what's there to be happy about.

gina took my application, but when i told her this, she said she didn't remember doing so. "i did?" she asked. "yeah," i said. she'd go on and on about girl bands, and i don't know why, but i liked girl bands, too. "have you heard the new sleater-kinney yet?" "yeah, it's pretty good," i said. and then she'd list out all the bands she loved, like the softies, and all girl summer fun band, and le tigre, and others that fell into that same category. i liked that we had our own little thing going. we seemed to be the only two tower employees who gave a shit about indie girl rock bands.

she was always broke, but she could make it out to baja fresh every now and then. sometimes, i drove, and sometimes, she drove. i'd drive us in my dad's camry, and when she drove, she drove this beat-up old red thing. even though it was 2001, she still had a tape player, and she told me she liked making tapes. "i'll make you a tape sometime," she said, even though she never did. we wouldn't say much to each other. it's like if we weren't talking about girl bands, we had nothing else to talk about. we weren't really the gossiping type.

she was a few years older than me, maybe about eight or ten years older, and i thought that was kind of cool. i liked being young and being friends with an older person who was still as obsessed with music as i was. she always wore flannel shirts and dark corduroy pants, dark cardigans and a pair of untied black chucks. sometimes, she would put pink or red streaks in her hair. and even if she wasn't in the greatest shape, i thought she did a good job of hiding it well.

she told me about the red house painters and what it was like to work at a record store for so long. she hated her job, but she liked sunday mornings when we would open together, and nobody would ever come in, except for russ solomon, and he'd only buy a newspaper. when nobody was in there, we'd listen to clarity or old ramon and we could just stand at our registers and listen to music. there was nothing quite like a sunday morning at a record store.

at one point, gina really started to hate her job. this was when tower started losing money, and they did everything they could to save a buck. they sent an email out to all employees saying that discounts would no longer be given to friends or family, and that all employees could only use their discount once a day. we all talked about how stupid and illogical this move was, but gina felt she had to do something about it. she must've felt like she had nothing to lose, so she went ahead and responded to all employees, including corporate. she called the rule out for what it was, and then compared the higher-ups to nazis or something like that. it was a bit dramatic, but kind of funny, since the owner was, you know, very jewish.

i went back to school after all that mess, but gina must've done something again because i heard she was fired. if i recall correctly, it had something to do with a note she wrote, insulting another employee's baby. i don't know exactly what the note said, or what happened, and when i asked her about it later, she was vague and wouldn't tell me. either way, she was out of a job, and she was unemployed for quite a while. i'd send her emails, and she wrote back infrequently, stating that times were tough, and she couldn't afford a decent computer, let alone internet access.

when i quit my teaching job, i found a test-grading gig through craigslist. as it turned out, it was the same one gina was in, so we became coworkers again. by then, she was more broke than ever, since the gig was part-time - nights only - and paid poorly. we'd go out into the cold parking lot late at night to get some air and have a snack. she'd often pull out a plastic bag full of candies and cookies she had bought from the dollar store. she told me how much she loved the dollar store. i felt incredibly bad for her, this woman who lived in an apartment she couldn't afford (her grandma paid her rent), who had no friends except for her six year-old niece, who hadn't been in a relationship the entire time i'd known her (six years), and whose sole dinner consisted of nutter butters and trail mix. i wanted to give her the world then - or at least a hug - but i had my own worries to think about.

the gig was seasonal, and the work was so mind-numbing that we were glad when christmas came, and it was finally over. eventually, she got a job at the dmv, where i assume she still works. the last email she sent me, she said the job was boring, but at least it was full-time. she said that she wished she could have been adventurous as me, and moved to a different city, started a different life. i wasn't sure what stopped her from doing something like that.

there was also that one day in the backroom, when gina was telling everyone how a customer was always telling her to smile more. she was always having weird interactions with customers. there was that one guy who stalked her, some creepy old man i had seen once or twice. and then there was her ex-boyfriend, who worked for corporate, and he once allegedly played for the death metal/comedy band anal cunt. she had a crush on another tower employee, mike, who my cousin and i called "pinkish hue" because of his rosy cheeks. and there was also a rumor circulating that she banged the tattooed jock devon, who worked for loss prevention.

i was shocked when i heard the thing about the loss prevention guy, since gina seemed awkwardly introverted. "what you don't know," another coworker told me, "is that she isn't as innocent as she seems." he then went on about how they used to work at shakey's pizza or godfather's, and how she was always doing all kinds of scandalous things with the male employees. i couldn't believe it at the time, and it made me think that all women had some sort of deviant thing going on the side, or else a psycho-sexual past.

anyway, she was in the backroom that one day, complaining about a customer who kept telling her to smile more. i only caught the tail-end of the conversation. she said, "i don't know. what's there to be happy about?"
dear mikey r.

dear mikey r.,

you rich son of a bitch. on facebook, i was looking up girls from st. francis who graduated our year, and the second girl was some girl i had never seen before, but a last name (hyphenated) that i recognized. your last name, obviously. you got married, and i wasn't invited. it's no surprise, since i haven't talked to you in what, 8 years? we had physics together senior year with mr. porter, and that was that.

your dad was a heart surgeon, and i wondered if you ever knew what it meant to be poor. you probably did. i mean, you had to do community service like the rest of us. where were you placed? i served meals at loaves and fishes two times a week, and then some nights at the st. philomenes gym. sometimes, i'll be riding the bus, and i'll smell that smell that reminds me of that gym and that soup kitchen. i googled it, and it's the smell of urine and sweat and musty old clothes.

we had pool parties at your house because your parents always offered to host. and why wouldn't they? you lived in a mansion. my cousin or somebody asked me once how many acres your yard was, and i didn't know, so i just made up a number. "350?" "that's impossible. do you even know how big 5 acres is?" i admitted i didn't. lesson learned: study hard and become a heart surgeon, and you can own lots and lots of acres of land.

i heard a rumor that you were afraid of dying in your sleep. you would always get picked up at night when it was supposed to be a sleepover, and i asked why that was. "he's afraid of dying in his sleep," someone told me. i thought there was something off about you. you and your white hair and you being afraid of dying in your sleep. it's not like you lived on elm street or anything.

you went to lmu. i applied there, but i didn't get accepted. if i tried harder, i might've gotten accepted, but now i'm kind of glad i didn't get accepted. los angeles sounds like a terrible place to live. i wonder if you moved home. i moved home for a year, like two years ago, and i was eating at baja fresh. i was with my dad. we were just having burritos at baja fresh, and then i saw you and your dad. but you didn't eat at baja fresh. i wondered then if heart surgeons ever ate at baja fresh. your dad looked at me through the window, like he recognized me, but i didn't look back.

what was i gonna say to a heart surgeon who owned 350 acres of land? what was i gonna say to the white-haired kid who was once afraid of dying in his sleep? there was nothing to say.
stay behind the line.

the kids were playing dodgeball with nerf balls while he sat on the sidelines. did he still wanna die? yeah, he still wanted to die. he didn't give a fuck about any of these people, and they sure didn't give a fuck about him. at least, that's how he saw it. there were the girls, standing as far back as possible, and they'd throw their nerf balls so weakly that it'd easily get caught on the other side. the coach would yell, "you're out!" and make it seem like it was a bigger deal than it was. then there were the boys, throwing with all their might, trying to be the champs, trying to impress the girls.

he sat it out. he didn't feel like trying to be a champ, or trying to impress anyone. he just wanted to be a worm that could crawl back into its hole, or even better, a bird who could just fly wherever the fuck he wanted. he grew sick of living among the people, breathing the same air they breathed, susceptible to the same diseases they could get. the coach called his name to get up for the next game, and he'd get up, aware of being in his cold, empty shell of a body. he was just bones in a sack, and now some assholes were gonna throw yellow and purple balls at him.

coach blew the whistle. "hurry up! hustle!" she said to him. he tried to silence her with his mind. he could do this thing with his ears where he could make them pop and sound like a car's engine, so he did that. it was one of the more useless powers he had - making the world completely silent. when he didn't wish he was dead, he wished he was deaf. he'd think about those moments in movies where everything was just completely silent, and he'd wish that everyday could just be like that all the time.

coach blew the whistle again, and the game got started. balls were being thrown all around, and he stood in the corner toward the back, wondering what the point was. it was called physical education, so where was the actual education? how did throwing a yellow or purple nerf ball at another human being "educate" him, make him a better, well-adjusted citizen? it didn't. the coach was stupid for subjecting him to such a dumb game, and his classmates were even stupider for participating.

one of the girls on the other team lobbed an easy one at him. all he had to do was move forward a step or two, and he could've easily caught it. hell, even he knew that. but he just stood there. the ball bounced and hit him in the knee. his teammates gave him shit for it. "what the fuck is wrong with you?" "catch that shit, retard!" and despite the fact that they were yelling at the top of their lungs, the coach just pretended like she didn't hear a goddamn word they were saying.

the same girl lobbed another, and this time, he caught it. that time, nobody said anything. it was like he could do something right in life, and nobody would give a fuck, but one tiny mistake, or small display of indifference, and they'd crucify him. he watched his teammates throwing their balls, and he wondered what was wrong with him. why couldn't he just get into it, be stupid like them, and be so focused on something so pointless and inconsequential? they looked intense, ready to pounce, ready for anything, and he envied them. he wanted to strangle them.

he threw his ball weakly, hoping someone on the other team would catch it, but nobody even noticed. it was then that he realized no one was paying attention to him at all. he figured then that he might as well try something. he wasn't sure what had come over him, but before he could process it, he had grabbed a purple ball by his feet, and he was running for the line. he darted past the line, and threw it right into another kid's face. the kid was stunned, but when he came to, he threw a ball right back at him. "what the fuck? stay behind the line, you cheating faggot!" the coach ran over that time, thinking a fight was inevitable.

but instead, he retreated back to the sidelines. he sat there again, content and disqualified, and just a little bit humiliated.
you owe me restitution!

i watched it's the great pumpkin, charlie brown! by myself last night. it made me think of when i was a kid, and i'd watch it's the great pumpkin, charlie brown! by myself, but in front of my parents' tv. i'd be in their bedroom, and they'd be out in the living room watching something else that wasn't the great pumpkin. it'd be a school night, and it'd be on channel 10, abc. i'd watch it, and it would get me excited about halloween.

it'd be a school night, and since homework was a breeze, there'd always be time for some tv. maybe i'd have some ruffles with ranch dip, or a small bowl of dreyer's ice cream. i'd sit there, and wish there wasn't that boring part about snoopy playing the red baron. and when it was over, i'd be satisfied with it, and wish that it wasn't over. i'd think, they just don't make cartoons like that anymore. and then abc would follow it up with you're not elected, charlie brown, and it just wouldn't be as good.

and then there was that time that halloween was on a saturday, and i woke up early to watch cartoons. there was a movie playing called the halloween tree, and it was about some kids who had a friend who was dying, and the kids traveled through time. the dying kid scared me. kids weren't supposed to die. but there it was in a cartoon. some cartoon about a dying kid, and it scared me.

i also looked forward to the simpsons' treehouse of horror episodes. sometimes, they would air the weekend after halloween because of stupid football. but even then, it was kind of nice because i could feel like there was still a little bit of halloween left. i looked forward to them, and i was upset whenever i'd miss one. i looked forward to halloween, and all holidays really, because it was a nice break from the monotony of school life.

and now, they're a good break from work life, which may be better or worse than school life. it's still too early to tell.
a paper to write.

"man, what is it? like 8:30?"
"almost 40 now."
"man, i still got a paper to write. heheh."
"ah, for real?"
"yeah. class at nine, i got, what, twenty minutes to pull it off?"
"you better hurry."
"i've done it before. ten minutes to write it up, three to print, then run upstairs."
"guess you could."
"what you taking right now?"
"cultural anthropology, intro to biology and college algebra. you?"
"i've got art history, taking english 110, and uhh, physics."
shallow and empty and no ideas
and nothing interesting to say.

they were at some restaurant that they would always go to. he looked around at all the other couples, and he was certain theirs was different, that they were somehow unique. the conversation turned to some girl they both knew, who had recently broken up with a guy she had only been seeing for two weeks. "i don't get it," she said, about the girl, "what's the point of being with someone that briefly?" she spoke from experience, as the two of them had been going on for about three and a half years by then.

they split a salad, split the entree because they didn't have much money. they were just students trying to get a taste of what adulthood was all about. the napkins were bright white and the utensils shiny silver. he thought about a scene from annie hall, where alvy asks a seemingly happy couple how they account for their happiness. the woman says she's shallow, empty, has no ideas and nothing interesting to say, while the male says he is the same way.

but this was different, and his story was unique, or so he believed. they weren't very happy. they'd argue about stupid things, and it always seemed to be his fault. they'd get into arguments, and part of her defense was just not saying anything. the dreaded silent treatment. at those times, he'd say, "just say something. say anything!" and she would just shake her head because she was so frustrated and disappointed, or else she might say, "i have nothing to say. there's nothing to say." and it was times like those where he'd think they weren't so different. maybe the two of them were just shallow and empty and had no ideas and nothing interesting to say.

and then some real shit would go down, and it'd get too hot for him, so he'd just leave. he'd drive somewhere by himself and listen to the radio. what was it all about anyway? there was that blog written by that girl who had lost her mother to cancer, and she wrote something like, "your mother is the only person in the world who will ever truly love you. and when she's gone, no one else ever will." and that line was tragic and awful, but it was there. it confronted him.

it challenged everything.

he was born, though he never asked to be. he got shots to protect him from diseases he knew nothing about. he spent most of his time alone, or else watching the television. he went to a school that made him and his family feel poor and unwanted. he went on vacations with his parents, and wished he had a sibling. he ate sugary cereal every morning and never flossed. he went to mass on saturday evenings and feared god. he got sick sometimes and spent those days in bed.

he went to high school and was called a "bitch" and "faggot" for no obvious reasons. he spent most of his time alone, and he watched television. his friends got him high every now and then, and he'd wish he and his friends weren't such low-lives. he read books and wished he lived in a different place, and in a different time, and knew different people. he listened to sad records a lot and put his head to the wall. he watched hardcore sex videos, and he imagined that that's what love was supposed to be.

he did well in school for a while, but then, when he didn't, he gave up. he blamed his poor grades on indifferent teachers and his slacker friends. he never took responsibility for himself. he was afraid of failure, but he also feared success. he read more books and he wrote, and he created a vivid imaginary world because the real world was just, well, uninhabitable. and despite knowing words like "uninhabitable," he received poor grades and scored a 1040 on his s.a.t.

he was accepted to only one college, so that's where he went. he left his family behind, and then sometimes, he missed them. instead of spending most of his time alone, he'd sometimes watch tv with other people, including his roommate. he got along with his roommate until he didn't. he bottled up his anger and then unleashed them when the anger couldn't be bottled anymore. he lashed out at people sometimes, and sometimes, he'd want to just hole up in his room and not see anybody.

he met a girl, and they got along until they didn't. they made some good memories and had important discussions about life, and then it was over. and then it was back again. and then it was over. this upset him a great deal, and so he spent a lot of his time alone again, and he would watch a lot of tv again. he remembered his grandma's final words to him, which were: "never trust anybody."

he looked forward to when it would all be finished. but the waiting still made him quite anxious. he was still very much afraid.

two summers ago, i watched harold and maude in aimee's treehouse in capitola. it wasn't really hers, though. she was treehousesitting. i told her i hadn't seen the film before, and she said that i should see it. she put in the dvd, and i sat there, and i watched it. i think that she fell asleep partway through. it was amazing, being the only person awake in that treehouse and watching that movie. it was so great that she probably could have put anything on that afternoon, and i probably would have loved it.
not a date.

i asked her about school. she said that she was super busy. i ordered two beers. she had one and said she didn't like it. i told her to get something else. she said no. i said i would pay for it. she said no. but i insisted. she said not to say anything to the waitress about her not liking her beer. she said she would just drink it. i said she shouldn't drink it if she didn't like it. she questioned all the foam. i said foam was usually part of it. when my second beer came, she asked if the staff didn't know how to pour. i said that's usually how it was.

we talked about first-year students. we talked about one kid who looked like a vampire. she asked if he wasn't american. i said probably not. i said he was probably french because of his first name. i told her i heard from my boss that he had a uv allergy. i told her not to tell anyone he had a uv allergy. she said that my boss knew the most random facts about people. i agreed.

she casually mentioned that she was dating a transfer student from texas. and with that, she ruined everything. she asked if there were any girls in my life. i was honest, and i said no. i was a bit tipsy, so i said she should set me up with her friends. she said that her two closest friends already had boyfriends, so there wasn't anything she could for me, and would i want to date a law student anyway? i said probably not. but the truth is, i'm a mess and i don't care and my life is going nowhere, so anything would help.

she told me about her church. i wanted to ask why the fuck she believed in god. was she stupid enough to believe that we weren't just going to rot in the ground and everything was gonna be like the way it was before we were born? i pictured her at church, thinking she had a future, thinking she had an afterlife, and i thought she was very, very stupid. we were all gonna die and there was gonna be nothing. why waste your time believing otherwise?

she told me she babysat for church members. she was also a teacher's assistant, and she worked on the school's journal. she was anxious about finding a job after graduation, and she said something about the economy being terrible. i agreed. everything is terrible. fucking everything. are you just now realizing that? i felt smarter than her, even though i wasn't in school, and i wasted all my days looking at websites. because i knew that much.

fucking everything was terrible.
holes in your zapatos.

"you're not going to wear those shoes, are you?"
"what's wrong with them?" i was shocked. they were banana republic shoes i had purchased from the goodwill for $2.99.
"they don't match your outfit."
"they don't?"
"why not?"
"they're too dressy. you should be wearing a suit with those."
i looked at them again. "really?"
"well, what can i wear with these?"
"brown shoes."
"that's weird that you noticed. my boss told me yesterday that she noticed i was wearing different shoes."
"the first things a woman notices on a guy," she told me, "are shoes and hair."
"yeah. shoes and hair."
"i never notice guys' shoes."
"well, you should start looking."

we walked down pine street. "see what he was wearing?"
"i forgot to look."
"remember next time."
"okay. what can you tell about that guy from his shoes?"
"i don't know. that he listens to hip-hop?"
"hmm. probably. what else?"
i thought about it. i couldn't believe we were having this conversation. "i don't know. that he shops at goods?"
"those shoes weren't nice enough to be from goods."
"yeah, that's true."
"like, you know in zombieland? i noticed jesse eisenberg's character was wearing those new balance 501s. and that's totally true to his character. guys who wear those sneakers are typically nerdy and insecure. i mean, they're good sneakers, but the shoes really say who he is."

i thought she might be bullshitting me. but i was also half-interested. we went into nordstroms, so she could point out what "casual" shoes were. we looked around at different shoes, and i thought i got it, but i also didn't. guys who cared about what shoes they wore ran the risk of being too metro, and that was a turnoff, but guys who didn't give a shit about the shoes they wore tend to be insecure nerds. so, how did one win? the only general lesson i learned was to only wear black shoes with black pants.

"do you get it now?"
"yeah," i lied. "i do."
the best place to be.

during my sophomore year of high school, i went to church on a saturday evening with my parents. i sat in the pew, and i thought how it was weird that all these things had happened, but i still felt like a kid sitting in that pew. i mean, at 15, i was still only a kid, but it was different. i thought about how i had biology class the next day, and how i wasn't a student at the elementary school anymore. i don't know why it was so weird, thinking about how i was a sophomore, and particularly that i had a biology class, and that i was sitting in a pew with my parents like no time had passed.

and then, when i was twenty-five, i went to my younger cousin's graduation at that same church. i sat in that pew thinking about the time i was thinking about how i was a sophomore and had a biology class, and how i felt it was weird then. when i was twenty-five, i had obviously experienced a lot more things, but sitting in that pew, it still felt like no time had passed. it was almost like i might as well just spend my whole damn life sitting in that pew because no matter where i went, and no matter what i did, i would just end up back at that church, sitting in one of those pews.

my parents always liked to go to church on saturday evenings. "less crowded," they'd say. i liked it, too, because then i didn't have to see all my classmates. the weekend was meant to take a break from the people i saw everyday - i understood that, even as a child. my family would always sit on the right side, and usually toward the middle or the back. i remember when they split the pews in half so that people could take communion half-way. the move was made to speed up communion, i think, and i liked it because then i wouldn't have to walk all the way to the front of the church, where people might see me and we'd have to exchange awkward smiles. i felt that the church was helping me be more anti-social than i already was.

i remember there was a young blonde woman and tall, skinny man and the two of them would always sit near us, but never next to each other. as a kid, i watched them, and i was fascinated by them. they were always well-dressed, and probably in their twenties or early thirties, and they looked so goddamn lonely all the time. i would dream up stories for them. that the blonde had anxiety about dying a spinster, or that the man had lost his entire family in a flood. i wondered why the two of them wouldn't just get together. and then i wondered if i would grow up to be the kind of person who attends saturday evening mass by himself.

at some random masses, the priest would tell all the parishoners to stand up and introduce themselves to the people sitting next to them. i hated doing it, and from what i could tell, my dad hated it, too. he'd roll his eyes, stand up, and shake the hands of the people sitting behind him. i'd shake hands, too, and sometimes i'd even say my name. everyone was older, though, and they all seemed so unfriendly. i'd say my name, and expect to have the other person introduce himself/herself, too, but usually, i'd just get a smile and a vacant stare. catholics didn't make much sense to me.

there used to be a fat priest named fr. ballard, and he used to be a drunk. once, he forgot to give the final blessing, and he just walked off the altar. another time, he caused a big controversy by serving grape juice instead of wine at communion because he was a recovering alcoholic. my parents liked to laugh about him and joke about him being a "lasenga," or alcoholic. he had been to nepal, and he told the congregation how, when he visited a tribe in nepal, and they couldn't communicate, he just started to sing the beatles' "hey jude," and everybody sang along. it made me think of that story about the tongues of fire, and that music is universal and that catholic means "universal" and all that junk.

going to church was a hassle more than anything. it meant that i couldn't spend my entire saturday in pajamas. it meant that i had to believe that god was watching and judging me at all times. it meant that how i lived my life was going to determine how i spent eternity, and that scared me. it did feel safe in there, though. my mom always told me that if there was an earthquake or other disaster, that church was the best place to be. i believed her. even if the world had opened up, and all those bricks fell down on us, it would've sent a strong message to god that we were trying, that we were doing the best we could.
was real for a minute.

george couldn't get over a girl, so he did what any failed liberal arts major would do: he wrote a script about it. i didn't know the whole story, but from what his best friend, pete, told me, the girl dumped him during his junior or senior year of college. i think she was only a freshman then. naturally, this fucked with him. he was used to doing the dumping, and he couldn't handle a taste of his own medicine. so, he wrote a script loosely based on their relationship, and since i had nothing better to do that summer, i helped him make it into a short film.

in between watching a lot of porn and eating jack-in-the-box, i'd go over to the local community college where george went to school, and where he would be filming his latest opus. i sat through auditions, ordered and picked up food for the crew, and did whatever else needed doing. i briefly thought that maybe this was good experience, and that maybe i'd be able to put it on my resume or college application. i didn't play sports or get good grades, or do anything, really, so i needed something to help get me out of sacramento one day. maybe that's what i was thinking when i agreed to help.

the movie was called minute, and it was named after an all song, george's favorite band. the plot was about this guy who was in love with this girl, and he dies, and then he sells his soul to the devil to have just a minute to talk to the girl again. there was also an angel played by a black guy. and the devil was a white guy. there was a scene we filmed in a classroom where the angel and devil are talking to each other. the actors had eaten egg mcmuffin sandwiches that morning, and they farted in between takes. it was a stuffy classroom, and i felt sick with all the farting and egg mcmuffin sandwiches. i wanted to throw up.

i was somewhere on sunrise with my cousin and our friend pete, who were both also working on the movie, when a girl came up to us. "guys!" pete said, "this is tiffany." my cousin and i were like, "oh, hey." and then pete said, "this is the tiffany." "oh. ooohh!" we said. tiffany looked slightly nervous, like something was up. like we were making a movie about her. "what?" she asked. my cousin just said, "we've heard a lot about you." i looked her over, and she wasn't all that. i didn't know why george was so hung up on her.

but there were a lot of things about george none of us got. he was kind of a pudgy mexican with bleached blonde hair, and he was kind of effeminate, and i didn't understand why girls liked him. i mean, i understood why - he was uncannily confident. i guess what boggled me most was where this confidence came from. but just about every few weeks or so, he was with some new girl. there was the sixteen year old, the classical pianist, the annoying asian he met on an all message board, the girl whose parents owned a cafe la bou. the list went on.

but tiffany was the one that got away, so that's why we were making a movie about her. i was only sixteen, so i expected the end result to look something awesome. like the way movies look on the big screen, or the way i imagined the story in my head. i didn't know what a low-budget community college short film was gonna look like. george had foolishly scheduled only three days for editing, and his buddy rick ended up not sleeping for an entire weekend to put the piece of shit together. rick was not paid.

on the night of the premiere, the auditorium - 50 seats or so - was completely full. rick was still rendering the video, so the audience had to wait another hour or so, and george explained that they were having technical difficulties. "why doesn't he just say he was an idiot, and rick is still rendering the tape?" my cousin said. the audience was getting restless, and i was getting more and more excited at the prospect of seeing some sorely disappointed faces and a lot of humiliation.

the movie was a completely disaster. people laughed at the cheesy effects, especially the part where the protagonist dies in a car crash. they were grossed out when the twenty-something protagonist kisses his girlfriend, played by a fourteen year-old. and the movie just didn't make any sense at all. it was a total bomb, and a waste of everyone's time, and george's money.

at the very least, though, it gave us something to laugh about for years afterward.
where are you going?

i stopped by her friend's house to pick her up. i did an amazing job parallel parking right in front of the apartment. all the kids in the apartment stopped to look at my great parallel parking job. they saw me struggle to get out - the space was so tight. i gave the two cars some love taps, and i eventually wheeled my way out of there. the kids applauded. "you rock!" one said. i smiled and waved. they looked young and hopeful in their dresses and slacks. i didn't feel like i was cool enough to hang out with them.

"where are they going?" "they're going dancing," she said. "why don't you go with them?" "because we're going to your friend's party," she said. "we don't have to." "you already told them we're going, so let's go." it was quiet for a while. i drove and drove, not exactly knowing where this was coming from. then, my mood just soured. "i don't want to go anymore. i'll just drop you off with them, and i'll go home. call me when you're ready." "no," she said. "it'd be awkward. i've already told them goodbye, and that we were going to this party, so let's just go to the party." i didn't want her to win, and i obviously wasn't going to have a good time at the party after this conversation, so i just drove home.

"what are you doing?" she demanded. "i'm taking us home." "why?" "because i don't want to go to the party anymore." "you already told them you're coming!" "so what?" "so, you're being rude." "i don't care." i really didn't. we sat in silence. "what's your problem?" "nothing. nothing." she got out of the car. "where are you going?" no answer. i worried about her. we didn't exactly live in the best part of town. we lived in the part of town where people would yell expletives at each other in the street. i took my cue. i was now one of them, after all. "fuck you!" she turned around, her eyes bulging. she didn't say anything. she turned around, and just kept walking. but this time, faster.

i thought about going inside. it could be nice and warm inside. but then i thought about her all alone in the bad part of town. i pictured her and her throat slashed, or else a small wound in the dome, smoke emanating from her flesh. i couldn't just let her walk out into the night. i got in my car and started driving. i had to find her, or else she'd be dead. i wished that i was dead. i found her, and i called to her from the window. "get in," i said. "i'm sorry," i said. nothing. she just kept walking. i drove on the opposite side of the street, onto the sidewalk. "get in," i pleaded. "please." after a few minutes of this, she got in.

we drove back to the apartment in silence. i didn't know what to say. we sat on the couch in silence. both of us knew then that it was over. i couldn't tell what was gonna be worse: losing her, or being all alone again. i tried to say little things like, "what's wrong?" and "why'd you do that?" she wouldn't answer. she'd just look away, or she might glance at me and say nothing. "please talk to me," i said. "just say something. anything." i couldn't take it anymore. i felt at that moment a great tragedy. i understood why everyday normal people sometimes made the headlines. "FUCK!" i screamed. i jumped up off the couch, and i grabbed what i could find - my wallet - and i threw it with all my might against the bedroom door. i screamed again. i wanted god to hear me.

i stormed into the bathroom, and i looked at myself. i was a pathetic sight. i hated myself. i had only fooled myself up until that point that i might actually be a good person. i wanted to explode, or melt, or have some sort of failure in my brain or in my heart. i just wanted to pass out and forget that i was alive. i went back into the other room, and she was just standing there, hand over her mouth, crying. i sat back down on the couch. "i don't want to be like this," i said. i said it again. i just looked up, and hoped that she would sit down next to me, maybe tell me that life wasn't going to be one awful and lonely mess.

but she didn't. she fucking didn't.
just not have children.

she moved to california because the weather where she lived was awful. she couldn't bear another winter where she was before. college was over, and on flights to see her family, she found herself worrying on planes more often. afraid she was gonna crash. she didn't develop a fear of flying until after graduating from college, a time when it seemed like there was nothing left in store for her, and that because she couldn't prove she would ever do anything important with her life - god, if there was a god - was simply gonna take it from her.

she got a small apartment in a place outside the city, and it still cost her quite a bit. about half her paycheck, to be more approximate. she rode the bus, and took the train when she missed the bus, and took the bus when she missed the train. she tried to pack her lunch everyday, but sometimes she got too lazy or forgot, and so she'd have to buy a lunch. sometimes, the thought of food just made her sick - what with all their chemicals and calories - and she'd just skip lunch altogether. but most days, she'd brownbag it, and she'd eat a soggy sandwich at her desk.

her parents would come to visit, and they weren't that well off, so they'd stay with her. she'd offer to sleep on the couch, and they would take her bed. her mom would complain that her apartment was too small and too expensive and in a bad area. her dad wouldn't say much. she'd take her parents out to eat, take them to different parts of the city, and her mom wouldn't really like any of it. she'd say everything was too expensive and not that good and why don't you just move closer to home? the girl would sigh and think, why didn't you ever just not have children?

throughout the months, she'd go on many random dates. her friends were always trying to fix her up. "i wanna set you up with so-and-so," one would say. another would say, "i'll bet you'd really like so-and-so." sometimes, she'd get excited about meeting somebody new for the first time, and she would get her bangs trimmed for $30 and buy a new dress on sale, and make sure she exercised. but then the actual date would come, and she'd be disappointed. there was always something wrong with the other person.

she was nearing 30, and she thought she should be married by now. all of her friends were married, and most of them had children. she thought that maybe something was wrong with her, that the right person hadn't come along yet and proposed and knocked her up. she'd wake up in the middle of the night and think, i'm all alone, and it's always gonna be this way, and she'd be sweating and her heart would be racing, and she'd wonder how much longer she could take it. why did life have to be so awful all the time.

and then some days, she was filled with this energy, with this light, and every little thing would just make her smile. a stupid headline in the newspaper about a boy floating away in a balloon, or else a politician's daughter being called a "slut." everything was tragic and hilarious and bursting with life. some days, she was floating, and she could just see all the tiny heads below her, and she was so warm that she could actually feel the blood flowing in her arms.

and that's how she spent a good deal of her 20's.
men who aren't size xxl.

she said she needed some clothes from ross, so i said i would accompany her. what else was i gonna do but play xbox for hours? i didn't need any clothes, really. i just wanted something to do. so i agreed. i wanted to see what the ross by my apartment looked like, anyway. i was expecting it to be completely trashed and destroyed like the ross downtown. it wasn't that bad. there were some items thrown about on the floor, but nothing as bad as the downtown location. give it a few months.

i went to the shoes section, and there was nothing. there were a few pairs, but nothing that looked good. i looked at some shirts, and it was the same deal. i sometimes think that these retail stores forget that men who aren't size xxl exist. the sunglasses section had like three pairs of glasses, and even though the sign read "men's sunglasses," they only had hot pink ones and ones with sparkles or jewels or whatever on them.

i went to the toys section, as i had no idea what kids were into these days. i came across old ninja turtles figurines - april o'neil and beebop - and i wondered if they were originals. i checked the back of the box, and i was disappointed to discover they had been created in 2008. it was the 25th anniversary edition or something. 2008, though. they were still making crappy toys - i mean, come on, beebop and april - in a foreign land so that they could rot in last-stop retail chain stores.

my boss told me that her son dressed up as a power ranger for halloween last year. "power rangers? is that even popular still?" "i guess so," she said, "the toys are still for sale." i thought about how i used to collect ninja turtle action figures. recently, my friends and i were talking about mcdonald's. "it's called a fucking 'happy' meal," one emphasized. we all agreed how it was ridiculous how we had been scammed, made to think that burgers and fries and plastic foreign toys could make us happy. we'd keep coming back, though. we had to "collect 'em all." had to.

so, i was standing there looking at beebop, wondering, who the hell is gonna buy this? it was only $3.99, and the thought occurred to me that maybe i should buy it. i pictured beebop on my desk, and people would ask about it. "what is that?" few would know what it was. it would be a conversation piece, as though i didn't have enough of those already. but mostly, i pitied it. beebop for $3.99 at a fucking ross in columbia city that no kid was ever gonna open and enjoy. that it was some poor fuck's job in asia to make sure that beebop was assembled, sealed, and shipped to the land that devours all.

i'm glad i didn't buy beebop. i'm $3.99 richer now.
can i take some candy?

i'm here to see m. is she in there?
hold on, let me see if she's ready for you.
this is m.
hey, your 4 o'clock is here.
just give me two minutes. i'll come out and get her.
she'll be out in two minutes.
okay, thanks.

you know, we're always talking about you. how you're like the backbone of sj mondays.
oh yeah? i don't do anything, really. thanks.
yeah, you're amazing.
i'm really not. i'm not doing anything. quit thanking me.

is she here?
no, she's working from home today.
she hates me.

how are you?
i'm alright. how are you?
excited to be a 3l?
not really.
what's been your favorite year so far?
i don't really have a 'favorite' year. it's all just kind of been miserable.
well, what's your least miserable year, then?
i don't know. maybe last year?

where's this one?
i don't know. lunch, maybe.
can i take some candy?
of course. it's in the box under her desk.
cool. so, what's new?
not much. same old stuff.
yeah. is m in?
how are classes?
eh. what are you working on?
some spreadsheet for last summer's debt collection thing.
alright. thanks for the candy!
see ya!
dear alex o.

dear alex o.,

i got nothing better to do tonight, and i'm not tired yet, so i'm gonna write you a letter you'll probably never read. i was jealous of you because you had facial hair in the eighth grade. you could've grown a full beard if you wanted to. that wasn't fair. i could barely get a mustache, and if i did try to grow my mustache, people would always just say it looked like there was dirt above my lip. life was rigged from the get-go.

in eighth grade, you went to cotillion, and you got in a fight with some guys from another school at leatherby's. i wasn't cool enough to be there, so i just heard about it the monday after. i guess you were the shit, refusing to back down to some strange boys from another school. you just went at them and they busted your arm. we were private school, definitely not ghetto enough for gang rivalries and shootings, so we settled for your arm getting broken, and it was big news. while you were out defending our school's rep at some ice cream joint, i was probably at home, watching jenna and felicia get it on in fucking rich 3.

i remember your dad was a big fat dude, and when i picture him now, i can only picture john goodman sitting in a chair, drinking a beer, wearing his trucker hat. i know john goodman isn't your dad, but that's who i imagine. your mom was cool. she was always nice to me, and pretty much to everyone else. not like the other yard duties, who may or may not have been blatant racists.

we were real pissed, though, when you made the basketball team, and you didn't even try out because of that broken arm. you looked all surprised, too, when they called your name for the a team. that's just how things were, though. some people work hard, and they get rejected and fail. other people don't have to do a goddamn thing, and they make the a team. it was good, though. i just wish they had taught us that lesson earlier in life, you know? like, i'd get to kindergarten, and the teacher just flat out says, the rest of your life is gonna be awful. get used to it.

i think you dated some of the girls in our class, and some of the girls in the class ahead of ours. that's how pimp you were. getting the older girls when the rest of us chumps barely even knew their names. you didn't do any of the stupid shit. you weren't ever at those sleepovers where we'd drink soda and eat pizza and play mortal kombat. i just imagined you living the life of the fonze, just fucking some new random girl every night. i'm sure that's not how things were, but that's how it'll live in my mind forever. take it for what you will.

we'd talk about music sometimes. i'd have to school you on what was good. once, you gave me shit for liking the gin blossoms. the next day or so, you were also into the gin blossoms. you said i was right. i knew what i was talking about. i couldn't do shit else, but i could know what alternative bands you should be listening to on mainstream radio. i also knew how to spell like a fucking champ.

like most everyone else, i haven't said shit to you since we last saw each other at graduation in 1997. i heard you got married. i don't know what else you're doing. i want to think i don't care, but i probably do.
shelve books and file stuff.

we got to the nine pound hammer, but i couldn't see where they were. i looked around at different tables, but i couldn't spot any recognizable faces. "they ain't here," i said. we made for the exit, and that's when i spotted them. two girls in their twenties, sitting at a table for two. "there they are," i said. "hey," i said through the bars. the guy and girl were introduced. i already knew everybody, so what was i gonna say. "there's no place to sit," i said. "we'll get some chairs," the one girl said.

we got the beers, and the girl got the chairs. i liked that she was small and that she was lifting a big chair. it was like seeing those cartoon ants with the over-sized sugar cubes. you know, they just couldn't help themselves. my friend bought a pitcher of guinness, and got three glasses. he made like he was gonna walk back with the pitcher, but realized he was gonna spill. "you know what? i'd better pour them here." he started pouring, but then the lady bartender told us to get out of the way because she had a line. she said it nicely, but firmly. "could you guys please do that somewhere else? i've got a line forming." "yeah, yeah," we said.

i started talking to the girl. "so, how are you?" she said. "good," i said. she nodded and smiled. i had nothing to say to this person. but i went on with it. because that's what we're supposed to do in society. "how've you been?" "good, good," she said, and i could tell she was a bit drunk. "what are you doing these days?" i asked, though i really didn't care. again, it's what people are supposed to do. "working at the library," she said. "what do you do there?" "shelve books, file stuff. it's boring! i mean, i don't want to be a librarian!" she said it as though being a librarian was the most ridiculous thing in the world. she had just received her mlis, and i wondered what made her resent it so suddenly.

"we're gonna play a card game," she said, "do you want in?" "i don't want in," i said. she looked skeptical of me, of a man who didn't want to play cards. "i don't want to learn the rules," i explained. "if i wanted to learn something, i'd go to grad school." i thought i was being funny, being clever, but then i realized i just sounded like a bitter old dick. i just kept my mouth shut after that.

soon enough, her boyfriend, seven years her junior, arrived. seeing a bitter old graduate student and a young, naive recent grad together and in love just did something to me. what the fuck is this world? my friend seemed to know the thoughts i was having. "it's you and me against the world," he said. "you and me, we wear hooded sweatshirts, and guys like that - like michael cera - they wear their fancy peacoats and button-down shirts." he wasn't making much sense, but i savored the bitter tone.

soon, everyone got up to play pool, and i sat on the couch, thinking that this was my life. twenty-six and not a fucking clue and waiting for the cute girl in the white dress to come out of the bathroom because i might say something to her, but in all likelihood, i won't and who the hell cares - she's probably gay anyway. another woman sat on the couch across from me. "you look bored," she said. "i'm not," i lied. "i'm just tired." she went into the bathroom, and i went over to the pool table.

i decided i was going to leave, and i wanted to be alone so i could get mugged or witness some awful shit, or fall asleep somewhere along the road, or just fucking something, you know, because too much time has passed, and it's all been so calm and peaceful and neutral for too fucking long. i just want this negative karma to catch up with me already, so i'll be ready for it, and it won't catch me off guard.
later for all that bullshit.

my mom called me. "can you come pick us up? i think we need to take him to the e.r." i said sure, and then i said goodbye to my friends. i got in the car, and i started driving, thinking about how the virus was going to spread to me, how i was gonna end up spending the next week in bed, or with my head in the toilet. i drove up the hill, and then down the hill. i signaled to make a left, and i noticed the oncoming driver didn't have his lights on. fucking idiot, i thought. once he passed, i made the left turn and heard a loud pop and then crunch. "fuck!"

i got out, expecting the other driver to stop and turn around, but in the dark, and amidst the traffic on rainier, i couldn't tell who was responsible. i looked at the damage. the rear fender had been dislocated, the hubcap was underneath the car. "goddamnit." i looked back out at the street, but still, there was nobody coming back to take responsibility. "fucking asshole." i drove forward slowly, hoping that the fender wouldn't completely fall off, and i heard another loud crunch. "what the fuck?" i got out and realized i had been driving over the hubcap. i threw it in the backseat.

i went into my apartment, and my parents were sitting on the couch. "i got sideswiped," i said. "what?" they said. even my dad, who was seriously ill, managed to look shocked. "yeah, i got hit, and the guy took off." "i'm so sorry," they said, as though it were their fault. in all honesty, i did want to blame them. they had visited for two weeks, and i had slept on the couch, and then they could've potentially brought the h1n1 virus into my tiny apartment. and the whole time, they didn't even really want to explore seattle.

"i'm taking the day off. this is too much bullshit for one night," i said. i really enjoyed cursing in front of them any chance i got, as i never got to do this as a kid. it seemed that their logic was, get a college degree, and then you can swear all you want. i drove slowly down rainier ave., and i dropped them off at the swedish hospital's emergency room. there was no place to park, so i said i'd wait for them at the school. i went to the office, but there was too much going on in my head to use the internet. i went into my boss' office, put together a chair and two footrests, and then i fell asleep.

an hour later, i called my mom to see how much longer it would be. i heard my mom ask a nurse, and i heard the nurse tell her that they had just got there. "a few more hours," she said. "you'd better go home first," she told me. i drove home, annoyed that i'd have to just drive back within a matter of hours. i told my friend what happened to her car, about the hit-and-run, and jacob said i had to make a police report. i called the non-emergency line, and they told me to call back in the morning.

around 2 a.m., my mom called to say they were finished. i drove back to the hospital, and i picked them up. we drove back in silence. i had nothing to say, and i wanted the shitty night to just be all a dream. i wanted to just wake up and forget that the stupid night had ever happened. "later for all that bullshit," as prop joe would say. i knew i was going to have to wake up and file a police report, get medications for my dad, deal with the insurance companies, deal with the auto body shop, and all the awful things that adulthood entails.

and at the end of the night, i wouldn't even get to go on the stupid canceled date i had been looking forward to all week. fucking women.
buying the brick.

"hey bro, you're wearing green and i'm from greenpeace!" jesus, what was i gonna say to that? he was your typical greenpeace canvasser, clipboard and beanie, tall and lean, white fool. why should i give a shit about your mission? so that we can perpetuate this world so more of you can stand on corners and bother people? so that the idiots in the building behind me can perpetuate their intellectual masturbation? make no mistake, hippie scum, i want this world to burn, and i'm gonna play the fucking fiddle when it does.

i went into starbucks and waited for my craigslist connect. he was a sloppy white guy with an oversized gray sweatshirt, and a glazed look like he had been baking on the beach for too long. i pulled out the goods: my crappy zune, belt clip, arm band, usb cord, and wall charger. "just out of curiosity, why are you selling it?" he asked. "i need something bigger," i said. he looked at it, and then he handed me $70, a fifty and a twenty. it got awkward real fast, so i got up to leave. i felt like i was cheating him, and for a moment, i wish i was sly enough to have done so. he didn't try it out. i could've been an asshole. i could've sold him a brick.

because what happens when you're a nice guy? when you constantly play the role of straight man? you get screwed over. you end up buying the brick.
seeing someone.

"so," i said, "i acted on what you told me about friday."
her eyes grew big. "really? what happened?"
i felt uncomfortable talking about it in the open. "we should probably go in your office," i said.
"so, tell me what happened," she said.
"well, i asked her for drinks on saturday, and she said that we could get together friday."
"wait," she said, "you asked her to go out on saturday?"
"no, i asked her this past saturday if she was free this week."
"oh, and she said 'friday.'"
"yeah, friday. but, she said today that she had to cancel."
her shoulders drooped and her mouth opened, giving off that oh-so-disappointed look.
"and," i continued, "she wanted to invite emily."
"emily? what emily?"
i pointed through the door. "our emily."
she looked confused.
"yeah, it's kind of weird," i said. "i told her that emily doesn't come to anything anyway."
"yeah, that's a little strange."
"i just don't get it."
"yeah," she said, "and i don't know. i don't know if she's seeing someone right now."
"yeah, well," i said.
"well, good for you, at least. carpe diem and all that! you know, you can't just wait around, waiting for life to happen to you. you have to make it happen."

i'm gonna wait around a little more.
just sat there, moping.

it was freshman year, and i was all excited for the first dance. i hadn't been to one before, so i was thrilled by the idea of meeting new people and having a good time. i was fourteen, and i didn't know much better. i was at jason's house that night, and we were getting ready for it. i had on a pair of khaki cargo pants and a new blue mossimo polo shirt that zipped up to the collar. i sprayed some ck-one on me, and jason said to put some on my neck.

"this is gonna be awesome," i said, looking at myself in the mirror. i had acne, but i was so thrilled that it didn't even matter. "it's not gonna be that good," jason said. "people are probably gonna be like, 'hey, look at that fat kid, and look at that tall kid.'" i laughed, and then i hoped what he said wouldn't be the case. i put on my new suede airwalk skater shoes, and i felt like a million bucks.

jason's dad drove us to the gym, where the dance was held. he was a big chinese dude. he didn't say much, but when he did speak, it felt like he was trying to be some american dad straight out of the movies. "so, are you guys gonna meet some girls tonight?" "that's the plan," i said. i don't think jason said much of anything, either. we listened to the radio, and i was feeling nervous and excited all at once.

we got to the gym, and there was a line out the door. i saw a handful of my classmates, and they were with girls i had never seen before. i wondered if any of the girls from my elementary school were going to be there, but i didn't see any of them. none of my friends were going to be there, either. days before, i had asked if any of them were going to go. "hell no," they said, unanimously. i couldn't see why they were so opposed to it.

the dance cost about $5 or so to get in. i paid the fee, and received a small orange ticket in return. the gym was dark, but there were glowing lights flashing all around. there were some tables and chairs set up where the basketball court was supposed to be. everyone else had congregated onto the dance floor, which was adjacent to the court. it wasn't how i imagined a dance at all. it wasn't how they pictured it in the movies and on television. they were supposed to be dancing on the court, not off to the side.

jason and i went with some other guys to the dance floor. it was goddamn ridiculous was what it was. this filipino kid named joey led the way. he started coughing loudly, screaming, "i have meningococcal!" he was trying to be funny, because just weeks prior to the dance, a freshman girl at loretto had died from the disease. we made our way through the crowd, and it was unpleasant. it reeked of body odor, and it was nearly impossible to move. i wasn't having a good time.

i decided i'd sit down for a while. a while turned into an hour. the hour turned into the rest of the night. i watched the clock and waited for 10 p.m. to roll around because that's when students were allowed to leave. "why don't you go dance?" jason asked. "it's too stupid," i said bitterly. i started feeling depressed, faced again with another one of life's disappointments. i sat there, brooding. this is how it was gonna be, huh? life was just going to be about getting my hopes up, and then seeing them crushed.

the next day, my classmate, alex, instant messaged me. jason said you just sat there, moping, he typed. i told him that it would be the last time i would go to a stupid dance.

but that wasn't true.
a brief game of keep-away.

his uncle or his dad picked him up from another long, boring day at school. whoever was driving didn't say a word. maybe a "how was school?" to which he responded, as usual, "fine." then, it would be silence for the next twenty minutes. they'd drive down the long stretch of watt avenue, not much to see save for some trees and a glimpse of the american river. maybe the radio would be on. something soft, some r&b. mariah carey and/or boyz II men.

for one reason or another, he'd get dropped off at his aunt's house. she lived there with her son, his cousin, and sometimes her stepdaughter would be there, too. he and the cousin would play sega genesis after school. they'd spend hours in front of the wood-paneled television set, mastering games like sonic: the hedgehog and nba jam. aunt would be at work, and grandma would be in the other room watching her soaps. their maid would be ironing clothes, or else prepping for dinner. stepdaughter would be in the master bedroom, doing homework with the television on.

sometimes, the stepdaughter would also play video games, or maybe just watch. there was also a computer in the room with the sega genesis, and games like solitaire or minesweeper would be available on there. those games weren't as fun, but whoever wasn't playing the genesis might start up on the computer. it was day after day of games and soaps and television and chicken for dinner.

one day, he didn't know how it happened, but he happened to be alone with the girl in the master bedroom. they were watching television together, probably a cartoon that came on around that time, something like batman or tiny toons or animaniacs. he got tired of the show, and he changed the channel. the girl argued, but he refused to back down. he spent his whole life acquiescing to other people's demands, and he felt safe enough with her to try otherwise.

she lunged for the controller, but he snatched it away. it soon devolved into a brief game of keep-away. he'd be on one side of the bed, and she'd be on the other. she'd crawl across the bed and he'd run to the other side, waving the controller in the air. she grabbed a hold of his arm, and he came toppling down onto the bed. she twisted his arm - an indian burn is what it's called - and he let out a small yelp and let go of it. she grabbed the control, but just as she was going to change the channel, something fierce and animalistic came over him. he jumped on her, and he pinned her down.

even at a young age, he knew the implications of his actions. for the first time, he felt like a man. he overpowered her, and she couldn't do a thing about it. she smiled and looked up at him, probably wondering what he would do next. but the thing was, he didn't do anything. he pinned her down and looked at her for a good ten seconds, and then he just let her go. she sat up, and he moved to the edge of the bed. he just sat there for a while, dumbly staring at the screen.

she changed the channel, and he left the room.