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?"
"yeah."
"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.
yeah,
she said. we can't.

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