hello, do you want to partner up?

i went back to school today. i wanted to audit a math class because my math skills are horrible. i figured it would be a good idea to take a math class in case i ever get around to taking the gmat or the gre. also, i've been volunteering at the boys and girls club and at the public library, and sometimes, the kids have math assignments, and i don't know what the hell i'm doing. it's pretty pathetic, actually. one of the kids just had a worksheet on slopes, and i had no idea what to tell him. luckily, he didn't seem to mind. maybe he understood that math wasn't really necessary for real life, unless you get a liberal arts degree and realize, too late, that you want to do something else.

so, i signed up for this math class, and let me tell you, it was a hassle just to get it done. first, i had to re-enroll as a non-matriculated student - whatever the hell that means - and then i had to register for the class. then i had to go to human resources, fill out the proper paperwork, then get my supervisor's approval to take the class. writing it out now, it doesn't seem like such a big hassle, but it did at the time. all that work just to learn about numbers.

anyway, whatever. i did it. i set off for my first real class in almost five years. all eyes were on me when i entered piggott 308. i guess that i am old enough to be the professor. the class was predominantly female, and i sat by myself. the professor entered, a woman probably in her mid to late thirties, and she wore a hideous sweater. she set her bag down with purpose, and then she got straight to roll call. no hello, no how's everybody doing, none of that shit. just got right to it.

she went over the syllabus, and then she asked if anyone had any questions. no one said anything. after a long awkward pause of no questions, she told us to pair up. there were four girls behind me, so that wasn't gonna work. i moved over down a few tables. a girl with long brown hair looked up me. "you wanna partner up?" she asked. i thought it was funny the way she said it. almost like a southerner, a cowgirl. "sure," i said.

we got some worksheet with a bunch of dates and prices on it. professor wrote some questions on the board like: what was the price of a mcdonald's hamburger in 1989? what do you think the price of a hamburger will be in 2015? stephanie and i did our best to estimate costs and figure shit out. prices fluctuated throughout the years, and it was based on real data. i didn't know why it was so cheap one year and then so expensive the next. maybe it had to do with e. coli scares, inflation, recession, etc.

i started talking to stephanie. i asked what her major was. she said she didn't have one yet, and that she didn't know what she wanted to do. i wanted to tell her that i've been out of college for five years and that i still didn't know what i wanted to do, but i kept that to myself. she asked me if i thought we were supposed to write directly on the worksheets, or if we were supposed to write on our own paper and turn that in. i said i didn't know, and that it probably didn't matter. i asked if she had bought the textbook yet, and she said that she hadn't, but that she would probably buy it from a friend of hers. a graphing calculator was also required for the course, and i asked if she knew how much one costs. she said she didn't know and that she was probably just going to use the one she used in high school.

i felt bad for stephanie. i felt bad for everyone who didn't want to be there, but had to. it was just so fucking stupid. the class cost $1,015; a used textbook: $110; and a required graphic calculator, probably another $100. these students didn't even have a choice. they were going to do two and a half months of some shit that most of them probably will never use in their entire lives. unless they become engineers or physicists or architects - and they won't, trust me - what do they give a shit about linear functions and equations? i thought about how this girl was probably nineteen, and she didn't know what she wanted to do with her life, so somebody was making her pay $1,015 for a course that is not relevant to her interests, a course that, if she fails, there will be consequences.

i dropped the class.
hello, what have you been up to lately?

so here's what i don't get. when i was in elementary school, my mom pushed me to excel. when report cards went out, she'd come pick me up, and she'd smile and give me the thumbs up sign. if i received high honors - a perfect straight a report card - i'd put my thumbs up, too. if not, i'd shake my head in defeat. either way, on the ride home, we'd stop at baskin-robbins. i was like a dog. do good and i get a sundae. do bad, and i still get a sundae. only difference was, in the latter instance, the sundae came with a flavorful topping of failure. my dad never even asked about my grades. my mom would tell him i got all a's, and he would crack his tired joke: what, no a plus?

when i got to high school, shit wasn't so easy anymore. i put in the same minimal effort, but the results were worse. much, much worse. my mom stopped harassing me about grades. when my first dismal report card came back, they asked me what was wrong. why wasn't i doing well? i was clearly a genius because i had done so well in st. ignatius, so why didn't my smarts transfer over to jesuit high? i dunno, i told them. i'll try harder next time. but i didn't try harder. i didn't give a shit. i just wanted to not exist.

i don't know why they allowed me to get away with what i did. why they didn't say anything when i didn't try to join any sports or clubs or even try to make any real friends. why did the encouragement and support stop? there were no more sundaes as rewards, and i spent everyday after school sleeping. my dad would leave for his night shift as a janitor, and my mom wouldn't come home from the hospital until later. i was left to my own devices for a good three hours every night. i spent a lot of time watching tv and chatting on the internet. i hated my life, but i didn't try to do anything about it. i didn't think about my future because i really couldn't envision one. i figured one day i'd go off to college, and then i'd...i don't know. do something.

i graduated college and my parents were proud of me. it was if all the sundaes had finally paid off. and nevermind that rough patch in high school. when i graduated from college, i didn't have a chance to enjoy it at all. fear had immediately settled in, and it overpowered any remote feelings of excitement or accomplishment. i thought about how i had done something that my dad had never done. it was a weird feeling. i knew he was proud of me, but i couldn't understand why. college was so fucking easy.

both my parents have recently retired, and i don't think they know what to do with themselves. my dad gives me little reports of what their weekends consist of. sometimes, it's a drive to the bay, where they'll eat duck in oakland and take a walk at golden gate park in san francisco. sometimes, they'll go to the flea or farmer's market. every weekend, they go to church. sometimes, they'll go to my aunt's house to have dinner. they'll watch the oscars, dancing with the stars, some random hallmark movie, some television show my mom checked out from the library. it almost feels like they have given up. i doubt this is what they dreamed of when they thought about retirement. maybe they just thought that one day they'd stop working and then...i don't know. do something.

i'm aware that i've hit the rough patch again. this time, though, i'm going to be wide awake for it. maybe it was reading all those comments on reddit about how, if you are alone and hate your life, you should work on bettering yourself. you should try to make yourself more interesting. and so, i started volunteering again. i started going to the gym. i started reading a lot again. i bought a plane ticket to new york. i donate monthly to the scholarship fund at the law school. i invite my coworkers out for happy hour. i play basketball with the dudes. i do this because i want to have something to say the next time somebody asks me, so, what have you been up to lately?

i don't know how long this rough patch is going to last. all i know is, if i believe, something good's gonna happen. or not. i suppose it doesn't really matter. believing is the only part that matters.
hello, are you going bowling tomorrow?

seriously, you should've seen the look on this bitch's face when i asked if i was at the right place. i said, "am i at the right place?" and she just looked at me and said, "i don't know." it was some rich blonde white girl, and i was at some house in south queen anne, and i didn't know where the shit i was. google maps and my iphone were zero help. anyway, this girl just looked at me like i was a piece of trash. it was a look that said, who the fuck is this asian nerd who doesn't know how to dress properly? it stung, but luckily, someone else came along, and she told me i was at the wrong place. i went back out into the street, and there was another group of white people with north face jackets heading towards where i had just come from. i asked if they were heading to marisa's place, but they just said no.

i finally figured out the place where i was supposed to go. i had been invited by a fellow volunteer to her wine party. normally, i'd say no to these types of things, as my social anxiety usually gets the best of me. but my friends pushed me, they said i should go. i thought about how, once in high school, i had stayed home on a friday night even though there was a school dance. i just didn't want to feel stupid and awkward and alone again, so i stayed home. it was a terrible feeling, knowing that all my friends were out doing god-knows-what, while i was home, on the computer.

so, i decided to go. i knew i wouldn't know anyone there, and it was a challenge. thank god for alcohol. thank god for wiz khalifa. marisa's apartment was an expensive one with a great view of south lake union. the apartment complex was all wooden doors, and it was quiet, and it reminded me of american psycho. i could hear voices coming from one of them, and i knew that i had arrived at the right place. what was i doing here, anyway? unlike the others in attendance, i wasn't white, and i didn't have a career at a multi-million dollar corporation. but these are hard times, and i have to say yes to everything.

i went directly to the kitchen, and the host, marisa's roommate, poured me a glass of wine. i gulped it down immediately. i was sweating. meeting people isn't easy. the yuppies networking. what would thom yorke think of me? i was a wreck. why was i sweating so damn much? was it because i had just gone to the gym two hours ago, or because i was wearing a v-neck sweater in a hot room, or because i was terribly anxious about meeting new people? i don't know, but i was sweating bullets. what was i doing here? i didn't know anybody. i met marisa one time, and i accepted her evite to her wine party? the fuck was i thinking?

i went into the living room, and there was a law student i had seen before. he recognized me immediately, and we shook hands. he was actually a student that my coworker, emily, hates for valid reasons. he comes across as very arrogant and pompous. but he was nice to me, something i can attribute to the fact that he didn't know anyone there, either. he told me about how he is going to graduate in december, how he wants to do immigration law, how he was in the air force at one point. meanwhile, i was noticing a lot of cute girls in the apartment, and why wasn't i talking to them, instead?

marisa came over, and she almost didn't recognize me. i waved, and then it all came together. i think. she gave me a hug and thanked me for coming. later, by her refrigerator, we talked. she told me she had just bought a horse. i told her i was tutoring some delinquents. she had on some furry shoes that were reversible, and we laughed about that. she asked if i was going bowling tomorrow, and i said i had nothing else to do, so why not? she said, okay then, i'll see you tomorrow. she gave me another hug and then i left.

i drove home, slightly buzzed from all the wine i had consumed. i thought about lou from hot tub time machine. how, a lot of the time, i feel just as fucked up and alienated as that character, but if you can have a good attitude about it, maybe even learn to just laugh at it, you'll be just fine.
hello, ball. ball!

coworker of mine, arliss, had been bugging me about playing noon ball ever since he saw me in the gym one night. "you play basketball?" he asked. "yeah," i said. "i mean, i try." he invited me to come play with him and some others, law students and professors. i told him i would, but i kept putting it off. i'd seen the people he balled with: some tall, some muscular, all physically fit. i knew that if i stepped out onto the court, i'd get squashed, embarrass myself, or somehow manage to injure myself.

he forgot about me yesterday. it was almost noon, and i saw him heading towards the stairs. "hey," i said, "are you heading to the gym?" it was a stupid question, as his gym bag, fleece sweatshirt and jogging pants were answer enough. "yeah," he said, "sorry, i forgot about you! meet me over there. it's the upstairs court." i told him okay, and then i went back to my desk. i stared at my ww2/star wars desktop, and i thought about whether or not i should actually do it. i could just sit here, i thought. i could just go somewhere and read. no! i have to do it!

i headed to the gym, and i changed in the locker room. i hadn't changed in a locker room since freshman year of high school. there was no one else changing in there, so it didn't feel weird. i went out onto the court, and there were nearly twenty people already shooting around. arliss pointed out who was good and who wasn't. he called someone the asian michael jordan, and he said that another guy wearing a canada shirt was probably the best player in the gym. i watched canada shoot for a little bit, and everything he threw up went in. he dribbled with purpose. his jump shot was impeccable, and every fluid motion of his ended with a swoosh.

by default, for the first game, i ended up guarding a law professor named mark. mark was definitely the oldest, slowest, and least fit player on the court. i was able to cut past him and shoot a layup, my only point for the entire lunch period. i ran up and down the court, and i realized then that i liked running more than anything. i liked the urgency of it, getting back on defense, the adrenaline, the rush of blood to the face, heart racing, palms sweating. running was a skill. if there was a wild dog with rabies chasing you, you'd better be able to run. simple as that. making a swoosh is nice, but really, what was the point of it?

after the third game on the other side of the court, our team lost, and we had to shoot threes to play. that i understand, and i like the logic of it. it wasn't my turn to shoot, and some little asian fuck must've thought i was going to, because he said, "ball. ball!" the little fuck yelled at me like i was stupid. like i was a dog. i knew that he just didn't want to screw up the rotation, but even so, right then, i could've killed him. he was just a stupid little asian with a flattop and a fade, and i didn't see why he had to bark at me that way. a regular person with a sense of decency would've said, "hey, my shot." when it was my turn to shoot, i tossed up a lazy air ball and decided i was done. the stupid kid had put me in a shit mood, and i walked away like a poor sport. like a baby.

i had worked up enough of a sweat that it warranted a shower. i stripped down completely nude and i got in, even though there were no walls and no privacy, and a butt-naked dude was lathering himself up nearby. by getting in, i felt i had reached some sort of closure, as this was an act i could never accomplish in high school. get a bunch of fourteen year old boys naked together, and you've got scarring for life. really, what were coaches thinking then?
hello, wanna hear a joke?

now that i've been working with kids again, it's only helped me realize that i definitely do not want to go into teaching. the thing is, i'm just as apathetic as they are. i'm a bad role model, and i think it's kind of funny. one kid, a freshman, asked me what i listen to. "uhh, i dunno," i said. "wiz khalifa?" he'd never heard of him, but he had his laptop on. "show me," he said. i typed in "wiz khalifa the thrill" into youtube. i forgot that some of the lyrics were: but you just wanna go out tonight and fuck someone famous. the personalized intro screen had something about "niggaz" and "bitches" on it. the kid laughed to himself.

the thing of it is, education is really just kind of a joke. see, i'm bored with my job, bored with my life, so i decided to audit a math class. the same math class i took as an undergrad, math 110, algebraic functions or some shit. after i had registered to audit the class, i checked out my bill: $1,015. can you fucking believe it? and that's a core class, meaning, motherfucker's required. and what did i get for my $1,015 when i was eighteen? a fucking 5 credits on my transcript, a b+ in the class.

but yeah, education's important. okay. this other freshman, alex, had to make impromptu speeches on the importance of education. fool was spouting off, "education's important because it will help you be good in life. you need education to get a good job. education is important because it can help you think. and uhh, what else?" i nodded along. what was i gonna say to that? it's not like i'm not for education. i just wish $1,015 (x 180) had gotten me a useful skill, had given me some sort of direction. instead, i became a spoiled and hopeless human being.

"fuck you, faggot!" one kid said to the other. "don't use that language in here," i responded, robotically. i have zero authority. and honestly, i don't care if these kids say words like "faggot" or "nigger" or "shit" or "suck my dick." it's not like i didn't say those things when i was in eighth grade. i wish i had this attitude, though, when i was in americorps, when i had that rough teaching gig. what does it matter what you do or say, children? really, what does it fucking goddamn piece of shit matter? you'll all end up in the fishbowl, just like me. that is, if you're "lucky."

the thing of it is, i like these kids. i like all of them too much to ever be a teacher. they remind me of me when i was their age. all i wanted to do was get laid and have fun. i didn't want to study latin, and i didn't want to do any extracurricular activities. i wanted to leave the city i grew up in, but only because i thought the grass would be greener, that for once, i might feel like i was better than everyone else who stayed behind. i wanted to go to college to get laid and have fun. i didn't want to graduate and try to be something, somebody i wasn't. i didn't want to sit in an office all day, or network, or have to worry about putting enough money into my retirement account.

so, i just hang out with these group of kids. they like to tell me racist jokes. how come there are no mexicans in star trek? how come? because they don't have jobs in the future! haha. how do you fit 100 jews in a car? how? two in the backseat, two in the front, and ninety-six in the ashtray! haha. ouch. too soon? well, at least you can do math. the boys like to draw and make beats and video chat with girls they know. they like, at least i think, just having an adult to talk to who isn't stressing them out, making them feel like if they don't do well in school now, their lives are going to be terrible.

and if that really is the case, shit. i could've really used someone like me when i was thirteen.
hello, that's a good book!

good morning, i said to emily. i say this every morning because it's what people do. she always says good morning back, and it's our little routine. i fire up my computer, and then if it's monday, i ask her how her weekend was. if it's wednesday, i ask her how yoga was (she does yoga on tuesdays). if it's thursday, i ask her what her weekend plans are. i wonder if she ever gets tired of me talking to her. if she does, she doesn't show it. and i'm grateful because most days of the week, she is the only person i actually get to have a real conversation with.

she helps me out a lot more than i can help her. i'm always bugging her with questions about updating the website, or how to make nametags, or how to do a mail merge. and she always has an answer for me. come to think of it, i don't think she's ever asked me anything work-related. maybe it has to do with her being there one whole year longer than i've been there, but i don't think that's it. the fact of the matter is, i'm a twenty-seven year old program assistant, and i'm not a very good one.

because she's female, she blends in with the office a little better. at least, that's how i see it. of the ten of us in the office, there is only one other male, the director. since we haven't got a lot to talk about, i decided to share in his enthusiasm for march madness this year. other things we've talked about are asia in general; how dentistry seems to be a big racket; and once, twitter. the director has a motorcycle jacket but no motorcycle, a blond wife, and a one-year old named amelia. at staff meetings, i've heard him speak his mind, and by those impromptu speeches, i can tell he's a man who's got it together, who knows what his life and this world should look like.

i don't interact with most of the other women in the office. sometimes, when i catch a pause in their conversations, i can slip in a semi-witty one-liner, but that's about it. being the narcissist i am, i wonder how i'm viewed. who's this asian kid who doesn't talk and sits behind a desk all day? even when one of the women sees a book (the abstinence teacher, manhood for amateurs, the brief wondrous life of oscar wao) on my desk and comments on it, it doesn't go further than:

"oh, you're reading that?"
"that's a good book!"
"it is."

i read a john taylor gatto essay about his views on education. he said something to the extent of: because parents entrust their children to the care of strangers during their most formative years, children grow up, leave home and feel alienated from their families. i'm sure i've completely misrepresented what he said, but that's more or less what i got out of it, and i think there's some truth to it. maybe i'm just using it to help rationalize why i'm in seattle right now with no family within thousands of miles.

it's a strange thing when i really think about it. how the saint ignatius class of 1997 was my family at one point. i saw my classmates and teachers more than i saw my own parents, my grandparents, cousins, uncles and aunts. forty of us shared the same space for nine straight years, breathing the same air, hearing the same sounds, eating a lunch item called straw hat that wasn't pizza. we were grouped together and told about jesus, sharing, and forgiveness, and they made us hold hands in church and sing together. and then, after nine years of that, somebody arbitrarily decided, alright, that's enough time. let's split this family up.

and then it just kept going like that. more classmates, more social circles, more coworkers and volunteer groups. everyone searching for something that resembles a family. and now, here i am again, with a new group of people that i see everyday, the artificial family, and it's all i've got. but it's not good enough, and it's not the same. because you can't blow up at a coworker over something stupid. you can't make inappropriate jokes without facing consequences. in short, you can't be yourself, the way you can with your real family.

while at work, toby instant messaged me:

do you ever worry about your parents dying?
all the time
, i said. i thought about it for a while. then i typed, it even makes me want to just move back home again because i know i won't know what to do myself when they're really gone.
me too
, she said.
but i guess we can't do that, i said. it's not what people do. at least not in america.
she said. we can't.
hello, this is going to be amazing or not at all.

on the phone, my mom asked what i ate today. i don't know why she always asks that.

victoria and i went to a sushi place called miyabi. i was skeptical because it was located in tukwila, next to a toys 'r us. we talked about how toys 'r uses are usually dirty and poorly lit. why's toys 'r us always like that?

i was at banana republic at southcenter mall. i couldn't justify spending $69.50 on a checkered shirt i wanted.

at finish line, i asked about the nike lunar glides, and if those were the only colors they had. a black clerk told me he'd seen other colors online. he said he'd be happy to check at another store for me, or else order online for me. i said i'd look them up online myself, and he look hurt. like the internet was destroying all businesses, all our lives.

alone in my apartment, i watched a baller from michigan state hit a three point buzzer beater for the win. i screamed in amazement.

the health care bill passed today, and i was glad to read that 33 million americans would now have health insurance. i thought about how i didn't like hearing or reading "an historical moment." shouldn't it be "a historical moment?"

i drank an i.p.a. at 11:30 in the morning. i wish i had ordered the oatmeal stout, instead. ross pointed to his oatmeal stout, and he said, "this is my first meal," and then he pointed towards the kitchen, "and that will be my second."

the author of ask for a convertible, danit brown, returned my facebook message and accepted my friend request. she said that it would not be worth going into debt for an mfa in creative writing. since i like her book, and think she is smart because of the way she writes, i am going to take her advice.

i downloaded third eye blind's self-titled album. while it's not amazing at all, listening to "graduate" makes me remember 8th grade, and how i was ready for life then, ready to burst, full of so much hope and excitement.

i was at nordstrom rack, and i was again disappointed by the lack of choices for men.

i was at target and i bought low-cut socks and a pair of shorts. i've never purchased low-cut socks before, but there's a first time for everything. victoria and i talked for a long time about how target is amazing. sure, they're probably just as bad as (if not worse than) wal-mart, environmentally, capitalistically, blah-blah-blah-y speaking, but i find something comforting about the place. the way it's set up, i could be twelve years old and in sacramento and not even know it.

there was a great itchy and scratchy short called koyaani-scratchy: death of out balance on the simpsons tonight. i liked it because i've seen koyaanisqatsi.

i ate a mrs. fields cookie. i don't think i'd eaten once since i was in high school. it wasn't as good as i remember. i remember the cookie being bigger and warmer.

i put on lotion and i thought that i should've bought the lavender kind instead of vanilla.

i put on my green american apparel sweatshirt, and i thought to myself that i sure do wear this thing a lot.

i was sitting on some bench at the southcenter mall. i was waiting for victoria, who was shopping at h&m and forever 21. there was another guy there, and then a young woman showed up, and then, across from me, an older woman and her child. i thought that this meant something. that the five of us had been brought together for a reason. we were all just sitting there, and they, too, were probably waiting for somebody else they had shown up with. but it was strange, the five of us sitting there in a little square, facing each other, like fate had brought us all together. i'm sure all of them had interesting stories. something each one could tell me that would make me laugh, something that could break my heart. but instead, we continued to just sit there, and we avoided eye contact. we didn't even say hello or introduce ourselves. it was a sunday afternoon in tukwila of all places, and five strangers had been brought together in a specific spot at a specific time in the whole universe. imagine! the world has been spinning for billions of years, there are millions of cities, thousands of malls, billions of people, and then it just came down to the five of us. most likely, i will never see any of those people ever again, and even if i wanted to, with all the technology we have today, i still wouldn't be able to. that's it. can you believe it? the short amount of time we share within infinity, the number of people who enter and exit our lives, the ever-expanding universe, the massive size of a city, and that's that.

miracles brushed off as ordinary.
hello, let's all go out for happy hour.

i've got a friend here who constantly complains about seattle. i don't wanna live here forever, she'll say. also, i don't wanna do another winter here. her main beef with the emerald city is that, during winter, it gets dark around 4 p.m. i'm talking total darkness. i'm sure it's the same thing in many other cities, so i don't see why it's such a big deal to her. her other complaint is that the seattle freeze is a real thing. none of her coworkers ever invite her to do anything, and even though she's been here for almost two years now, she still only has a handful of friends in town.

i know what she's talking about. nearly two years at my job, and i've been invited to exactly one happy hour. i've had to initiate the other three outings. it's a difficult thing to do, to put yourself out there, and not know what other people are thinking. maybe they don't want to go drinking with you. maybe they're sick of seeing you for eight hours a day, everyday, and they just want to go home and forget you exist. maybe they think, okay, i'll hang out with this guy because he obviously has no life, and his only source of making friends is his dull job.

i'll admit i don't have a life. in case you couldn't already tell by the incessant blogging. somebody in college once told me, there are two kinds of people in the world: people that call and people that wait to be called. i'm one of the latter, so i have no reason to complain. after college, though, there's very little to talk about. in the few interactions i've had with strangers, the conversation pretty much goes like this: so, what do you do? answer. oh, cool. based on these pathetic conversations, i can only conclude that tyler durden was wrong. you are your job.

there's very little else to talk about. i can't imagine what i'd have to talk about with others if i didn't stay up to date on social networking sites, on march madness, on movies, awful television shows and worse music. in college, there was more opportunity. you could talk about so-and-so, this professor and that, what classes you were taking, what your plans were after graduation. or you could just get high and tell the person sitting next to you that he was eating the best cookie in the world (true story, a girl named liz said this to me once in the cafeteria). you had every reason in the world to talk to someone, regardless of whether or not you were looking to score.

i met with my boss last week. she was all excited for me to move to san francisco, and by the way she talked, i could tell how much she despised this city, too. everyone's so isolated here, she said. in a big city like san francisco or new york, you just meet so many more interesting people. here in seattle, you have a bunch of people with their headphones on, and they don't even stop to say hello or smile at you. it's just so unfriendly. i could've argued that it was unfair to make generalizations about an entire city, but i had no reason to. i've been here off and on since 2001, and i can say her assessment was pretty much dead on.

maybe it's just our personality. only a problem for introverts, or maybe it has to do with being a person of color. i don't know exactly. all i know is that i've realized lately that i'd like to escape, too, find another city to live in, a place where i can deal with this problem all over again.
hello, get out of my house.

these filipino kids and i were about to play a game of three-on-three when these black kids showed up. do you wanna play five-on-five, one of them asked. i didn't. these kids looked sloppy, and they wore jeans, and one even had on a jacket. i knew they weren't going to play for real. but if any of us had refused, we'd come across probably looking like a bunch of racists. and then there was the possibility that the black kids might even start some shit. i can't believe i'm a college-educated adult, and a part of me still worries that a group of black kids might jump me.

we started playing, and the black kids were annoying as hell. they played sloppily, called fouls whenever they missed, and they talked mad shit. it's our ball, one would say, when it clearly wasn't. then a girl came in, taking the place of one of the fat ones, and it was all over after that. so, i'm a racist and now i'm sexist as well. but come on, a girl playing with a bunch of guys? it's ridiculous. for one, you can't guard her like a man (even if you aren't attracted to her, which is usually the case), you'll look like a dick if you try to block her shot, and if you accidentally foul or hurt her in anyway, you can bet something bad's gonna happen.

one guy on our team just kept hanging out at the other end of the court, cherry-picking, and we'd lob it down to him just about every play. it wasn't even a real game. just some black fools with a height advantage tapping in the rebounds, and us, cherry-picking. it came to a screeching halt when one of the black dudes flagrantly fouled someone on our team. black dude grabbed the flip by the arm, almost pulling him down, and dude didn't even apologize. the flip was pissed off, and he just went and sat down. so what then, one of them said, you guys done? the black fools finally got the point, and they headed off. didn't even bother saying good game or slapping hands or anything.

after they had left, we got a decent game of two-on-two going. i started to believe, and more of my shots started going in. i've only recently started believing. i don't know how i managed before, when i played on a team in junior high, and i didn't believe. how did i even play? i'd throw some shit up there and hope, but not believe. at recess and at practice, i'd be fine because there was no pressure. but come game time, my legs didn't seem to work anymore, and my arms felt like noodles. i could feel the crowd watching. i could feel the pressure, the imminent choking. i don't think i ever made a single free throw.

i was a shot blocker, anyhow. that's what i've been and will always be. i don't remember most of the shots i've taken. i don't remember any of the plays we even ran tonight. all i remember is one of the black kids (with a height advantage) coming up for a layup, and boom. there was my hand. knocking the ball out of bounds, out of sight. and how one of them said, ooh, that was a block! a block and a half. one of my happiest moments in life is blocking michael garcia, a kid a grade ahead of me, who once challenged me to a game of one-on-one. and then in eighth grade, during a game, when i got this burst of energy, of speed, and i came up out of nowhere to reject this douche on a fastbreak. hell, i'll even swat my younger cousin just because.

i don't know what that says about my personality that i love rejecting more than i love scoring. i've seen kevin garnett do it more than any other player, and i've always felt an affinity for him because of it. i like that he won't even let other players take practice shots. maybe it's the only outlet i've ever had for being unable to say no to anyone. in the past, people have asked me for favors, asked me for money, asked for help with something, and me being me, i've more or less always obliged. being on the court is the only time i can say no with absolute certainty.

so yeah, i let those black kids play. but i did everything i could on defense to make sure they wouldn't coming back.
hello, your all ain't shit.

mom called me up, said i had a letter. it was from the university of arizona. i already knew what it was. my first rejection letter from a creative writing program. just to be sure, i said, is it small or big? it's small, she said. like a normal-sized letter, she added. just open it, i said. you want me to open it? yes, i said. i wanted her to share in my disappointment. i already knew it was a lost cause when i applied, but still, i wanted her to think i was really upset about it, i wanted her to tell me i had been rejected, that they had regretted to inform me, that i had failed and wasn't good enough for a school in ari-fucking-zona. i like failure and rejection and disappointment. these are things i know, things that come easy, things i am used to.

i had submitted two stories to them, both of them stupid and pointless. one was about a girl who had a birthday party; the other was about a guy whose girlfriend is about to leave him. write what you know, right? the stories were shit, and i never expected them to get me into a ranked school. the birthday story was good enough, however, for the university of san francisco, and so, i've decided tonight that i will not be going there. i know this logic is stupid, and maybe i'm being childish about the whole thing, but really. who wants to pay $35,000 to take two years off to write? i'm fucking writing right now, and i have a job. albeit it's a boring job, but it pays.

and who are all these fuckers that get into ranked schools? who gets to go to fucking iowa? one of my professors went there, but he doesn't say shit about it. all he ever showed me of his stuff was one lousy nonfiction piece. i read some blog about a guy who got accepted to iowa. he wrote a story about some adopted kid from taiwan or something who ends up becoming a transvestite and helps cops solve murders. i feel like that's what those fools on the selection committee want to read. some crazy fucked up out-of-this-world type shit. like the kind of shit that's not acceptable for television or bad films. stories that make no fucking sense but are well-written. i don't know how to do that.

fucking usf. they just want my money. i'm convinced that's all seattle u wanted too, and it was the only reason i got in. jesuits robbing my ass blind and telling me i have potential and talent. christ. and my parents wonder why i don't go to church anymore. i've read glimmer train and other voices and tin house and all these other lit mags, and all those writers have got something i don't. they've got capital letters, for one. they've got connections, probably. they've got purpose, focus, and ambition. they've got a history of writing. they've got a good story to tell.

that last part is crucial, and it's (as far as i'm concerned) what counts. i don't have a good story to tell. or maybe i do, and i just don't know how to tell it. i could try my hardest to write a piece about my grandparents, or my parents, and them being immigrants and all, but because i don't have the patience to go through with it, it'll never get done. because i don't know how to properly use the word "phosphorescent" or "eviscerated" in proper context, i'll never publish shit. because i have this shit attitude about everything, it'll be a long while before i accomplish anything of any significance.

that was the lesson my professor pushed: just keep writing. it's been about three fucking years of this pointless blog, and i still haven't got shit to say. i don't know why i keep updating. i don't know why you keep reading. sometimes when i'm on, i feel i'm on, but most of the time, like tonight, i know shit's off, and i'm not saying anything worthwhile. i'm just making excuses. i'm just ranting and continuing to feel bad about myself because that's what i do best. i'm talking about hard times. about how i could keep trying, pouring my heart into everything i do (or at least trying to), and it still never being good enough. that's something i've learned, too. that you can give it your all, but a lot of the time, your all ain't shit.

i just wasn't ready for it, i guess. i applied to schools because i wanted a backup plan because i knew i'd get tired of my job. i knew how hard it is to make friends after college. i knew that i'd be one year closer to turning 30, and i still don't feel like i've done a damn thing. isn't that why most people apply to graduate school? maybe to some, it's serious business. it's for real. but a part of me is convinced that nobody really knows what the fuck they're doing. part of me knows that all of it's pointless. that we get up in the morning, that we shower and eat and exercise, that we tell people we love them, that we pay our taxes and bills on time, that we try to go green and recycle, take photographs, read books, hold hands and pray, but for what?

to me, i just envision this man who's picking up leaves and stuffing them in his coat, but the wind is too strong and it just blows everything away. isn't that, essentially, what happens to all of us?
hello, have you met him?

there was this video of him. he finished recording a lousy cover of "wonderwall," and then he must have accidentally hit the record button again after he'd finished. so, it was him for about ten minutes, not knowing he was being filmed. from what he saw, he could only feel pity for this person. he watched himself singing and playing a guitar for no good reason. he would not put it on youtube, he would not gain followers, he would never gain more than fifty hits on his video. at the sight of one negative comment, he would delete everything he'd ever done. he felt incredibly sorry for this person, this person he was viewing. but this is nothing new.

it's been a good long ride of self-pity. he started out young. he'd deny himself small amounts of pleasure, like going out for an ice cream or a new toy. he felt he'd never truly deserved anything. sometimes, he'd go to sunday school in a little chapel, which was connected to the main church, and he'd sit by himself. there were other kids his age there, mostly white, and he'd feel incredibly out of place. why did god make him different, make his skin and hair and eyes darker than the others? sure, jesus and the sunday school leader said they were all equal, but it certainly didn't feel that way. afterward, he'd walk back to his parents in the main church, and he could feel everyone looking at him.

he'd look at his parents, and his parents would be looking at him. this always made him laugh, and he didn't know why. there was something ridiculous about it, about wearing nice clothes and being in a house of god that was full of affluent, well-dressed white people. what was so funny about it? the sun would be shining through the stained glass windows, and the choir would be singing some song about light or mountains or glory. and he'd walk down the aisle, back to his parents, and this was just all so ridiculous, so funny.

maybe he just felt like a dope. he felt like a dope walking anywhere, whether it was just in a bar full of yuppies, or if it was going up the stage to receive his college diploma. there was just something curious about it all. he found this document on a website, one that showed how most people are going to die, based on age and race. most of it was due to cancer, heart disease, hypertension, and suicide. he saw that the older one got, the chance of that person committing suicide greatly decreased. he found this rather interesting. it was as though once a human being reached the age of 30, he thought to himself, well, i've invested this much time into living, i might as well see how it ends.

nothing felt like fun anymore. he heard a comment one day. somebody had said, once you turn 25, life gets a little more serious. he definitely remembers being 25 and how serious it felt. around that age, he'd told his girlfriend, it feels like there's nothing left to look forward to. he believed this for a long time, that there was nothing to look forward to, and it brought him to a very dark place. he didn't even like himself anymore, and he was hard to be around. he had to find something to look forward to. his problem was, he had been told, was that he thought too damn much.

it was easier when he just played his bloody war video games. or when he was in college and floated from class to class. or when he'd watch tv at night with his girlfriend. now all he did was write and think about how he'd rather be doing something else. how he'd rather be somewhere else, be someone else. anything else. he had to get out of his head. his head was a curse, full of bad dreams, monsters on life support. he'd read somewhere that, for some people, schizophrenia only becomes apparent once a person reaches adulthood. he'd read somewhere else that people can actually die of heartbreak.

his mind and everything inside of him was completely turbulent, so naturally, everything else around him had to be orderly. he tried not to own anything he didn't use. if he didn't use it, he got rid of it. sometimes, even if he did use it, he still got rid of it. maybe it went back to that whole thing about wanting to deprive himself. he worried he was a downer. he kept reading everywhere that if he wanted his life to improve, he had to think positively. he had to work on himself, build confidence and all that. smile. take up a hobby, travel, meet new people.

he'd been told that he should go see a counselor. he'd been told that he's too hard on himself, and that he never really let anyone into his life. he never took initiative. he certainly wasn't confident. he was passive-aggressive, and he did everything he could to avoid conflict. he immediately assumed that people didn't like him, and he always felt like he had nothing to offer, nothing to say. he always expected everything to come easy to him, and when it didn't, he'd get incredibly frustrated and hopeless.

someone kept telling him, if you really want something, you'll get it. maybe he didn't want anything anymore. and maybe that wasn't such a bad thing, after all.
hello, i am pagliacci, doctor.

hello, march madness.

hello, seattle skyline.

hello, gayness.
hello, are you religious at all?

word had gotten out that i was an eighteen year-old virgin, so naturally, all the boys at tower records, my coworkers, wanted to help me out. what's funny is that, at the time, i thought they might actually be able to help me. they were a weird, dirty group of of guys, but i trusted them anyway.

john decided he was going to make it happen. john was a dopey-looking white guy with ears that stuck out and a dumb and dumber haircut. he always wore a baseball jersey, and he loved country music. he'd bring a big bag to store his baseball equipment, and later, after all of this went down, everyone found out he had been using the bag to steal a shitload of cds every night.

john told me that his girlfriend knew a girl, recently single, and that we could make a double-date out of it. i didn't want to get set up. it wasn't supposed to happen that way. but after a week of john badgering me, i had finally given in. scott rangle-cherry, a native american bodybuilder who only worked one day a week, advised against it. dude, he said, you're really gonna let john set you up? why not, i asked. i mean, scott said, taking a look at his busted-up girlfriend, you know she probably ain't gonna be all that. i shrugged.

john told me a little bit more about the girl. he said that, like me, she was a senior in high school. she went to mira loma or north highlands or some shit like that. he said she had just gotten out of a relationship, and that her ex-boyfriend just got of jail. i couldn't tell if he was fucking with me or what, but i was excited either way. what kind of girl had an ex-boyfriend who had been to prison? i had wanted to find out. maybe it was just what i needed.

friday finally came, and i had made sure to get my haircut the day before. a $5 haircut from pro-cuts on folsom blvd. i knew enough not to wear my hat that day, but i still wore my baggy cargo pants, my puffy skater shoes and a striped polo shirt from the thrift store. john saw me in the backroom. dude, he said, is that what you're gonna wear tonight? what's wrong with it, i asked. he put his fist to his mouth and started laughing. i thought it was a dumb thing for him to do, since it was practically my uniform. we'll go shopping at lunch, he said.

i knew that if john was laughing at me, i must've really been doing something wrong. i didn't want to go shopping with him, though. what was i even thinking? going on a double-date with a dude i didn't even want to go to the country club plaza with? i asked bronwyn if she would help me pick out an outfit instead. she was eager to help, but our lunch hours didn't coincide, so i was stuck with john. just get some pants and a nice shirt, she suggested. i wished then that i could've just gone home after work.

when lunch rolled around, we went to macy's at the country club plaza, downstairs to the men's department. we found a pair of slacks for $30 or so, and a nicer polo shirt for me to wear. i tried not to think about my bulging belly as i tried on the slacks in the fitting room. i was about three ultimate cheeseburgers overweight. i wondered if this was something i could really go through with. i felt a strong pressure to go through with it. it was unnatural, after all, to be eighteen and to have never gone on a date. this is what people did.

i wore my new clothes back to work, so that i could get people's opinions. bronwyn said i looked nice, and she gave me a hug. somebody else probably looked at me and said, yeah, that looks a lot better. thinking about that time now, i realize that those people were a lot like family to me. i didn't have brothers and sisters to help me out with this sort of thing, but at least i had them. and they were nice to me and cared.

i don't remember much of the blind date itself. i remember that i drove to john's girlfriend's house, and the three of us watched tv while i waited for my date. i remember hearing her car pull up to the driveway, and then john's girlfriend looking at me and saying, here she is. are you nervous? i probably shook my head and said, no, even though my pale face showed i was full of shit. the girl came in, and she hugged john's girlfriend. i got up and shook her hand. from what i remember, i wasn't blown away, but i wasn't completely uninterested, either.

the girl had clear frame glasses, and she was short, probably 5'2" or 5'3." she had on a pretty brown dress, and i liked that, that an actual woman had bothered to spruce herself up and dress up for me, even though she didn't know who i was. well, john's girlfriend said, are you guys hungry? should we get going? everyone agreed that we should go eat. we took separate cars, and my date rode shotgun in my camry.

i drove her to t.g.i. friday's, and on the ride over, i was most likely listening to weezer's green album. i put it on low enough to make sure that we could still talk, but audible enough that she might perk up at one point and say, i love weezer! and at that point, i could confirm that the deal was sealed. my heart was pounding, and my palms were sweaty. i didn't know what to say, so i just kept asking her questions. do you have plans for college? do you have siblings? are you religious at all? she laughed at the last one, and so did i. it was almost an admission of awkwardness, of running out of things to say.

i remember her smelling really, really good. it was one of those scents that was hard to pin down, and i had to keep sniffing to figure out where i had smelled that before. was it those bubble toy things that came in a toothpaste type of tube, ones i had only seen in the philippines? was it some other woman's perfume i smelled in church on a sunny easter morning? it was the scent of nostalgia, and i understood that night why women wore perfume.

at the dinner table, i didn't say a whole lot. i just kept quiet and ate my chicken alfredo, or quesdailla, or whatever it was. the girls got up to use the restroom together, and john said, dude, i am so sorry; i had no idea she looked like that. i thought it was a rude thing to say, and i actually thought my date looked better than his girlfriend. they were already heading back to the table, and john kept apologizing. just shut up, i said, here they come.

i still don't know why i didn't talk at the dinner table that night. maybe i genuinely had nothing to say. maybe i thought, this is hopeless, anyway. this girl isn't into me at all. they hadn't taught us flirting or social skills in catholic school. i only learned that, if i was ever lucky enough to have a woman sleep with me, i should use a condom for a variety of reasons. it was like teaching us how to bust a three-point game-winner under pressure without first showing us how to dribble. when the bill came, john and i paid, and then we all agreed to go back to his girlfriend's house.

john and his girlfriend immediately went to the bedroom. my date and i just looked at each other like, uhh, okay. i had seen it before in movies and in television. it was my cue to start something up with my girl, but like i said, i didn't even know how to dribble. instead, we watched indiana jones and the temple of doom on cable. i opened up a little more, and i said something about the movie that made her laugh. every time we heard john's girlfriend laughing through the wall, we just looked at each other.

after half an hour of this, john and his girlfriend came out. how are you two doing, his girlfriend asked. good, my date said. then she said it was getting late, and that she should probably go. i'd like to think that i got up, shook her hand again at least, and walked her to her car, but i'm fairly certain i didn't. most likely, i didn't even bother getting up from the recliner, and i said something like, it was nice meeting you.

the next day at work, john's girlfriend came up to my register. did you have a good time last night? i said that i did. you were so quiet, she said. yeah, i said, sorry about that. it's okay, she said. she said that my date said that i was really nice, but that she couldn't tell what i was thinking. i waited for her to say something like, she'd like to see you again, or ask, would you like to see her again? but she didn't. i just nodded, and i said, cool. and then she nodded, too, and said, okay.

i never saw that girl again, and i don't even remember her name. i only know that it wasn't supposed to happen that way. and it didn't.
hello, you've been in there too long.

i took baths up until the age of six or seven. when i was really little, our family's helper, manang, would give me a bath. she'd scrub my head with johnson's baby shampoo, and when it got in my eyes, it would sting like crazy. that's all i really remember. the baby shampoo, and not much else. i don't remember using soap or lathering myself up like i do now. after the bath, i'd dry off and then apply johnson's baby powder around my neck and underarms. manang would say, keeleh-keeleh power (tagalog for "underarm power")! sometimes, not always, i'd also put johnson's baby oil on my arms and legs, and maybe johnson's baby cologne on my face, neck and chest. i loved the way it smelled.

i heard the song "splish splash" when i was kid, and the thought of spending a saturday night alone in a bathtub greatly appealed to me. some nights, after soccer practice, i'd fill up the tub, and i'd place my small radio on the sink's counter, or else on top of the toilet. i'd listen to my all-4-one tape, or boyz to men, and later still, r.e.m. imagine this filipino kid, eight years old, lying in a bathtub by himself, listening to "end of the road." yep, that was me.

my dad would barge in sometimes and say, you've been in there too long! and this would annoy me. why couldn't he just let me be? why couldn't i just live in that warm bubbly bathtub? someone once told me that if my fingers got wrinkly, then i was spending too much time in the water. bollocks, i say. i liked seeing my fingers turn into prunes, and i liked being underwater in my tub. i remember even thinking that one day i was gonna grow up to be big enough to fill the tub completely. and when it happened, i remember thinking back to that thought i had as a kid. it scared and saddened me a bit, knowing that i had grown up and old so fast.

and then there's the sensation of knowing i really had spent enough time in the tub. by then, the cassingle was long over, and i had just been lying there in silence, maybe hearing the faint television in the living room. my parents watching 20/20 or 60 minutes. through the wall, i could hear them talking to one another. i'd open the drain by stomping on it with my heel, and then there'd be the glug glug sound of the water disappearing. i'd lie there until all the water would rush out from under me. i'd imagine that this is what it must feel like when your soul leaves.
hello, does he even deserve to be congratulated?

hello, pacquiao fight at spitfire.

hello, lonesome.

hello, waiting room at dr. lin's office.

hello, maya's running shoes.
hello, you're not fun.

i've become a volunteering machine, have i told you that? it gave me a reason to leave work early, which i liked. i got set up with a tutoring program, run through a nonprofit. i took the 9 to the link light rail, backtracked a block, then i was at the boys and girls club at rainier vista. this black girl was sitting behind a desk. "you here for ytp?" no doubt. she handed me a binder, didn't say shit else. i looked through the binder, and then, like i was stupid (i am), she turned to the correct section for me to sign. thursday. i signed in. like a child. like a volunteer. like someone who doesn't know what else to do on a thursday night.

black girl buzzed me in. i went through the entrance and stood there, dazed. to my left, a basketball court, to my right, a group of kids sitting at a table. some black folks talking to the black girl. i went back to the black girl. "uhh, this is my first day? i don't know where i'm supposed to go?" "oh, i'm sorry," she said. "go up the stairs, then take a left." i did what she told me, and soon, i was in a small room with small tables and small children. the manager, or whatever his title is, shook my hand, introduced himself. jason. "where's the bathroom?" i asked.

jason said brian was gonna walk me through the whole shebang. from what i could tell, jason was two, three years younger than me, but looked a lot cooler since he had a beard. he had on jeans and a sweatshirt, and i felt like an asian geek, wearing my work clothes, a button-down and grey cords. jason introduced me to jimmy, a vietnamese third grader. jimmy acted like he didn't want to talk to me, and he overtly preferred jason's company. he picked out a stupid looking book called the salamander bed or something.

the three of us took turns reading a page from the book, and jimmy was screwing up left and right. he'd read "grewing" instead of "growing," and he'd make other similar errors. i wanted to correct him, but i didn't know if i should, or just let him keep going. jason didn't step in, so i didn't, either. the book was pretty dumb, and i had no idea what it was about. from what i remember, it was about a boy wanting to turn his bedroom into a forest so his stupid salamander could live in it with him. it just made me think about how retarded some children's books really are. it's just like, hey, stupid kid, here are some words! here are words on a page! read me! and teachers and librarians and moms and nannies all agree this is acceptable because, hey, as long as they're reading, right? am i right? hohohohahaha! stupid fucking children's books.

after we finished the salamander book, it was homework time. jimmy pulled out a fractions worksheet. math isn't my strong suit, so i breathed a sigh of relief when i saw little animals all over the page instead of numbers. the kid started going at it. "i like math!" he said. he just did problem after problem, and i let him be, until i realized he was screwing up again. "umm, hold on there. slow down," i said. this really frustrated him. i tried to explain how he could break the animals up into groups to represent one-fifth, but he wasn't having it. kid just shut down. "you're a bad tutor," he said. "you're not fun."

i didn't know what to do then. i felt like just giving up on him. it reminded me of angel, a kid i worked with in watsonville, who straight up told me one day, "you're gonna be a bad teacher." and at mather youth academy (my one-week stint as a teacher), james, who told me, "you bug me." i don't know why i let them get to me. maybe because i never talked to kids when i was a kid. maybe it really is all about confidence - making that jump shot, asking that girl out, being a good teacher - and i still don't know the first thing about believing in myself. i looked around the room, and i thought, i can quit. i've done it before. i can leave these idealistic fuckers, these barely literate kids, and i could just go home and take a nap. i could've said, fuck 'em all. i've got a 52" hdtv waiting for me. do you know who the fuck i am?

i shrugged off his comment, and i decided then and there that if he wanted to get his math problems wrong, not listen to me, and get frustrated for being wrong, well, that was his problem. i was there to help, nothing more. i thought of the unspoken writing center motto: sometimes, you just have to let them fail. and a part of me (perhaps a sick part) finds it a little funny, thinking about a 3rd grader turning in an animals worksheet riddled with errors, or else a college student turning in a fragmented, barely coherent essay. i think if someone told me when i was younger that i wasn't that special, wasn't that bright, i might be a more well-adjusted human being today. my parents, my teachers, my family and friends should've let me fail more often, should've let me get hurt, make mistakes, deal with disappointment. how else is one supposed to learn?

after the failed math session, we interviewed each other, and he seemed to warm up to me again. he told me he was from vietnam, and i asked if he had ever visited. he said yes. i asked if he liked it. "of course i liked it! it's my country!" he sounded like such a fob when he said it, that it got the whole table cracking up. he told me he liked naruto and johnny test, and i had no idea what the fuck he was talking about. then he interviewed me, but gave up halfway. during that time, brian started chatting it up with another tutor, a cute, tall-ish brunnette. suddenly, i remembered why i was there. girls. idealistic girl tutors who are goody-goodies and who will give socially awkward almost-to-the-point-of-hopelessness guys like myself a chance. i didn't talk to any of them.

jimmy went home, and then i worked with this black sixth grader named gutu. he was much more communicative, and generally, a whole lot more pleasant to work with. kid couldn't read for shit, though. i stopped him about every two or three words, and i had to help him figure out what he was trying to say. we got through a painfully boring science worksheet, and then he went and borrowed a laptop. he was all excited to show me about "jerking." it's this type of dance that has been made popular by a group called new boyz. it was like a mix of popping and breakdancing, and it kind of bored me.

this other black kid (couldn't remember his name) walked up to our table and watched the videos. he'd say shit like, "that's filthy," or "that's hella weak" during some of the jerking videos. overall, the kid found jerking as whack as i did, and he made it perfectly clear. "don't you think this is kind of repetitive?" the kid asked me. i didn't want to offend gutu, since i could tell he was really into it, so i just said, "a little. it's ok." this black kid wasn't having any of it, though. he just told it how it was. "this is just like a weak version of breakdancing," and then he'd turn to me, "don't you think?" and i, not quite knowing who to befriend just yet, responded, "it's ok. breakdancing is cool."

the black kid just wouldn't let up. he just stood there, hating on every video, a true skeptic. and gutu just sat there, loving all of it. at one point, gutu even got up to demonstrate jerking. the black kid just kept on hating. "gutu!" he said, "what are you doing with your life?" and gutu just sat back down, smiling stupidly. he was in love with something, something stupid, and he seemed to know it. but he just kept on loving it, no matter what the haters said.
hello, sign your life away, please.

when i was an americorps volunteer at the red cross, i heard about this organization called seattle works. they brought together idealistic people in their 20's and 30's in seattle, and these idealists would go volunteer and have drinks or do whatever it was people did. i was young, and i hated americorps, and i had a girlfriend, so i didn't care about seattle works. it sounded kind of stupid, to be honest. we (and by "we" i mean i got sucked into it as part of my job) tried to do the same thing at the red cross, create this group of "young professionals," but luckily, my service year was over before anything materialized. i had dodged the networking bullet.

fast-forward five years later, to this past friday. i'm sitting at my desk (again!) and i'm thinking about how i'm going to have nothing to do (again!) during the weekend. i look up the seattle works website and i'm thinking about joining a team. to rekindle my idealism, to save the world and all that, to have a reason to get out of bed on a saturday, to maybe make a friend, to maybe meet a girl, to work on my rapidly deteriorating social skills. i'm about to type in my credit card number, and it hits me: it's really come to this, huh? a $35 registration fee to pull weeds and meet people? ugh. wouldn't you rather sleep in and continue feeling bad about yourself instead?

i typed in my card number before i could think about it any longer. i joined a team called younger and wiser. i woke up saturday morning slightly hungover (3 or 4 guinnesses and something i called a "shower drink" the night before) and bussed it out to west seattle. i got off at the wrong stop, and got lost. as i aimlessly wandered the street, i thought about just going home. some part of me said not to, though. i had already come this far, might as well see what it's about. i showed up to the place half an hour late.

i saw two girls wearing kitchen gloves. "umm, i'm here to volunteer," i said. a big-breasted girl with a german accent said, "well, you've come to the right place." i apologized for being late, but the german, sylvia, said it was ok. another woman came out, and her name was darcine or marcine. i think it was marcine. marcine thanked me for volunteering, and introduced herself as the manager of transitional resources center, a small apartment complex for persons with mental disabilities. she told me that, before i could do anything that involved a ladder, i would first have to "sign my life away."

she changed her mind about the ladder and said that i could help with weeding in the organic garden. i said that was fine, and i was glad to be out in the sunlight rather than cooped up in my apartment wondering how to spend my saturday. there were two other girls who were already weeding, and at first, they didn't introduce themselves or even look up to acknowledge me. great, i thought. i'll just fucking pull up weeds and keep to myself. i started going at it. you should've seen me with that rake or hoe or whatever it was i was using. i could've been a farmer. i could've been a lot of things.

i finally felt comfortable enough to say something. one of the girls was wearing an oregon mba shirt. i asked if she went to school there. she said yeah, and then told me about the school. i find that an effective way of interacting with the humans. since i have nothing interesting to say about myself, i just ask questions. most of the time, i don't even listen to the response. i just wait until they stop talking and then i ask another open-ended question. the girl introduced herself as eviva. i had to say her name again just to make sure i got it right. eviva? yes, eviva. the girl working with her was marisa.

i quickly discovered that my team consisted of financial investors, engineers, and i.t. consultants. i thought of my dad on the soccer field years ago, how he had to explain to lawyers, anesthesiologists and social workers (my classmates' fathers) that he was "between jobs." my teammates truly were young professionals, individuals with lucrative careers and expensive, advanced degrees. they worked for boeing, expedia, and financial institutions i had never even heard of. "and what do you do?" each one asked me. i told them i worked at the university, ashamed at having dilly-dallied in life for so long. i can't remember how many times i heard the words "grad school" that afternoon.

i raked up leaves, and i thought, here i am again. raking leaves. not a fucking clue in the world. can't even fake it. can't even pretend i know what i want to do. so here i am. with a fucking rake. i did a really good job raking those leaves, though. then marcine wanted to give me, sylvie and marisa a tour of the facility. she led us into a hot room where there were two guys sitting on a couch. they were watching a small television. one man was really fat and he wore a fender t-shirt. he and marcine exchanged some words; the other man just looked at us.

we walked down the hallway to another room with two other men also watching television on a small screen. i thought about a raymond carver story where the narrator goes to get clean for a few weeks. a phone rang off the hook and marcine said that they never answered it for purposes of confidentiality. i thought of cuckoo's nest. i thought of awakenings. one man watched a cartoon on the disney channel, and i felt like crying.

we walked over to the other building, the one that people "graduated" to, once they were able to live on their own. a young man named james got into the elevator with us, and he told us that the apartment was the best place he had ever lived. "i swear," he said. a resident named sheena (can't remember her real name) had agreed to let us see her apartment. the four of us walked into her apartment, and sheena was washing dishes. "are you busy, sheena?" marcine asked her. sheena didn't look at us. she just kept washing dishes. "yeah, i have to feed my turtle," she said. i looked over and saw a small aquarium with a turtle in it. we thanked her for showing us her apartment, and then we stood on the balcony overlooking the yard.

sheena came out and asked if she could offer us a pop. we politely declined, and she just stood there. this mentally challenged woman with a turtle and a small apartment in west seattle. how does marcine do what she does, and not have her heart break everyday? thinking about sheena and the countless others who live there in those small single apartments, all alone, and the whole world has forgotten about them. it made me feel better about raking, about volunteering. if not better, then at least less guilty. i don't think i have the courage to be on the front lines of justice and humanitarianism and all that, so i'll take the rake for now. and the shovel.

after we had cleaned up, we went to luna park cafe to have lunch. we sat there, an odd group, the 8 of us (2 had left early), and i wondered about us. what were we trying to do? who the hell were we? each person looked normal, like he/she could easily make friends, yet here we all were. there was an indian couple, two guys and two girls, and me. i didn't have much to say. after lunch, marisa offered me a ride home. she drove a mercedes-benz convertible, and we talked about the bachelor. she said she was glad to get away from new jersey (where she grew up), and that she didn't want to work for boeing her whole life.

sheena and her turtle, marisa with her mercedes.
hello, will you take my picture?

hello, tour bus.

hello, ceiling at mt. baker station.

hello, man urinating on the side of lowe's.
hello, bars aren't really my thing.

hello, soda fountain at hot mama's pizza.

hello, inside of the unicorn.

hello, students playing frisbee.
hello, are we human or are we dancer?

hello, college students walking ahead of me.

hello, hazelnut-cinnamon pancakes.

hello, public displays of affection.
hello, your face isn't loading.

hello, demolished building.

i stormed out of her house (what's the point of living if you aren't constantly making a scene, even if it's only for a one-person audience?), and surprisingly, she chased after me. what made me do it? i was sick of her passive-aggressive comments, how making me feel like a fuck-up came so naturally to her. i had dealt with it for so long, it felt good to shrug my shoulders and just say, you know what. fuck it. like quitting a job that's too stressful, or else too boring, one that just doesn't pay.

i can't always be there for you, she said. no one can. it was one of those moments where a character in a movie, or just somebody normal would say, yes, yes i can. i can find someone who will always be there for me, and put up with me, and love me for who i am. but i'm me, and like taylor swift said (minus the expletive), this ain't fucking hollywood. fine, i said, i'll just be alone. i meant it, too. i spent a year doing just that at my parents' house. i talked to my parents and my cousins (sometimes not even them) for a full year, and no one else. i learned that year that being alone didn't even matter. in our backyard i cut branches and i quoted there will be blood, sometimes aloud: i just want to make a lot of money, and get away from everyone.

hello, woman working behind the counter.

you broke my computer, he said. what are you even talking about, i asked. you fucked up my computer. this went on for some time, and i didn't know where he was coming from. i considered him my best friend, so i was naturally curious as to why he was ignoring me. i let it go, thinking he'd come around after a little while. that's what friends did, right? they'd get pissy about something, and then, without either party having to apologize, it just went back to normal. that's how i learned it, anyway. like back in third grade, another friend and i had a fight at a school carnival. don't even remember what it was about, or what was said, only that neither he nor i apologized. it was understood: all was forgiven. let's just start talking again.

but that's not how this shit played. guy claimed i broke his computer, and that's all the motherfucker said to me. we had latin together. i instant messaged him. we have latin together, i said. are you just gonna ignore me? he replied, yeah, that's the plan. so that was freshman year. my best friend from junior high went into the same classroom with me, and we didn't say a single word to each other. we treated each other as though we were strangers. every time i fucked up, got an answer wrong in class and father whitten gave me shit about it, the class would laugh, and i'd look over, just to make sure he was laughing, too.

hello, bulletin board full of flyers.

the same thing happened in college. there was this loud half-black girl i befriended. everything was going along great until, one day, i realized she had borrowed a bunch of money from me, never paid me back, and furthermore, she always made me feel like i was just someone she kept around until better, cooler friends came along. it was just little things. like how i had this great epiphany once. i went to the piers and rode a ferry. i listened to clarity while reading man's search for meaning. i remember at the time that i was completely at peace and had discovered something important. the rarest kind of insight and experience i've ever had or felt. it filled me with something inexplicable, and for the first time ever, i was happy. i told my friend about it, and she said, yeah, i've had that happen. no, you didn't, i wanted to tell her. you never fucking have.

fed up with her bullshit, and feeling like i had been taken advantage of, i just stopped talking to her. my old friend from junior high did it, and i got over it, so i thought, fuck it. i'll just do the same thing he did. i thought of it as some sort of reincarnation cycle shit. someone cuts me off from his life, so i do it to someone else, and so on and so on, until we're all just completely disconnected. but then i had more great epiphanies (it was sophomore year of college, after all), and i knew that i couldn't do that to someone. i didn't want to be that kind of person. we had a class together, cultural anthropology, and we didn't say a word to each other all quarter. then, one day, i saw her walking up the stairs to the cafeteria. she walked past me, and didn't even look at me. it broke my fucking heart. i didn't want to be a ghost. i didn't want to be dead to anyone. sure, i was gonna end up dead someday, but not fucking now. dear god, not now. i wrote her a sincere letter, and i apologized. we hung out a few more times, but it was never the same after that.

hello, swedish medical center.

there have been others. coworkers, classmates, teachers, friends, etc. people that i've known for a little while, and then boom, poof, vanished. what am i supposed to do with that? i wrote a story about kairos (senior retreat) once, and in the story i said how it was all bullshit, that my classmates and i all had this great connection, and then, just like that, it was all over. ever the optimist, my writing professor said, yeah, but there's something about being able to open up like that and even just have that connection. not everyone can do that, he said. i didn't care about possessing that ability, though. i'd rather have some fucking friends.

and then there's eternal sunshine of a spotless mind. that final scene at the beach, and he says, this is where i last saw you. and he knows it's their last memory and he's afraid to death of losing it. there's nothing else he can do, though. clementine asks what they should do. and since there's nothing he nor she nor god can do about it, he says, enjoy it. and that sucks. to me, that's just not good enough. completely unacceptable. but i guess i'll never fully be able to live in this world until i can figure out how to do just that.

there's this part in the elegance of hedgehog that involves a choir. the narrator is an unhappy girl, but when she sings in a choir, she's utterly transformed, and suddenly, there's beauty in the world. she says something along the lines of, why can't that moment just be life all the time? a harmony of voices singing a song so beautiful it softens the hardest of hearts. i read that shit, and i knew exactly what she was talking about. paloma josse said exactly what i had been thinking my whole entire life.

lately, i've come to realize that i am just now learning how to deal with disappointment.