hello, an explanation.

for the entire month of march (or however long i feel like it), i'm going to document everything with photos followed by a caption that reads: hello, (whatever it is i'm looking at). i think that if you have been reading all along, you are probably tired of me going on and on about what it's like living in a fishbowl. i recently finished the elegance of the hedgehog, and this idea of the fishbowl was in it. the idea of the fishbowl is that basically, when we become adults, most of us end up as goldfish in a fishbowl. that's pretty much how i feel. the borders of my bowl are seward park, the end of broadway, bellevue and downtown. so, instead of reading about what it's like being in a fishbowl, you can just see for yourself.

also, one last comment: photo blogs are annoying.

hello, side of the columbia center plaza.

hello, link light rail.

hello, girl reading a confederacy of dunces.
heads-up seven-up.

last day of kindergarten, kid couldn't believe his luck. he got paired up with his dream girl, mistook it for a sign. thought it meant something, that god was telling him, see, you are a good person, and you shall get what you want. he squirmed in his seat, nervous little fuck. girl was as beautiful as ever, wearing a brand new dress he'd never seen her in before. her mother stood in the doorway, and it seemed the whole time, she and her mother just kept looking at each other. the mother, arms crossed, leaned against the doorway, and she looked just like a mother. a little bit of makeup, big curly hair, giant smile. she was smiling at her little girl, and the little girl was smiling right back at her.

two decades later, he spends the night looking up articles about people who have died alone. it's a new phenomenon, apparently. with the advent of technology comes along the rise of so many people living alone. the numbers of corpses who go undiscovered for weeks, months, years. my god, the numbers. all dead and forgotten, eleanor rigby-style. and what happens when there's no one - no family, no friends - to pay for a proper burial? well, the state is forced to pay for cremation.

and then there she is now. see her? the whole class has to stay indoors for lunch because it's raining outside. stupid rain. forces them to play stupid games like connect 4 and hungry hungry hippos. but, once in a while, some outgoing older students arrange a game of heads-up seven-up. those who don't want to play? well, you can read a book. as for the rest of you, put your heads down, your thumbs up. dream girl gets picked (it's a given) and then she stands in front of the class with six other students. he puts his head down, thumb up. he shivers with anticipation when he hears footsteps walking past his desk. nobody ever puts his thumb down. and even if someone did, out of sheer embarrassment, he'd never suspect her (at least publicly).

he's walking now. he's got a bag in his hand, and he's crossing the street. what if i get hit, he thinks. what would happen. a while back, he changed his phone number. he didn't even have to tell anybody. he looks up news stories on the internet regarding health, regarding better living. cardio is important. it's important to get the heart rate up at least for twenty minutes a day, three days a week. that's the bare minimum. and too much sleep is bad. sleep too much, and it could lead to depression, heart disease, an early death, or worse. and that's too bad because he loves sleep. he loves sleep more than he loves awake.

she doesn't know it, and most likely, she never will, but she alone gets him through the lonely part of childhood. he dreams of her, and in his dreams, her presence alone makes him feel ridiculously high. that's the kind of effect she has on him. he has one good dream about her, just a simple one where she's talking to him, and he's good for a week. school isn't even school anymore. just a bunch of days where he might get the chance to sit next to her, hold her hand during the lord's prayer. she has a slight lisp, and it makes him crazy.

he's crazy now, that's for damn sure. he thinks that it might help if he just showed up to work completely blazed one day. he'd walk past the librarian with her big hoop earrings and big eyes and he'd just find her hilarious. he'd spend an hour, maybe two, just looking at the bulletin board with all the colorful flyers posted. all these students running for office. look at that one! a lady in a suit! what a riot. he'd be self-aware, too. he could step out of himself and watch himself looking at a bulletin board. all bad posture, squinting and grinning like a foolish old man. he'd laugh so hard it would hurt.

she was laughing so hard. they were eight years old, and she laughed at every little thing he did. somehow, he'd gotten over his shyness, and he started talking to her. their desks touched, and he became a real joker, a real comedian. he'd fall out of his seat, drop all his pencils, write on his face with a marker. she'd laugh and laugh, and it made him feel so good. couldn't believe his luck. nobody ever thought he was funny. not his friends, not his cousins, certainly not his parents. and now, miraculously, his dream girl found him funny. how'd that happen? before the final bell, they all lined up at the door. this is the happiest day of my life, she said. why, he asked her. because, she said, you're hilarious.

it's raining out. he hears cars passing and a bass guitar in the distance. his mother calls. she asks the same things she always does. what did you eat, what are your plans this weekend, are you ok, what are you reading, what did you eat, are you ok, when are you coming to visit. emphasis on the are you ok. he cannot convince her that he is ok, but she has no other choice than to take his word for it. that is a mother's only job, anyway. to constantly worry.

after the comedian routine, the teacher splits them up. you two have too much fun together, she says. and just like that, catastrophe. you big fat fuck, you take away the only good thing i have in life and probably ever will have. she sits across the room, and she doesn't even notice him anymore. he tries to sell her a bouncy ball at recess. when she refuses, he says she can have it for free. she just shakes her head like he's the worst person in the world. after that, he goes to a dark place. he never fully recovers. they are no longer friends, and he becomes despondent. inconsolable. when an eight year old becomes inconsolable, that truly is a bad way to start things off. a brief life lesson: find rare love on this cold dead earth, and some hemorrhoid will surely snatch it away just as quick.

he dreams of her one last time in adulthood. together, they ride a bus on mayhew road. it's sunny out, and the song "you are my sunshine" plays on the radio. she is smiling at him, and he smiles right back at her. eventually, he wakes. fully conscious, he knows that such silly dreams are no longer enough to get him through the days. he needs something more now. something so much more. but what.
you must be out of your mind.

i am done with shows, at least for now. as of right now, i hold one ticket to a sold out magnetic fields show tonight at town hall. instead of getting excited about the show, i'm going to sell it to some girl who's going to meet me at starbucks in less than an hour. i don't know why i don't want to go. they were one of my favorite bands for a long time, but now they're just something i can only tolerate every now and then. i probably overplayed 69 love songs. i'm always doing things like that.

i've watched youtube clips of their live performances, and well, they look kind of boring. and what's most annoying is that people apparently laugh throughout their shows. who does that? it's a concert, not a comedy show. and anyway, it will probably just make me sad to go, since most their songs remind me of a past me, someone who is no longer there. i'd much rather go to a hip-hop show where more of the people in the crowd would be brown-skinned, look like me. tonight, i'd rather fall asleep, do math, or read my book. i feel 1,000 years old.

but this is all equally boring to you. to you, i might as well be stephen merritt up on that stage. i googled my own blog today, and i found a little discussion on it. someone who had read some entry i posted said that i sounded like a "rude, selfish person, who takes everything in life for granted." pretty much hit the nail on the head, and fool didn't even know me. he ended with, "what else is new?" there is nothing new here. nothing new to report. nothing new to read.

but tonight, i'll probably make some stranger happy. she will, after all, get a ticket to a sold out show at town hall. she might even be canadian, based on the way she pronounced "about." so, if i can make some canadian stranger off craigslist happy by selling her a ticket to a sold out show at town hall, well then, that will make my night. i will go to bed knowing that i have made a difference in the world.
filth & stink.

there was this eagle perched on a tall ass bare-bones tree, and he was just sitting there, chillin'. motherfucker sat up there like he owned the world. my friend's roommate scrambled through her bird book, determined to figure out what kind of eagle he was. he's either a bald or a golden, she said. she couldn't tell because she couldn't see his tail. this frustrated her to no end. i imagined it was like hearing a song on the radio, and recognizing it, but not really knowing who it was. that kind of frustration. but her, being a bird enthusiast and all, maybe it was much worse.

got me thinking, life's so unfair even other species have celebrities. ain't nobody give a shit about a seagull, and hell, most people will probably even try to run over a pigeon once or twice. brings me back to my ethics course in college, the one where dr. painter talked about the wheel of fortune. the premise was that you're born into status or you're born into a really fucked situation, and it's just ridiculous. why should one person get to be a multi-millionaire ball player while another has to starve to death in a third world country? this one kid, some white kid who didn't know shit about shit tried to argue that ball players get what they deserve because they work hard. everyone shot him down, and essentially said, no, life is absurd, and you're born into what you're born into. nothing's deserved.

on the bus i was sitting across the aisle from a bum. he smelled awful. i thought of the scene in happenstance when audrey tautou's character is having a bad day, and she's sitting at the train station. a bum tells her to smile, and she says, why should i smile at you with your filth and stink? you make me sick. and then i thought about patrick bateman and how he tells the bum that he should get a job. they're just born into that, and it's awful. i find it hard to believe in a god who allows such situations to exist. and then i'm listening to "4 minute warning," and i think about all the struggling people in the world. the people who had to (and have to) literally run for their lives and hide out in dark scary places just to survive. it's almost so sad, fucked up and absurd that it's almost comical. and when i find myself laughing at miserable situations that humanity has had to put up, and still puts up with, i think that i am going insane.

i just don't get the vision anymore. they're always talking about this idea of social justice at the school, and i've heard it all my life, but i can't even envision it. the way they talk, they make it sound like it's all about having everyone holding hands and living in harmony and there's nothing going on. it's just a field full of roses and everyone is smiling like they've just overdosed on prozac. it's the scene at the end of candide. they've finally made it to utopia, but they quickly discover that utopia is boring as shit. we're naturally drawn to drama. we must first cultivate our gardens.

it's just ridiculous if you really think about it. you could've been born a king. you could've been born a sweatshop worker who's forced into a life of drugs and prostitution. you could've been a grammy winning songwriter, or else a bum. you could've been a prosecuting attorney, an astronaut, or a mcdonald's lifer. you could've been an eagle or a pigeon. but instead you just are who you are and i am who i am. and then i think about all of us in that first stage, little sperms trying to penetrate the egg. why did we want so badly for that to happen? the universe is always expanding, and our time here is not much more than a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a nanosecond. why was it so important for us to embark on this journey?

i read a review for joanna newsom's new album. there was a quotation that read, "life can be difficult and lonely and we all need love, but holding on to it can be hard." truest words i've read in a good long while.
pump fists throw grenades.

where should i begin? it doesn't even matter, really. how about i'm walking back to the school. it's a sunny day and i wanted to take a walk. i had ten dollars in my pocket and i used it as an excuse to go to the bank on broadway and make a deposit. a weak little $10 deposit, the kind that makes the teller think, why's this asshole even wasting my time? i could've asked for quarters, as i'll need them in the distant future to do laundry, but instead i made a deposit. there was no line, and i filled out the form as best i could, so the teller couldn't even say a thing about it. who knows? $10 is a fortune to some people.

but anyway, i'm walkng back to the school on this sunny day, and i'm thinking i want to write a story about this kid my cousin knew who overdosed on drugs. but lord knows i'm too lazy to write an actual story, so this will have to do. what am i thinking about? what is this kid thinking about? maybe a part of him wanted it to happen. it's like that scene in six feet under when the father dies, and at his funeral he's a ghost. one of the kids asks him what it's like to be dead, and he says this and that, but what sticks out the most is he yells, "no more boredom!" he yells it with all his might, and this part sticks out most because it's, like, yes, finally someone has said it.

so maybe this kid wanted it to all be over. is he really thinking he wants to end it? he knows drugs are a bad idea. in the eighth grade, he hears this little jingle, and the jingle goes: peer pressure, peer pressure, what does it do? squeezes the jesus right out of you! i know this kid knows drugs are a bad idea because we had the same upbringing. we heard all the same messages. the only difference between him and me is that he chose to ignore the messages. and now he's dead, which is a sad thing, but now he can never be bored.

and i'm entering the school, going through the big glass doors, and there are some people around in the lobby. students seated at tables, someone coming down the stairs, two people talking by the docket. there's the janitor wheeling around a big garbage can. there's a man in a suit holding a briefcase. and i think about this kid, this character, and what would he be thinking? that everyone is just going around, and the lot of them are lying to themselves. he can't help but picture each person lying in his final resting place, and he thinks that if he keeps thinking this way, he's going to drive himself mad. so, what does he do? he pushes that shit out of his head, and pushes something else into his nose.

let's jump around a little bit. there's me, sitting in the back of a room called c6. i have a dell laptop with me, and it isn't mine. the big-boned dean sits in front of me, and he says something of little importance to a coworker whose name i don't even know. and then there's lisa, and she's in the line for food. i am not in the line for food because i don't see the point of standing in a line. why not just wait until the line is gone, and then get the food? lisa says, are you just gonna sit back here like a big loner weirdo? i tell her about the laptop, but my answer has no logical connection to what she's just told me. she tells me where she is sitting, and she points to her pink nalgene bottle, the one i have rarely ever seen her without (fear of kidney stones?).

i decide i do not wish to be a big loner weirdo, so i sit behind lisa. her invitation, though, was pointless, as i become nothing more than a big loner weirdo who sits behind a group of girls. the designate dean, the reason we are all there, is talking, and there's no reason for me to be sitting behind this group of girls, or even to be in the classroom at all. it's like going to the movies by oneself, and i don't know why i haven't done that yet. lisa raises her hand, comments about how she appreciated last year's summer socials. had we been in high school, i would've called her a kiss-ass.

after all is said and done, up the stairs i go, and i'm holding a sign. for some reason, i say hello to a coworker i never say hello to. i don't know what makes me do it. we are both climbing the stairs, and she is about a foot ahead of me, and i think that she is slowing down, so i say hello. or probably it's just hey. i'm more a hey kind of fella. she says hey back and then tells me she saw me at st. george, and i don't remember that at all. the last time i had been at st. george was in october of last year. i asked, why didn't you say hi? and she said, you were with your friends. as it leaves her mouth, she realizes it's a terrible excuse, that there is no logical connection between the two facts - her not saying hello and me being with friends - and then she feels awkward, and this, in turn, makes me feel awkward, too, but more for her or for me, i don't have time to decide.

so there's this girl now, the girl who has the same job title i hold, but her office is the library. there is this girl who was out on a friday night in october in the international district with her group of asian friends and she notices me and i don't notice her because i am too busy noticing how my world has utterly collapsed. i am drinking beer after beer wondering how much i can drink before i have to throw up and there's this girl there who is my coworker and who doesn't leave her table to say hello because i am with friends. what would it have been anyway? it would've just been a small wave, or else a weak hey, a glance, and then the night would've ended as it did anyhow. or would it have?

and we skip around some more. i am walking on 12th past ti amo, the pizza place, and i have this thought that i will spend my entire life walking on 12th past ti amo, the pizza place. and i think, it's not so bad. why can't i just accept it? what would be so wrong with walking on 12th past ti amo for all of eternity? we're supposed to want more, but i read in the elegance of hedgehog that he who sows desire harvests oppression. i mull this over because i have no one in real life to talk to. i can't talk about what this means or anything that extends beyond pump fists throw grenades because that type of shit is boring and is only useful in college classrooms. so i just use this space as a dumping ground and hope for the best that someone else can make sense of it because i sure as hell can't.

so i'm walking on 12th past ti amo, and i think, if i get accepted, if i get funding, i'd better go. and then i think, why is it so important for me to leave? why am i always in such a rush to exit? am i that bored? do i really think things will be any different in another city, in another apartment, in another position? no. most probably i will still be wondering about what's possible instead of just accepting my reality. look at that poor kid, the one who couldn't accept reality. i see him, and he doesn't see me. he's walking around one day, he's talking to people, he's buying a gallon of milk, he's tying his shoelaces, he's watching dvds, he's remembering his sister's birthday, he's so full of love and energy and lust and sadness, and he's somebody's best friend in the whole wide world - until suddenly, he's not. he goes, and he's nothing more than a few blotches of memory.

no more boredom.
young forever.

saturday night, we were sitting in her car. we had a bag of wendy's and we stopped at a chevron because the clerk forgot to give us straws. i ran into chevron, and i grabbed some straws. it was strange, to go into a store, take what i needed, and not have to pay for it. what would straws cost, anyway? i thought about it. some paper and plastic, freebies at any grocery store. five cents, maybe? i'm thinking less, maybe two cents? but what's the cost to the environment, you hippie liberal?

so we were sitting there, eating fries and trying to suck our frosties (hers chocolate, mine vanilla) through said straws. i gave up and used a spoon. parked at a gas station on rainier on a saturday night, eating junk food. we were children, nothing more, and i liked it. "have you heard jay-z's version of 'forever young?'" she asked. i said no, even though i've had blueprint 3 on my ipod for months. she played it. it was the first verse of alphaville's "forever young." i brought up napoleon dynamite. we agreed the song was awful.

walking back from pcc this morning, i listened to it again. the song itself minus jay-z brought back a whole flood of memories. mostly the 80s. i thought of my cousin eric and his star wars bedding, how he told me once that bill and ted's bogus journey was "all about the hell scenes." i thought of my other cousin claire and her poofy bangs, and how she'd make me listen to new kids on the block with her. it'd be nighttime, and we'd put our heads up against the speakers, and just sit there. i thought of molly ringwald and anthony michael hall and white kids just like them with rolled up sleeves. i thought how it was weird everyone has his own perception of the 80s, and how everyone perceives it differently, but yet still the same. something so real we could eat it.

yesterday, too, i finally watched happenstance, even though i had owned the movie for a number of years and sold it a number of years ago. i watched it once in college, but i was so infatuated with a girl at the time that i couldn't even focus on it. so yesterday, i watched it all the way through, really paid attention to it, and i thought it was a decent film. so this is single life, i thought. being able to appreciate good foreign cinema on a saturday during the day.

it was so sunny out that i had to go outside, otherwise i would feel miserable about having spent a rare sunny day indoors. i pictured myself reading outside the st. ignatius chapel on my lunch break. i do that there, i thought, well, why not in my own neighborhood? the book i'm currently reading is the elegance of the hedgehog, and it's amazing. there's this scene in the book where the protagonist, a small french girl, is watching synchronized divers on the television. they jump, and they're out of sync. she yells at the tv, "go on, catch up with her! go on!" the book has helped me remember that there is some real comedy left in the world, real absurdity.

only confirming this, i spent sunday afternoon birdwatching with two women.
one divided by zero is undefined.

my earliest memory of math is second grade. we had these timed quizzes. see how many addition and subtraction problems you could do in x number of minutes. our heavy-set teacher, ms. peters, wound up a clock, say, maybe twenty minutes, and then we'd turn over our worksheets and have at it. i liked it, i don't know why. i was good at it. sometimes i'd come in first place. maybe i liked it because it made me feel like a robot. i wasn't a lonely kid, just a calculator.

with each new year, the math got harder, but still manageable. there were more worksheets, more quizzes, textbooks and sharpened number two pencils. i'd get so into the zone that when i erased, i'd take half a page with me. i'd cringe whenever the eraser got too far down to the metal rim. the sound, the sensation of a metal rim going up against paper - well, you might as well have split my head open with a samurai sword. there was something beautiful about it, though, this pointless task we kept doing that involved money, percentages, fractions, the whole world.

i didn't know what the point was, and i was too stupid to ask such questions. not until junior high did someone actually ask, "are we ever gonna use this in the real world?" our teacher probably mentioned something about balancing your checkbook, or figuring out how much money you can make in a high-interest savings account. money, always the incentive. oh, but don't forget about jesus. the tests continued, and no one questioned it anymore. everyone just wanted a 100%, or at least, to do better than the idiot sitting next to him.

math was just something you did in life. you would take a shit, go to recess, put numbers together, get picked up by your dad, kiss your mom, and go to bed. i didn't question anything, and as an adult, i regret this. i'd probably be better off if someone had just told me, at age 8, that hey, one day you're gonna turn 27 and you might decide the path you've chosen in life is the wrong one, or else just too boring, so you'd better learn some other things.

by eighth grade i was sick of it. there was a handful of us that were sick of it, too. mrs. clark said, you guys are too advanced for the math i'm going to be teaching this year (great school, huh?), so i'm gonna give you the option to start algebra on your own. of course i said yes. i wanted to feel superior to the rest of the class. i wanted to feel like i was special, like i was smart and deserved more than what everyone else got. i did an independent algebra course when i was in eighth grade (great school, huh?), and i failed. i remember getting partnered up with joseph, and together, we scored the lowest on the final exam. 67%. i was mortified. my perfect report card would be ruined, and for the first time ever, i'd see a big fat "d" staring back at me.

but that didn't happen. mrs. clark must've realized, oops, i didn't teach them any algebra! i just gave them a book! and poof, see how fast that "d" became an "a." some fucking school, huh? the following year, i went off to jesuit high school, and of course, they saw my shining "a" in algebra, and they said, well, you're obviously too smart to take algebra again, and then they plopped me in accelerated geometry. on one of the first days of class, i forgot my homework in my locker, but my teacher said i couldn't get it. i'd just have to take the zero. because that's how college professors rolled. having been to college, i can now say that mr. moulton is a fucking idiot.

i got my first c in geometry xl that year. worse yet, they passed me onto the next course, algebra 2. i still hadn't received a full course of algebra, you know, the foundation of all higher math courses. not that it's that important or anything. needless to say, i sucked at math. by the time i reached pre-calculus, it might as well have been a foreign language. the week's homework wasn't due until friday, so every friday before the deadline, i copied someone else's homework. i dug myself a hole deeper and deeper by the week. he must've known i was cheating. after all, how'd i do so well on the homework, but fail every quiz, every test? he was a smart guy, so why didn't the assface say anything? why'd he pass me with a c rather than fail me, the way i deserved to fail?

that's the problem, i think, with schooling. not that so many kids are failing, but that they keep getting passed along. when an employee shows up late, steals money from the register, sexually harasses other coworkers, the employer fires him. the employee fails. the employer doesn't write a glowing recommendation for this idiot. so, why do teachers keep doing it? who knows? maybe they have to. i'm sure mrs. clark, mr. moulton, and mr. zielke didn't want to have to deal with my ass for another year. my failure reflected their own.

i wasn't a calculator anymore. just a lonely fucking kid.
intervention! intervention!

what would me at twenty say to me now? he'd probably sit down on the couch, too, and watch a little bit of the bachelor, but he wouldn't enjoy it. he'd silently judge. he'd analyze it, the show itself, and the audience it appealed to. what makes people watch this crap? what makes people watch tv at all? such a passive activity, it's downright harmful. he'd look over and think, this guy is hopeless. he's not even alive anymore. i wish he'd read a book, enrich his mind. i wish he'd go out, try to make friends, take up an activity, stop being so afraid of life.

you should've seen this kid, this twenty-year-old know-it-all. his friends would get in little tiffs, and he'd hold interventions for them. they wouldn't even know what hit them. one of them, a girl, would just be all alone in her dorm room, spending some quality time with a good book, and all of a sudden, it was intervention! intervention! he'd show up with the other party, the quarrelsome girl, and he'd sit them down and make them talk. like he was a certificated relationship counselor. the blind leading the blind.

motherfucker had hope, i'll give him that. don't even know where it came from, some crazy obama-type hope, real jedi shit. he was just an undergrad, but he thought he was gonna be the next che. dumb nig didn't even have the sense to realize that che would eat pieces of shit like him for breakfast. he was always gonna live outside his comfort zone, and he was gonna help others do the same. no time for bullshit, life was too short. i'm twenty, he thought, if i live to a hundred, a fifth of my life is over. i'd better change the world, or die trying.

watch him now, watching the present version of himself. now here's the exact opposite. i'll never be like this guy. look at this shoegazing, hands-in-pockets scrub. his best friends are just words on a computer screen. he has a credit card, for fuck's sake. he buys things as a solution to cabin fever. poor kid's lost it, though what a perfect place for him to be: seattle. like the cartoon rain cloud perpetually hanging over his head. suck it up, foolage! shit ain't so bad. what you're doing now isn't forever. unless you happen to die soon.

what would he be doing now? that smartass prick who believed himself superior to all because professors praised him for reading books they told him to read. for writing papers they told him to write. for thinking for himself (did he ever, really, though?). eventually, he'd probably also learn to turn off the nonsense. fuck the interventions, the idealism, the hope, and all that other childish bullshit.

just choose tenley, goddamnit.
stupid look on my face.

friday morning, all alone in the office. lucie came in. "i have an appointment with erin," she said. i called erin. "hello, this is erin." "hey erin, your ten o'clock his here." "okay, thanks. i'll be out in just a minute." i turned back to lucie. "she'll be out in just a minute." "thanks." and lucie sat down. lucie's phone rings. "hello?" i am reading the 6 baffling choices every horror franchise must make on cracked.com. suddenly, i hear lucie make a strange noise. it's almost like laughter, so i ignore it. i lean over in my chair, and i see lucie crying. she's sobbing, and it's frantic. even though i know nothing about her, i immediately think her boyfriend has broken up with her. what else do young people cry about? but before she says it, it hits me. someone has died. she's barely able to get the words out. she looks at me for a second, almost as though she's afraid to speak, as though saying the words out loud will make the awful thing a reality. "my grandma just died."

i can't make a sad face, frown, or even look anything close to sympathetic. for this, i hate myself. it's early in the morning, and my brain starts to work. there's an answer to this. i know this one. "i'm sorry." she gets up, wiping tears from her face. "i have to go." she leaves abruptly. i feel light, strange, even though this news doesn't have anything to do with me at all. stephanie comes out of her office. "is everything okay? i thought i heard crying." "a student's grandma just died." died isn't the right word. i know i wasn't supposed to say "died." stephanie relays the information to erin, and she uses the correct term: "passed away."

for the rest of the morning, i go over what this is supposed to mean. all of my grandparents are already long gone, the last one having passed away in 2002. i thought about how most old people seem to die in the months right after christmas. i wonder why that is. i thought about this girl getting the call in the one-minute window that she and i are alone. she could've gotten it one minute early, and she never would've shown up to the office at all. she could've gotten it one minute late, in which case, she wouldn't have heard the news until after the mock interview with erin. there was literally one or two minutes for her to receive that call, and if there is a god, or a thing called destiny, then it was my obligation to console her. but she'll probably remember that moment (i remember hearing about my own grandma: bellarmine dorm room, alone, sunny february morning) forever, and all that's there is my stupid face and a seemingly insincere "i'm sorry."

mbk helped me put it out of my head. she sent me an apologetic email about how she was afraid she had stepped over the line and upset me in some vague way. she said that she noticed i have been "upset" and "frustrated" this past week, and she wondered if it had anything to do with her. i set things right and told her she hadn't done anything, and that i wasn't upset. frustrated, maybe. lost and alone, sure. but not upset, and certainly not at her. she felt that we should get lunch, and so that's what we did. we went to ginger lime, and i ordered the peanut chicken.

during salad, she told me she had a piece of gossip that she wasn't sure what she should do with. i really didn't want to hear about it, as i'm not the best secret-keeper of all time, and i don't have much of a p-p-p-poker face. hell, i can't even fake sympathy. she kept building it up, though. she said things like "i'm not even sure i should tell you," and "i really don't know what i'm supposed to do with this," and "i heard it's gonna go public soon, and everybody is gonna hear about it, so i might as well tell you anyway." it went a little something like this:

so, this professor. i can't say any names, but i'll tell you it's somebody i've had difficult with in the past (i knew whom she was referring to immediately). well, apparently, he likes going out to dinners with students - and that's not so weird, you know? but i mean, one-on-one, a man and a woman (isn't that you and me right now?)...there are certain implications. so, anyway, after dinner, he invites her to go back to his place, and so the two of them are hanging out. and i guess this professor has a massage room with, like, a massage table and everything, and he offered to give her a massage. and he told her, "why don't you take off your shirt and underwear, er, bra?" at that point, she flipped out, and said she had to go.

this happened last summer. the student went to the dean of students and reported the incident. the dean of students promised that they would take action, but it's now seven, eight months later, and nothing has happened. the student ended up transferring to a law school in san diego, or southwestern, or some place that, according to mbk, isn't even ranked. the student was an asian student, a stereotypically meek woman who, again, according to mbk, most likely wouldn't have reported any incident of harassment. the kind of woman who just keeps quiet about things and hopes that silence will just make her problems go away.

i didn't know what to do with the information, either. so i put it in my blog. "do you have a blog?" mbk asked me. i hesitated. "uhh, yeah." "don't worry," she said, "i don't even know what blogs are." she seemed genuinely uninterested, and it put me at ease. "katie said she read your blog," she said. "yes," i said, "she has one, too." "do you keep in touch with her?" "not really." i got to thinking about how i don't keep in touch very well with anyone, and how, other than seeing coworkers and gym regulars, i've spent the entire last two weeks by myself. i fool myself into thinking that the isolation will lead to some great insight about myself, or else give me some direction about my future and where i'd like to go. but the only conclusion i've come to thus far is that it kind of sucks being by yourself.

i did some other small tasks for the rest of the afternoon. by the end of the day, i was ready for the day to be over. the cpd director walked past my desk. "oh, hey. just so you know, kayla just put in her notice today." was this a joke? she just started four months ago. your grandma's not really dead, is she? "yeah, two weeks notice. she just got her dream job at real one." real one. i'd heard of them. some web-based company that's responsible for audio/video stuff, right? real one. dream job. those are the phrases that stuck out. why, at 22 years old, fresh out of college, and in her first real job for only four months, did she get to have her dream job? why, at 27, in my first real job for nearly two years, did i not even have a clue what my dream job would be?

i went to the connolly center to go run on the treadmill for half an hour. it's my new routine, like the radiohead song, "fitter happier." regular exercise at the gym three days a week. i listened to "run this town," and the usual chorus stuck out more than ever: life's a game/but it's not fair/i break the rules/so i don't care. the song makes me think about how it would feel to be somebody important. a high-roller, a senator or even a gangster. and then it reminds me that i ain't shit, and probably never will be shit. and i don't know if i've been able to fully accept that yet.

last of all, my bus was late. i stood in the cold rain in my gym shorts for half an hour, listening to clarity. and then it came to me (clarity always makes me think about these life-changing decisions). i'd quit my job in the summer, and i'd just use all the money i've saved so far to go travel. i'd start a new blog (hopefully one less depressing than this) to chronicle my adventures, and i'd use couchsurfing, hostelworld, craigslist, and reddit help me along the way. i'd ride trains and buses and have adventures. wake up in the morning, and all that's there is a suitcase. exhilarating.

even if it doesn't happen, it at least gave me a glimmer of hope, if only for the night. i mean, you should've seen the stupid look on my face.
life is fucking fragile.

so, it was over then. there was nothing left to do but go to work. each day he showed up with his tie and badge, and he clocked in. he'd bring his lunch with him, or days when he'd forget to bring one, he'd sit alone at sam's hof brau, order himself a pastrami sandwich and a $2 beer. he'd chat with the waitress, and sometimes watch whatever was on. usually, it was court cases or trashy talk shows. he had no interest in the newspaper. what'd the sac bee have to say, anyway? nothing but bad news this, war that, the economy sucks, etc.

after lunch, he'd go back to his office feeling kinda buzzed. he'd look at his fellow employees, mostly younger white fools, and he'd think about what they came home to. what did their lives look like outside that at&t branch? who were they? what were they most passionate about? he'd try talking to the pretty girls he worked with, but they never seemed to return his interest. he felt alone, unlovable, sometimes downright despised.

on the weekends, he'd sit in the garage with his brothers and friends of the family. if he was really feeling up to it, he'd go see a movie, or else go to a bar. he'd hit on women all the time, but he'd never get lucky. he'd call out to girls in other cars, but they would just laugh at the old drunken man. this made him feel frustrated. one time, he was at a club, and he got more drunk than usual. a woman refused his advances, and he grabbed her by the wrist. she screamed, and security had to escort him out. he said, okay, okay, it's okay, as two bodybuilders ushered him out into the cold night.

pretty soon, he just gave up. he no longer bothered with the pierre cardin ties or the van heusen shirts. he'd come home and just put on sweatpants. he'd wear a college football sweatshirt from mervyns one of his nephews had given him for christmas, and it became his uniform. there was no longer any point in going out, no reason to bother getting dressed up. it was true that, in life, he'd miss every shot he didn't take, but the way he saw it, god didn't even let him play. he was and would always be nothing more than a bench-warmer.

he decided that he liked mervyns quite a bit. their clothes were cheap, and they were comfortable. he signed up for a credit card, and he bought everyone mervyns gift cards each christmas. $25 each, nothing to sneeze at. even at christmas, he'd wear a sweatshirt, sweatpants, and a football hat, the bill flat and straight. if it were up to him, he'd sleep through christmas. the only good parts were the food and drinking. gone were those childhood holidays, where he and his siblings would dress up, visit all their neighbors. nothing was like that anymore. nothing.

as usual, he went to work on the morning of january 27, 1992. he went to the breakroom and poured himself a cup of coffee. something didn't feel right. he could sense something was wrong, like some organ in his body had been rearranged. the lights in the office looked strange, uneven. how was your weekend, someone asked. good, good, he answered, though not really thinking about it. yours? his coworker's answer was distant. she said something but she might as well have been whispering from across the ocean. are you okay? yeah, fine, he said. he went back to his desk. he stared at the computer screen, a spreadsheet, when the phone rang.

he picked up. hello, the voice said softly, calmly. hello, he answered. patay na si tatay. he didn't say anything for a long time. suddenly, everything made sense again. the lights went back to normal, the organs in his body were all in their right places. asan na sha? sa ospital. he hung up the phone, loosened his tie. slowly, he walked over to his supervisor's office. the old white man was scribbling something down on a legal pad. i have to go, he said. the old man looked up. family emergency, he said. everything okay? i'm not sure, he said. my father might be sick, err, is ill. okay, the old man said. just let me know.

he got into his mr-2, and he drove down watt avenue. other people were in their cars, driving to work, driving home, driving to mcdonald's, driving to the mall, driving to golf courses and airports and petsmart and toys 'r us and the post office. he envied them. those lucky fuckers living their normal boring lives and not having to deal with this shit right now. he wanted badly to roll down his window and yell at them, all those sleepwalking baby idiots. life is fucking fragile! wake up, you stupid silly pieces of shit!

by the time he got home, everyone was already there, even the kids. it was like they had never left. it was like they'd been waiting there for him forever.
colts vs. saints.

acne-faced white girl was high as shit. don't know why i sat down next to her, but i did. "that's just cold air!" she screamed at the bus driver. "can you turn on the heat? i can yell louder if you want!" she and some blacks were bustin' up. black kid to my left yelled, "i'm black! i'm used to tropical climate." he cracked up, and so did white girl. i stared into the brief wondrous life of oscar wao. this was the problem with living in a melting pot. i was a filipino reading a dominican book, sitting next to a blazed-as-fuck white girl, and a black kid to my left. none of it had any meaning.

"you know whats great about living here?" my uncle said. we were at a mall, greenbelt 5, just walking around. it was my birthday. "there's no blacks, no whites, no mexicans..." i braced myself for some sort of underhanded racist comment, but then i realized, i didn't give a shit anymore. goodbye, idealism. so long, liberal values. farewell, equal rights and social justice and volunteering and making an effort to try and be a good guy and make the world a better place. where did any of that shit get you anyway? "you can say whatever you want, and it don't matter," my uncle said. but you don't need to be an expat to do that. you can just blog.

white boy was dressed like a broke joker, and he stopped at the seat in front of mine. he overheard an older black woman talking on her cell phone. "oh, you know the score?" "no," she said, "just that the saints won." high-as-shit white girl interrupted. "last i heard it was, like, 30-17. it was like n.o. whoever was up ahead. i though that stood for new orleans. it was, like, new orleans versus louisiana, right?" "uhh," white boy said, "it was indiana versus new orleans." "yeah," white girl said, "new orleans won then."

he got back to the black woman. this guy was mad corny, you should've seen him: glasses, scrubby ass beard, grey camouflage pants, oversized red sweater. mad fucking corny, the real fucking deal. and here he was trying to holler at some old black lady. "where you headed to tonight." "going to my aunt's house." "oh, f'real?" "yeah, f'real," she said. black kid next to me was grinning like a motherfucker. white chick next to me butted in. "i heard the score from my boyfriend," she said. "he's working late, and he told me the score."

whte boy must've noticed she was high. it was hard not to. "so, you got any on you?" he asked. "not on me. got some in my room. i don't have the money on me, either." so high her sentences couldn't even follow each other. "where you get it?" "mostly from the eastlake kids. it's hard to find good chronic up here." chronic. couldn't believe she fucking said it. what a fucking noob. "is it good?" "it's decent," she said. out of nowhere, a big black woman said, "excuse me" to white boy. he moved over a little. "you gotta move over more than that, son, you see my size? i can't fit through there." he walked up to the middle section.

white boy took a seat at the back, and we didn't hear from him again. white girl adjusted her sweater and bumped my side. "sorry," she said. i looked into her red fucked-up eyes, and i said, "it's okay." i wished then that i had something to tell her about, something like jesus and salvation, some glimmer of hope to help her through whatever daily shit she had to deal with. must've been some real shit to get fucked up as she was on a fucking sunday night. i didn't bother, though. even if i reached down, deep inside, there would have been nothing.

only my stop. and i broke the fuck out.
moments like these.

they had a party for him. someone ordered a roasted pig, lichon, and there was rice a plenty, duck, clam soup, halaan, shrimp and bbq on a stick. the best bbq on a stick. there was a cake from baskin-robbins and lots of 7-up and coca-cola. he sat at the end of the table, and then someone dimmed the lights. another person lit the candles, and he stared at the cake, looked up at the smiling faces. he was supposed to make a wish, but he never knew what to wish for. should he wish for something selfish, like love or a raise, or something general and selfless, like an end to hunger or world peace? he shut his eyes just for a moment, and the camera flashes. he doesn't wish for anything. he just blows the candles out.

his niece starts plucking candles out of the cake. she plops them out of the frosting like loose flowers, and she sucks on the ends. she does this, one after the other, and he watches her sucking the sugar off each stick, each of which resembles an entire year he's lived. not every one is memorable. it's mostly a blur of birthdays and christmases and fourth of julys. there's the brown crunchy leaves of autumn, winter's fog, sun breaking through the clouds in spring, and summer's endless heat. it's one after the other, carefully being sucked away from him. his niece licks her lips.

he goes back to watching the game. he's still quite full from having eaten all day, but he takes a piece of cake anyway. there's always room for cake. it's ice cream cake, mint chocolate chip, and it's delicious. he scoops up the bread and ice cream with a white plastic spoon, and he savors each bite. the niners are playing the raiders. he wants the niners to win. two of his brothers and a brother-in-law are also watching the game. no one has placed any bets, though, so they are only mildly interested. the children are in the other room, hooting and hollering over a game of monopoly.

it's sunday, and he is dreading the end of the weekend. in the morning, he will turn off his alarm clock, and he will force himself to get up out of bed. he's still eating his cake, as he thinks this over. after the alarm wakes him, he will lie in bed for a few moments, and everything will become perfectly clear to him. he is awake. he is alive. it is monday morning. he is living in america, in california, in sacramento, in a house located on rosemont drive. he has a job. he has to sit up, put his feet on the carpeted floor, and he has to walk to the bathroom to take a shower. it will be a monday morning, and he will be in a bad mood, probably all day.

but for now, it's still sunday, and there's still sun out. it is day time, and he doesn't have to be at work, so life is beautiful, a real miracle. his family is all around him, and it is a good thing to have one's family around. the niners are ahead. the clock is ticking, and he wishes for a second that he could just stop time. just stop that stupid golden clock, and just freeze everything. the children's laughter, the sun poking through the curtains and reflecting on the carpet, his brother sipping a bud, the domestic helper clearing a table, the other washing a dish, his mother blowing her nose, his sister throwing her head back in laughter, the other on the phone. he freezes this moment, and he looks all around him. this is life happening all around him. this is what happiness is. he puts up with a full week of nonsense for moments just like this one.

of course he cannot freeze time. the niners lose. one by one, the others go home. he says goodbye to them, watches the children load themselves into the backseat, and he tells his brothers, okay, i'll see you next week. they shake hands the way gentlemen do. alright, boys, take care. have a good night. everyone takes home tupperware filled with leftovers. it's nine p.m. and it's dark out. there are only a few more months until christmas, and that will be nice. once everyone is gone, it's just him and the other relatives who live at the house.

he locks the front door, closes the garage, and then he stands at the doorway of his empty bedroom. i hope my wish comes true, he thinks.
everybody's working for the weekend.

he had himself a buddy. this tiny, skinny motherfucker named ernie. and ernie thought he was all that because he had himself a hot-as-tits girlfriend and a motorcycle. ernie had himself a loud ass motorcycle, and he roared that thing all over rosemont. he was dark as his harley, leathery as his black-ass bomber jacket. his girlfriend may or may not have been all that, but she dressed like a hoochie and wore lots of makeup, so that was all good in everyone's book. she just chewed bubble gum and wrapped her curly strands of hair around her finger.

ernie didn't even take his lady out very much. he'd just bring her over to the house to show her off, and while she watched madonna and belinda carlisle on the tv, ernie'd be chilling in the garage with his homies, the tans, and they'd all be drinking beers and roasting oysters on the mini barbecue pit. life was sweet in america, wasn't it, boys? the children, his nephews and nieces, they'd be jumping on the borders of the lawn, carefully stepping from one octagon slab of cement to the next, and anything less meant falling into the lava.

he talked about his job to ernie, to his brothers. walang gumagawa, he said. he was bored as shit at work, but when he wasn't bored, he was stressed as balls. and what's worse, he hadn't gotten laid since she'd left him. uwi natayo, ernie said, joking. we'll go back to the homeland where love is cheap and everywhere. there, he reminded him, you can't walk two blocks without falling knee deep into some peck-peck. it's that simple, pare.

ernie would crack open an oyster with a silver butter knife, then soak it in vinegar and garlic powder. he'd do one after the other, and then he'd toss the shells into a brown paper bag. he'd wash 'em down with heinekens and then he'd say to one of the brothers, what's the matter, you're not drinking? and that brother would rub his belly and say that oysters and beer didn't settle so well with him. ernie would just shake his head, and that brother would give in. okay, beer me.

they sat on lawn chairs and did this for hours. nothing in the new world was interesting - what was there to say about at&t, parochial schools, car payments, white neighbors and lucky's? - so they'd reminisce. they'd reminisce the hell out of each other. one brother would tell a story, and then the other brother would try to top it, usually unsuccessfully. and it'd go something like this.

when we were young, we didn't have any money. lolo amang kept us in check, and would barely give us a dime even if we were barefoot and starving. i did a paper route with dennis just to get some extra cash on the side. so, on the weekends, we'd go to the cinema to watch a western, john wayne, but i'd have to sit real close to the screen. dennis was so angry. he'd say, there are so many open seats! why do we have to sit so goddang close? i didn't know it was because my eyesight was bad, so i just told him i liked to sit up close. so, the two of us would be in the first, second row, and we'd have to strain our necks to see the giant wall of movie in front of us!

everybody laughed at this, at the thought of these two broke ass filipino boys struggling so much just to see a stupid cowboy movie. ernie found it especially hilarious, and he'd laugh harder than anyone. it was the kind of laugh that made you suspicious of a person, the kind of thigh-slapping, stomach-holding laugh that real people, normal people just didn't do. and it would last longer than the others', too. the kind of tear-inducing laugh that you'd think would never end. and then, when it finally does end, there are still some chuckles, little after-snorts.

at that point, hot stuff babycakes would come into the garage and say, what's so funny? ernie would shake his head, nothing babe. just talking about the past. she'd break open a corona, and sit on his recently-slapped thigh, but still mindful of the fact that a flimsy yellow and white lawn chair wouldn't realistically support the both of them. the entrance of the female drastically changed the mood, and they wouldn't reminisce so much anymore. girls didn't want to hear that shit. that was all men talk. who knew what these broads wanted to hear? something about shrimp chips and nail polish, probably.

it would get really late, and by then, all the children had gone home, gone to bed. the men would still be up, though. they'd talk late into the night because that's what filipinos did. those weekends in the garage were what they had to look forward to. all the rest of the week was just hanging around bullshit white people who'd spit in their faces and fuck their wives, their sisters, and their daughters, given the opportunity. these bullshit white people. they already had the world, but they still wanted more. it was a week full of neckties and comedies on nbc, dramas on cbs, the lonesome dreary drive to work, the quiet house afterward.

but those weekends, swear to god. bring ernie around, gather up some juicy oysters, and get that party fucking started.
wouldn't you agree?
baby you and me.

he'd met a girl. he wasn't quite sure how he did it, but he did it. he just kept going to bars and talking to women, pretty ones and not-so-pretty ones, until finally, one of them finally just gave in. she was his height, a filipina, and she fell somewhere in between pretty and not-so-pretty. when she found out he lived with his parents, it didn't bother her. that was the filipino way. he invited her to the movies, to the discotheque. they'd go to the mall, to the movies, to the red lobster on a friday night. he'd take her back to his place, and they'd fall asleep on his waterbed while watching pay-per-view.

he was all giddy because it was first love. everything felt good - the way she'd run her fingernails up his arm, the way he'd bury his nose in the back of her head. in the beginning, every moment was a sensuous overload. there'd be moments where he'd feel his brain about to explode. they'd go back to her apartment near cal expo, and they'd play a few games of mancala over beers. she liked heinekens, and he liked coors. they'd talk about work and their families. she'd make chicken for dinner, and he'd watch monday night football.

each day, she earned his trust more and more. before he knew it, she had racked up $4,000 on his credit card. he knew she was good for it, though. she loved him, after all. his brother and his mother told him to "watch out" for that girl, but he didn't listen. he was making money then. mike's food store was long gone, and he'd recently been hired at a cutting-edge telephone company, at&t. he had full health and dental coverage, an i.r.a., money saved. during those times, he shone in his shoes and in his wallet.

his bank account grew, and so did his love for material things. it was the first time in his life he had money. he didn't have to pay rent or buy groceries, so he'd splurge on beer, pierre cardin ties, florsheim shoes, tissot watches. he had so many van heusen button-downs and members only jackets that he had to buy a portable closet. even though his spending was out of control, he still had more to burn, so he bought himself a car, a nice little two-door mr2. it was stick, and it was badass, the ultimate bachelormobile.

he didn't care so much about music anymore. he just left the soft rock station on all the time, mix 96 fm. he liked peter gabriel and genesis. he really loved phil collins, so he bought the cassette for no jacket required. so there he was, listening to "a groovy kind of love," wearing his members only jacket, arm around his best girl, and they'd go see cocktail at the century cinema. she'd ask him about his day, but he'd have nothing to say about it. work was getting kind of stressful, actually.

the stress was getting to him, so it'd be a beer or two after work to help unwind. then the habit grew to three or four, and so on. he'd started losing his hair then, too. his hair was going, and work sucked, but at least he had money, an mr2, a waterbed and pay-per-view, and at least he had love. he didn't want to look like a balding old man, so he got a toupee. she came with him to pick one out, and since she didn't have any taste, she said it looked good on him. he believed her, and so he wore that silly little hat everywhere he went.

eventually, things between she and him didn't work out. she had changed, or he had changed - someone had changed - and it was all over. all he had left to remember her by was a $10,000 credit card debt, a stupid wig, and some phil collins tunes. he said "good riddance" to her, to them, as she, too, had gotten older, gained weight, and dipped well into the not-so-pretty zone.

there were, after all, prettier and younger women to chase, even if he was just a balding old fool. he had his whole life ahead of him.
tan clan.

he came to california when he was just a kid. thirteen, fourteen, couldn't have been much older than that. i see him now; he's standing in line with his mother at the bank, and he's never seen so many different looking people in his life. whites, asians, blacks, latinos - it's a weird place, and it takes him a while to get used to it. they talk differently, too. they speak in english, but it's not the kind of english he learned in school. it sounds different. it sounds funny. and the women dress nice. they all wear long dresses and pearl earrings, and have shiny handbags. he is terrified of this place, but he is also amazed.

he knows he's there for good now. it's san francisco, and it's much colder than what he was used to. all his brothers and sisters are with him, and they all live together in a small house on judah street. he goes to school, and he finds it difficult to communicate with the other students. the teacher tells him that he's not a very good student, that he needs to try harder. he feels like he's trying, but it's still not good enough. the teacher is a fat, mean old white lady, and she carries a ruler around, threatening to hit her kids with it, though she never does.

he comes home and he plays marbles with his brothers, and some other neighborhood boys. they play cards, and they all go to a neighbor's house to watch the ed sullivan show. he listens to the radio, and his favorites are the supremes, herman's hermits, the beatles, and sly and the family stone. he thinks it's cool to be black, and he tries to grow his hair out so he can have a fro, but it doesn't work. it looks awful, and he cuts it again.

he thinks about white girls and what it might be like to sleep with one. he sees playboy on the high shelves in convenience stores, and he thinks that when he gets older, he will buy an issue every month. he fantasizes about other teachers in the school, a friend of the family, the twin girls who play tennis in the park, girls in magazines, girls on tv, charlie's angels, jackie o., barbara benton. he goes to the school dances, but he isn't very good at socializing.

soon, his parents announce that they're moving to sacramento. he packs everything up, and he's a little sad to leave the house, but not as sad as when he left his home. everything he owns fits in one large box, one suitcase, and one duffel bag. he doesn't know where sacramento is - he'd never even heard of it - so he was surprised when they only drove for two hours. the drive was spectacular, though. he sat in the back of a pickup truck with his brothers, and he loved the cool summer air blowing all around him.

the way i see it, they arrive just as the sun is setting. the city hasn't been developed that much, and there isn't traffic or suburban sprawl everywhere. it's mostly grass and farmland and green trees everywhere. he's told not to unpack everything just yet because they'll probably move again, so he just unpacks what he needs: clothes, mostly, and his radio. he lies in bed with his hands under his head, and he stares at the ceiling, all the while thinking that life is a crazy adventure, and where will it take him next.

he's told that there will be no more school, that he's a grown up now, and he's gotta work. he paints houses with his brothers, and they earn some cash. pretty soon, the family has enough money saved up to buy a house on rosemont drive. they all move in, and he's told that he can finally unpack, that this is home. this is the place he can finally call home again. he and his brothers and sisters go out and celebrate their new house. they go to a discotheque in old sacramento, and they drink and dance like there's no tomorrow.

the family opens a convenience store on capitol ave. in downtown sacramento. it's named after one of the brothers, and it's called mike's food store. by then, he's old enough to look at the playboy magazines the store receives, but he doesn't buy one every month like he used to think he would. he stands behind the counter and sells the newspaper to old men in tweed jackets, cigarettes and liquor to hippies, twinkies and lollipops to children. he's proud of the store, and running it is easy enough.

this was america, the 1970s, and there he was, selling coca-cola to a customer.
pull out that still-beating heart.

it's probably just in my head, but i've been feeling my chest tighten up lately. it's like i can feel the years of cheese and mayo building up in my arteries over the years. i feel it tighten, or whatever the feeling is, and then i think about an ultimate cheeseburger from jack in the box. how i used to eat one once a week, tuesday nights, while watching buffy the vampire slayer. i'd order a large coke and onion rings, and if i was really daring, i'd get a medium oreo shake to chase it down.

so i convinced myself that to ward off heart disease, i should go to the gym. the last time i went to the gym was in the philippines. the century plaza hotel had a gym, so i'd go there as often as i could, and i'd run on the treadmill for twenty minutes or so. sometimes, i'd use the other machine where i'd push forward and it was like lifting weights. i wouldn't do this very much because my arms are weak. i have no upper body strength.

so yesterday, i went to the connolly center. i was hesitant to go, as the thought of being surrounded by younger, fitter undergrads didn't appeal to me. it was a process. i left my shit at work, put my pants over my gym shorts (for some reason this reminded me again of high school), and i walked over there. on the way over, kayla told me about her obsession with lost.

i changed in the bathroom, and there were two other guys in there also changing. it wasn't really a locker room, so that was kind of weird. i went to the weight room, and it was packed. i learned later that mondays are always busy, and by friday, there's hardly anyone there. there was one treadmill open, and i hopped on. i saw a guy behind me look disappointed that i took the last one. i listened to wale's "mirror," and i jogged at 6 mph. there were five or six bouncing ponytails to my left, all of them running much faster than i ran.

i got warm and looked at my feet. behind me, some girls were spinning. there were also many dudes lifting weights, many women using the multiple stairmasters. on the screens, there was college ball and news. i put one foot in front of the other and thought about my heart beating. it's steady all day and then it goes up. will i have heart disease? am i gonna die? is my heart just one day gonna decide, eh, that's enough of this.

i wonder if it could think, what it would be thinking now. there's the word heartbreak, but i don't think it's a real thing. it's just an unfounded metaphor. how does your heart actually break? someone would have to rip it out mayan-style, and take a hammer to it. i heard about that procedure in art history with mr. bischoff. the mayans would actually have to cut open the stomach and reach up through the rib cage to pull out the sacrifice's still-beating heart. it made sense, and then i thought about how kano's fatality in mortal kombat, and that scene from indiana jones were bullshit. the mayans - now there's a people who really knew how to break your fucking heart.

bunch of cold-hearted bitches those mayans were.