Wednesday, January 9, 2013


  1. Tourism
  2. A Good Man
  3. Perversion
  4. Cherry Garcia
  5. Going Home
  6. chapter 6: writing in progress...

1. Tourism (Back to the Table of Contents)

I’m going home on the train headed west out of the city. The car is hot and crowded. It’s always crowded, but summer has made it worse as the tourists join the fray of rush hour with the everyday commuters.

I’ve found that tourists are the very antithesis of commuters. They are loud. They are conspicuous. They are enthusiastic, and they are happy.

They are happy to have been in the city, while we commuters step into the city to only count the hours, minutes, and seconds until our release. They see the city for its charm and character. But we do not live here. Our social identities are not tied to this place; else, we’d be city dwellers—another brand of characters I’m not exactly fond of.

Summer in the city is oppressive. The heat and humidity settles in the spaces between the city’s skyscrapers in a suffocating haze, and like a putrid stink draws flies, tourists flock to the streets as the miasma rises in the city.

I hate running into tourists. It’s like stepping in shit: it’s guaranteed to ruin your day.

It is a fact that tourists walk entirely too slowly. I understand that they’re new to the city, they want to see the sights, and they don’t know where they’re going. But do they have to walk side by side like that—the whole shitload of them, side by side? I mean, how am I supposed to pass? And why do they suddenly stop in the middle of the sidewalk? It’s like they’re there on purpose to prevent me from making it to my next air-conditioned destination. It’s sweltering, and I’m sure they know that too, but they’re not the ones wearing a professional suit and pumps, and carrying a laptop bag that weighs a shit-ton.

I swear, one day I’m just going to go lose it and go kamikaze on their asses. I’m going to bludgeon them with my bag, and then when they’re down I’m going to stomp on them, aiming for their eyes with shit-stained stilettos.

And here they are again, taking up entirely too much room in the car. Can’t they stand closer together? Presumably they know each other. If just that fat guy in the Hawaiian shirt moved in closer to the hobo, at least five more commuters could fit in the car. But I’m not going to call them out on any of it. No one is.

After all, they’re not coming back. Why would they want to learn that the quickest way from point A to B is actually through that building? Why would they want to know that they can actually begin crossing the crosswalk a few seconds before the pedestrian signal turns? Why should they learn that you’re only supposed to stand on the right side of the escalator? Why should they know that the homeless are normal, everyday mass transportation companions? They don’t care, and no one wants to be that asshole that ruins someone’s vacation.

That’s how it is. It’s true that I don’t want to be a tourist that locals not-so-secretly despise. But more than the possibility of being treated like shit because they’re never going to see you again, it’s the probability of being treated kindly for the very same reason that I don’t like. There is something very sad and unsettling about it. It’s like not being told at the end of a first date that you’re boring and unfunny. It’s like not being told the morning after a one-night stand that you suck at sex. It’s like not being told on your deathbed that you contributed nothing of worth to society. It’s like that.

2. A Good Man (Back to the Table of Contents)

The train car maintains equilibrium at “overcrowded” as people funnel in and out of the car. I notice how the demographics of the onboard population change subtly as we pass each station. All the while I’m scanning the crowd for a good man.

I often wonder, what would happen if this single train car got transported through time and space to an uncharted, other-worldly wilderness? The place is a parallel universe with a similar climate and ecology, just devoid of humans.

I always note that high heels are the most impractical shoes. I’m glad it’s summer. My toes won’t freeze off while going barefoot. But really, if it were winter most of us would just die of hypothermia if we can’t start a fire. I think in that case it would be one of the rare occasions where I would actually be appreciative of smokers.

I inventory what is left of my lunch. I only ate half of my sandwich today, but it won’t last long in the summer heat. I’ll have to finish it off soon after arrival. I always keep a full water bottle and a bag of trail mix in my purse. I like to tell people that I’m being health conscious, because it’s cool. “It’s good to stay hydrated, and sometimes I need a snack to keep my metabolism up.” But the truth is I don’t eat trail mix. The only situation where I can imagine myself eating the nasty mix of stale and dried bits would be one in which I get transported through time and space to an uncharted, other-worldly wilderness.

I’m not sure if the fat tourist in the Hawaiian shirt has an advantage over me in the long run. On one hand, I’m pretty sure I could outrun him if we were being chased by a deadly predator. Then again, on the other hand, the amount of energy stored in his adipose tissue makes the preparation of my ration of trail mix moot. In that scenario where our group is starving for a lack of food, I think it would be in the best interest of the tribe if he takes one for the team.

We could cannibalize him. Imagine how many people he would feed. There are a number of fat people in here that are in jeopardy if this happens.

Every tribe needs a leader, and our tribe will be no different. We might be used to seeing men past middle-age in leadership roles in our current society, but in a wilderness survival scenario I think people will want to instinctively rely on a younger, more masculine male in a position of power. In addition to being a manly dude, he’s going to have to be charismatic and self-assured. The majority of the lawyers are going to board at this next station.

Lawyers are tricky. They all have these differing preconceived notions about how societies are supposed to function, and they all want to lead. I anticipate tension in our tribe. The stocky guy in the navy suit with the close cropped brown beard is going to propose the tribe be more egalitarian. The tall blonde guy in the fitted Italian suit will want the tribe to be more authoritarian. We might even end up dividing into factions. Either way the militant feminist bitch in the gray pantsuit is going to scream “Misogyny!” and shit over everything.

No matter what happens I’m sticking with the homeless guy and the crunchy granola couple in the back. The homeless guy is actually a young war vet, and I think I once overheard the Granolas talk about foraging for edible greens in the forest.

It’s hard to tell just by looking who is going to be an asset and who is going to be a burden. In the long run, muscles built from bench pressing might not be as valuable as the creative problem solving skills of some code monkeys. But I do know that if we as a tribe survive long enough learn how to live in our new environment, I am going to be an invaluable asset as a woman of childbearing age.

The question is, who am I going to allow to impregnate my womb with the future generation of our tribe? Will I even have a choice? Probably. I don’t think “survival rape” will become a thing. I don’t believe a couple of years in the wilderness will undo decades of social conditioning. However, what it will undo is the sanctity of and commitment to the monogamous relationships with people outside of this train car. Single or not, I’m looking for a good man to sire my offspring, and either of the two aforementioned lawyers wouldn’t be a bad choice. Actually, the man that is able to occupy the position of power would be the best choice.

In the colder seasons I usually think I have a chance being the alpha male’s mate. I’m usually one of the younger women in the car, but by virtue of the season, the car is full of even younger summer interns. Plus, there are some very fertile looking MILF tourists onboard today that you don’t normally see on the rush hour train. If I have one thing going for me, it’s that I’m Asian, and that is totally a thing.

But all of that is planning for the best case scenario.

Most of the time I just ask myself, who here would I fuck if I thought we were all going to die? Today, it’s the heavily tattooed guy with the guitar, but I might have to fight the scene girl with the fuchsia hair for him. It’s cool. I could totally take down her skinny ass. I’ll just step on her foot with my stiletto heel. Plus, he probably has a thing for Asians. On second thought, it looks like he’s a smoker.

3. Perversion (Back to the Table of Contents)

The train is so crowded that everyone turns into an inadvertent pervert with every bump and lurch. The wizened gentleman behind me has taken to ramming my ass with his elegant, leather briefcase. A generously proportioned woman rubs her fleshy butt cheek against the white knuckles of the people holding the vertical pole behind her. A tall man thrusts his groin towards the faces of the seated passengers in front of him. Standing at about shoulder height next to an average man, usually I’m just a short woman; today, I am an armpit sniffer.

One middle-aged woman lucky enough to have a seat is reading a popular novel that to the best of my knowledge is about bondage vampires or swinger werewolves or gang banging demons or something. From what I hear it’s an easy read that is fairly enjoyable with descriptions of vanilla sex in the guise of something kinkier that is just salacious enough to titillate but not rattle the sensibilities of the target women readers.

A female coworker tried to explain its popularity to me once. “It’s not just the sex, but it’s the underlying theme of a deep, undying, eternal love that speaks to the hearts of all women. This idea that you can be so desirable and so loved as a woman—just as you are—is so romantic. But we all know that kind of thing isn’t realistic. Only an immortal, mythical creature could love you forever with so much passion.”

To which I replied, “It just sounds like you want to have sex with Jesus.”

I try to put the image of Warner Sallman’s Jesus banging my coworker out of my mind.

The train rolls onto the platform of the next station, and it is clear that the train car is nearly at maximum capacity. Despite the intimidating density inside the car, one intrepid young man, with a practiced sideways shuffle and half turn, deftly squeezes himself between the doors and the crowd. The way he slowly scans the crowd makes me believe that he is a hopeless romantic.

I have a thing for hopeless romantics.

When his eyes meet mine across the crowded car he reflexively jerks them away, but they soon make their way back. I smile at him. His eyes widen in initial surprise before he smiles too. I watch as his eyes flit across my face, evaluating my present attractiveness. I look away and turn my head slightly to sell him a new angle. A coy smile and a long sideways glance have him blushing.

It is probable that at this time an array of infinite possibilities is unfolding inside his mind.

When the train pulls into the next station and the doors open the swell of the crowd pushes me towards the door where the hopeless romantic watches me move in the crowd. And like destiny I’m standing next to him trying not to be pushed off the train, but not for too long because the direction of the crowd reverses. We look at each other and smile as we are jostled and pushed into each other by the commuters boarding the train.

There is the briefest lull after everyone that is going to board the train has boarded and before the doors of the train car close. I stand close to him and him close to me. I look up at him with smiling eyes and he opens his mouth to speak, but as he does so the chimes ring indicating the closing of the doors. I take my cue and deftly step back, through the closing doors and onto the platform, without losing eye contact, smiling.

He looks at me, bewildered, through the window of the car. I wave him goodbye as the train pulls away from the station.

I have a thing for hopeless romantics: I want to hurt them.

4. Cherry Garcia (Back to the Table of Contents)

Standing on the crowded station platform, waiting for the next train that will take me home, it feels like purgatory. I imagine if I stand here long enough I’ll forget where I came from and where I’m going. All I’ll remember is that I’m waiting. Eventually, I might forget that as well.

“Minnie?” I hear my name, and it pulls me out of my daze.

I look around and see a familiar face. “Mike?”

Mike and I met in our introductory chemistry lecture. It was at the state’s top public university. We were both there because of the in-state tuition, among other things. But one day, among the approximately 100 or so empty seats in the 600 seat lecture hall, Mike chose to sit in the empty seat next to me.

For us, two average suburbanite teenagers, being away at college was like becoming untethered. And during those nights where we knew no one was waiting for us to come home, we waited on each other, subconsciously trying to become the home we wish we had had those long nights in high school when we struggled with our overwhelmingly average teenage insecurities.

Sleepless nights were spent, over pints of melting ice cream in secluded corners of vacant common areas, defining and redefining ourselves to each other. We didn’t talk about what we liked or what we disliked, or what we did or did not do, or our hopes and dreams for the future. We didn’t talk about anything that our mothers, our fathers, our siblings, our friends, or high school romances knew about us. We talked about the nebulous things that we couldn’t define in ourselves. We spoke inarticulately between spoonfuls of Cherry Garcia and rhetorical pleas of affirmation. You know? And we would always put an end to the communication of our unsettled thoughts with the only string of words that bore any certainty to us, which we repeated in succession like a mantra. I don’t know. I dunno. Dunno. I just don’t know.

Back then Mike was an enigma. Beyond his sunny white boy exterior was a young adolescent male in existential crisis. As the only child of a failed marriage, Mike felt like the embodiment of all the reasons his Korean mother and his American father couldn’t be together. After the divorce his father remarried a younger white lady and started a proper family. His mother poured her energy into her Korean restaurant business. He lived with his mom but spent the holidays with his dad and his new family. Imaginably, he felt he belonged neither here nor there. His ill-defined existence gave him an air of ephemerality that drew me in and mesmerized me.

“Have you had dinner?” he asks.

I answer in the negative and off we go to catch up on the years since we had last seen each other.

Mike didn’t remain an enigma for too long after we met. Over the months we were together I watched him materialize into his own person. I think he had just needed time and distance away from all the things that he had been trying to use to define himself. In a new environment where no one had any idea of who he was supposed to be, he just was; and as he was, he became.

Mike lost that quality in himself that made me want him. Mike lost that quality in himself that made him want me. I can’t say for certain who let go first, but the end result was the same: we just ended up untethering ourselves from each other.

During dinner, I can’t help but smile as Mike enthusiastically tells me about everything. Here, in front of me, sits a bright young man approaching proper manhood. I wonder what has become of me.

Leaving the restaurant we pass an ice cream shop, and I say, “Remember, we used to eat Cherry Garcia almost every day?”

“Gawd, I think I gained five pounds on that ice cream alone.” He raises his eyebrows and rolls his eyes trying not to remember the other fifteen pounds. “You know what,” he pauses, “I never really liked cherry ice cream.”

“Really?” I’m surprised. “I can’t imagine a flavor more suited for existential ponderings than Cherry Garcia.”

“Huh, what?”


We part ways, and it’s back to purgatory for me. But not before I have my fill of Cherry Garcia.

5. Going Home (Back to the Table of Contents)

I am aboard one of the late trains heading out of the city. I’m heading home, but at the age of twenty-five I’m still living with my parents. I guess there’s no way around it. I’ve been living “at home” since I graduated college and started working in the city. I really had no choice. Since the economy tanked, money isn’t what it used to be, and like a majority of my peers I’m living “at home.” We’re all living “at home” just like we lived “at home” in high school.

My parents let me live in the basement because it offers some semblance of privacy and separation. I mean, what grown 25-year-old woman wants her parents to be privy to every aspect of her life? It’s not as bad as it sounds. I do, in truth live, in my parent’s basement, but somehow being the daughter of a Korean immigrant family in America makes living at home seem quaint as if I were preserving traditional values or some shit like that.

Sometimes I’m envious of those that believe that the majority of their paychecks is a small price to pay for independence, but watching them live hand to mouth in city tenements makes me think again. My mom still does my laundry and makes me dinner. She also packs my lunch. It’s like having a wife; well, back when having a wife meant having an unpaid paragon of domesticity at your disposal. My dad is not quite as useful.

Like good principled immigrants my parents followed the American Dream, back when the Dream was an achievable thing, and worked themselves up from nothing to a sizable six bedroom single family home in an affluent neighborhood in the city’s suburbs. I’m not saying that they didn’t earn everything they have now, but there’s no escaping the fact that times have changed. I have no idea how I’m supposed to be able to be able to have a home of my own.

The basement has its own entrance/exit, not that I ever use it since it inconveniently opens up into our backyard. There is just no way I’m going to walk halfway around the house on grass in my heels. But, you know, that’s just an excuse.

On nights like this when I come home late, the porch light is on. I walk through the front door to find my dad watching some stupid infomercial. He complains about how he can’t sleep as if I had asked why he’s still awake. My mom comes down from upstairs to collect him. She looks me over and takes mental notes of what to ask at tomorrow morning’s interrogation. We all say our goodnights and head off to our respective beds.

I stand in the dark stairwell that leads down into the basement, alone. Not a sound emanates from the pitch black. I have no idea how I’m supposed to be able to have a home of my own.

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