Monday, February 26, 2007

Thank you Girl in the Pink Shirt

You were there when I needed you. I walked up to the bar next to you to order a drink. A strange man walked up to me and said "Excuse me." I looked at him and said "Hi."

"Hi," he said. He looked at the jade bracelet on my right arm, pointed to it, and asked, "Did you have to dislocate your arm to get that bracelet on?" I watched him then twist his own arm behind his back to reenact a dislocated arm. I was genuinely confused, and replied, "No, I didn't. I just...put it on my wrist."

"Wow," he said. "It's because you have such tiny wrists!"

"I guess," I said. "Well you can just squeeze it on." Then I awkwardly demonstrated it.

"Wow," he said.

Sensing the utter painfulness of the conversation, you - the Girl in Pink Shirt - turned to me suddenly and asked me, "Hey have you ever tried this drink before?" A matching pink drink sat before you and my eyes lit up and I said, "No I haven't!" and excitedly asked, "What is it?"

"Oh it's a Hawaiian breeze," you replied, locking eyes with me and smiling.

"Oh really? Cool!" I replied.

"Want a taste?"

"Sure!!" I enthused not breaking any eye contact with you. "Wow, that's good!" I then ordered the drink from the bartender. Meanwhile, in the background, the Dislocated Arm Guy cowered sheepishly and walked away.

"Delicious," I said when I got my drink.

You leaned into me, murmured "You're welcome by the way," smiled, and walked away.

So dear Girl in the Pink Shirt, thank you for rescuing me. I appreciate it.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The bad person

We all like to think we're good people. We all like to think we do the right thing. Yes, we make mistakes once in a while, but when it comes to the real thing, the big thing, we do the right thing. That's what separates the good people from the bad people. Bad people have no soul, no conscience. They wear trench coats, hide in corners with bombs and guns, and do bad things because they are selfish and hateful.

But what do you do when you look in the mirror and realize, you're one of them? You thought all along that you were one of the good guys, at least one of the nice ones, but you're not.

These realizations of course don't occur during the evil conduct. They happen afterwards. They happen when someone gets hurt. They happen when you get caught. They happen when someone dies.

When Theresa left the bar that evening at 1:45 am, she thought she was a good person. She was feeling pretty good, at least. She had downed a couple shots of tequila chased by a couple pints of beer. Then she had another shot for good measure. As she got up to leave, the bartender yelped to her, "I'm calling you a cab!" But she yelped back, "Already did!" and watched him hang up the phone as she walked out the door.

Theresa was feeling very drowsy, very loopy, and very drunk. She pulled the keys from her pocket and placed the key into her door. Wrong key. That was the trunk door key. She tried again. There, that opened it. She plopped inside and closed the door shut and took a deep breath.

"Don't drink and drive," a sign outside the bar said. Don't drink and drive. How many times did she hear that? The television messages with the home videos of children being pushed on swingsets that later reveal that this happy smiling child was killed by a drunk driver. The text on every beer or liquor ad that said "Drink responsibly -- Don't drink and drive." She was no fool. She could read. She watched the news. And most importantly, she was a good person.

She stuck the key in the ignition and turned it. The engine groaned beneath her. But aren't you drunk? she heard a small voice ask inside. Are you okay to drive?

Of course, of course she was. Theresa was smart. She was no fool.

Not far down the road, a blue sedan was driving at 55 miles per hour. A small boy and girl lay asleep in the back, the father was reclined in the passenger seat, and the mother was driving steadily, listening to the soft sound of Fleetwood Mac on the radio. Ten minutes later, the bumper of Theresa's car severed the mother and father's heads, and flattened the boy's body. The little girl, who happened to be crouching very low as she slept, survived with a broken arm and cracked ribs.

Theresa, unfortunately, survived. She woke up in the hospital with a concussion. The nurses and doctors and aides surrounded her bed and spoke with clipped words and monotones. Something was not right, she thought. This was later confirmed by a judge during her sentencing. Her father was, unfortunately, a hot-shot lawyer with ties to the local government. Theresa did not get jail time. Instead, she was placed on probation and ordered to perform several thousand hours of community service. The media hated it and loved it.

On no particular day, Theresa took a seat in the break room of the nursing home. She had just wheeled food to the elderly for several hours. "Just breathe," she said. It was what she had told herself so many times before, during the court proceedings, during the media hounding, during her parents' torrential lectures on what a horrible thing she did was, during her daily ritual of scrolling emails that had subject lines like "Burn in hell, Theresa," "Fuck you whore," and "Murderer."

She went to the restroom and looked in the mirror and saw herself, really saw herself, and realized she was not one of the good people. The sight of the mangled bodies was branded in her memory. She murdered a family. She ruined a girl's life. In a simple moment of arrogance, she chose to be bad. She knew it wasn't a "mistake," as she tried to argue, it wasn't an "accident." She knew what she was doing. She knew it was wrong. And she did it. And thanks to her dad, she had virtually no reckoning, no punishment. A father, a mother and a brother were rotting in their graves. And Theresa was above ground and wheeling food to geriatrics.

So many times she called upon that moment, when she sat in her car with the key in the ignition, reading that sign. How simple it would have been to just follow the sign. To let the bartender call a cab. To sleep it off in the car. To do something else, anything else, other than what she actually did. She visited this moment over and over again, wishing she could change it, hating herself for being one of the bad people. She cried herself to sleep every night and wishing she could die, and knowing that so many people agreed.

What made a bad person bad? Was it the choices they made? Their intent while choosing the wrong choice? The consequences? If a person did something bad and no one got hurt, was the person bad? Bad people didn't feel regret, did they? Nor guilt? Jeffrey Dahmer apologized to the families of his victims. Wasn't he still a bad person?

Theresa didn't know what made a bad person bad. All she knew was that she was one of them.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

A woman's man

"I am such a girl." This is what my friend, the Naysayer, said to me the other day. Unaware of his recent sex change operation, I asked, "You're a girl?"

"I am such a girl," he repeated.

I bit. "Why are you such a girl?"

"Because," he said matter-of-factly, "I am such a girl." Then it all came out. The Naysayer wasn't so much a girl as much as he was hopelessly pining over a girl. The Girl. The Smart Pretty Funny Girl who bears an uncanny resemblance to Naomi Watts. (Seriously, I saw her picture.) They hung out a couple of times, and the Naysayer's confidence and all sense of dignity plummeted into the realm of uncertainty, neuroses, fear, insecurity, clinginess, and the other emotions that necessarily accompany the phenomenon of dating a smart, pretty, funny girl who bears an uncanny resemblance to Naomi Watts.

"Oooh, I don't know if she likes me," he whined to me.

"I think she likes you," I assured him.

"Are you sure? How can you be sure? What if she doesn't?" he asked petulantly.

"Because she texted you. Unsolicited. She called you. Unsolicited. She asked you out. Twice. And she spent Valentine's Day with you," I said. "She could have been busy, you know. But no, she spent it with [insert gasp] you."

"Oooh, I hope she likes me!" he said in a falsetto voice.

"She introduced you to her friends," I added.

"She is going to dump me, isn't she?"

"She kissed you."

"It's over, isn't it?"

I groaned. Absent a marriage proposal, I was not sure how else the Girl could exhibit any more signs that she liked him. The Naysayer, since having first met the Girl, has called me at least twice a night, asking me to analyze every physical act she did or did not engage in, for example, how she didn't respond in the affirmative when he said "I'll talk to you later" as they got off the phone ("What does that mean?! I'm getting dumped!"). Each possible sign of rejection is thoroughly examined and obsessed over.

Then I wondered. Is it a "girl" thing? To obsess and pine and overanalyze and go nuts over a nuanced inflection in someone's voice when she says "pass the salt"? The careful balancing of appearing interested and attracted but not clingy or desperate? Is that "such a girl" thing to do? And if it's "such a girl" thing to do, then why do guys obsess like this?

Last night, I literally spent one hour -- one whole hour of my life that I'll never get back -- examining all the possible reasons why the Naysayer should or should not text the Girl, and if not text, then whether or not to call, and if not call, then whether or not to email. And if any of those three possibilities were to take place, then which day should contact take place? Because it was Monday and asking out for Saturday seems too clingy -- or was it just assertive and forward-thinking? "I don't want to scare her off!" "The ball's in her court, right?" "Oooh, I hope she likes me!"

Tonight the Naysayer issued his nightly report on the Girl. He did not text her last night. Instead, she texted him. ("Oooh, I hope she likes me!") He waited until this morning to text her back. Then she texted him back, asking follow-up questions. Then he texted her back, answering her questions, but, he added sheepishly, "I didn't ask her follow-up questions."

The reason I am regaling you people with this nonsensical anecdote is that I want you all to relive the experience, the scintillating experience, of being friends with a guy who is a "such a girl," but really, is just a guy.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

A cell phone number

The other day, I was sitting in the train without a book or mp3 player to entertain me. I whipped out my cell phone and began scrolling through my address book, deleting people I no longer kept in touch with or pizza delivery places I no longer ordered from. Deleting someone from your cell phone is an interesting phenomenon. For some people, I suppose it's very perfunctory. "Never gonna talk to that person again, delete." For me, because I tend to overthink things, I wonder, "Really, am I never ever going to talk to this person ever again, ever?" (Yes, a tad dramatic. But that is what some of us do to distract ourselves from the daily monotony that is our lives.) So you never know, you just might need that taxi cab number in your cell for the next time you're in Tampa, Florida.

Of course, as I scrolled through my numbers, I inevitably encountered the entry, "Dad."

My dad got rid of his cell phone while he was alive and so I never got around to deleting it. Then after he passed away, deleting it just seemed so harsh, not to mention the last thing on my mind.

OKAY, I understand it's just an allocated number of bytes inside my cell phone, that's all it is, nothing more, nothing less. It's not like I'm deleting him from my life or my memories. Just his number.

But I suppose deleting his number signified the beginning of something. Something that I don't want to begin. Something uncomfortable and sad. So I tried to be perfunctory about it. Like, "Bob the Pizza guy, delete." So now it's "Dad, delete." And when my phone asked me, "Confirm Erase?" with a choice between yes and no, I couldn't help but notice the "No" option had been pre-selected, as if my cell phone were asking me, "Come on, you're not seriously thinking about deleting this entry, are you? Because if you do, it will be deleted forever. So confirm it, but I'm guessing it's 'no,' that's why I have it already selected for you."

I bit my lip, selected "Yes," and hit "Okay." And it was deleted. My cell phone was sure to display an image of an eraser moving across a floppy disk to illustrate to me that indeed, I was erasing something from the memory of my phone.

And then I began to cry. Stupid, I know. It's just a number. An allocated number of bytes inside my cell phone, that's all it is, nothing more, nothing less. It's not like I'm deleting him from my life or my memories. Just his number.

Fly away

There is nothing quite like walking around all day, having conversations with various co-workers and fellow elevator riders, getting a cup of coffee, chatting with the Starbucks personnel, and meandering around the office to later discover that the entire time your fly was open.

Really, nothing quite like it.

Monday, February 12, 2007


When someone completely disappears from your life, you sometimes wonder if the person was ever there to begin with. That disappearance is so stark, so sudden, that it leaves you with the feeling that maybe you hallicinated that entire experience, that entire portion of your life involving that person, and that person altogether.

But once in a while, you rummage through your closet for a book or a pen, and you happen to see an old photo of that person. With you. And you remember, yes, there was one point where you and this person co-existed. Happy even. But the picture looks so foreign, so aged, that you wonder if it's fake, or if this is someone else's photo you're looking at.

You recall distinct memories. Specific meals with bad food. The inverted umbrella at the corner of 53rd and Third. The debate on why Healthy Choice was more cardboard-tasting than Lean Cuisine.

Yes, these events had to have happened. They're in your memory. You see them, can close your eyes and relive them, the words coming from your mouth, the sound of the person's voice, the bumpy ride in the car as you rode alongside in the passenger side, your forearm warm beneath the outdoor sun. You assure yourself, you remind yourself, yes, this person used to be here. He may be gone, but he's still here.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Blogger's block

It feels like it's been a while since I've blogged, but it's been only a week. I think I used to blog once, twice, sometimes three times a day. I could attribute this to busier workweeks, less drama, my dating haitus, my attempt to be more zen and complain less, among other things.

Another reason to add on top of those reasons is that I've recently begun taking a writing class. It's more like a creative writing workshop, just something I do for fun, though it's costing me a pretty penny. The instructor in the first day of class showed us a stack of books his former students had published. I'm pretty sure that every student in the workshop is itching to publish a novel or screenplay. I'm also pretty sure that very few will. So I have no delusions about being a NY Times bestseller or Book Award winner. It's just interesting to "learn" about writing creatively, when all this time, I kind of just write when I want to write. I don't think about the "craft," character development, dialogue structure, conflict and resolution. It's just sort of there.

So at the end of each class, the instructor gives us a little writing exercise. He throws out a few ideas to write on (e.g., write something using the words "albino," "sex," and "supermarket," or write something about meeting someone's parents for the first time). And then for the next half hour we write.

I don't know about the rest of you bloggers, but I write when I feel like it. It just sort of happens. But when I was trying to force myself to think of a story with an albino having sex with a supermarket clerk, I just couldn't do it. I mean, did anyone instruct Ernest Hemingway to write about an old dude fishing? Aren't stories just inspired, or derived from events in our lives that inspire us? I suppose every author is different.

Anyway, we'll see how it goes. Although I have to admit, it does feel nice to see your writing in print, even if it is on a blog.

Friday, February 02, 2007

That wasn't me

Few things are more disturbing than surfing the web and seeing a picture of a girl on the internet who looks just like you. This has happened to me a couple times, and given the plethora of Asian chicks on the web, I suppose I'm lucky to have only seen "myself" twice. Fortunately, these Yellow Gal look-alikes were doing innocuous things like smiling for a mortgage loan ad or new web service.

So far, so good.
Site Meter