put my last quarter on.

i didn't have any friends, so she brought hers along instead, even though it was my 21st birthday, and i thought maybe the two of us would just get drinks somewhere. i sat in the backseat, squished together with a girl and guy i had never met. the guy was really tall, and he had to slump a little in his seat, so his head wouldn't bump against the ceiling. my friend rode shotgun, and her friend, another girl, drove us. "happy birthday," my friend said. "thanks," i said. the girl sitting next to me said, "it's your birthday?"

they asked me how old i was. i said i was 21. i asked how old the girl and guy sitting next to me were. they told me they were not 21, and then they showed me their fake i.d.'s. i felt then that their mere presence was undermining my act of 21 and going out on the town. we drove to some bar on 15th avenue, a place i had never been to, a place i actually didn't care to go to. the place had a dungeon theme, or maybe it was supposed to resemble a castle. we went in, and we sat down. we decided to go somewhere else.

we went to chop suey on madison street. i sometimes went there to see some indie band play, but that night, there were no bands. there was just a loud jukebox and a couple of kids drinking. i never liked alcohol, so i didn't know what to order. i just ordered what the girls ordered: rum and cokes. i drank it up, saving the cherry for last. we all sat down in a corner booth, talking about this and that. the three girls got up and started dancing. i remained at the booth with the guy, thinking that i might finally make a friend in seattle.

we didn't get to talk much. my friend's friend took me by the hand, and despite my protesting, pulled me up and told me to dance with her. the last time a girl did this, it was six and a half years ago, at our eighth grade graduation party. that time, too, i protested. i tried to move as best i could, conscious of the lack of rhythm in my feet, the immobility of my arms, my bad posture, etc. i felt ridiculous and out of place.

chop suey was emptying out, so we went to linda's. i didn't quite get the appeal of linda's. it was the kind of bar one would expect to find in random cities like lynnwood or kent, and not smack dab on pine street, in the middle of capitol hill. maybe that was the appeal: people needed to be in seattle, but feel like they weren't. i put it out of my head that we were there, and i ordered some nachos. the nachos upset my stomach. i used the semi-private bathroom, and of course, there was no toilet paper. i used paper towels instead. back then, people were allowed to smoke in bars, too, and i hated that all my clothes were going to reek once i managed to get the hell out of there.

around 2 or 3 in the morning, they dropped me off at the murphy apartments. i complained to my girlfriend about the bars, the smoke, the outrageous prices for drinks, and worst of all, the awful bathroom experience. she listened, and didn't say much in return.

looking back, i guess it makes a good deal of sense why i didn't have any friends then.
everyone is stupid but me.

she said that she still believed in soul mates. i said, are you kidding? she said, what, you don't? i said i wasn't even sure if we had souls, and therefore the idea of a soul mate sounded pretty ridiculous. she said, you're not much of a romantic, are you? i said, no, i guess not, at least not anymore. she said, that's too bad. i said, did she really think she had a soul? she said, of course i have a soul! i said, prove you have a soul. she called me soulless.

i asked how work was. she said, it's pretty slow. she asked me how work was. i said, it's pretty slow, too. she asked if i ever thought about going back to school. i said that i did. she said, you do, but you're not going to? i said, i've thought about it, but i haven't made any actual plans yet. she said that she has plans, and she told me her plans. i said, that's good. i asked about her friend, the one who annoyed her. she said, i don't want to talk about him.

i wanted to talk about him, so i said, what's he doing now? she reluctantly told me about him. he was somewhere else, doing some kind of job. that's what we're all doing, though, isn't it? i asked why she didn't like the annoying friend. she said that he kept complaining that girls didn't like him, and it got old. i wondered, then, why i wasn't friends with him instead of her. it sounded like we had a lot more in common. i didn't try to disguise this. she said, he complains that when he first meets girls, they always immediately start talking about their boyfriends. i said that happens to me sometimes, too. she changed the subject. i liked that i had made her slightly uncomfortable.

i wondered what we had in common. were we just friends because we were too lazy to meet other people? do people become friends just because two people have nothing better to do on a friday night and weekend? are friendships formed after college strictly based on convenience, dissatisfaction, complacency? i wasn't going to bring it up. what are we doing here, exactly? who are you? who am i? why do we spend time together? one day, you will leave, or if i'm lucky, i'll beat you to it, and we'll never have to hear from each other again.

hot diggity dog, it feels good to realize this.
the mighty workhorse
(or drunkard).

fool was drunk as shit, or else he was just tired. he was hunched over and his head was down, next to the edge of the table. he had a red lanyard, and he'd fall into his white paper cup. the cup tilted and went up against his head, as though he were putting on a tiny hat in slow motion, horizontally. something fluttered to the floor. a lid or napking or piece of paper. he was so sleepy, or so fucked up. he awoke a little bit, and reached for the floor, but his hand just stopped there.

eventually, he woke up, stumbled around, walked somewhere. maybe back to work, maybe back to his tiny, empty apartment. he probably went back to work. it was lunch time, after all. he didn't have much of a lunch. there was no bag, no paper plate, no used napkin or anything. maybe he had a grape and a small cup of water. his employers worked him like the mighty workhorse they thought he was, and he couldn't even buy himself a proper meal. he just wanted to sleep. a tiny little cot, for the love of god, just a small place to lay his head.

down on broadway, he was a stranger again. he wasn't of the punk kids, the drifters with their dark green canvass jackets and duffel bags. they always had scarves around their necks, and their dogs had scarves, too. they had scarves for their dogs, the freedom to travel, and here they were on the corner of broadway and pike, asking for change. it was all cardboard signs and stories about how they needed just enough bus fare to get to des moines or coeur d'alene. he couldn't help them, so he envied them instead. sure, they were poor, probably poorer than he, but at least they weren't working.

then there were the powersuits and the metrosexual bald men with their designer shoes and designer glasses. looking straight ahead, they zoomed past everyone. gotta make a buck, gotta make a buck, they seemed to be chanting mentally. and there were buses and cars and a helicopter overhead that signified someone nearby had been significantly injured. he thought about it. what would it be like to be airlifted, rescued from the tragic scene below?

strapped to the gurney, it'd be impossible to look down.
a tv is a tv.

since i stopped giving a shit about anything anymore, i went ahead and bought a plasma tv. for a while now, my friends have been bugging me about my sparse apartment. they'd say, are you gonna get a tv? when are you gonna get a tv? what kind of tv are you gonna get? then they'd list off all the shows they've seen, all the ones i've been missing out on. i thought about if for a while, and this weekend, i decided it needed to be done.

my cousin and a friend accompanied me on the hunt. first, we went to best buy in northgate. i've never liked best buy. i don't know what it is. maybe it's all the blue polo shirts or the weird lighting. the first thing i saw was an open box item. i wanted to get it because it would feel like i was getting a deal. after talking with the salesman, i was assured it wasn't a deal. there was no stand, so i would have to wall-mount it, and that would cost extra to do.

i had no idea what the difference was between lcd, plasma, hd, and all that shit. i had my cousin do the thinking for me. he'd point stuff out like 780p vs. 1080p and 1080i and none of it really made any sense. there was also something about 1,000,000 to 1 ratio that i didn't quite get, either. "just act as though you were buying the tv you want for yourself," i told him. he was looking for the best deal. my friend was rooting for a lower-priced generic brand. insignia and dynex and visio. "a tv is a tv," he said, simple as that.

i thought about all the different shopping styles. there was my cousin who liked to research shit and find best deals on the internet. there was my friend who would just get the biggest and cheapest. had my other cousin been there, he would've talked me into getting something bigger, more expensive. he'd start his sales pitch with, "well, if you're already spending that much..." and then there's my parents who just buy the newest sony model again and again.

i thought about why i was doing this. i knew that it was wrong, pointless. was it so i could have friends over and do something other than sit on the couch and look at each other? was it because i've been bored and discontent for so long? was it because there was a part of me that realized saving was futile, or that i needed to do my part to help stimulate this shitty economy? i tried not to over-analyze things. i knew, though, that i was gonna leave best buy empty-handed.

per my suggestion, we went to target. i've always been a fan, since i've been able to take advantage of their lax return policy for years. they don't ask shit. here's my receipt, i didn't want it, now put the credit back on my card. i walked over to the electronics section, and i found a panasonic tv with a temporary price cut. something i could live with. i asked my cousin and friend what they thought. more or less, they both agreed that they could live with it, too. we had the clerk bring it around.

the thing was gigantic, so we had to come back the next day with my friend's mom's rav 4. i put the bill on my credit card. "you fucking sellout," my friend said. i told him that this action officially sealed the deal. my idealism was completely dead.

oh well. i'm sure i'll forget all about it once gossip girl season 3 starts.
the little farmhouse.

when i was four, my parents (most likely mom's idea) sent me to a preschool in rancho cordova called the little farmhouse. it actually was a farmhouse. they had chickens, goats, and other small animals trapped within a ghetto makeshift wire fence. i didn't like going near the animals because it stunk. i liked the farmhouse okay, though. it had a sweet smell, something like a mixture of animal crackers, apple juice and crayons. but i could be making that up. sometimes, in my present-day adult life, i'll smell it. or maybe i'm just imagining that i smell it. either way, i'll smell it, and i'll think, smells like the little farmhouse.

i don't know how my mom found this place, or why she thought i should go there. probably she saw it while driving along folsom boulevard and thought, well, this is as good a place as any. she enrolled me for fall, and i was shocked that my days of sitting at home and watching t.v. would be coming to an end. what? i have to do stuff now? if i remember correctly, i wasn't excited to go to preschool. as a kid, i never liked change. when hearing that i would be attending a preschool called the little farmhouse, i probably had the same reaction as i did whenever my mom told me i'd have to go see dr. dentinger, my giant of a pediatrician.

i don't remember much about preschool, probably because nothing ever happened there. i remember there were about ten of us, and i was the only asian kid. the only darker kid there was a little mexican girl named and angela, and seeing her made me realize i was a straight male. i liked her. i liked angela. and of course, since i liked her, i never talked to her. we had but one awkward encounter, and that's when she was carrying a tray full of toy silverware - maybe it was a plastic tea set - and i was in her way. i remember her looking straight at me and giggling and giggling, and i couldn't tell if that meant maybe she liked me, or if she was laughing at me because i was just some fool in her way. i think i laughed, too, probably turned bright red, and got the hell out of her way.

not much has changed since then.

there were older kids at the little farmhouse, but we preschoolers never saw much of them. we walked past a bunch of them once, during nap time, and i wondered what they were doing. it was a strange sight to me, even then. all the kids were lying down on the carpet, lined up in a row next to the bookshelves and cubbies. mrs. genie, our teacher, told us to be quiet as we walked past, so as not to disturb them. i remember one kid faking sleep. he looked right at me, and he might've even sat up. at that moment, i hoped that when i got older, i wouldn't be forced to take a nap during the day.

there isn't much else to tell, since there isn't much else i can remember. probably mrs. genie read to us, and we learned about sharing and the alphabet, and other simple things bert and ernie could've told me about for free. it was just a year. day after day of being around these kids who didn't look like me and figuring out how i was supposed to live among these people, how we were supposed to communicate, and tolerate one other.

when i visit sacramento, i look for the school sometimes, but i don't think it's there anymore. all i see are trees and vacant looking motels. i wonder where it all went.
you're missing out.

yesterday, my boss gave me my performance evaluation. i got a 3.5 out of 5. she told me that i needed to take more initiative and use my creativity. i told her i didn't know what that meant exactly, and that i was used to working for organizations that had a lot of bureaucracy. she admitted that there was bureaucracy here, too, but that one of the reasons they hired me was because i was a writing major. i wanted to tell her that a degree in creative writing didn't really mean much, but then i would've just sounded like an asshole. so i kept that to myself.

creativity and initiative. if i had either, i would probably be doing something else. what i should've said was, one of the main reasons i accepted this job offer was because i thought it wouldn't require any creativity or initiative. really, the "assistant" part of my title is what interested me. i think that there is this expectation that i should be really invested in what we're doing, and that i should contribute my ideas and feedback to all our programs and events. but i view all of this like a doomed relationship. i know i'll be leaving, so what's the point of trying to "woo" anyone?

i was reading up on the topic of "boomerang generation" on wikipedia earlier today. there was something about how boomerang kids are missing out on job experience and stuff. that's what one of my friends said to me over the phone when i wasn't working. she said, "i'm just afraid you're missing out on experience." what experience was i missing out on when i was being a bum, sleeping in, and waking up only to watch on demand cable? the experience of riding the bus. the experience of making 100 copies, double-sided, full color, and on plain white paper. happy hour and networking and button-down t-shirts.

i'll know what to expect next time.
engineering mishap.

that scene from the bridge still haunts me. that old man, who is talking on his cell phone. hell, he even laughs a bit, and not just a small laugh, not just a giggle, no, it's a full-on knee-slapper, his head falling back and everything. he is roaring with laughter. and then he hangs up the phone, pulls himself over the railing, squats down a bit, like a gargoyle or a seagull, and he just looks down at the black water. he doesn't look for long, not even long enough for the abyss to look back at him. maybe in everyday life, the abyss kept staring back at him, and that's what did it. maybe it was something someone on the other line had said. no one knows what that phone call was about, what the hell was said. but that's the point, i suppose. it didn't even matter. he jumps.

"i can count the number of times i've driven across a bridge like this," the girl said to me. i thought for a moment, thinking maybe it meant something, but it didn't. all she was saying was that she hadn't driven over many bridges. i couldn't count the number of bridges i've driven across. there have been far too many. i used to have a friend who feared driving over bridges. he was afraid of a quake, or some engineering mishap, and it'd be all over. the car would just keep falling and falling, and there wouldn't be a good goddamn thing he could do about it.

my friend and i were at lincoln square. i told him how lincoln square reminded me of the malls in the philippines. "minus all the dirt," he said. "minus all the security checkpoints," i said. i told him about how things just exploded sometimes, even though it wasn't exactly true. i only heard about one explosion at a mall in manila. and it wasn't even an explosion. i clarified this, and told him that it wasn't just terrorist bombings or whatever. sometimes it was just an engineering mishap. those were my exact words: engineering mishap.

this blonde girl i used to work with at tower, she became an engineer. we went to the state fair together. it was the first time i had gone to the fair with someone other than a relative. we bought all that crappy deep-fried food, and we stuffed ourselves silly. she rode some ride that wasn't really a ride. it was just this thing that shot a car forward really fast. i refused to get in it. i had a fear of rides, especially fair rides. every year, it seemed as though some poor kid was getting thrown from the tilt-a-whirl, or else getting all tangled up and asphyxiated in the giant swingset. she wanted to go ride the giant carousel. "no," i said, "absolutely not." we went to the kcra channel 3 booth instead and got our picture taken like we were real news reporters. later, it occurred to me that i should've kissed her right before they took the shot. that's what confident boys are supposed to do.

lacking confidence, lacking any sort of plan, you've still got to give it up. you've got to admit the guy knew how to laugh. he could laugh his fucking head off.
laser-assisted periodontitis therapy.

i was pretty skeptical from the start. i was in their office downtown, and i was watching their screen. they were advertising all kinds of crazy shit. stuff about permanent makeup and longer eyelashes, and other cosmetic things i wasn't interested in. things a normal dentist shouldn't be interested in. and then there was a picture of an asian woman wearing a crown, and a congratulatory statement to this asian woman for winning the miss vietnamese beauty pageant. she was the dental assistant.

i didn't like it. it was too weird. miss vietnam was nice and everything, but i refused to believe that a beauty pageant winner should be working on my teeth. she asked me how i found out about them. the truth was, i had actually googled "non-judgmental dentist" and theirs was one of the first hits. i didn't tell her that, though. i said that my last dentist got some awful reviews on the internet, and that they had great reviews. she smiled at this.

she took x-rays of my teeth, the bitewings, and she told me that my insurance might not cover more x-rays, since i just had x-rays taken in november with my last dentist. i told her that was fine. she put this warm thing around me, something like a travel pillow. it smelled like a thai restaurant. i kept thinking about curry. and then i thought about asian hookers. she had me put on shades, and then she started poking around in my mouth, measuring my gums, while her assistant took notes.

she'd poke around in there and say things like, "3, 2, 3" and "2, 3, 3" and "no bleeding." at the end of the session, she concluded that i had periodontitis, and she recommended that i come back for a total of five sessions for laser-assisted periodontitis therapy, also known as root scaling. she also recommended that i have my wisdom teeth extracted. then, she told me that the dentist would be with me shortly.

the dentist wasn't with me shortly. i sat in the chair for fifteen, twenty minutes, and then miss vietnam came back. she apologized and said that she should've done my cleaning first, and then had gone to lunch. i said it was fine. she had me lie back down, and she started scraping around in my mouth, brushing and then flossing. the flossing part was nice. finally, the dentist came in.

the dentist was this hot russian woman with an accent. she looked at my teeth, and she took some pictures with a mini, toothbrush-sized camera. she showed me the pictures. "you have a cavity," she said. i was devastated. it was my first cavity in twenty-six years. "see that dark spot?" she asked, "that's a cavity." i nodded. she also told me that i've probably been grinding or clenching my teeth at night because my bottom teeth were very smooth, and my top two front teeth were cracked in the back. "are you grinding at night?" she asked me. "not that i know of," i said, though i thinking something a lot more inappropriate.

when it was all over, two and a half hours later, the receptionist/assistant showed me the estimated tab for all the recommended procedures. the total came to over $2,000, and she estimated that my insurance would cover a little less than half. i left the office and decided that i was going to splurge on lunch because my teeth were supposedly rotten, and they would all fall out anyway. i went to the baguette box and ordered a sandwich with truffle fries.

just my luck, the fries were terrible.
chemical diacetyl.

when ada was pregnant, a man knocked her over. the way she tells it, she was feeding a meter down near pioneer square, when suddenly, this man, who was in a rush, knocked her right over. "did he even stop?" i asked. "no," she said, "he didn't." everyone at the table gasped. she held up her fist and shook it. "i curse that man!" she said. the whole episode led to her having her son born three weeks prematurely. he's now entering his third year of law school at the uw.

my boss talked about her husband's annual family get-together. it takes place in west virginia. according to the women at the table, west virginia is a poor state. "it sends three or four times the national average of soldiers to iraq and afghanistan," ada said. someone brought up the coal mining accident that happened some years ago. "i remember seeing interviews with families when that happened. it was like they were living in a different country." "dirt poor," ada agreed. "they rely on coal mining, and butter-flavored popcorn. the men there inhale that artificial flavoring, the dust, and it damages their lungs. they develop the damage is irreversible, and their lungs can only work at 30% capacity."

according to the women, there's a spring in west virginia that produces "happy" water. the water contains small amounts of lithia, and people from all over the country visit that spring to get a drink, hoping it will cure ailments and diseases. "here's a sad story," my boss began. "i was at the airport in new york, and i had a whole bottle of that stuff, and airport security confiscated it. they wouldn't even let me drink it!" i told her that airport security usually lets me drink my water when i forget to empty my bottle. "i don't know," she said, "it might've been because it was in new york."

they talked about my boss' pregnancy. she is due in a matter of weeks, and the baby is breached. she tried acupuncture to get the baby to turn around, but it didn't work. ada said that when her boy was breached, an experienced doctor, someone who had dealt with breached babies for one hundred years, twisted her stomach and turned the little boy all the way around. "i heard it's painful," my boss said. "it didn't hurt when i did it," ada said. "the doctor did it in about two seconds, and i didn't feel a thing."

we got down to business. they were talking about social justice again. they said things like, "we need to reach the non-choir people," and "we need to expose the false dichotomy." i sat there, and i took notes, but mostly i ate the brownies with berries my boss had made, and i took in juicy grapes and cherries from the metropolitan market. their sushi was surprisingly good, too. ada talked about the metropolitan market, and how the founder took a huge risk, competing with the likes of safeway, pcc, trader joe's, and qfc. apparently, the founder decided he wanted to attract more male customers, so he placed cigars at the entrance and expanded the wine selection. i think the sushi alone did the trick.
the upside to not having
universal health care.

at the usa-canadian border, there wasn't much of a line. it was most likely due to the fact that it was nearly noon on a friday. either that, or canada just doesn't care who's coming in. a black woman in a police outfit asked us some questions. "where you coming from?" seattle. "what are you planning to do today?" visit vancouver. see chinatown, the punjabi market. "are you carrying any weapons, alcohol, tobacco or firearms with you?" no. "what do you do?" i just graduated law school. "and you?" i work at a law school in seattle. "what do you do there? teach?" no, i'm a program assistant. "a what?" a program assistant. "go on ahead. have a nice day."

"jesus!" jacob said, "what the hell kind of an interrogation is that? she's good, though." i agreed. the way she asked questions already made me feel guilty. i felt like i was in the box, and the detective was on the brink of getting me to confess to a crime i didn't commit. "there's gotta be so much tobacco in this car," he said. "i just quit smoking last week." his phone rang. "we've got the drugs!" he yelled.

we got to chinatown, and we found a little lot where we could park. it was near gore and east pender. there was a homeless asian guy in the lot, and he asked us something in his language. we assumed he was asking for change. "on our way back," jacob reassured him. i had the craving for duck, and we set off looking for a restaurant that would serve us good roasted duck. each store we passed, though, sold only dry goods in large barrels, and other useless items like incense and statues of gold buddhas.

"this is a real chinatown," jacob declared. i agreed. chinatown was huge, and a lot of the merchants actually spoke chinese. i went up to one and asked where i could get some duck. she said something in chinese, and then said something to a customer. she was obviously trying to get the customer to translate. i asked the customer where to get some good roasted. "roasted duck," he said, "you go next door." i nodded, even though we had been next door, and already discovered that it wasn't an actual sit-down restaurant. it was one of those places where they hung all kinds of dead animals in the window, and people could only take their meals to go. we didn't want that.

we walked around chinatown a bit more. we must have taken a wrong turn somewhere because suddenly, there were no more chinese stores. we were on east hastings, and things started looking bleak. we passed homeless person after homeless person. the whole scene looked like a bad cliche from an 80's action film. skid row, the kind of place where bums sit on stoops and drink from brown bags while hookers hang out on corners with their dark sunglasses and fishnet stockings. i couldn't believe the street was for real. "i'm starting to see the upside of not having universal health care," jacob said. "people die."

we ate at this cash-only hole-in-the-wall restaurant where duck was the first thing on the menu. we both ordered duck in a bowl with white rice. mine was all bones, no meat. i was disappointed, but jacob said his hit the spot. we decided our next move would be to get the hell out of chinatown. "chinatown is great until you actually eat something in chinatown," he said. i was still hungry, and i looked forward to our next eating adventure.

we drove to the other side of town, to a strip of punjabi stores and bakeries. there were all kinds of saris in the different store windows. i remember my boss telling me how difficult it was to get authentic indian gear in seattle, and how it was best to drive up to vancouver for the real deal. this strip must have been what she was talking about. we walked around, and we weren't really interested in anything. we walked into a place called punjabi market. it smelled strongly of spices and cookware, almost like a home depot. "smell that?" jacob asked. "it's the smell of anti-semitism."

after the disappointment of the punjabi center, we were at a loss as to what we should do. i flipped through the brochure, and saw that vancouver had an aquarium. we agreed that we should go there. the aquarium was located near the downtown area, near a place called stanley park that overlooked the water. when we arrived, though, we saw that admission was $28 a person. there were two indian kids standing in line next to a sign that displayed the price of admission. "$28 a person?" jacob asked them. "umm," i said, "i don't think they work here." there was no way to sneak in, so we left.

we drove around some more, and then ended up at a grocery store in richmond, british columbia. they had different brands of chips there, and we wanted to try old dutch and cyclones. i tried to buy the bag of chips with my debit card, but it didn't work. "this is a credit card," the canadian clerk informed me. i pointed out that my card also had the words debit card written on the front of it, and i reassured her that it was, indeed, a debit card. she tried to run it through four times, and each time, it failed. jacob paid for it with the canadian cash he had taken out. "surry," the canadian clerk said.

finally, around seven o'clock, we made it to the richmond night market, which two young women in the tourist booth advised us to attend. there was a long line of asians headed toward the market, so we knew from the start that it was gonna be good. our suspicions were confirmed once we entered the lot. one of the first booths i saw was selling swords and other crazy weapons. a few more booths down, and we spotted the smoke from the barbecue pits. when we saw the lamb skewers being sold for $1 each, we knew it was on. we were gonna feast.

we started with the lamb skewers, then got noodles and shomai. we sat down with a filipino family. i asked the kids if they were filipino. they said yes. in tagalog, i asked if they understood tagalog. "a little bit," the small boy said. he started telling us about pokemon, and something else, and his siblings looked embarassed for him. we finished eating, and i said goodbye to them. a few booths down, there was a cotton candy booth. there was a sign that read: "free soda with $7 purchase." "who's gonna buy $7 worth of cotton candy?" i asked. "i know some people," jacob said. i choked on my 7-up.

during our feast intermission, we watched some decent-looking chinese girl (alyssia) sing songs with this fat kid (michael). they sang an usher song called "my beau" and then taylor swift's "love story." "i've seen worse," jacob said. we walked out on her third song, some song she had written herself. we decided to get bubble tea from these two cute japanese girls who kept yelling "bubble tea" over and over again. i didn't really want all the sugar from lychee drink, so i threw it away. jacob just threw his on the ground. i took his cue, and i threw out the remaining potato chips and soda cans from the car.

littering, our patriotic duty.
too smart for that.

he had a job at some stupid fast food restaurant. he didn't care for it, but he liked the lack of responsibility. they made him wear a stupid white uniform and a stupid white hat. he felt like a dope, but it didn't matter. a job was a job. he made minimum-wage, and he received a check every two weeks. most of the check went to paying rent and paying off his credit card debt. he could barely save anything, so he didn't even try. he ate at the restaurant, and didn't worry too much about all the fatty foods he consumed on a daily basis. health was the last thing on his mind.

he had girl co-workers, and he watched them when they weren't looking. when he'd get caught looking, he'd just look at the floor, and pretend that he was thinking about something else. all the girls already had boyfriends, so it wasn't like he could do anything anyway. his manager was a woman, and she was a nice enough person. he barely saw her. she'd come in for the morning, and she'd usually be out by lunch time. she'd hardly speak to him, and he appreciated that.

he liked doing the dishes. no one else liked doing the dishes, so he volunteered for it every time. doing dishes meant that he wouldn't have to talk to irritable customers, or see kids screaming and crying their little heads off. the sink was way in the back, in a dark, dark corner, and he could even play a little radio while he worked. there were always dishes to be done. the sink was never empty. it always a huge stack or an out-of-control stack. for some odd reason, he liked it. maybe the transparent futility attracted him.

his family gave him shit for it. "why are you working there?" they'd say. "why don't you go back to school?" they'd ask. "you're too smart for that place!" they'd tell him. it was all hilarious to him. he found it funny that such a terrible, low-paying job should upset so many people. sure, there were other jobs, jobs he'd even be overqualified for. but everyone kept wondering why he was doing it. why was he working for a fast food chain?

just four years ago, he had finished college and received a degree in theology. he tried not to tell too many coworkers about it, but every now and then, it would just come out. he looked young, so many people would just assume he was still in college, possibly even high school. they would ask what school he went to. "i finished," he'd reply. if they pried for more, he'd tell them the truth. graduated 2005. degree in theology. the reaction was always the same: "theology? are you going to be a priest?" this got old, and he would shake his head. "i'm an atheist," he'd say.

he'd try to not get in religious debates, but given the fact that he'd studied theology, it naturally occurred every now and then. usually, it'd be a young woman who would ask why he doubted god's existence. none of the men would ever seem to care. "oh," they'd say, or "cool." but one time, a girl got up in his face. she accused him of thinking he was better than everyone, and this and that, and how could he not believe in god, the almighty being that gave him life? that time, he played it cool. he shrugged his shoulders, and then went off to wipe down some tables.
i like that he dressed up.

on monday, we interviewed the first girl. she was nice enough. she wore a suit to her interview. we sat down with her in the conference room, and we let her know what the deal was. we were program assistants, and she, too, would be a program assistant, if chosen. i don't know what it takes to get the job. i don't know how i got my job. my guess is it had everything to do with timing. i certainly didn't wow anyone, but i didn't really blow it, either. i think the main thing is to smile a lot, and comes across as a normal, decent human being.

it reminds me of my old job interviews. my first job was at sav-on cleaners, and i remember the interview. there wasn't much to it. the manager didn't ask a whole lot, and i didn't have a whole lot to say. later, my friend who already worked there told me that the manager said he liked it that i had "dressed up" for the interview. i had no previous experience, so i wrote down some volunteer stuff, and that i had helped my dad with his care home business. i never helped my dad with his care home business.

i quit that job, just like i had quit all the others. come christmas time, i was broke again, and i needed work. my friend told me that i should apply to suncoast video at the arden fair mall. he used to work there, and he knew some girl from loretto that still worked there. her name was miranda or melanie or mandy, and she was smoking hot. it would've been a hell of a job. i applied, and i got an interview. i was told it was a group interview, though, and this immediately discouraged me.

i went to the group interview - what else was i gonna do? - and it sucked. the only other applicants were attractive teenage girls, and the manager looked like a big pedo bear. for the entire duration of the group interview, he asked me one question. one. "what did you not like about your last job?" i didn't even stop to think about it. "there was no air-conditioning," i deadpanned. he snorted, and a few girls giggled. they hardly looked at me. i pretty much daydreamed after that, knowing i wouldn't get it. i didn't get it. and goddamn it, too. all i wanted was to look at mandy or melanie or whatever her name was all day.

on a whim, thinking it might help my chances of getting laid, i applied to wet seal. they never called me back.

the interview after that happened at big 5. all the men were wearing ties, and they all looked like office drones, or else i.t. nerds. i didn't quite understand why a shoesalesman should have to wear a tie, but i went along with it, anyway. they asked me why i wanted the job, and i said i needed some extra money for christmas. they might've also asked if i had any experience with sporting goods. i probably told them that i used to play basketball and soccer. apparently, that was good enough. that winter, i sold shoes. "you're like al bundy all of a sudden," my cousin said.

i hated big 5. this one kid, this nice enough redheaded kid, asked me if i would cover his shift. i said i would, and then i didn't show up. he asked me again another time. again, i said i would, and then i didn't show up. i still remember that day, and driving to the store, being at that intersection on watt ave. and arden way, thinking, ahh, i don't wanna do it. i made a u-turn. i couldn't go in. dong, who also worked at big 5, put it best: "everyday i have to work, i just feel like something bad's gonna happen." and he was right. i'd be in class with five minutes remaining, and i'd just dread it.

i had applied for other jobs, even though i told the manager at big 5 that work was interfering with my studies. he cut my hours to one day a week, and that was still too much. i interviewed at tower records. paul brown asked if i had ever worked a register. i explained that i had done so much more than just "work a register," and that i had provided excellent customer service, answered phones, priced items... "yeah, but you're saying you've worked a register?" he asked again. i assured him i had. "can you name the four beatles?" he asked. "john, paul, george, and...ringo." i had almost forgotten ringo, but it didn't matter. i was hired within a week.

there were more interviews after that, and i'm sure there will be more in the future. it's a terrible thing to interview. everything rides on that first impression, and you can be really good and still not get it. all the decisions are made so arbitrarily. the woman we interviewed today put it nicely: "when you're working, the grass is always greener," and then she reminded us that "it's tough out there."

and for a moment, i appreciated having this mind-numbing thing i'm forced to wake up for, this thing that has and will devour all my days.
if i have to use the bathroom.

i'm proctoring right now. i can blog and proctor because all the students are typing away on their laptops. i want to break their little hearts. they are all 1ls and in the beginning, they didn't know what to do. one guy with shaggy blonde hair asked me, "where are the bluebooks?" at that point, i didn't have any for them. i told him it was a computer-based test. "oh. i didn't bring my laptop." no laptop? what were you planning on taking your test on, hopes and dreams? the dude looked straight out of a 90's surfer movie.

then there were other fools. one girl was like, "i don't anticipate it, but what happens if i have to go to the bathroom?" i wanted to ask if she was kidding me. "you can go," i said. another girl said her password wasn't working. this was a legitimate question, since she had the email that confirmed she was entering the numbers in right. "i don't know," i said. i told her to go to the exam room. she got up with her laptop still plugged in, and almost fell over with it. another girl waited until the last minute to tell me she forgot what her user i.d. was. thirty seconds before start time, this asian kid shows up and says he didn't get a test.

now they're all typing away on their laptops. what do they want to do? it's two (three?) more years of this, and then they'll have to take the bar. a three day test that my friend just went through. from the way he described it, the bar sounds awful. nine handwritten essays a day, for two days, and then an ethics portion. and then it's off to save the world, or else make a lot of money, or else serve coffee. who knows what's in store for these kids.
dear mike m.

dear mike m.,

what the hell ass? we used to be cool, back in grade school, and then...nothing. that's what's happened with most people i know. i guess i'm just supposed to get used to it. people are around for a while, and you hang out with them enough that you consider him/her a friend, and then something happens. that person goes off to college, or else relocates, or else just doesn't talk to you anymore. then later, maybe that person adds you as a friend on some social networking site. and then you write little messages like, "hey, long time no talk! how've you been," and then that person gives some vague response, and then, that's that. no mas.

i'm glad we never became virtual friends.

you gave me shit for liking that redheaded girl, louise. i didn't know a thing about her. probably, she wasn't even that cute. i mean, i thought robin lively was cute, and then i watched teen witch again recently. what was i thinking? i forgot who you were jocking on. did we call it "jocking" back then? god, we were retarded. not our fault, though. school did that to us. yep, we can blame anything we want on our overpriced, overrated, fairly useless catholic education.

you told people once that i dominated in everything. that was a lot of pressure. people listened to you because you were funny, and you didn't even seem like you were trying to be funny. you added "ass" to every sentence, and that made it funny ass. yeah, i overheard you once, and you said that i dominated. i said, "in what?" and you said, "everything." it was the greatest thing anyone ever said about me in those nine miserable years of indoctrination.

once high school started, you stopped talking to me. understandably so. as far as i was concerned, we were in prison, and i didn't really want communication with anyone, either. i think you played sports and got decent grades. i smoked weed and tried to sleep away my existence. i don't even know who your friends were or what you did. i don't even know now what i would've wanted, how i wished things would have been. maybe i was just afraid that the whole world was going to be stupid, that i'd never be able to get away from the homophobes, the bullies, the privileged and entitled. hopefully, your fear didn't run as deep.

you came over to my house once. you opened the sliding door in our kitchen and you proclaimed, "man, this backyard is dinky!" my parents overheard you, and they were insulted. my mom still remembers it. our yard and our house wasn't as big as yours. it wasn't as big as the three other michaels' houses and yards, either. i wonder why that was so important to all of us.

we only had one class together, senior year. it was hero's journey. we still didn't talk. we went on kairos together, and we were even in the same group. at least, i think that was the case. i wrote some shit, some nostalgic shit, and you read it, but you didn't say anything. "did you read it?" i asked. you nodded, and you had nothing more to say. you, the guy who told me i dominated, that i had a small yard, the guy who added "ass" to everything, you had nothing more to say. i was embarrassed.

it's just as absurd now, writing this. i suppose i've done the opposite of growing up. i started out with real friends, and somehow - somewhere along the way - one by one, you've all become imaginary.
quarter roll.

i got some groceries yesterday from the pcc. the clerk was new, therefore, she was an idiot. "cash back?" she asked. "yeah," i said, "can i get a quarter roll?" it was laundry day. baffled, she looked at her screen. "okay," she said, "just swipe your card, and then we'll do that." i saw that the total was still $41.03, and that she hadn't added the ten dollars cash back to the total. "don't you need to add ten to the total?" "no, just swipe your card," she said. she was confident in her stupidity, so i went along with it.

"katie," she said, speaking to the clerk across from her, "how do i do cash back?" "just have him swipe his card, and then hit 'cash back,'" katie said. "i've already swiped my card, so should i just hit okay?" "yes, just hit okay," the clerk said. i did as i was told because ignorance is infectious. after the transaction had gone through, her cash drawer popped open. she pulled out the quarter roll. "do you have ten dollars?" she asked. "no," i said, "that's why i wanted cash back."

"go ahead and swipe your card again," she said. "don't i have to buy something first?" "no, you can just swipe your card through." was this woman flat-out retarded? when has anyone ever been able to get money from a cash register just by swiping a card? the whole concept of "cash back" does not equate an automatic teller machine. i swiped my card. the machine read: transaction error. "yeah, it doesn't work," i said. "i'm sorry," she said. "just forget it," i said, "i'll go to the bank. don't worry about it." "i'm so sorry," she said again. my friend reminded me that it was sunday, and that all the banks were closed. "whatever. i'll go tomorrow," i said, taking off in a huff.

back in the car, my friend analyzed the situation for me. "i think you were so upset because she obviously wasn't listening to you. you knew how to do it, and she wasn't paying you any attention." "i am the answer to all the world's problems," i said, "and no one will listen." "she was so confident too, and she kept making all those facial gestures." i thought back to the facial gestures she was making. there's nothing worse than a wrinkly old woman making facial gestures. you know, the kind where they squint their eyes and crinkle their nose, to show distaste or to offer an insincere apology.

maybe i made too much out of it. all i wanted was to do some goddamn laundry.