this is happening.

she said she had to go get her master's degree in anthropology from some school on the east coast. which one? i don't know, columbia or cornell, some fancy pants place where old money talks with a stuffy accent. and what did that mean for them, exactly? well, let's not kid ourselves. there were only so many ways of putting it, of beating around the bush so to speak, and she had put up with him for so long that she felt she was entitled to an honest answer.

"i'm going to new york," she said. "it's over."

just like that. he didn't even put up a fight, didn't even say a word. he just smoked himself stupid and continued watching entourage. by then, they were both so unhappy, that she could've said just about anything, and he wouldn't have even flinched. i'm pregnant. i have cancer. dinner's ready. your mother's dead. did you get the mail? she needed a change, and he saw it coming. a serious relationship in his twenties, did he expect any different?

"aren't you going to say anything?" she asked. he hadn't said a word all night.
"what's there to say?"
"i don't know. that you're happy for me?"
"i'm happy for you."

he turned to face the wall, and he took more of the comforter with him. she sighed, and he could hear her as she put her hands to her forehead, something she did to express her frustration, which lately seemed to always be directed toward him. she got up to get a glass of water. he listened to her cold feet clap against the kitchen tiles. the sound of the refrigerator opening, closing, water pouring into a glass. then, slow gulps. he peeked over his shoulder to see if she was watching him. she wasn't.

the next morning, he went to work. he didn't say anything to anyone, at least for the first ten minutes. he checked his voicemail, his email, and then he got up to take a piss. the bathroom was empty, and he liked that. it made him feel like a rich person who had his own private bathroom at work. he could choose whichever urinal or stall he wanted. and then he could just stand there and look at himself in the mirror for as long as he wanted. he made some faces in the mirror, made his eyes real big, opened his mouth real wide, arched his eyebrows as high as he could. it was just something he did to help keep things in perspective.

"are you feeling alright?" his coworker asked him.
"yeah, i'm fine," he said.
"you just seem a little out of sorts today. i mean, more than usual. haha."
"yeah, well. kate's going to new york."
"oh. sorry."

he knew better than to bring up personal shit at the office. how unprofessional. and he wasn't even a big shot yet, so his petty little personal life didn't even matter. he couldn't wait to be his own boss, to wear a suit and tie. he'd go out to lunch with the other high power execs on the company's dime, and he'd raise his scotch. "my wife is leaving me," he'd say. and he'd say it with pride. because when you have power, status, and money, you'll most certainly find another. when you're a nobody bitch assistant, airing your little sob story and not being able to pull your shit together could just lead you back to your mother's guest room.

he stayed late at work that day. there was no reason to go home. all that would be there would be kate, some packed suitcases, and leftover meatloaf. all of his coworkers had gone home, and he went to watch the celtics/magic game in the lounge. he unbuttoned his shirt and stretched out across the sofa. there was a little black pillow he could rest his head on, and he tried not to think about how many asses and heads had touched the thing over the years.

his phone vibrated. a text from kate: where r u?

he didn't answer. instead, he finished the game. after that, he went out and got his favorite sandwich - a ham and gruyere baguette - from a nearby cafe. he took the bus into midtown and blew some money on a bunch of shirts. when the total came, $317.42, he knew he'd overspent, but he convinced himself that he deserved it. what else could he do alone? he thought about seeing a movie, but decided against it. there was nothing left to do but go home.

"i see you did a little shopping," kate said.
"yeah. a little."
"how much is a little?"
"$300 a little."
"jesus," she said.

he knew what he was doing. he was trying to guilt her into staying. he was trying to show her that he couldn't be trusted by himself. he was going to overspend and fall apart. if he knew where to buy hard drugs, he'd probably get into that as well.

"what are you trying to prove?" she asked.
"prove? what are you talking about?"
"it's not often you come home late with a bunch of new t-shirts."
"just felt like it. is that okay with you?"

she rolled her eyes and went into the other room. he lit another joint, and then he turned on the t.v. twenty minutes later, she came back into the room. her eyes were all puffy and red.

"can't you at least pretend you're a little sad that this is happening?"

by then, he was pretty lit, and her voice seemed like a far away echo. he thought for a long time about what he was going to say. she just stood there, looking more angry and confused by the second. his thoughts were coming to him very slowly, and he was afraid that no matter what he said, it was going to be the wrong thing. he didn't want to upset her because then she'd yell, and it would bring up all sorts of bad memories of growing up. all that he wanted was for her to sit there on his lap, and for things to be like the way they were when they had first started seeing each other.

he looked at her, and he tried his best to cry. he tried to think of all the saddest things he'd ever been through to help force the tears out, but for the life of him, he couldn't. he felt nothing. nothing at all.
we're all illegal.

so, this school i work for, you know, the one that talks about social justice and equality all the time, has decided not to award a $40,000 fellowship to a female graduate, even though a whole committee nominated her and thought she was the best. from what i've figured out, the school has decided to not give her the fellowship because of her questionable citizenship status. apparently, the school says, sure, you can come to our school and pay us $30,000 in tuition every year for three years, and you can get a piece of paper with our logo on it when you finish, but no, you aren't good enough to be awarded a fellowship that might actually help you start your legal career.

the school is looking out for itself. it's just business. because my god, what might happen if this story broke while she was working at that law firm out there in moses lake? the headline would say: law school awards fellowship to undocumented graduate! and the whole city would be in an uproar. indignant folk would be all like, that fellowship could've gone to an american! no, no, the school couldn't have that. they'll support a professor whose offer to become dean at another school is rescinded based on sexual orientation, but come on, this is an immigration issue! one step at a time. don't blow your social justice load too quickly now, ya hear?

and even though the firm knows about her status, has outright stated that she is completely eligible to work for them, administration is still blocking the offer. and of course it's all hush-hush. can you just imagine if it got out?
the serenity of a vineyard.

what a morbid little shit you were. you held the knife to your chest, and you thought about how easy it would be. only five years old and you put the big butcher knife right in front of your chest when no one else was looking. grandma caught you once. maybe you wanted to get caught. you were such a little drama queen, it's a marvel you never tried out for plays. grandma caught you, and she said, "don't do that! the devil could push your hand." you believed in the devil then. the devil, and ghosts and witchery. a little red and black man with yellow eyes, horns, and a long pointy tail would suddenly appear and bring that knife through you, empty your life all over the kitchen floor.

why did you do that? i don't think you were trying to be funny, or make a big production out of it. no, you were probably just seeing how easy life was. it was like your old nintendo. you could just press the power button, and it would be finished. but something made you want to keep playing. all the little pleasures in life, wasn't it? maybe it was hearing paperboy's "ditty" on the radio, or else full afternoons of eating pik-nik while watching tom and jerry. there was something weird about all of it, though, and i have to give you credit for knowing where the power switch was so early on.

and then there was that flight to los angeles you took when you were seventeen. it was a stormy day in april, and california was having the storm of its life. that plane shook and rattled, dropped and swayed for the short, forty-five minute flight, but you thought that was it. you thought you were dead. the attendants couldn't even get up to serve peanuts. that was always a bad sign. you made a deal with god then, you remember? you told god, if you get me out of this one, i'll be a better person. i'll stop being so negative, and i'll help people and be good and love, and dear god, just don't let me die. not tonight. not somewhere over fucking bakersfield. you made it, and then you didn't hold up your end of the deal.

what were you afraid of then? clinging to the isolated life you led, holed up in your room night after night re-watching jenna jameson videos? maybe it was the promise of another power-sized mango-a-go-go with a free vitamin c boost, or getting to sit through a really good movie - one that made you think - at the century theaters. there were all sorts of things you wanted to do. you were only seventeen then. you had to make it through that night. otherwise, all the old filipinos would just shake their heads and say, "bata pa, bata pa." translation: he was just a child. he was just a child.

you are growing too old for this kind of talk, this brand of negativity. you're older now. and even though you're not necessarily wiser, it's time to let go of some things. what if it is that easy? you know enough now that there is no devil, at least not one that's going to push your hand and make you do something you regret. worse yet, there's no more grandma. no one left to warn you about your own imagination.
i'm a hugger.

the bowl was whack. it was supposed to be banging, but it was whack. we took a cab there, spent $25 to have the dude drop us off at a nearby park. we had to piss. "there's people here," i said. "so?" i had a whole pitcher of sangria and two margaritas welling up inside my bladder, so i had to unload. like a dog, i went on a tree trunk for a good minute and a half. "hurry up!" he said. "i'm trying," i said. i couldn't stop peeing. it was the pee of my life, brought tears to my eyes.

"let's pop in here," he said. "this place has to go cups." i had to get more cash out of the atm. by then, i'd already racked up nearly $30 in non-chase atm fees. i took out $40, knowing i'd blow it on drinks or something else. there was always something to blow money on. he handed me a to go cup. "let's bounce," he said. "dude," i said, "we're drinking fucking beer on the street. what the fuck is this?" "i know," he said, "isn't it fucking awesome?"

we got to the bowl, and there was a line outside the place. "let's kill this first," he said. "we've got styrofoam cups," i said. "i could just be drinking a pepsi." "nah," he said, "they know what's up." we stood in front of some building with graffiti all over it, and we finished our beers. "i hope this shit isn't whack," he said. "if it's whack, we'll just go somewhere else." "no doubt."

we went in, and there was a decent crowd, but not big enough for him. "this shit is dead," he said. "it's fine," i said. we met up with some girls he knew, marisa and michelena. marisa hugged him, and then there was a moment where we couldn't decide whether to hug or handshake. she put her arms around me. "i'm a hugger," she said. michelena and i shook hands.

we got some more beers, and i texted back and forth with another dude who was supposed to meet up with us there. in the meantime, i talked with michelena. she was this small blonde thing, cute enough, and she said she had just gotten laid off from her job in social media marketing or public relations or some other such thing i wasn't familiar with. my friend and i had our meeting on the mound. "what are my chances here?" i asked. "not good," he said, "she's only into d.j.'s."

the other dude met up with us. "this place is dead," he told him. "we're gonna bounce." by then we were all pretty wasted, and we had no idea where to go. i had to be at the airport by 7 a.m., so i wanted to go home. i suggested secrets, the shady queens strip joint. they immediately were into it. "alright," i said, "but we're in and out. none of this getting to know them shit like you pulled last time." "yeah yeah," he said.

when it was all over, it was six a.m. and it was cold. i had makeup smeared all over the front of my shirt, and the ground was still spinning. i had a seven hour flight ahead of me. "that was a great night," the dude said to me. "but it was random."
the blue skirt or the blue skirt?

i told him i wanted to take the l train to bedford because i'd heard it in a song. most of my sightseeing had to do with indie rock lyrics, i.e. stranded on bleecker and broadway, looking for something to do; i'm the luckiest guy on the lower east side; etc. he said, sure, we could take the l train to bedford. when we got to the subway station, he told me to note who was going where. all the little hipster bitches with their big sunglasses were going to brooklyn, and all the suits and fashionable women were going to eighth avenue. funny, i said.

we stepped off the train, and he told me to prepare to feel very uncool. i always feel uncool, i said. this will be nothing new. we got off the train, and we started walking. we stopped at a bar. me and rocky used to come here all the time, he said. let's go in. we went up to the roof, and got some coronas. it was only 3 p.m., and we were gonna wet our whistles (his phrase, not mine) early. all the tables were taken, so we found a little bench to sit on while we drank our beers.

this dude with a beard and red blotchy skin dropped his cigarette next to me. careful there, ed told him. i'm fucked up, the dude said. no kidding, ed said. the dude said, slide over. and then he said to me, take a look around, which one do you want? i'm gonna be your wing man, he said, and then he slapped me on the back. what's your story, the dude said. i'm visiting from seattle, i told him. nah nah, he said, that won't work. you work for a software company, and you're looking to bring your developers to the east coast. right? so what's the name of your company? i don't know, i said. i'm not drunk enough to have a good story yet. your story is fine, he reassured me.

we finished our beers, and the drunk dude disappeared. we decided to walk further down bedford avenue, stopping every now and then to get more drinks. we drank pabst blue ribbon with orange juice, and he called it a brunch monkey. we kept walking, and then we were in hasidic jewish territory. for many blocks, there were men in suits with yamikas and curls, and pretty jewish women with dark shiny hair and argyle sweaters and they were pushing strollers. there were little jews everywhere playing in the streets. it felt like a whole different time period and country. a group of small girls looked up at me, and i thought of francie nolan.

a few more blocks, and we'll be in bed-stuy do-or-die, he said. it's where biggie grew up. sure enough, we kept walking and there were no more jews, but instead, big black dudes with baggy clothes. there's a good wings place right here, he said. he ordered some wings, and we sat on a stoop and went to town on those wings. i dumped packets of hot sauce on mine. a combination of the heat, being drunk, sitting on a cool brooklyn stoop and thinking about how this was the setting for my favorite novel of all time made it the best meal ever.

we ran into his ex-girlfriend on the street, and she invited us up to her apartment. we drank wine on jenny's roof, and she looked at my buddy like he still meant a lot to her. i remember that look. it's been a while since i've seen it, but still, i remember that look.
it's a code orange.

the poor bastard was working late into the night. midnight had come and gone, and he was still going at it, pulling in his 40k a year to be an assistant editor. i don't know how he did it. "how do you do it?" i asked. "i don't know," he said, "i just do it. but i work hard, and then i play hard." he took me to a big window in his office, and said that across the way, those were nyu dorms. "sometimes, we see girls changing, or people straight up fucking," he said. he told me about their code system, how a code green meant a girl in a towel, code orange was nudity, and code red was fucking. he told me how he'd sometimes just stand there and watch a little coed lotion herself up. "you'd be surprised how long they lotion themselves," he said.

i drank a vitamin c from the fridge - all their drinks were free - and i checked my phone and the internet. all the while he sat at his desk, and stormed around the office saying things like, "fuck" and "shit" and "this is fucking bullshit." i didn't know any of the editing jargon he complained about, so i just assumed something was amiss. "ten more minutes," he'd say. "ten more minutes, and we'll be out of here." "no worries," i said.

the night didn't start until about 2 a.m. we walked through washington square park because i wanted to see where they filmed that brutal skateboard scene in kids. we ended up at le souk, some bar/club where his friend was spinning. he introduced me to some girls, said i was a friend from high school, said i was from out of town. i think the girls were marisa and mikelena, and the former was kind of seeing the d.j. they danced and drank and i just drank. "come on," he said to me, "it's a dance party."

there was a black guy there, and he said that he wanted to kick the black guy's ass. "are you down to get in a fight tonight?" he asked me. he told me about how he and the d.j. were gonna fuck up this black guy. "what for?" i asked. "he's an asshole," he said. sure enough, the black guy was annoying, and he said annoying things. i don't remember exactly what he said, but i do remember him kicking my foot at one point. i just moved my foot. "if somebody punks you like that, you give them the finger," he said. "you tell them to fuck off," he said. "yeah, okay," i said.

let me back up. back at the office, my friend was telling me about neil strauss' the game. it's essentially a story or rulebook about how to pick up women. according to my friend, it's helped him sleep with sixteen women so far. he asked me what my number was. i told him the magic number, and he was just like, jesus. and then he told me that i need to read the book. on the train, he showed me how it works. there was a cute, busty girl on the train, and she was with her friend. he offered her his seat, and followed it up by saying, he offered not because he was a nice guy, but just because he didn't want to hear their asinine conversation. a neg is what the book calls it. the girl actually laughed, and they got to talking.

he was proud of that whole exchange, and he wouldn't stop talking about it. i thought maybe he was manically depressed. he already had himself a cute little hipster girlfriend who lived in brooklyn, so i didn't know what he was trying to accomplish. "the game isn't just about picking up girls," he said, "it's about being your best self." he kept insisting i read it, so i told him i'd read it, but in reality, i never had any intention of doing so.

i knew there was a real problem when i had to duck into a mall on the upper west side to take a piss. he really didn't want to go to the mall. i told him it was just to piss. he argued that it didn't feel right, that everything in new york was unique, and that a big mall had no business being there. i told him again, i just needed to pee. "okay," he said, "but let's be quick about this." after we left the mall, he was in a sour mood, until he started explaining the plot of cloverfield to me. he brightened up real quick after that.

i woke up around 3 a.m. that night. he came in and said, "that girl was whack! i gave her a hundred dollars!" "what'd she do?" i said, half-asleep. "she let me suck on her tits," he said. he turned on an episode of the simpsons. i remember laughing at the first few lines, and then i was out. completely knocked the fuck out.
his first time visiting.

a few months ago, i messaged a classmate from high school. "are you still living in new york?" "yeah," he said. i told him i wanted to come visit. "you totally should," he said. i needed a week off from work. i had to get away from the boredom, the constant feeling that i wasn't contributing anything to society, to the world. a few nights before i left, i woke up half-panicked. this has happened before. it's that moment that sometimes happens when i think, i am alone, and i am going to leave behind my bed, my apartment, and i will be traveling by myself. and then i actually do it, and it's not a big deal at all.

i told the cabbie 49th and queens blvd. i called up ed, and he met me on the corner. he said he was doing laundry, and did i want to put my stuff away? i said it could wait. he smoked a cigarette, a stoag is what he called it, while we waited for his laundry. it was a warm and sunny day in the city. we talked about some fools we haven't seen or heard from since high school. strange to think it's been nearly a decade. he threw his shit in the dryer, and then we walked up a few blocks to his apartment.

his apartment was on the top floor, 5a, and it was half the size of my seattle apartment. "if you don't mind me asking, what's the rent?" i hate it when people say, if you don't mind me asking, but i know it's what people do, so it's what i did. "$1,250," he said. double what i pay for my place in seattle. "jesus," i said. "yeah," he said, "it sucks." he had a similar setup to me. not much shit on the walls, a black futon and small flat-screen. what set our places apart is that he had cigarette butts, marijuana ash, and empty beer cans all over. "let me show you the roof," he said.

i took in the view of the manhattan skyline, and i told him it was awesome. "i know it is," he said. he told me to crouch down, and then we got high. i took a big hit, held it in as long as i could, and coughed it out. it felt like i wouldn't stop coughing. here it is, i thought. an hour into my first visit to new york, and i'm already blazed. i moved my head and everything was super slow. "let me take you to my neighborhood bar," he said.

it was some old irish pub, and there was a romanian girl behind the counter. "magda, this is my friend from high school," he said. we shook hands. he and magda spoke for quite some time, and i kept silent. they were talking about their friends, ed's exes, and all these people i'd never heard of. she told ed she liked his glasses. and then she turned to me. "and you," she said, "you probably don't get many compliments." i told her i didn't, and i wondered if she was calling me ugly. "because you're so quiet!" she said. "oh yeah," i said. "i'm really high right now." "high as a kite," she said, and then we all laughed.

we took the seven to grand central station, and then we went to the east village, where ed's buddy, vic, lived. vic lived in an even smaller apartment, and he paid even more for rent. "he's really paying for the location," ed said. vic also lived on the top floor, and he had his music going full blast. he was a dj, and he had everything set up by the window. i was still kinda high, and i could only wonder who these people were. east coasters who made just enough to get by and continued to party it up everyday like they were still in high school and their parents were out of town.

we started the night off at this bar called simone's. everyone knew vic and ed. i got introduced as "the friend from high school," with the additional, "it's his first time in new york." and everyone else would always be like, really? we had shots of jameson on the house, beer after beer, bar after bar. from there, we went to lucky jack's, and then to pianos, and then ended the night at sing sing. ed's buddy, paul, said he wanted to go hit on some girls at sing sing. he had just finished med school, and i told him that he should tell them that. "dude," i said, "just got up to them and be like, 'i'm a fucking doctor.'" he laughed. "not quite yet," he said. "it'd be more like, 'hey, i've got a lot of debt!'"

around 4 or 5, we cabbed it back to his apartment, smoked some more, and watched the simpsons. a great way to start the week.
big old fat franco.

big old fat franco got even fatter when i saw him in december of '09. he'd easily put on another 20 pounds in the past year, but he was the same old big old fat franco. he just rolled up to one of my favorite restaurants in manila, zong, and he took a seat next to his equally big old fat sister, nikki. franco looked stressed and tired. i was happy to see him, but if he was happy to see me too, he certainly didn't show it. "where the fuck are we going tonight?" he said. good to know his diction hadn't changed. last time, it was, "what are we eating here? are we gonna get two fucking chickens?"

franco's straight filipino, but he's loud, obnoxious, fat and racist. so, more like an american. but that's how the middle to upper class in manila do. they roll american style. guy was wearing big old baggy board shorts, a giant t-shirt, and a baseball cap. all eyes were on him. he's got this thing where he likes the attention. he wants to be an actor, but he'll settle for always being an extra. poor fuck. an extra in filipino movies, which, even poor filipinos don't fucking watch. he'd tell us about them. "i play diablo in shake, rattle, and roll," he said. i never saw the movie, mostly because it looked like shit and i don't understand tagalog well, but still, i believed him.

we went upstairs to some bar, and there was loud music but no people there. the five of us, franco included, were the only ones in the whole fucking bar. finally, some other people arrived. "there are a lot of them," franco said, and he was right, they were a big group. "and there are a lot of us," nikki said. he counted, pointing at me, my cousin, my cousin's friend, princess, and then nikki: "one, two, three, four, seven," he said, his fat finger pointed at his fat sister's stomach. she punched him on the arm.

the conversation switched to what franco did for a living, and that was to entertain rich business foreigners. he took them to strip clubs, whorehouses, any place of debauchery, really. princess (her real name) asked him in tagalog, "and what, there's a lot of girls behind a glass, and you choose who you want?" franco shot her a look of disgust. "no!" he said, "it's not a fucking aquarium!" i thought of what i saw last year, at asian entertainment, a seedy club on roxas blvd. it was an aquarium. prostos in a fishbowl.

he talked of this other place in queson city, this joint near my dad's old neighborhood. place was called classmates, where all the high-class whores wore schoolgirl uniforms. "it's just like any other place," franco said. "some of the girls are ugly. but some of them, i swear to you, they look like gods." "and you've tried all of them, huh, franco?" "no," he said, "i'm a professional. i'm only there to entertain the men who want to be entertained." "why don't you entertain my cousin?" she said, pointing to me. "no, that's okay," i said. "yeah, that's okay for me, too," franco said, "that shit is expensive."

the girls talked of going some place else, but franco said, "it's a sunday night. who the fuck goes out on a sunday night?"
having said so much.

he used to wake up, and he'd be afraid. what was he so afraid of? oh, you know. alarm clocks, school, sugary breakfast cereals, boredom, dental appointments, tests, acceptance, girls, bullies, discipline, feeling inferior, feeling alone, god, church, sitting still, dogs, anything outside the house, really. a lot of the time, he resented his parents, though he'd never outright admit it. the fuck you bring me into this world for, he wanted to say. the fuck was y'all thinking? he knew others had it worse, and some had it better. as for him, well, he'd just about had it.

when he was a kid, on some weekends, he'd wake up at his classmate's house. those were always the worst, those saturday night sleepovers. he liked night time. maybe he always thought he'd die in his sleep, and he lived each night like it was his last because he'd just let it all out. he'd tell about everything, what his heart felt, what he was thinking, what he dreamed of, and what he feared most. and his classmates, his friends, they'd just keep on playing streets of rage or poker or dominoes and just say, yeah yeah yeah. in the morning, when he'd wake, he'd regret having said so much. he imagined that was how he would feel when he got older, one regrettable night after another. hangovers and one night stands and whatnot. all he had to look forward to.

and there was that awful stench of his friend's house. it must've been their laundry detergent or something. it made the whole house stink, and his clothes would reek of it for the rest of the week. his classmate's brother would be watching some shit show on the t.v., something like american ninja. sunday afternoon television, always the worst. and then they'd go for a swim. he'd be hesitant to take off his shirt and show off his stomach, especially if his classmate's older sister was around. not like he stood a chance with her anyway. who could love a fat loser who cried himself to sleep every night?

eventually, he lost the weight and someone did love him, but not in the way he wanted. maybe he just wasn't ready for it. he'd wake up next to her, and every morning, he'd think less of her. why's she with me anyhow, he'd say to himself. this is never gonna work out. he hated himself, that much was clear. he'd waited his whole life for this, for some kind of acceptance, some sort of recognition, but love was never even a part of it. sure, he said i love you, but it was only because it was a line he'd heard in the movies and on television. really, what he meant to say was: i can't wait until you break my heart, so i can just go on feeling the way i've always felt.

and so it happened. he was able to go back to the way he'd always felt, and he began waking up alone again. he'd wake up in the middle of the night, and he'd be afraid. what's this pain in my side? cancer? i could get an aneurysm any second, what would that feel like? he'd imagine something just bursting in his head, popping like a balloon, like the clown's head in a carnival game, the one where you'd shoot a stream of water into the clown's mouth, and the balloon would just grow and grow, until finally, pop. try going back to sleep after that one.

all that was left now was the alarm clock. and boredom. and each night, he still put it all out there - everything on his mind - to an audience of strangers. to anyone who would listen, anyone at all.
to tweet while dreaming.

we were at a bar, some place i didn't wanna be, some place called the tiger lounge, and there was a reason i didn't wanna be there. there was loud awful music from the main room, and out back, a bunch of wannabe punks with colored hair, piercings, all black, all bullshit. "you were right," my friend said. and what he meant was that i was right about the bar. it was crap, and it wasn't 1997, and punk wasn't cool anymore, and it hadn't been for a while, and who the hell were these fakers trying to kid anyway? you wanna smoke some pot, my friend, the one whose idea it was to go there, asked.

so there we were, passing a pipe back and forth on a dark night in may. next to us, a trashcan bonfire. the guy who smoked us out had some speech problem, and it might've been due to the fact that he'd done a lot of hard drugs in his life. even if that wasn't the case, the drugs certainly couldn't have helped any. he told us about the time he had gotten pulled over and harassed by police. my friend, the lawyer, told him to never talk to police, and that talking to the police can only hurt you. my other friend kept repeating to the retarded kid, "joey! listen to this man." i thought about it. i was high, but i thought about it. i thought about the times i had been pulled over, and the first thing the officer always asked me was how fast did i think i was going? stupidly, i always answered a number over the speed limit. talking to the police can only hurt you. i was high, but i knew that much. better yet, i remembered it.

"dude, that guy was retarded," my friend said. "i mean really retarded." he drew out the word retarded like it meant something. by then, the awful band was finished playing its awful rock and roll or whatever the hell it was, and nirvana's "something in the way" was playing on the speakers. maybe it was 1997, after all. i sat down on the porch of this place, the tiger lounge, and i was sitting on a nasty old orange sofa. suddenly, my friend started to sing: "it's okay to eat fish because they don't have any feelings." but he wasn't really singing it. it was like a spoken word bit, and his cadence and volume rose each time he repeated it. "what the hell is that?" i asked. "it's sinatra doing nirvana." it's okay to eat fish. because they don't have any feelings. "you're freaking me out," i said.

suddenly, this roadie showed up, and he started wrapping up a microphone. he started singing something else. i watched these two dudes singing, and what the hell was going on anyway? before i knew it, we were going across the aurora bridge. "dude, that guy was retarded." "yeah," i said, "he was like, 'did you do too many drugs? i did too many drugs.'" my other friend chimed in, "did you know this is the number two bridge in the country where people come to kill themselves?" i thought about my friend, the one who did a lot of drugs, the one who jumped off a bridge but didn't die.

i dreamed of kurt cobain that night, or maybe it was a kurt imposter, i couldn't tell. i kept trying to tweet "kurdt," the incorrect way he'd spell his name, but my hand kept slipping and i kept typing in my mom's old screen name instead, lrdstn. how i got lrdstn out of kurdt, i'm not sure. all i knew was that it was impossible to tweet while dreaming. it was also the first time i dreamed of my iphone, or at least an instance that i could remember. i'm addicted to the internet, and that's that. all because i ate a cheeseburger with a side of tater tots at 2 a.m. while stoned.

i drove us home, and i probably shouldn't have. i took a sharp right on angeline st., going up the hill, and a cop must have noticed because he followed me a couple of blocks. it would've made a good story, though, and an end to one hell of a night. all that talk about not talking to the cops, and then i'd be able to see how much i actually remembered. if i could put theory into practice. i was aware of it all. was the car swerving? was i giving off any hints that i had spent most of the evening inebriated? "just be cool," my friend said. "i'm good," i said, "i'm not even drunk," though my voice faltered. i made it to martin luther king, and the prick turned left. i breathed a sigh of relief.

i pulled up in front of my apartment. "god," i said, slamming the door shut, "it's good to get away with something."
unfolded beautifully.

did i tell you about the time i got a d.u.i.? no, i said, though i'd heard about it from a friend. dr. s. told me the whole story. how she drove drunk from lake city all the way to renton, a total of 16 miles, until police finally caught up with her in a fred meyer parking lot. she claimed that she couldn't remember anything that night, and that she must have blacked out at some point. i think i was trying to kill myself that night, she said. the year was 2003, she had just undergone a nasty divorce - he'd gambled away a sizable amount of her earnings - and one night, she had been depressed enough to buy herself a $25,000 glass of merlot. at the time, i was a sophomore in her british literature class, all of us oblivious to the fact that our beloved english professor was in the process of becoming a felon.

she continued: the cop charged me with evasion because i had driven so far and refused to pull over. by the time i got to that fred meyer parking lot, i was unresponsive. i was driving my black bmw with the tinted windows, so, you know, they didn't know who was in there! i was told later that there were about 12 police cars, and they had their guns drawn as they approached my vehicle. they must've broken the windows to get to me. and then they arrested me. they cuffed me, and i went to jail. just like that.

were you completely freaked out? i was totally freaked out, she said. it was the weirdest thing, you know. here i was, in a courtroom with some hardcore felons. these were guys wearing those orange jumpsuits, and i was in there with my business suit on. the judge looked at me and asked, what are you doing in my court? i told him i didn't know. i told him i had a very bad night, one of the worst nights of my life, and i ended up here. he looked over my report, said i didn't have a history, and that i didn't belong there. i had twenty-five letters of support from childhood friends, other faculty, students, everyone. i got my one year sentence reduced to three days. they suspended my license, and i went to a.a. meetings. they installed one of those ignition locks in my car, you know, the kind you have to breathe in before it can start?

i remember that time, i told her. you'd missed a couple of classes that quarter, but i had no idea any of this was going on, i said. none of us did. yeah, she said, i went to trial in between classes. the judge asked me, when can you begin your three day sentence? he said, can you do it today? and i told him, no, that i actually had a class i needed to teach at 2. the judge laughed at me. he said, this is probably the worst day of your life, and you're still thinking about teaching a 2 o'clock class? he said that was very responsible of me.

the judge told me, you're lucky you didn't kill someone that night. i look at that d.u.i. as a gift, she said. because it saved my life. it really did. as scared as i was, i knew that god was watching over me, and i knew that there was some sort of plan, some reason that this was happening to me. not many people know about it, she said. it's not like i go around advertising it, but it's unfolded beautifully. and i thank god that i'm still alive. i ended up serving my three day sentence over spring break that year.

we got to her car, and she put her dog in his zip-up cage in the backseat. she was perspiring. we should do this again, she said. it was so good seeing you. we hugged it out. you too, i said.
all this life happening.

we went out to lunch, me and this guy. it was our second time going out for lunch. i asked another guy who worked here why this guy wanted to have lunch with me, and that other guy said, well, you're like one of the few guys around here. and that other guy even said, we don't talk enough. you know, we're one of the few heterosexual guys at the office, and we don't ever hang out. and i said, yeah, i'm down to hang out more. and it was a strange, silly conversation. it's a weird thing when grown men have to admit that they need something.

so, anyway, it was a nice day out and me and this guy go out for lunch. where ya wanna go, he said. and i said, cafe presse (because i wanted pomme-frites and a croque monsieur). i asked, do you wanna sit outside, and he said, yeah. the hostess said, how are you guys? and i didn't even answer her. i just said, can we sit outside? she said okay, and then she got us some menus. the black table was hot, and i couldn't believe the sun was out. i hadn't seen the sun in a minute. he sat across from me, and he was quiet, seemed kind of down. i said the table was hot, and he felt it.

we got to talking about things, and i suppose this is how friendships are formed. by going out to lunch and talking about things even though you don't really have much to talk about. i told him about my friends, the jews, the ones who got engaged and passed the bar this past weekend. he said, and there you were, getting ready for monday morning. and i said, yeah. i said, yeah, there i was, getting ready to go proctor. and he said, all this life happening around you, and you're stuck at your job. again i said, yeah.

he asked, have you thought about going to law school? and i said, yeah, i've thought about it. i definitely have a lot of people pushing me in that direction. it's a big commitment, he said. i said, and it's discouraging to hear my coworkers talk about how they'll be paying off loans for the rest of their lives. he nodded. i asked if he'd thought about it. he said he had. and then he paused. if i was single, i'd do it, he said. and i know he didn't mean it, but when he said it, it sounded like he thought getting married young wasn't the best idea.

i asked him, so, is marriage a lot of work? yeah, he said, it is. and then he caught himself. but i love it, he said. it's just like with any relationship, he said, it's always gonna be work, you know? and imagine being in a relationship for twenty-four hours a day! i nodded, as though i knew what he was talking about. and maybe i did. i asked if he kept in touch with anyone from college. no, he said. oh wait, college? no, he said again. i wondered about him, and if he had any friends at all. besides his wife and the older woman who shares the office with him, i thought that i might be the only dude he has to talk to. maybe that's what this was all about.

i asked if he ever studied abroad when he was an undergrad. he said he went to australia for four or five months. he told me some story about when he went into the woods and saw all these glow worms. and then, another time, he stayed at a creepy place that used to be a hospital, and there were all kinds of spiders there. he told me this other story about a girl in australia, and how she wanted to hang out with him on one of his last nights there, and how she invited another girl out. i thought the story was gonna end in a threesome, and i was really disappointed when the real ending was this: so, the girl's friend said, we could go throw rocks at "darkies" in the park!

he asked me about my coworker, the girl who sits next to me. he asked, is she smart? i thought it was a strange question. like i would ever really say, no, actually, she's a complete moron! so i just said, yes. she's been really open lately, he said. how do you mean, i asked him. he said that she's been all smiles and full of energy. i agreed, and i said i didn't know what that was about. maybe she has a plan to get out of here. maybe that bar she wants to start is finally getting off the ground.

we split the check, and then lunch was over. he, back to his desk, and me to mine.
aren't you the representative?

it was just another good old day of feeling useless. my boss' kid got sick, a high fever or something, so she said, can you go to this meeting? actually, she asked my other boss to go to the meeting, but that boss was just like, hell no i'm not wasting my time at some stupid ass pointless meeting. so, i said, yeah, fine, i'll go, whatever. not like i'm doing anything anyway. the meeting was for the deans and directors of the law school, and there was no point in me being there at all. it was a bunch of older ladies and a couple of middle-aged men. we all sat around some tables, and the woman from the dean's department told us about events for the 2010-2011 school year.

the fat man next to me had a supersized mcdonald's cup. fuck's wrong with this guy, i wondered. i mean, i always think i'm gonna have a heart attack, and then i can't even imagine this obese dude drinking a giant coke at ten in the morning. an event sponsored by my department came up in the discussion, and one of the deans said that the timing for it seemed strange, since it takes place in the summer, and during the bar exams. and did i happen to know why that particular date was chosen? no, i said. the fat man said, but aren't you the representative? i answered, i'm just here to take notes. people laughed at that.

i don't know why administration hasn't caught onto us yet. i figure my boss makes like $40, and my other boss probably makes another $40, and i make $30, and they give us a budget of like, another $30, so that's about $140 a year, and i don't even know what we do, really. we had like one event on that calendar, and even that was questionable. who are we, and what do we do? nobody seems to be able to answer that. they pay me a schoolteacher's salary, and they asked me one question, and i couldn't even answer it. because i honestly didn't know. and my boss, the one who didn't want to come to the meeting, she doesn't even show up to work anymore. she just sends emails saying that she's working off campus, or else working from home. and because she has a law degree, some smarts, she gets away with it. me? forget about it. no one trusts an english major.

finally, after yet another day of doing nothing, evening came, and it was proctoring time. two minutes before the test, this girl in the front row asked if i was going to signal when it was time to type. i was like, what are you talking about? she said, there's a reading period for an hour, so will you tell us when to type? i said, sorry? she repeated herself and huffed. nevermind, she said, you don't know what i'm talking about! i agreed that i didn't, and i told her that the professor didn't write any specific instructions on his sheet. at that point, though, she had already stopped listening to me, the useless proctor.

i sat there, and i watched three episodes of band of brothers. i used to romanticize war and guns and explosions, but now i just romanticize having some sort of purpose, having an experience that is actually worth telling. no old man gathers his grandchildren around him and tells them about the time he was a proctor. the time he was an administrator at a university. gather 'round now, boys and girls. gather 'round now. did i ever tell you kids about the time i printed out contracts for summer interns, stapled them together, and then paper-clipped them in neat little stacks? boy, oh boy. that sure was a crazy time!

one time, after losing another game of basketball to some street urchins, my friend told me i had to move around more, set picks, fight picks, believe and all that. he said, if you're just standing around the court, then you're basically dead-weight.
you'll be positive though it hurts.

girl was wearing a khmer, and she had a book with her, something called being muslim. what's that for, i asked. she said she had to write about an issue. stupidly, i asked if she was muslim. she smiled. yeah, she said. i had all kinds of things to say to her, and i wanted to be as typically american as possible about it. did she believe in jihad? did she think wearing the khmer was oppressive? how did she feel about the south park controversy? did she really believe mohammed was a prophet? i mean, really?

i started with south park. she said she didn't watch it, and i felt like it was a cop-out. a lot of my friends watched the first ten minutes, and they couldn't finish it, she said. they were too disgusted by it, she said. disgusted, i thought. the opening scene with mitch connor in saigon was downright hilarious. i wanted to steer the conversation toward censorship, freedom of speech and all that good shit, all that shit that really mattered, but it just wouldn't go that way. girl said, i don't think it's okay to make fun of muslims. she said, all muslims and non-muslims should be treated equally.

i worked with another little kid, and he was like 8. do you have chicken pox, he asked. what? no. then what's that? he pointed to my face. those are zits, i said. we looked over his math homework. it was just one little worksheet that had stupid little clues on it. like, one clue would say, i am greater than fifteen and less than forty. one-fifth of me is five. i tried to help him. i really did. but the idiot would just call out answers. seventeen! thirty-five! no, wait, i said. he rubbed his face and said he didn't know. he didn't want to think about it, and honestly, i didn't want to teach him. because neither of us knew how to do it. eventually, he gave up and screwed around with the other little shits.

these two black kids were messing around on the dell laptop. look, look, one said to the other, if you press shift and then control, it makes that sound. they kept doing it. beep. beep. beep. hahaha. it was driving me nuts. half-heartedly, i tried to stop it. don't do that, i said. they didn't listen. beep. beep. beep. don't make me take the laptop away, i said. okay, okay, they said, we're done. but it was too late. i was already frustrated. why do you guys even bother coming here, i asked. you don't do any work. wouldn't you rather just go home and take a nap? i think one of them misheard me. what, he said. you volunteered for this.

and the way he fucking said it was what did me in. there's a line from some war documentary, i think it was why we fight, and one soldier recalls being told something like, "you volunteered for this shit," or "you guys are fucking volunteers." and the way he said it, or maybe it was just the word volunteer itself, that triggered something within me. maybe i still harbor negative feelings about how i wasted my early twenties as a volunteer, or how i use volunteering even now as a front. because it's just so fucking easy, so inconsequential.

the other thing was this sense of ingratitude i got. like, the kid realizes that i'm giving up my free time to tutor, or rather, to babysit, yet he's still a dick about it. he can't just sit still and do his homework for the life of him, and for some reason, this irritates me. probably because i fucking did it. i kept my goddamn mouth shut all throughout school, and i did the bare minimum. the thing is, i want kids to conform to the boring, lifeless way i went through school, and when they fail to live up to my already incredibly low self-standards, i lash out at them. it doesn't make sense, and i probably shouldn't tutor, teach, or volunteer anymore.

i don't know if that makes any sense. to put it another way, i didn't do shit in school, and i haven't done shit with my life. and when these children fail to do shit like i did shit, then that really scares me. it scares me shitless. or maybe i just don't like working with kids. and it's time to finally accept that.
are you excited to become a lawyer?

this is my friend, he said. he's from the philippines, he doesn't speak a word of english, and he'd really love to have his picture taken with four beautiful women. the two girls looked at him, looked at me. he's from where? the one girl asked. manila, the philippines. why doesn't he say anything? the other girl asked. he doesn't speak english! but look, she said, he's nodding. see, he's nodding. he understands, she said. she pointed down granville street. look over there, there are some girls over there who don't look as smart as us. why don't you go try them? what, he said, are you racist? and then we walked away.

there were two girls eating some shit food on a bus bench outside the 7-11. come on, i'm gonna go say something to them, i said. no, he said, don't embarrass me right now. dude, i said, what difference does make? if i really embarrass us, we never have to come back here! but i do wanna come back here, he said. well, it doesn't even matter. what are the chances we'll ever run into them again? he had nothing to say to that. come on, i'm gonna do it. what are you gonna say? he asked. i don't know, i said. i'm just gonna say, hey, where's the party at, and do you wanna come with us? dude, you cannot say that, he said. that's not how it works.

he told the stripper i had just passed the washington state bar, and she shook my hand. congratulations, she said. he gave her forty dollars. she looked at the money, and then she said, alright, are we ready for a dance? and i said, yeah. she led me to a room in the corner, and there was a sofa, a seat, and a bathtub. she motioned for me to sit on the seat. what's your name? i asked. gia, she said, and then we shook hands. she removed her top. are you excited to become a lawyer? she asked. what? she repeated herself, this time louder. are you excited to become a lawyer? yeah! i said. yes, i am.

let's go to wings, he said. i like wings. we went into wings and got a table way in the back. there was a soccer game on one screen, highlights from the cavs/celtics game on the other. let's just get three pounds of wings, he said. i looked at the menu. just three? let's do five. five? are you crazy, he said. do you know how many wings that is? come on, i said. we can do it. let's just start with three, he said, then we'll see how we feel after that. after the three pounds, i ordered two more. see, i said, we should've just gone with five.

let's go in here, he said. it was a smoke shop. what's in here? they sell weed in here? i asked. no, he said, let's just get some cigars. we went inside. do you have zippos, i asked the clerk. yes, he said, over there by that man. i walked over to that man, and there were zippos in a case, all twirling around in their overpriced majesty. i thought about getting a canadian one. the cheapest were around $22. come on, he said, you don't need a zippo. let's just get some matches. do you have matches? he asked the clerk. the clerk said, of course. i went up to the clerk. are there any strip clubs around here besides cecil's? he thought it over. yes, he said. see those blues lights over there? behind that building. it's called penthouse.

i wanna see what this peep show business is all about. gimme a quarter, i said. he handed me some coins, and i didn't know their value. let's go in here. he laughed. are you kidding me? do you think there's actually a woman who goes in this shop? it'd be a lot cooler if there was, i said. we went inside. what's the peep show all about? he asked the clerk, an old man. the old man said, there are video booths in here. oh, that's lame, i said, let's get out of here. hold on, he said. look at that! it's the fleshlight. you want one? i asked the old man how much a fleshlight was. $198, plus tax, he said. jesus. are you kidding me? $198? yeah, but think about how much you masturbate, he said. it pays for itself.

all over granville street, girls were dressed like hoes. prom night, and kids were screaming out of limousine windows. an old man puked on the sidewalk; a drunk girl held onto a tree for support; and a fight almost broke out near an ambulance. the whole street was lit up. dude, i wanna live here, i said. it's like grand theft auto. no rules. yeah, he said, isn't it awesome?