countess from hong kong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ka wawa.
moving is living.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

sobrang bilis is right.
lamb sandwich and borscht.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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