors walking through traffic, kids in white and black school uniforms everywhere, trash in the canals, children in tanktops running up to cars and trying to peek inside.

it's difficult to spot any one person sitting alone. i wondered what it would be like to be one of those guys who just lies in the hammock all day, or else sits on a little stool in front of his makeshift home. what do they do? what do they think about all day? are they cursed or do they have it all figured out?
mas ma dalas.

the flight was longer than usual. post-grad, the in-flight movie, might've been watchable had it not been for the turbulence. instead, i watched episodes of how i met your mother and the brothers bloom. i listened to my ipod. i talked to my seatmate, a lawyer from ecuador. i brushed my teeth, tried to sleep, drank water and ate adobo. i looked down at the dark pacific and up at the bright lights. and that's how i spent sixteen hours.

first day back in manila, i stayed up as long as possible. i refused to get jet-lagged or have my sleep schedule all thrown off. we did breakfast at the hotel, lunch at amber (pichi pichi chaka pancit), dinner at zuni (escargot salad, french onion soup, roasted seabass). i bought another pair of onitsuka tigers (ultimate 81s) and felt like a materialistic fool. but whatever. i am owed something.

i tried talking to tony the driver in tagalog. i asked him about the clubs along roxas blvd., the ones i knew were mostly titty bars. in tagalog, i asked him if those were "nasty" clubs. he said they were clubs where the girls dance. i nodded. he then voluntarily added that my uncle rebel liked to visit those places. i asked about my uncle tim. "mas ma dalas," he said, meaning, "he goes even more often."

grace took me to her coworker marco's christmas party. grace's coworker and friend, arissa, drove us. when we got in the car, arissa had been crying. she said that she had just gotten in a fight with some guy, and i assumed she was talking about her boyfriend. arissa and my cousin talked about filipino celebrities, and then arissa asked how long i was staying. i answered, and then grace said i loved the philippines. arissa said that when she was in the states, she loved the states. she shopped at old navy in san francisco for two hours.

marco had a giant house. he lived with his whole family in green hills. he had a three week old baby, and he served his guests barbecue, paella, pancit and some other stuff. after we ate, they decided they would play some games. one of the games was for people to tie eggplants around their waists and then knock a box of matches across the floor. it was supposed to be funny because the eggplants were supposed to be like giant penises.

they told me to join the second game. for the second game, a guy named happy tied some string around my waist, and then there was a hot dog dangling in front of my pants. again, it was supposed to resemble a penis. seven of us guys wore these hot dogs, and then we were matched up with girls who would then eat said hot dogs. i didn't have a match, so i was ready to sit down, but then this girl named rio came up to me, and she was all ready to eat that hot dog. she lost that round, and then she gave me a thumbs up and peace sign after the game was over. she then went on to win the third game, which was a banana deep-throating contest.

i went to the mall of asia (moa) and i went to razon's. in tagalog, i ordered a pancit plus and halo halo all by myself. i was pretty proud of myself, but then the clerk asked me in english if i had extra pesos. i said i didn't. i asked my cousin what the deal was, why i couldn't pass for a local yet. she said my intonation was off. i was an american, and that was that. still, the halo halo was superb (as always).

we took the car to the airport (20 min.), then the plane to kalibog (1 hr.), then the bus to caticlan (1 hr.), and then a boat to boracay (5 min.). the bus almost hit a small dog, and i gasped when it happened, so i guess i'm not a sociopath. but the boat part was intense. i thought i had been on a boat before, but apparently, i hadn't. it was a speed boat, and we hit huge bumps and the salty wind slapped my face to where it became kind of difficult to breathe. before the panic could really set in, though, the ride was over.

at the century hotel, i went to the gym and this guy named erwin talked to me a little bit. my tagalog is awful, so i couldn't say much to him. i told him willie from wowowee was rich, but i think he already knew that. i saw my cousin aileen and my nephew milo and my aunt ampy. i asked aileen when her days off were, and she said she didn't work anymore, so that i should give her a call whenever. k.c. concepcion had her own show on abs-cbn, but milo said he preferred stairway to heaven on the gma network instead. it starred rhian ramos and ding dong dantes.

now i'm in boracay and i should be doing something other than blogging.
i'm a soldier!

two beers in, and i said i would stop so i could be d.d. i didn't want to have to spend another night on the floor. i told the two boys to keep at it, to pound them down, and that we'd go some place else, some place that wouldn't be quite the sausage-fest that r15 was that night. my cousin was in a sour mood, and i didn't know what the problem was. i told him to drink up, and he reluctantly did so.

"let's go to empire," i said. an hour earlier, there was a long line of young women outside this club called empire. there was a $10 cover, and i said i would pay my cousin's way. i don't know why it was so important for me to see him meet someone. maybe it was because i needed him to be at the level i was, to go through all the ups and downs of a typical relationship, and then have his heart shredded to bits. i guess that misery really loves company.

we went to empire, and after we paid for admission, my cousin let out a sarcastic laugh. "ha. ha." the place was dead, and i wondered what the hell had happened to that line of women. "let's get out of here," he said. "no," i said. "we paid the cover, so you're gonna have a good time." he and his friend reluctantly got more drinks. i got comfortable on a white couch, and i watched as the two of them moved from one group of girls to the next.

i sat on that couch and it was a pretty good time, despite me sitting all alone at a club. for one, there were these cages, and on stage, there were these two scantily-clad girls dancing. my cousin's friend came up to me. "how's it going?" i asked. "alright. we went for that girl because she looked the most alone." i saw my cousin leaning over and talking to some girl with long dark hair. i wanted her to get off that couch and give him a chance, but she didn't.

earlier that evening, i had convinced my cousin to dress up a little more. his usual getup was a loose-fitting t-shirt, sweatshirt, jeans, and sneakers. i bought him a button-down shirt and i convinced him to buy a nice corduroy jacket. "it's just like socom," he told me in the store. the story of socom is that i once convinced him to buy said pc game at target once, and then, as he left the store, i told him i couldn't believe he spent $80 on a stupid video game. he returned it. "it's not like socom," i said. "you should dress up a little."

the fact was, he wanted to dress up a little. he'd been watching many episodes of how i met your mother, and he was feeling rather emo, ted mosbey-like. he simply wanted what every other twenty-one year old boy who had never been in love wanted. and it sucked a lot when that girl wouldn't get up off the couch. i mean, really? was one dance really gonna kill her? give the poor kid a break.

as i watched him strike out again and again, i knew it was time to leave. but, i had one thing i had to do before we left. at that point, i was hanging out with his friend near the stage. "i've gotta tell this woman i love her," i said. "tell her you love her," my cousin's friend said. "hey!" i said to the dancer. she was wearing neon pink and green undergarments. "what?" she said. "i love you," i said. she pointed at me. "i love you, too." they were just words, after all. i was twenty-six, and she was a dancer. it was well-understood they were just meaningless words.

on the ride home, my cousin was going on and on about what his friend should do about his ex-girlfriend situation. he kept giving advice, and his friend wasn't hearing any of it. my cousin could not, for the life of him, seem to shut up. i remember him talking nonsense. he'd say things like, "your beginning premise is false," and "i don't know what i want! you don't even know what you want!" it was a lot of drunk whining, but i was okay with it. sometimes, you just have to let family whine when they're drunk.

it reminded me of a time from high school. i didn't go to this one party, so i only heard about the time our friend, eduardo, had made a fool of himself. the kid drank way too much and then he started telling everyone how girls didn't like him. he wasn't a bad looking kid or anything. he was just kind of nerdy. but there he was, at an asian sausage-fest, and jose cuervo was making him spill out everything. "i drank ten shots! i'm a soldier. i'm a soldier!" then he cried a lot and threw up in the bathroom. guys couldn't ever look at him the same again.

and that was kind of what happened with my cousin. when it was just me and him in the car, he told me he didn't want to do anything. he said he didn't want to go to school, he didn't want to get a job, he didn't want to do anything. he just wanted to sit in his room and forget the world existed. it was the there will be blood ("i hate most people") speech, and it wasn't very original, but i knew there was some truth to it. i offered him the best advice i could. "i know you probably don't think so," i said, "but you're doing alright."

every now and then, i think, we all need someone to tell us that.
much too fast.

i went to pick up my checks from chase bank. nothing exciting happened. the clerk asked for my i.d., and i gave it to her, and then i got my checks.

i walked past the taqueria place or whatever it is, and the question of god came to me. did i believe in god or not? i looked in the window, and some fools were eating. sure, why not. the more important question now was: did he have enough sense to believe in me?

i invited the girls at work to come out for drinks tomorrow night. i want them to be my friends so that i'll feel more like a grown up who knows people. people who are fun and lively and outgoing and not me. that's why i did that.

i packed my suitcase for manila. t-shirts, dress shirts, jeans, socks, all of it dirty. i told my pamangkins on facebook that i was going to be there next week. i said i couldn't believe it's been a year already. jam agreed. she said, "sobrang bilis," meaning, "much too fast."

2009 was fast. so fast it's almost frightening to think about. i don't even know what happened. michael jackson died. there was that thing about the balloon boy. i finally asked a girl for her number. my friend jaspreet got married. i went and saw movies with my friends. and that was about it. that was a whole year.

it used to be slower. but even that year when i was unemployed, when i didn't do a damn thing all day everyday, even that went kind of fast. much too fast. i just want to be able to stop at some point and appreciate all of this. everything.

sobrang bilis is right.
lamb sandwich and borscht.

i said i'd take the bus and meet her at american apparel in forty minutes or so. i didn't want her to have to drive all the way out to the south end, especially at five, when there'd be a ton of traffic. i took the 5:14 bus, which really came at about 5:19 or so, and then i sat at the front. i listened to my ipod and i looked out the window. a lot of shops were still open, and i saw a bunch of americans standing behind counters, and they looked like they were all ready to offer some sort of service. they were just standing there - at automobile fixing places, insurance companies, non-profits, coffee shops, fast food restaurants - and it was nighttime, the start of december, and that's all there was.

there was a woman outside a vietnamese video store, and she had a box and what looked like a bag of trash. she was walking along the sidewalk with her box and black bag, and i pitied her. i had no reason to pity her, as she was probably loved and did okay financially and had a family and all that, but stilll, i pitied her. maybe just because she was a woman with a bag and a box and she was walking on the sidewalk in a cold, dark city. at the time, there was something meaningful about it, but now that i'm writing this, i can't think of what it meant.

i met her at american apparel. the clerk said "hello, how are you?" and i said something back and then i went downstairs. she was down there, and then she said, "did you want to look around?" and i said no, and that i wanted to eat. we went to cafe zhivago, and i'd never been there before. they served russian food and it wasn't bad. i had a lamb sandwich and borscht. the server was nice, and i gave her a $2.00 tip.

we went to urban outfitters to find me a coat, but i knew i wasn't gonna find a coat i liked at urban outfitters. i wanted some flannel shirts, instead, but the ones i liked were $48, and i thought that was too much to spend on a t-shirt that i would just wear casually. "flannel seems to be coming back," i said. "yeah," she said, "i like it." i told her i had met up with a friend and he wore a black and white flannel shirt, and i thought it looked good on him. i haven't worn flannel since eighth grade, though, and i have my doubts.

and now, here i am writing about flannel shirts and feeling empty and lost and trying to feel sympathy for a stranger with a black bag and a cardboard box. i need to find something greater than myself.

at urban outfitters, i put a book back, and it knocked another book over - postsecret, how fitting - on the other side. i walked to the other side to pick it up and this woman looked at me and laughed. i don't know how i felt about that. i think i'll need a little bit of time to process my response. she didn't bother to pick it up herself, or comment, or make a joke. she just laughed. i don't know how i felt about that woman and her response to my error.

she bought some clothes and said she had been spending too much money again. we got in her car and she plugged her iphone into her radio or whatever. i didn't have much to talk about, as i usually don't, so i kept quiet. i had been sick for the last two days, so that was kind of an excuse. we didn't have much to talk about since i am a pretty open book and don't have a lot going on, and i already know most things about that which she feels comfortable sharing. that's how we operate, i suppose.

she dropped me off and hoped that i would feel better.
i appreciate the love, yo.

i look at old essays i wrote from high school, and i didn't have a clue what i was saying then. these were essays i had written freshman year for history, and i wasn't even stoned then. no, those days i hadn't even tried weed. those were the days i wore short black gym shorts and i didn't want to step in the shower because my classmates might walk by, point at my penis and laugh, and then i'd have a complex forever. so i'd shower with my boxer shorts on, and then i'd sit in my third period history class with wet boxers. this went on for a full year.

why did i get stoned? i didn't like losing control of my emotions, but at the time, it was something to do. weed was always around, and it was free. i'd get stoned, and i'd watch tv, or i'd try to play the guitar, and i would laugh and laugh and laugh, laugh at my stupid, miserable existence. i'd come home from school and then i'd look at porn, some site called that had all kinds of nasty, humiliating pictures. who did homework when there were tits to be seen?

i'd get high and i'd look at porn and i'd fall asleep. that's what my high school education was about. i'd go on these mandatory retreats, and the retreat leaders and upperclassmen would tell me about god and their relationship with god and their relationships with others, etc. i believed then that those were real bonding experiences. some of my classmates would pat me on the back or put me in a headlock and it would all be very gay and friendly. and i thought then that i was going to have friends.

i mean, sure, i had friends. but what were friends, really, other than guys who also liked to smoke weed and look at porn and sleep the days away? we'd look at maxim magazines and watch basketball games (go kings!) and listen to records. we'd dream about the day things would stop sucking, when we could move away and be adults and not have to take any more bullshit orders. we'd sit around drunk and laugh and talk about how we've been "boys" since "day one." whatever the fuck that meant.

and then i went on kairos, the big hush hush retreat that all seniors went on. marty said he'd never met his dad, matt said he'd wanted to kill himself, and brian blew all his money on strip clubs every weekend. it was all very emotional and intense, and it was supposed to mean something. i forgot what i said, though. i think i had said something about feeling alone, feeling alienated. they told me i had to step out of my comfort zone and that i was actually an interesting person and that they were always shocked when i said some deep insightful shit, like in english class with mrs. ellis.

i didn't think anyone had paid attention before that. i didn't think anyone gave shit. it made me feel real good then, to think that maybe they were right. maybe i did have good things to say and i wasn't just a loser burnout fat asian kid like i had always thought i was. i trusted those guys. i asked matt to hang out once, but he said he was busy. months later, i saw brian at tower, but he didn't even recognize me. he was too busy looking for some rap cassettes. and years later, marty worked with my cousin at the state, and he told her that i should "kick it" with him some time. i didn't "kick it" with him. instead, i said to my cousin, "that was a long time ago, marty."

i had other friends, but then we had a falling out, and i didn't try to keep in contact. i kept burning bridges, one after the other, and then, when i'd run out of kerosene, i'd wonder why i was all alone. "ha! we don't talk to pete anymore," i said once. "man," claire said, "no one is going to come to your wedding." who wanted to get married, anyway? who wanted friends? weren't they always just going to let you down, build you up, make you think you were good, and then spit in your face? was that really the way it was going to be?

senior year, i was at a dance, sitting at one of the tables by myself. the guys i had come with decided that, even though all of us had gotten detention for trying to leave early, that they would make the most of their time. they went to the dance floor and jumped around and clapped their hands or whatever people did. me, i just sat at a table and tried to look pathetic. some nice looking girls walked by and they said, "hey," and i said, "hey" back, and that was that. then, these younger kids, freshman probably, took my picture, laughed, and walked away.

i smiled for them anyway. what else could a person like me do in a situation like that but smile?
a new dope.

i just caught the tail end of your president's speech. where's the hope now? where are the hip kids who were hugging each other and crying tears of joy on election night? where's the office banter, all that talk about change and a new, brighter tomorrow? sounds like the fight just got moved 1,428 miles east. he ain't for you no more. he ain't for any of us. went and got himself a d.c. job, some d.c. clothes.

but i don't know what i'm talking about, do i? no, of course not. only you do, with your subscription to the times, your plethora of cable news channels, your npr, your advanced degrees and liberal stubborness. he knows what he's doing. you can trust him. he's a man of color, superbly educated, and he talks good, so he must have a plan.

but i can only speak from what i know. i've seen why we fight. i saw what happened to carcetti. and that was enough. i had seen enough. anyway, what's the point of arguing? all it does is give me high-blood pressure, and hypertension is the number one killer for my age and race.
bone marrow drive.

i was at taco del mar, eating a a super veggie burrito, as it was double-stamp mondays. i was all alone at the counter, eating my burrito, and the open sign partially blocked my view of broadway. there wasn't much to see. it was a cloudy day, and there was a billboard that wasn't even memorable. people walking, cars passing, just an ordinary day in an ordinary city. and then i got to thinking about those lakewood cops that got shot. how they were probably just doing what i was doing, eating a little breakfast, maybe checking their email, and then boom! boom boom boom boom, all of them dead. it was all over just like that.

i think about the individual. he grew up, loved christmas, learned how to ride a bike, had crushes on pretty girls, got his teeth pulled when they had to come out. he got acne, couldn't sleep after seeing a scary movie his friends made him go see, got nervous and sweaty before a first date. as a teen, he worked a boring job at a chain restaurant, and then he took exams to be an officer, and at his interview, he might've said that he was highly motivated and had good people skills. each morning, he woke up to that awful alarm clock and dreamed about the day he could sleep in, guilt-free, collecting his pension. and then he was just checking the sports online, and before he knew it, he was dead.

we decorated the office with tinsel and lights and ribbons this morning. lisa came in, and she said, "it looks like christmas threw up in here." and then she told us that we should sign up for the bone marrow list. she is interested in giving, in blood drives and bone marrow drives and writing to prisoners. who could blame her? she's 24 and beautiful and in love with the world. to her, the earth is a vibrant, happy place where anything and everything is possible. a land of opportunity, a land filled with love where liberalism and the good fight still matter.
wouldn't even mean it.

when did the joke end, and reality begin? it started with kanye, probably. he started listening to kanye, and then he couldn't tell if he thought kanye was just funny, or if he actually liked it. he listened to nothing but kanye for like a week. and then he joined the march madness office pool. he didn't give a shit about college ball, but there he was, rooting for unc, winning it all. he started buying clothes that weren't on sale, and the newest and best electronics. hell, he even got a credit card.

was he just being funny? he started to drink and dance and loosen up a bit. was that a good thing, or bad? he began approaching strange women, and he even came on too strong sometimes. his friend called him out, said he was a frat boy. it was all just a big joke, though, right? like patrick bateman, there was no real "him." just an idea of him. some persona, some crazy and unbalanced character he made up for himself to give him something to write about. every outing became material, and he just couldn't stop.

wasn't it better to live that way, anyway, than to be cooped up in his house all day, feeling bad for himself? he was only going to be young once, wasn't he? shouldn't he just have gone nuts, gone apeshit? he was tired of taking orders, had grown weary of being predictable. he was all set to do some crazy shit, talk some crazy talk and he wouldn't even mean it. but, was anyone laughing? was anyone laughing at all?

he was sick of being himself. as himself, he couldn't handle the pitfalls that came with everyday living. as himself, a lot of things were just unacceptable to him. he'd actually have that thought: this is unacceptable to me! his mom told him that he couldn't, shouldn't lose his cool when he got in a mere fender bender, that he shouldn't have cried in front of other people. sometimes, though, he felt like he was gonna be that postsecret, the one that read: "i have turned into the kind of person who cries in the bathroom at work."

it was better for him to be a womanizer and a drunk and someone who threw all his money away on ridiculous things. that was where the joke ended, and fun began. yeah. yeah, he was gonna go with that.
from a distance!

we were at arigato, my parents and me. there was a girl at the door with a jean jacket, and i let her in. she had short curly hair and sunglasses. i held the door for her because i've heard that's what guys are supposed to do. my parents ordered the howe and fair oaks, the golden gate, and i got the kamikaze. it was ok. it wasn't the greatest sushi in the world, but it was alright. when we finished, i said i was gonna wait outside so i could get some sun. i hadn't had any sun in what felt like forever. my mom asked about someone, and i said that we didn't talk anymore. i told her this, and then she changed the subject.

my dad had replaced the blinds in all the rooms. there are now white blinds instead of the dusty old yellow ones. the new blinds make the house feel new and clean. i got rid of some things again, some clothes and some chairs that i thought were ugly. i heard somewhere that we are completely different people every seven years or something like that, so i try to adjust accordingly. i put the chairs in the backseat of my mom's crv, and i drove to teen challenge thrift while listening to jay-z. i felt a little bit like marlo when i did that. all i was missing was the sweatband.

i was sitting on the couch, and my mom said, in tagalog, "are we really going home?" she was talking about the philippines. i said yes, of course, all the tickets have already been purchased. she asked why i liked it there, why i wanted to go back. i answered that i wanted to travel and feel like i was doing something with my life, or something to that effect. she said but we've already been there. i reminded her that we'd be going to hong kong and boracay, too, and that we've never been there. she said i had a point.

for thanksgiving, we went to my aunt's new house. she bought a house way out in sunrise, and it was a little bit of a drive to get there. all my cousins were there, and there was a lot of food. my goddaughter kept playing with a balloon and she'd run away whenever i tried to pick her up. my cousins and uncles watched football, and i pretended like i knew what they were talking about. we played mahjong, and i won once or twice. there were two turkeys, one baked and one deep-fried. i stuffed myself good, and then i leaned back on the couch.

i wished then that i didn't live so far away, even though two states away isn't that far. but what was i doing in seattle, anyway? i could work a boring job somewhere else. on the flight back, i didn't know what i was coming back to. it was like an explosions in the sky song, and it's called, "what do you come home to?" but i have no idea where home is. i can't live in my parents house, and my cold empty apartment might as well be some cabin in the woods. i didn't like being there, and i don't really like being here.

guess that's what your twenties is supposed to be about. you're supposed to feel restless and wandering even if you're just standing perfectly still. i don't know what i want, only that i don't want to look at my ripped ceiling, or have a place so empty and sad that all i hear is the refrigerator humming. i want to have a roommate who gets excited about modern warfare 2 and talks his crazy talk, saying things like, "headshot, mothafucka!" and "from a dis-tonce!" i want to feel like i have some sort of family, who knows who i am, even if we don't talk all that much.

one day, i'll get what i want, and then i'll wish i had something else instead.
what men do.

i told him i should've come out drinking with him more often, especially that year i was home and unemployed. but when i think about it, it probably wouldn't have been the best thing to be an unemployed drunk. he agreed, though, and he said, "finally." he said he had been drunk for about two years now, and he had all his friends with him, so it really looked like he was having a good time. we downed some beers, some drinks, little bit of this and a little bit of that. i was starting to have a good time, and i wished then that i hadn't left california.

california was all sun, after all. it was late november, but the sun was out, and i had forgotten what that was like. i could wear a t-shirt outdoors and play basketball outside at 5 in the evening. i ran around the block and listened to music. it was a rare thing i'd taken for granted. i stayed in bed and listened to records. i watched sitcoms on demand and i ate food that my mom cooked. i knew if i stayed it would've gotten old, but damnit. just damnit.

we talked with some people, some strangers, and i couldn't believe it had taken me twenty-six years and a couple of beers to stop caring about what other people thought. nobody was watching, nobody cared, anyway. i don't know what it was that always made me feel like i was being watched. but i said things like, "hello," and "what've you been up to tonight?" and i felt like a normal, social being. this is what people did when they weren't just at home listening to records or typing on the computer.

at one point, i was so out of it, so not who i usually am (or thought i was) that a girl, tracy, said i was being too "pushy." that put me in a mood, but i backed off anyway. her friend, courtney, was telling me about her ex-boyfriend and how his current girlfriend had slashed her tires for no good reason. i asked what that was about, and she said she didn't know, and i said that was crazy, and she agreed, and then her friend told me i was being pushy. i didn't get women, probably never will.

but either way, i was probably being kind of desperate, pathetic, and creepy. i'm sure i was obvious about what i wanted, but i'd been out of the game so long, that i didn't really give a shit. i sat at the bar and feigned interest in a basketball game. my cousin gave me some advice. he said that when a girl starts talking some heavy shit, that you're supposed to change topic, maybe talk about hobbies or other things instead. some people get emotional when they're drunk. me, i just start to finally feel something.

i ate wings at 3 in the morning and slept on the floor with the tv on. when saved by the bell was on at 7 or 8 in the morning, i watched it. i remembered what it was like sleeping with a woman in a bed, and then there i was on the floor, and it didn't even matter. people did this all the time. this was what the single life was all about, passing out on floors and eating greasy food in the wee hours of the morning.

this is what men do. this is what men do.
thing to strive for.

he was feeling weird. he'd been feeling weird for a while, though, so what did it matter? it wasn't just the pain he felt in his arm. he had slept on it wrong a few nights ago, but the pain persisted. it was a shooting pain that became present when he moved his arm a certain way, like when he was trying to take off his sweatshirt without stretching the neck hole. he was being weird about sweatshirts. he liked buying sweatshirts because they were soft and warm and all he'd been feeling lately was tough and cold.

he couldn't do much of anything. he'd set unrealistic goals for himself like getting grad school applications ready within a month. a month was a reasonable time, except that he'd be going on vacation to another country, so he wouldn't really have time to put together an acceptable application. he knew the real reason he was applying, anyway. it was to give him something to do, to take his mind off his troubles. the thing was, though, he didn't have any troubles.

he told his friend about this, about not having any troubles, especially when it came to his job. his job was relatively easy, and he did nothing but show up and collect checks at the end of the month. this was what he thought he had wanted for a very long time, to be well-compensated for not doing a damn thing. and now that he had acquired it, he was still dissatisfied, and he wondered what was wrong with him. "what's wrong with me?" he said to his friend. "you've got nothing to strive for," his friend told him. and as usual, she was right.

so, there he was, striving for something. an application. a writing sample. a personal statement and a resume. an informed wish to study at a particular university, whatever the hell that meant. it didn't mean anything to him, what he was going for. you see, he was on the plane recently, and there was a medical emergency. a man was short of breath, and he was having a panic attack. the stewardess, a busty blonde in her forties, asked if there were any doctors on board. he wasn't a doctor, so what could he do? he couldn't do shit, so he kept on watching a movie on his ipod. he was as useless as the flotation device underneath his seat.

why couldn't he strive for something important? why did he like writing all these shitty stories and having internal dialogues with himself? he'd think about how other people felt, like how, at the restaurant, one cousin brought up to another cousin the whole thing about him not getting a christmas present one year. it had been years since the christmas present incident, but there it was, being talked about like it had happened yesterday. the family dynamics would never change. they'd forever be teenagers, going for the jugular.

and he'd feel weird, not right, going into the nice mall. the nice mall was full of young blonde women and young girls with big brown eyes, white smiles, and tanned legs. he'd be aware of the zits around his mouth, how his shoes were always dirty, and how his hair didn't grow out right - all poof on the sides and flat, forward on the top. even though most considered him thin, he'd always have love-handles and a little gut. he'd walk around and think, what was the point? he was a dog on the race track, forever chasing that dumb, stupid rabbit.

he was very comfortable in his bedroom, all by himself, connected to the world via the internet, but disconnected from everyone in every other way. a part of him wished he could just do this forever. who needed friends when he had books? who needed conversation? he had records. he had everything he needed, or at least he imagined, right there in that little empty room of his. he liked hearing his parents talk about tv shows they were watching in the other room. they'd laugh and comment about how so-and-so was probably gay. it was all very amusing to him, and he wished he could just stay that way forever.

who needed the world? he had his thoughts.
there's a party going on.

right now, somewhere in our neighborhood, there is a party going on. there are kids walking past my parents' house, and they are drunk and talking loudly. they come in groups of threes or fours, and they are carrying drinks in their hands. one of the boys was talking about wanting to get into a fight, and he was yelling at his friend about how he wasn't a bitch. he yelled a lot, and he looked like he wanted to get in a fight. i watched him from my window.

tonight, i did not go out. i went out yesterday, but tonight, i did not go out. it was my cousin's birthday, and we spent it at my aunt's house, and we cousins played board games and did karaoke. i wanted to go out, and i told them i wanted to go out, but they did not want to go out, even though it was my cousin's birthday. i didn't know what that was about.

it was weird, though, me wanting to go out. usually, i don't want to go out. usually, i want to stay inside my house and read or else go on the computer. but lately, i have been wanting to go out and drink and meet girls and feel like a moderately successful adult. it is a stupid desire, and i wish to quell it, and i don't know where it came from.

because i look at these kids outside my parents' house, and i think they are all stupid. i think they are worthless children with no future and that they have absolutely nothing to look forward to in life. something in me thinks that it is stupid to want to go out and have a good time, or else want to love and to be loved. part of me thinks that it's a really stupid thing, for absolutely no reason or logic whatsoever. maybe i am bitter and i am hurt and that's the reason why.

maybe i read too much into the wire, and i think how no matter what one does in life, he's ultimately going to be compromised by the institution he's forced to contend with. we'll all be bought and sold. and then synecdoche, new york struck a chord with me. we're all going to be like the main character, and we're gonna deal with shit and ugly things in life and always feel alone and get gum surgery, and then we're going to die.

i see this little asian kid on the bus i ride to work sometimes. he sits in the front, and he's usually accompanied by his mom or dad. once, his dad made him sit right next to him. he didn't want to, but his dad insisted. the kid just wanted a little buffer zone, but his dad denied him that privilege. the kid didn't try to argue anymore. he just accepted that he was gonna sit next to his dad. it reminded me of when my dad would make me wear my hood in the rain, or else carry an umbrella, and i'd feel like a wimp.

sometimes, i want to tell this kid that i am his future. he's going to have a miserable time in school. he's gonna feel all alone and he's gonna feel bad for himself, and there won't be a thing in the world that can make him change his mind about it. i want to warn him about things, even though his experiences will probably be much different from my own. i don't know, though. i just feel like i need to warn him.

and then last night, i met my cousin and his friends at the monkey bar. he was drunk and having a good time, so i decided to get drunk and have a good time. and then that's what i did. i told my cousin that he should try to meet a girl, and then i approached these two asian girls and i asked them if i could buy them a drink. they laughed and said no, and then one of them pointed out her boyfriend, who was also in the bar. that's when i backed off.

i went back to the table and made some misogynistic remarks. i didn't really mean them, i just wanted to get a few cheap laughs from the table. i didn't even think the asian girls were attractive. it just felt like something to do. because i no longer wish to be myself. i wish to be a different person who enjoys striking out more than actually getting what he wants. i don't know why i want to be this different person. maybe because if i am this different person, i won't have to feel so bad about this world and my place in it anymore.

and these kids keep walking past my house, talking some bullshit and holding onto their drinks. and it just doesn't make any sense to me why they should be able to enjoy their saturday night when someone else starves or else freezes to death in another part of town. it doesn't make any goddamn sense to me why i get to blog about nothing while some other fucker has to live in fear of his village being bombed, or else his family being killed.

do i believe in god? i don't know. what i do believe is that i'm becoming more like my uncle, who drank a lot and rolled down his window to tell girls in the next car that he was on his way to black angus. my uncle who lived with his mom for a long time until he finally got his own empty apartment and filled it with things because that's what people do. my uncle who sang karaoke songs off-key and worked a boring, unrewarding job for a very long time.

the only thing i have left to do in life is to pick my favorite professional sports football team.
throw it at you.

i'm at a starbucks now. i'm at a starbucks because it's better than sitting in the airport lobby. i don't know why everyone isn't in starbucks instead, listening to some sinatra and drinking a mango tango that only cost $3.25. you know, why wait out there with everyone else, watching cnn or whatever they've got going on the monitors. why's it always cnn? i just don't get it.

anyway, i used to work at a starbucks. it was just like the one i'm in now. all starbuckses are the same. they've all got that granite floor, or whatever it is, black squares - well, half of it is black, the other half is a lighter grey or something - and they've got these round wooden tables and a bunch of chairs. high chairs for people who like high chairs and regular chairs for the rest of us.

some old asian ladies are working behind the counter. they've got the standard getup, white or black shirts, green aprons and pants that aren't jeans. that's the uniform. that's what they told me when i worked at a starbucks in watsonville. they said no jeans. they said black pants, but no jeans. something about jeans doesn't look professional, i guess. so, i went out and i got a pair of black pants from the goodwill or salvation army or whatever was closest.

it was a weird thing for me to work at a starbucks. for one, i was a college graduate. i know that's the norm, but it shouldn't be the norm. someone who went to college shouldn't have to pour coffee, i'm sorry. that's just the way i feel. some people may feel otherwise, but not me. maybe it's the way i was raised, or the way i was taught. but who knows, really? who cares. there are worse things in life.

so, there i was, a twenty-three, twenty-four year old college grad, and i was working at a starbucks. the other thing was, i was an english tutor, and sometimes, my students would come in. it was a weird thing. i would serve them strawberries and cream at night, and then, in the morning, i would help them with english. it was just like, teaching someone to write was as pointless as pouring him a drink. i was a little bitter about it, in case you couldn't already tell.

i worked at starbucks for about three months. the other workers were college students, or else grownups who didn't mind working for a starbucks, or who couldn't find anything better, and they'd all refer to me as "college grad." it'd be like, "hey, college grad, how's it going?" and i'd say fine because what else was i gonna say to that? i had nothing to say to that.

there were some cute girls who worked at the starbucks in watsonville when i worked there. it wasn't like i could do a thing about it, since i had a girlfriend, but even if i didn't have a girlfriend, i still probably wouldn't have asked any of them out. there was this one girl, angela, who i swore was my crush from pre-school (but i never brought that up because, well, i didn't wanna look like a psychopath), and there was this girl aimee, and there was this girl named lindsey. and they were all cute, cute baristas who worked with me at starbucks.

sometimes, angela would refer to me as "hon." i found it very condescending, but i didn't make a big stink out of it. she'd call me "hon," and all it would take was for me to look into her big brown eyes or else get a whiff of her perfume, and all would be forgiven. she called me "hon" for a long time, and then one day, she asked me how old i was. word must have gotten around that a college grad was in their presence, so she asked me my age. i told her twenty-four. she said, "oh. so, you're my age then," and she stopped calling me "hon" after that. by then, though, honestly, i didn't mind.

and then there was lindsey, this blonde girl who was friends with aimee. both aimee and lindsey had boyfriends, and, like i said, i had a girlfriend, so what did it matter? aimee was really loud and obnoxiously extroverted, so i liked lindsey better. the other thing was, lindsey was a creative writing major. she confided in me once. once, she said, "this is gonna sound really geeky, but...i like to write buffy fan fiction." swoon, right? i think about that moment now, and i swoon.

lindsey and i were closing up shop one night, while our supervisor - whatever her name was - was counting the money in the back. i swept the floors, and i mopped them, while lindsey cleaned up behind the counter. she had to turn off all the machines, clean the machines, clear out the baked goods, sweep the baked goods section, etc. in short, it was a lot of work to accomplish something so pointless. but anyway, i was sweeping, or else mopping, and i asked her for a rag. specifically, i said, "could you throw me a rag?" she said, "do you really want me to throw it at you?" she giggled, and then i came up to her and got the rag. and then she smiled at me in a way that i will never forget.

in all likelihood, i will never see these girls again. and if all turns out well, i will never have to work at a starbucks again, but i won't forget them. i won't forget how she handed me that rag that night and how she smiled. and i won't forget how it made me feel.
monogamous by nature.

we decided to get a cab. my friend was too drunk to drive, so we decided we'd get a cab. it was already 3 a.m., and we didn't want to wait in that heated car forever. i didn't want to fall asleep in that car. i wanted to be in bed and underneath my macy's level 3 comforter, and i wanted to sleep for twelve hours straight. i wouldn't have been able to sleep for twelve hours in the car. i would've gotten two at best. we said we should get a cab.

"should i call for one?"
"i'll bet we can just find one on the street. see, there's one now."

i waved him over, and we got in. we slipped into the backseat together, and he asked us where to. my friend said she needed to go near 23rd and john, and he wasn't sure what she was talking about. he was an ethiopian guy, this cab driver. i told him to take us to madison valley, please. he knew where madison valley was, and he hit it.

it was 3 a.m., so there was no traffic out. by the time we reached denny, the meter was only at $4. i didn't think it was gonna be so bad. he drove us all the way up denny, and then he went down john, i think. he made a right on 29th, and after a few blocks, my friend told him to stop. we had already made it to where she lived. we said goodnight, and she got out of the car. the driver asked me where i was going, and i told him columbia city.

i don't remember much about what we talked about. i think that we talked about relationships. i told him i asked a girl for her number that night, but that it didn't work out the way i had planned. nothing seemed to be going my way. i was drunk enough to tell him everything, this ethiopian cab driver. he thought i was talking about the girl, my friend, who we had just dropped off. i told him no, it wasn't her.

he told me about his girlfriend, how they had been together for a year and a half. i told him that was good. he told me that he thought men weren't monogamous by nature. a man likes what he likes, he seemed to say. he said that his relationship was a lot of work, but that mostly, he just liked sex. i laughed, and i was getting along with his guy. we had things in common.

he dropped me off, and i told him good luck to him and his girl. he told me that he cheats on her. all the time. i laughed at that too, drunk as i was. i gave him a small tip, and then i told him goodnight.
liquid confidence.

sitting at the balcony, i was on my third of fourth beer when this blonde woman asked me if i liked the band. the truth was, i did, but i didn't want to admit it. it was the new faces, a group of eighteen year old white kids. fucking white kids and their talent. i was so sick of it.

"yeah, they're not bad," i said. "do you like them?"
"i think they're great," she said.

she went on to say some other things, but i couldn't hear that well, so i just nodded along. i found her attractive, but i knew it didn't even matter, since there was some guy standing right next to her. i wanted to know what this was all about. did i seem so weak and innocent that she could just talk to me right in front of some dude without him feeling emasculated? i offered to buy her a drink.

"i'll do a red vine."
"what? a red vine?"
"a glass of red wine," she said.

i went downstairs and ordered a fat tire for myself, a glass of red wine for my new friend.

when i had returned, she and the dude she was with were already walking down the stairs. i handed her the plastic cup of wine.

"cheers," she said. the guy smiled at me. you aren't a threat, he seemed to be saying.

i walked back upstairs, and my two friends asked me who that woman was.

"i don't know," i said. "she just started talking to me."
"she was pretty cute."
"yeah," i said, "she was."

i noticed another cute girl with short hair sitting next to my friend.

"i wouldn't mind getting with that," i said, pointing to her.
"switch seats with me," he said.

we switched seats.

"say something to her."
"hold on," i said.

i wasn't drunk enough yet. why was this so hard? other guys got to do it all the time. but me, i just felt like a creep. like, what did i actually have to say to this girl?

hey, i'm a pretty boring guy. i have like three friends and i live by myself in a small and cold apartment. i have a job where i don't do anything all day but look at random websites. i read posts on reddit about equally socially inept guys and i like to do so because it just reminds me of how pitiful i actually am, how we all are.

i had an xbox and then i returned it because i wanted to use the money to apply to grad schools instead. and still, i probably won't even get accepted because my stories are awful and i have zero confidence in myself. i really just want to be back in school because my life is boring and i think that, if i were to become a student again, i might become interesting. that's probably not the case, but i have to try.

anyway, want to have sex?
the girl was looking at pictures on her iphone. i gulped down the last bit of my beer, and just got to it.

"so, is this visqueen?"
"no," she said. "they're on next."

she told me about her friend and how her friend had something to do with visqueen. i asked her about her job, and she asked me about mine. she was beautiful, and i felt creepy. i didn't want to feel creepy, but i felt creepy. i asked her if i could buy her a drink, but she said she was still working on what she had. i got myself another drink.

i tried starting the conversation again. i asked if she was into the band that was playing. they were really awful. she said no, but did i like them? i told her not really. i asked her what kind of music she liked. she said everything, but mentioned r&b and hip-hop. i asked what kind of hip-hop, and she said old school stuff like digable planets and local stuff like blue scholars. i told her i heard that the blue scholars were good.

i wanted to impress her, but i hated myself too much to be able to do so.

she got up and said that she and her friend were gonna go next door and come back for the next band. i panicked. i told my friends what had happened.

"well, let's go next door," they said.
"but it'll feel creepy," i said. "i don't want it to look like i'm stalking her."
"you won't be. let's go next door."
"alright," i said.
"you just need confidence," my friends said.
"yeah, but i don't," i said.
"you've got liquid confidence," he said.

we went next door, but the place was empty. we went to another bar, shorty's, and the place was packed, but she wasn't there. my friends ordered some gin and tonics. i sat there at the bar with them, and i thought about whether or not i was gonna finally grow a pair.

after some time, i said that we should go back to see if the next band was on yet. we went back to the balcony, but she wasn't up there. i looked at the dance floor, and i spotted her at the opposite side of the venue.

"there she is," i said.
"come on," my friend said.

we walked up to her, and i stood behind her for a minute. my friend pushed me forward, egged me on. "go ahead," he said. i felt like a fucking fool. why was it so fucking difficult for me? i knew she was going to say no, that i wasn't going to get her number, but i had to do it anyway. she was too perfect not to.

i tapped her on the arm.

"hey, i kind of wanted to ask for your number."
she said something, but i didn't hear her over the band.
"what?" i asked.
"i'm in a relationship."
"oh okay," i said.

"she's in a relationship," i told my friend.
"let's go," he said.

once we left the venue, he put his arm around me.

"i am so fucking proud of you right now," he said.

and for the first time in a long time, i was proud of me, too.
have you ever heard of some shit so real?

you know when some shit gets too real? maybe it's just all in my head, but i know when shit gets a little too real for me. i don't mean real as in genuine. i mean real as in, whoa, this is a little too real for me. like when you're in a used video game shop on fair oaks blvd. in sacramento, and it's dark and there's nobody in there except for the guy with the stained polo shirt behind the counter. he's unfriendly, and he says, "can i help you?" and you just stand there, scared out of your mind, scared that this person, this place, even exists, and you don't know what to think because this shit is just too fucking real.

and then there's the imaginary side of life. like when you're at some party, or it doesn't even have to be a party, a class or gathering or whatever, and there's some girl there, and she's incredible and you know you would probably love your life if you were just someone she knew. if she just knew your name, you'd be thrilled. but she doesn't. and you know, you just fucking know you're nowhere close to being in her league, so you don't say anything, and then you just come across as a real asshole. that's some imaginary shit right there.

and shit becomes real again when you take the bus home. and it's only 4:30 but it's fucking dark out. it's winter time, and it's rainy and cold as shit. you're riding the bus and you're all wet, and nobody is saying anything. in fact, they're all speaking different languages, or else looking like they just done saw some heavy shit go down. like the end of a working day, you know? anybody who can survive a working day in some shit weather just saw some shit go down. head hung low, like they about to cry or some shit. that's some real shit right there. real heavy shit right there.

when the rain finally settles, there's a coffee shop or else a bakery, and it's full of families. some mom's got her two boys and the two boys are all arguing and shit, and she's trying to shut them up. "behave!" goddamnit. "behave!" and some other kid's all whining, and he's saying, "don't forget to get me a spoon!" and even though these parents look all annoyed, they're happy about what they've got. they're happy to not be floundering in life, and that they have some meaning, some kind of purpose. and i see that, wonder if i want it. and for now, it doesn't seem real. at least not like the real i've been talking about.

you're probably saying to yourself, i don't know what the hell he's talking about. all this nonsense about what's real and what isn't. it's all real, right? the good and bad, it's all a part of life. but there are some of us that see the good and think it's bad and vice versa. there are some of us who go through life and it's nothing but frustration, despair, and gum surgery. and there are others with the right attitude, who just whistle when they wake up, put on a smile and are genuine about it. they want to do good, to bring some kind of joy into the world.

it's like what d said. some shit just stick with you.
what is environmental justice?

the woman was so stupid. she was a professor of law, but she couldn't relate to other people. she took a good forty-minutes, recounting all the horrors in the world, all the shit that most students - unless they had been living in a bomb shelter - had already known about. of course they put landfills closer to poor people's homes, and people of color. of course we were consuming too much for our own damn good. we're unhappy and live beyond our means? you don't say.

last week, my friend said he had to go to wal-mart to buy a tv stand. he thought that i would be morally opposed to it, but honestly, i didn't have the same angst in me anymore. who fucking cared? wal-mart's gonna do what wal-mart's gonna do, and there ain't a goddamn thing you can do about it. who's gonna stop them? it ain't gonna be you, and it ain't gonna be me, so let's just shut up about it already.

the woman was going on and on and nobody was listening. everyone was on facebook, or else reading something better. who wanted to hear a monotone white woman reading letters written by oppressed guatemalans? i wanted to know what kind of car she drove, what she made in a year. it made me remember some movie i once saw, maybe it was traffic, where some suit was being accused of corruption. he yelled something along the lines of, "corruption is what keeps you and me from fighting in the street!" the man had a point.

i have no idea what this woman did. maybe she donated a good portion of her income to organizations. but i haven't yet heard of an organization that didn't waste its time fundraising and networking than actually carrying out its mission. on some level, she must have known that she was part of the problem. the topic was environmental justice, and there she was, preaching to a room full of laptops.

i'll admit i am part of the problem. just by writing this, i am implicated.
let's go to graduate school! hurray!

it was time to get something new started, so i went to the career center. i wanted an advisor to look over my resume, maybe tell me that i was worth a damn.

"i have an appointment. with you, i think."
"are you sure? for right now?"
"yeah, i booked it online."
"hmm. i don't see anything here. you sure it was for today?"
"pretty sure."
"have a seat."

i sat down in his office. he kept looking at some webpage, trying to figure out if i had made the appointment with him or not. as he switched between tabs, i thought, in the time that it's taking him to figure out if i've made an appointment or not, he could've just looked at my resume. he confirmed that i made the appointment for friday and asked if i might come back then. i told him i could.

i went to the writing center. the receptionist, an asian girl, was on a call. there was also a redhead, and she was sorting and stapling papers. when the asian girl got off the phone, she asked if i had an appointment.

"no. i'd like to make one."
"have you been in before?"
"who would you like to meet with?"
"well," i said, "can alumni make appointments?"
"i'm not sure," she said. she looked at the redhead, and the redhead shrugged. "the director will be here in an hour, and i can ask him if that's allowed. i could email you or you could come back in an hour."
"could you email me?"
"great. thanks."

and that's what happens when you want to do something else in life. you've gotta ask for help, and you've gotta play dumb. because that's what most people expect you to be: dumb.