growing up is realizing whose texts to ignore, because they take up so much emotional labor.  It’s like walking on eggshells, it’s like talking about all these negative things when I don’t care because it’s draining and it’s okay to do it once in a while but it’s like EVERY SINGLE FUCKING TIME

honestly, i just need to vent. i’m not happy with my life, i’m worried about my health especially my vision, the amount of exercise I get, my hearing, my mental health. like I’m so fucking frustrated.  I’m not using my money well… I feel like I could always do better. I need to finish something for an essay contests.  I don’t really want to talk or see anyone and other times, usually spur of the moment I do.  I would rather not talk to anyone.  Part of me wants to cancel my phone, delete Facebook, and just get on with my life.  I’m so done with fixing friendships where the effort isn’t equal.  like honestly, fuck it.  this is draining me, makes me sad, makes me helpless, and obviously the situation can’t improve.

i am angry. maybe i can channel that anger into something. i need to get this shit together.

Advertisements

Ty says that I hit Pat too hard,
says it like it was venomous,
that hit
that got me
in the two-minute box.

I went for the kill and snap.
Ruthlessly instinctual,
Ty reads from a newspaper.
I say it came from the gut.
Heartless, Ty says,
he can’t believe I’d do it
and then walk around aloof like
I own the room and I own the kill.

But it was all heart, I insist,
you know, that way when your heart has been ripped in two
twisted like a little bitch
out to wring in the sun
been slapped around,
maybe add in a punch in the gut.
And all you ever did to retaliate
was smile pretty
and throw your whole body into a wink
to one of the few people who were in on the joke.
The one person who watched on the sidelines
sided with the killer
sided with the guilty.
The just-as-guilty.
All you did was show him
that the condoned are complicit,
that the beaten bled out some time ago,
and everything is good now,
because the blood transfusion erased all the bad,
cleansed out the impure
that faded with time.

No bad blood.
No blood at all.
Let’s not bring it up,
focus on the present Ty sweetie,
let’s move on.

I cackle because I have nothing to lose
even if Ty thinks it’s heartless,
even if everyone thinks that cruelty snakes through my hair,
like I am a monster instead of something much simpler.
A bitch.

Pat knows why I did it.
Pat knows why this bad blood is all about being a good sport.
Pat knows everything.

Pat knows everything that happened to me
and Pat never fucking did anything about it.
Pat hasn’t said anything to me but good game,
never in private,
always so someone else can hear.

Pat is so good at this game.
And a good game it has become
because I’m finally learning the rules
and know that the secret to winning
isn’t winning over hearts
I’ve already lost

The trick to winning is to play along
to play the long game
so what’s a spear, what’s a hit,
what’s a broken rib
if it’s all for fun.

Spilling blood is a small price to pay
when you won’t spill the guts.

true ten minute thought: go.

there’s a lot happening in my life and i’ve found that i cannot relax.  like i cannot stop. i’m not unstoppable, i just… cannot pause, i cannot take a breath when i need one, i cannot go to sleep and stare at the ceiling and let myself drift to bed because when i do go to bed, i fall asleep immediately from exhaustion.

i have been piecing together a lot of my life, a lot of the state of things, trying to take some type of rash inventory of all the things that i need to do and all the things that i want to do, but i haven’t focused enough on it.  i am exhausted physically, but i deny that this is the case by convincing myself that i am not exhausted mentally. at least not exhausted in the moment that i tell myself i’m not exhausted, where i am merely at the brink, but that counts because at what moment will you will plunge to your death -when you bend your legs to jump or when you’re already 50 feet down?

i didn’t win a writing contest i’ve entered and in ways that has upset me, but that should make me work harder, that should make me hone my craft, that should make me learn that this life doesn’t stop for you, but that doesn’t mean you should not prioritize.  i’ve bought so many fucking expensive clothes lately, because i can’t stop in some convoluted sense. it’s not even the high… i’ve stopped getting a high from buying things. it’s just this… image? this imagined view of myself wearing it?  the anticipation of spring when i can wear the skirt i want with the heels i have in my head, and maybe i’ll buy some necklace and ring to go with it? i’m not an inspiring blogger or instagram model… i just… i guess in some ways that was the woman I always wanted to be when i was little… who had it all together, sophisticated but not stuffy… still young. and i’ve got to live in.  in many ways, and maybe this statement will someday haunt me, i’ve been living my life trying to check off the things that i already set for myself when i was little, when i was 11, when i was 13.  in ways, that has been my purpose in my life, becoming Her.  That’s why I take French classes, that’s why I have been so confused, that’s why I buy those clothes, that’s why I buy the things I do, I go to the places I go.  I had the idea of who I wanted to be when I grew up and I’ve spent my life trying to become her, her unchanging although admittedly tweaked for the times.  Her, unfazed, unquestioning, her unattainable and I claw at it, touch the ghost of where it had been and crave for more.  ahhh… i have three minutes left in this ten minute thought but i have so much to say, and i might as well let it flow.

i’m travelling in a few weeks… super far, and i keep thinking about all the places other people have been and maybe it’s some type of paranoia like keeping up with the Jones but i think about all the places that i still haven’t visited… like italy, like southeast asia, like australia, and when do I go? Am I holding myself back? But these visions conflict with my need to save money, and I’ve been horrible at this lately.  My dry cleaning spend is about half of what I spent last year and we’re only a quarter through the year. I’ve considered (once again) rewriting my GRE, which is a substantial investment of time, money, and mental health.  I know a lot of these problems could be solved if I come to terms with the fact that I can’t compare myself with other people, but isn’t that natural?  I’m sure there’s some weird evolutionary explanation for why we look at others and ask ourselves why we’re not doing what they’re doing.  What if I’m not as happy-go-lucky as I used to be? I’m superstitious in the most hilarious, trivial ways.  I’ve been reading a lot, I guess, it almost feels like homework, it feels like a second job.  It’s like I read Crime and Punishment and it left this void in me and now I see it, and I don’t know what to do.  It’s made me sad, I feel isolated but I don’t want to talk to anyone… is this depression again?  I noticed I haven’t taken a day to just do nothing, with nothing in mind for a long time.  I’m thinking about going to the art museum tomorrow.  That will be a relaxation.  Today, I’ve got to do my part-time job, perhaps write a short story, change my phone.  I run errands all the fucking time.  I both loathe and love errands, because it’s a check box waiting to be checked and then you can check it.

I both love and hate finding new events and things to do in the city, because I feel this onus to do it even though I don’t have the time, and I think about all the things that are underutilized, underpromoted, and what now… is this some type of start-up that I need to birth?  I’ve been numb from a lot of things. People, mainly.  People I don’t want to talk to, because I’d rather talk to no one.  I keep thinking back to him, even now even though it has been soooo long, and like always, living this perfect life.  And I found out A might still be dating this guy from what feels like a lifetime ago, and even though it shouldn’t bother me, it does. it’s like A has it perfect, even though I’m sure she doesn’t, but that’s the image that she gives off and that’s what I always think about. that she’s pretty, she’s perfect, and she got the boy, she got everything, she got the career change she wanted and she’s doing amazing. and i have my victories, but i lost the boy. like the boy was some tug of war between the two of us, which wasn’t the case at all.  but resentment is visceral, heartbreak makes no sense, it still makes no sense and its faint pain can still be felt 5 years later.

youth, as always, is fleeting. i think about it a lot. like maybe i should see a psychologist, but then i would need to be diagnosed in order to get treatment, and i think it sounds stupid. like maybe they would laugh at me and so that keeps me from getting help. armchair psychology is a real thing and i don’t want to be stuck in some skit with someone in their dream second profession.  i am shaped by the things that have happened to me.  i see it all the time.  i am shaped by all the things that happened to me when i was thirteen, when i was 11.  i’m still that same person, but older, perhaps more jaded, perhaps panicking that it feels like time is running out.

i’ve been thinking about returning to charleston and making that pilgrimage to the angel oak.  been thinking about where else i should go… back to london? mexico city? milan? amsterdam? finally go to ireland? go to wales? go somewhere where no one knows me, and this desire, ding! goes off in my head because isn’t that what i always suspected? that there is something wrong with me. not a flaw, just an… aberration, an abnormality, something that can’t be fixed. i’m not broken, at least… i’m not broken by my mind. i’m broken by what has happend to me, but i don’t think what happened to me made me the way i am, i think i was just born wanting to be a stranger everywhere.

i’ve thought about… a lot. i am guarded. i have not disclosed everything i want to talk about in case someone happens to pass by this blog and find what i want to do. not evil. i promise. just… negotiating power is diminished if people know exactly what you want. so i’ll leave that there.  i couldn’t concentrate at dance today… and that leads me to think about whether or not i should start doing ballet again?

i’ve gained weight, my clothes tell me and i can see it every time i glance in a mirror. these days… these days feel very trying. i think i just hate juggling 100 things at the same time, but that’s life… it gets that way, right?  hopefully i’ll feel better after i’ve written this post, like taking some long breath out. figure it out as i go, i suppose. i won’t edit this. i can’t. i’ve let it go, haven’t i? exhaled it out, it’s not mine anymore to bend and warp, trying to fix this mangled creature.

two minute thoughts

i haven’t been able to concentrate much, a few things haven’t gone as I’d hoped, and it’s thrown things off kilter

been reflecting a lot on the past couple years and where i am now and where i want to go

haven’t felt like talking to many people, sometimes i feel like i’ve forgotten how to speak.  i think i empathize with Raskolnikov in Crime & Punishment; is that something I shouldn’t even admit?

is this what the next chapter feels like?

what’s next?

what do i ever want to do? how come i have no idea what is in store for me over the next 10 years? even the next 5?

who will i meet in the future? is that future coming up soon?

why do I still think about him sometimes? it’s been so long

how does the state of my potential (in its rise or fall) fit into my yearnings, my frustrations, my goals?

am i still bitter? am i never not bitter?

the next couple months will be strange.

why can’t i be better when i recognize where i’ve fallen short? i’m selfish, self-interested. i am conflicted, embattled. i’ve forgotten words, perhaps from the lack of using them.   i’m going far away very soon but for a very brief time, and i don’t know how i feel about it. i guess i feel anxious, i’m not sure how to process it… i don’t how to make myself feel less guilty about it. i don’t know how to balance this need to relax with this stress of doing everything.

Budget 2018

I realized there are 3 areas I want to budget better this year: clothing, dry cleaning, and dining out.

GOAL: Spend only $1,500 TOTAL on shoes and clothing (less than half of what I spent in 2017)

How I’ll do it: Ideally I have most of the pieces for my wardrobe that I will need, and will only need to replace a few things here and there.  I don’t buy a lot of clothes and instead, I buy quality clothing that I will wear frequently and for a long period of time, so I’m not worried about buying too many trendy things.

2017 Clothing – $1812
Abercrombie silk camisole – $80
Abercrombie mom jeans – $40
Aerie underwear (x10) – $40
ALC dress – $240
Babaton camisole (x2) – $80
Babaton pants – $110
Iro jacket – $700
Kit and Ace grey turtleneck – $22
Kit and Ace pants – $100
Vince blush sweater – $180
Vince yellow sweater – $220

2017 Shoes – $1714
Alexander Wang Gabi boots – $1200
Rag & Bone suede sneakers – $154
Reiss heels – $180
Y3 x Adidas sneakers – $180

===============================
2018 Budgeted Items – SO FAR SPENT $1,143
I can’t put a price tag on these prospective items because if I find the right pair, then I will buy them
New pair of black work appropriate leggings (one pair has a hole) – Reiss $220
New pair of work appropriate jeans (no holes)  – Rag & Bone jeans – $300
New pair of tall boots (depends how bad my current pair of Mulberry’s continue to get)
Another work jacket or blazer
Summer sandals (not flip flops)
Work bag
New suitcase?

+ Unbudgeted items

Amur skirt – $500
Abercrombie pyjama pants – $18
Abercrombie silk button down – $55
Lole Bonavy leggings – $60

 

Continue reading

mama told me to knock it back and swallow.
you’d never seen a whiplash so elegant
told me this pride is slowly killing me
and i act like it’s not burning my nose
my throat’s still intact
this acid reflex is old news
i do this all the time
with a smirk on my face

the words flow out of me like i just rinsed my mouth and this is what’s left. this was everything that tried to stay inside me and i forced it out,
viscous, easy,
smells just like me,
sounds just like me,
so much swagger that it’s got to take it’s time
to circle the drain

recently i realized that all my poems are about heartbreak
never written about family
never touched the ocean for the hell of it
never learned to surf
never learned to properly drown
never recounted the miserable life of a bus driver
never arranged prose about men
only about the boys
one at a time as they left my life

would i even know how?
this is no rhetorical question.

i wrote a poem
after olivia gatwood.
all the teenage girls are gone
i called it
and sent it to a magazine.
i haven’t heard back,
i’m not supposed to yet
but i felt like it fell flat
like i wasn’t talking about what i know
even though i was once a teenage girl
even though i still feel like i am
and by that i mean i haven’t figured out who i am,
i want to be everything to everyone
but this has been reduced to some shadow self
i don’t feel like i’ve grown up yet
i don’t feel assured enough in my own skin
although i’ve started finding role models who are

but all i know are writings about the men
who left my life
and what a sad circular story that is
with enough of them
maybe their stories will blend together
maybe that’s what gets it to hurt less
that you can’t remember where one ended and the other began
like you can’t find where the story cuts to an abrupt end.
you can’t find me in the stories
because it was always about them,
never about me.

I feel like I haven’t written in so long, and have so many thoughts swimming in my head.  I am at this fork in the road, that’s how I feel now.  I am at this fork in the road because I have moved forward enough that I have to figure out what my next step is.  I don’t know what I want to do with my life.  I know I will do something, but it’s not clear.  I think I have this narrow, short-sighted view of what is in store, but I don’t really know.  Here’s what I do know:

  1. I can’t ignore my creativity. I am just too creative of a person to do something boxy, even if it’s challenging.  It’s like… it gnaws at me when I’ve starved it for too long, and lately I find myself doing a lot more creative writing or taking photos, editing them, trying to explore new things like organizing gallery openings. I don’t know.  It’s like this proclivity that can’t be written off as some phase, some aspirational hobby.  I want to draw again, dance. I don’t know.  I’ve been contemplating taking French conversation classes but the schedule didn’t work out this semester and I still have some shit to get together when it comes to my finances.
  2. I want to go back to school… eventually. Like within the next five years. Is that too long? I ask myself this all the time.  What do I want to do? Well I have some programs in mind, I have some cities in mind, I have some idea of what schools would offer me the network and prestige that would help me get the positions I’d like.  But I feel rather boxed in to choose one position when there are so many things I want to try out.  Is that weird? Am I foolish?  Do I know what I’m doing? At all?
  3. I want to move to Los Angeles. Every time, it comes to that.  That I want to move to Los Angeles even if some dingy box in the valley.  There is something about the cruelty of the city washed out with sunlight, this superficial happiness about it that draws me in.  I want to go again, and I want to stay.  How do I do that? What point in my life would and could I move?
  4. It has to pay well. I realize that from my upbringing, I couldn’t take some super steep pay cut to live my life, because I don’t have anything to fall back on, I don’t have an adequate safety net unlike a lot of people who pursue their dreams.
  5. I like to write.  That has to be part of the job.
  6. I don’t know at this point if I would enjoy managing a team.  I like managing myself.
  7. I remember in a career-searching workshop, I listed prestige as something I wanted out of my career, and the coach said that was a superficial thing to want.  Yes, it is, but that’s what drives me to do so many things in my life, and it’s not something I can rip off like a band-aid.  I need a job that I would be proud of doing, moreso than what other people think, but still, there rests the opinions of others and I still value them.
  8. I would only get my MBA if I enjoyed my existing job and wanted to lead others.  I would not do it for any other reason.

Book List 2018

OK I technically finished The Canterbury Tales in 2018.

  1. A Visit from the Goon Squad – Do you believe that certain books come into your life at the exact right time?  I needed this book, devoured it, slowed down and reread beautiful passages, drove my car between sections and confronted how the goon of time has robbed me.  Is it ever too young to think this? That this is fleeting, that oh to be young and careless, and be invincible?  It’s now. Now, now. now.  And soon, it won’t be no more.  I feel like those days are long past for me, and in some ways, I’ve missed those moments in college where I drank and laughed recklessly.  Of course I did have fun nights out, diving headfirst into all the whims and trials of life oblivious and deceptively omnipotent, but I think the book did such a good job at romanticizing youth, of living carefree, of showing what could have been as what was, and how you, dear reader, are far from those glory days.  Do I think my best days are behind me? No.  But I do feel the nervous ticking of the clock of youth, its sand spilling down into a pool of morose, ? Yes.  Overall, the character development and writing were so good.  I could picture every scene, I felt like I was in the room with Jocelyn when she went to visit Lou on his death bed, I felt like I was there in the room when Rhea and Alice sat in Alice’s bedroom, looking at her old uniform, trying to fill the awkward silence, trying to make an unfamiliar friendship work.  Time is ticking, I understand that.  I found the book heartbreaking, I found the book gnawing at me, at what I hope to achieve in my mid twenties that will careen me into the person(a?) I want to be when I am in my mid-thirties. It made me think of whether it is ever too late, ever too early, how much success is entwined with class and systemic factors, how much I want to move to California, how much I want to get my shit together and not at the same time.  Because getting my shit together means that I acknowledge that my youth is over, that I’m an “adult”, that I’ve fallen behind on being an adult.  The writing of this book was so beautiful, and quite inspiring when it comes to sentence structure, prose… etc. Loved, loved, loved this book.  I didn’t identify with any of the negative reviews… I’m not even sure how you could hate this book, but I know some people did.  But I loved it.  I loved it so much.
  2. The Financial Diet – I’ve learned a lot more about saving, budgeting, and investing over the past couple months out of necessity of where I see my life heading. So I’ve started investing, and am now thinking about investing more actively and just holding some stocks… we will see. I really liked this book, I follow Chelsea Fagan on social media and really like her.  I enjoyed the recipes in this book and it was encouraging that I should cook more at home and try out new recipes.  I think I’m doing pretty well saving right now, but I also feel like I won’t have any money leftover once I use that money for this goal that I have… I thought the book was very well illustrated, and a great guide for a beginner like me to get good with my money.  I want to start budgeting this year, because I examined my wardrobe spending last year, and honestly, things need to change!
  3. Crime and Punishment – I finally, finally, fiiinallyyyy finished this! It was an ordeal, let me tell you. I really liked it, but it really requires your full attention, and there were so many times that I was willing to read but couldn’t focus.  I found certain aspects of Raskolnikov in myself, like how headstrong he is, and how his strategy for the old woman’s murder was basically “figure out the first couple steps and then figure the rest out as I go along”.  I could see how his social isolation prompted him to live inside his own reality, to disregard social norms for his motivations and actions, to consider himself to be law and order.  He’s not a completely reasonable person, he is driven by emotion especially that of contempt and hatred although he seems still conflicted about his obligation and love for his family, and I see a lot of that in myself.  I liked that this book explored psychology (how a cat and mouse game between an investigator and a murderer works, and how it was one of the first books to use psychology to deduct motivations or the order of events, especially that with Luzhin when he tried to frame Sonya).  I liked the ending, I liked that he was on his road to redemption. I found the characters that I was supposed to care about so endearing, touching, and poignant; I wanted Sonya to live her life, I wanted some shred of hope or change of fortune for Maladov and Katerina Ivanovna. It made me want to visit St Petersburg. I reada  lot of analyses on the themes, motifs, symbols in the book.  I liked the dreams…. I like that the bridge is a turning point in the plot, that the significant of heading to the bridge or crossing it symbolizes characters’ need to progress… that many of them stand by the bridge and something happens in their lives that catapults the story forward.  It’s a really brilliant book, although I feel like I fell into a dark spell with Raskolnikov, because I too had been isolated for a while on my own accord.  I enjoyed my first Dostoevsky!
  4. Fire and Fury – Loved this book, thoroughly entertaining and I don’t care if some parts are apparently untrue or misrepresented, but this administration is so chaotic that it’s believable.  It has made me view the administration in a different light, adding context and background to the headlines that churn out on a daily basis.  It made me sympathise with Steve Bannon in the tug of war of power with the Kushners, and it made me laugh.  It wasn’t super well written although I did learn a few new words because Wolff is good with diction.  The sentence structure obviously wasn’t anything fancy.  It was riveting and I couldn’t put it down, and I hope this book, regardless of what people say about the quality of writing in it, should be a must-read about this administration because the backroom access and insight it does give, even broadly, is valuable in understanding how the administration works and puts logic into how decisions that we see on the news get made (which is every man for him or herself and trying to convince Trump that their idea should be allowed to go forward).
  5. People Like Us – HATED THIS.  It was so badly written, like some pauper’s knock-off version of Pretty Little Liars, with teenagers that have been imagined by someone who is out of touch with high schoolers these days.  The characters didn’t feel real or authentic, the “secret” that the protagonist was hiding didn’t seem that big of a deal or at least wasn’t portrayed in a convincing manner that made me sympathize and pity her… instead, it made me think it was ridiculous that what she did would even elicit that kind of reaction.  Did the author go to boarding school?  I honestly couldn’t tell; it didn’t seem like it.  It seems like she had done some marginal research and thought she could wing it.  The character of Nola, who constantly wears black and twirls everywhere like a ballerina, seems like some warped child-devil paradigm dreamed up from some Nickolodean  show.  The blackmail website, most of all, seemed so full of plot holes… like yeah, how did it know if someone was kicked off the list?  Why was this a secret that Kay thought would ruin her, instead of bringing it to the attention of the police?  If I heard a riddle (and Kay’s not booksmart), then it would have taken me a long time to figure it out.  I would immediately have been suspicious of Nola, and I definitely wouldn’t have ever enlisted her help.  So overall, I’d advise you not to read it if you’ve read better boarding school teen fiction like that Dog Academy book (which was surprisingly awesome), Pretty Little Liars, or this prep book I’d read by three former students but I don’t remember the name of the book anymore.
  6. Ready Player One – Good except for the fact that Art3mis is a manic pixie dream girl.
  7. A Million Junes – Loved the prose in this book, loved the imagery. Emily Henry is brilliant and I want her to be my friend. It’s a book about magical realism, like Bone Gap.  I thought the book portrayed grief well, and I liked what it had to say about the fact that we all inevitably lose people, it’s just a matter of when.  And how we can’t lead lives holding onto the past, thinking that it is betrayal to let go of a memory or a person.
  8. Bellevue Square – This book made me so uncomfortable and I hated reading it for that reason.  You don’t know what is reality and what’s a hallucination, which I guess the author does an effective job at portraying what mental illness can be like for someone who knows they are slipping under and can’t stop it.  It made me think of how fragile we all are, and how helpless we become.  Ah, helpless.  I think that is the biggest fear, to become absolutely, literally helpless in your mental demise.   I didn’t really like the story to be honest, and the writing could have been better.  But good plot, and good idea.
  9. Prep School Confidential – This felt oddly like a repeat of People Like Us after I finally read this, which is about a cool girl named Anne who accidentally sets her Upper East Side private school basement ablaze and is forced to attend an elite boarding school in order to help her family and herself save face.  Before long, her roommate is found murdered and she is determined to solve the case.  It felt cliched but that might be because I had read so many of boarding school / private school books… you know what’s a good thriller? The Private / Atherton Prep series.
  10. The Love That Split The World – Swept me away. Emily Henry is always such a beautiful, imaginative writer and I liked this book more than A Million Junes. I liked the concept of two different versions of the same place, and there was well-paced suspense of who she was supposed to save. I think the storyline around Natalie and her ex-boyfriend was nice, because it’s about how we fall out of love with people who were seemingly perfect for each other and that it’s ugly but not as impassioned and sensational as other novels make it out to be.  Like it’s Natalie’s soul-searching that leads her to say “it’s not you, it’s me” and that’s complicated to have that conversation when you’re young.  I liked the small town feel of the story, I like how this story takes place in Kentucky and that’s where Emily Henry lives.  It’s funny because I enjoy magical realism but not extensively, yet these recent months have seen me read both of Henry’s novels.  Fantastic!
  11. Why I am no longer Talking to White People about Race – This book had me reflecting a lot on the sentiments that I’ve felt and also provoked me to reflect more on my role as a PoC and ally in furthering the movement to end racism.  There was clearly so much thought and research that went into this book, and lots of anger, and I loved that.  That is a sentiment that I too love to channel.  My only gripe about the book would be the writing, which feels staccato-like and barren of prose, which I suppose I can’t fault the author for that since she’s not a poet and is by training an academic.  This book helped me bring clarity to incidents that had happened to me that I hadn’t labelled as racism, but that looking back, I see that they are stark instances of white feminism.
  12. Death by Sex Machine Poetry Collection – For some reason, I kept crying while reading these poems. Like I couldn’t stop. I would read them aloud and then tears would start rolling down my cheek.  So beautiful, and what a cool concept… or at least cool to me because I hadn’t read any anthology that revolved around androids/robots/a cyborg sort of love.  I love the author, Franny Choi, from all the Button Poetry videos that feature her, so when I was creeping her social media and found that she had published a book, I wanted to buy it and support her. I loved this idea of lost love, of confusion, of a reckoning and the parallels drawn with robot sentience.  Can we love?  Can we be loved? Why do we feel so lonely? Is it a weakness to love?  Is vulnerability an undesirable trait? I constantly reread The Price of Rain.  There are a few other poems that I cherish a lot.  The book talks about racism and sex and technology, and how we can take technology back to strengthen us when others use technology to hurt us.  There are some beautiful lines in the book that make you feel like you too are in love, you too are in some intimate sensual moment yet always at the cusp of heartbreak.  The poems have a coldness to them that feels just yearning.  The yearning for love, for closure, for intimacy.  The book makes you feel lonely, makes you feel like a robot during some readings, makes you remember how human you are.
  13. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hr Bookstore – WOW.  WOW.  I have to start by saying WOW because this book came highly recommended from a Twitter thread about cherished books that were not very popular.  I borrowed it from the library on that recommendation, and what I got was a manic-pixie-dream-girl wet dream, a complex puzzle hunt that seemed exhaustingly contrived, coupled with the fact that all the female characters (basically three are recurring: Kat, the roommate, and the woman whose part of the reading club) are one-dimensional as if the author has never met women in a deep capacity and therefore didn’t really know how to write about them.  There were plot holes abound, the protagonist comes off as arrogant and extremely vapid and stupid, which I don’t think was completely intentional since the author tried to show that even though he worked at a bookstore, he was quite deft in his Masters work and a go-getter.  Granted, I learned a lot about Google and San Francisco’s geography, so good on that.  But wow, I just wanted to finish this book when I started reading it so I could give this review and not recommend it to anyone.  I don’t care if the protagonist doesn’t end up with Kat madly in love with him at the end, because sometimes it’s about the journey and Kat was utterly insufferable.  The author, I kid you not, wrote a whole scene where Kat is assertive and demanding, and tries to tell the reader that her team of male Google engineers had absolutely no reaction to that when a compelling subplot could have been how Kat navigates and struggles with systemic sexism, and then she would look more vulnerable and human.  Only person I liked was Mat because he reminded me of a character in New Girl (which I’ve watched perhaps 3 episodes).
  14. Eleanor & Park – This book was incredible, convincing, gut-wrenching, so compelling.  The quirky, complex love story I needed that explores identity, recounts authentically the way we fall in love when we’re young, discusses domestic violence and how difficult it is to leave.  I loved this book so much, I was crying at the end in public, I wanted Eleanor to get out, I wanted the two of them to stop fighting.  Some of the character traits of the protagonists reminded me of myself when I was younger… shy, learning to navigate bullying in school in order to survive, just feeling so much emotion and not understanding why, growing up with very little and feeling like I stuck out when all I wanted was to fit in.

Upcoming:

Kurt Vonneguht’s Short Stories

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

and he is everywhere on the walls,

no one can see it but me.

like a ghost that haunts,

only sensed when my heart breaks

stomach plummets

and I breathe deeper.

you write any poems that aren’t for him?

they ask and i just cackle.

you think I write for him? i sneer

i write for me.

i write because i have to.

i write so that one day, i can purge him

so he can haunt only some photo i’ve forgotten to delete

like an exorcism through poetry.

What a miracle, they’ll say.

the softball question

We played a game of softball Truth or Dare at your house while waiting for the sun to go down, letting the lazy evening in all its dry heat sink us into your large grey couch lining two of the white walls of your living room with its signature vaulted ceiling.  There were six of us -you and four of your friends who considered your house a regular haunt, and me, the only girl, like always.  We were sipping vodka Sprites casually with nowhere to be since it had been another sweltering day in the San Francisco Valley that August, but it was a Friday and since it was a Friday, we all felt like we had something to prove.  We all quietly felt like we needed to go somewhere in order to preserve some measure of social standing, like some perennial Millennial internal panic.  I had always found the house an anomaly -a long bungalow in the Valley with a looming living room in the back that made the whole thing feel a lot bigger even though the two-bedroom house was made for a bachelor.  You loved this house, because it now bore your history all over the walls: art that you’d collected over the years, and nicks on the wall from drunken minor mishaps.  With time, you’d worn the house down to make it all your own.

E tapped on his phone to show the next instruction in the virtual card game, and he looks at me.  It’s my turn.

“Oh this one’s a good one,” he muses and reads the instruction aloud.  “Say something that will make us all uncomfortable.”

E had always been somewhat enigmatic for me in a manner I found hard to explain.  In general, he was an open book: always down to share whatever salacious and wild story had happened to him from the night before with a laid back ease that almost bordered on humility, always unfiltered and uncensored, game to talk about anything from his kids to his cordial yet strained relationship with his kids’ mother, to the women he was currently sleeping with, to his shortfalls, his failures, to private details about his work.  He could always make fun of himself even on the most damaging points,  he was always the biggest flirt whose spell from which I could never fully unwind, even after months and months of practice. He wore his demeanour -the smoothness of a laid back city playboy – on his sleeve rolled up for all to see; sure, he was over forty now and shouldn’t be partying so hard, sure he should be a better father figure to his kids, but this was his life and this was how he was going to live it.  He was crafting tacit cultural history: how to be the unassuming rockstar, hacker of cultural waves.  I loathed him but I couldn’t fully let him go.  And it worked.  People loved him, you most of all since you looked him as a mentor, the person who believed in your work when you were nobody in this sprawling city.  What is a god if not simultaneously revered, feared, and resented?  Yet there was always this feeling at the back of my head that his closest held secrets were impenetrable, that his refusal to apologize for anything or to change his lifestyle bordered on a refusal for self-reflection, a quiet sign of denial of brewing conflicts in the undercurrents.  And because these latter suspicions kept coloring the way I viewed him, I always kept a calculated distance from him.

My eyes go cold for a moment but nobody catches it in the moment they swivel their heads at me. And immediately, I am on; I’m smirking my signature smirk, glass in hand, sitting straight with my hair tousled neatly behind my shoulders.  Everyone in the room is your friend, and by extension, my friends of course.

“Okay, give me a moment. I’ve got to think of a good one.” I say playfully, and pause to think.  I purse my lips for good measure. “Hmmm… okay… I got it.”

Y’s eyes light up.  I never disappoint with the uncomfortable and controversial in games like these.

“All of you want to fuck me.” I announce steadily and draw out the consonants as my lips curl up in another mischievous smile.

All the boys burst out laughing.  No one denies it. You chuckle.  There’s a flash of irritation that crosses your face, but it’s fleeting and it wouldn’t have been noticeable to anyone else.  After all, it was true. It’s the elephant in the room but obviously not the greatest and most pressing one, and it’s all in good fun. Everyone in this room is easy going; you most of all. You never disappoint with that full chuckle taken to such heights and volume that everyone can’t help but smile and roll their eyes.  And the game resumes with I’s turn and we don’t think it about it again as the words dissipate into the air and up into that high ceiling.  Because they’re all in love with me and all want to fuck me.  And we act like and tell ourselves that we’re okay with that.  Except everything is unwinding between us but none of your four friends who are sitting on that same living room couch look close enough to bear witness to the crumbling.

===========

“Are you any good?”  Those were your first words to me.

We met at S’s house party in LA four years ago, a few months after my break-up with the boy who shared the same name as you albeit a different spelling, a fun fact that all my friends mused and that I’d had to take with a wry smile and glassy eyes, and laugh.  Yes, what a coincidence, huh?

I was on my ongoing crawl out of rock bottom, having finally made strides in kicking a decade-long addiction to cigarettes that started in my rebellious teenage years as well as ending a brief bender of self-destructive behaviours to help numb the pain of my recent breakup.  I almost hadn’t come to S’s party in large part because LA was so far from where I was working now and I didn’t know any of S’s friends except one (whom I also didn’t consider a friend but more of an obliged acquaintance), but S had been a kind soul when I met him -it had been so easy to talk to him the first night we met, and I thought that even if nothing grew out of our handful of run-ins at parties, he was a friend that I wanted to keep.  So I showed up on that Sunday night in a sprawling, beautifully and eclectically-decorated West Hollywood two-floor penthouse, paying my friendship dues surrounded by people I didn’t know, whom I didn’t look like, who certainly shared no interests.  I recall vividly the ocean of black bomber jackets, skinny jeans, and bright sneakers, daring haircuts and hair colors, stunning multi-pierced ears and detailed tattoos bumping around me, constant five second scenes of hugs and drunken rejoices as I shuffled awkwardly around the party, confident that I wouldn’t run into anyone I knew, but also desperate for someone to say hello and divert my attention away from my dizzying discomfort.  I hadn’t run into S yet to say hello, but given the number of people who were squeezed into this penthouse amplified by the fact that I wasn’t exactly a go-to friend to say hello, I knew S would probably have to bump into me in order for me to have the occasion to say hello.  When I’d wandered close to the kitchen, that was when I caught a break.

“Hey, you wanna play beer pong?” A tall wiry guy with wavy blonde hair and of course, a bold Gucci silk bomber, yelled at me from a table tennis table that he had been refurbished -at least for tonight- as a beer pong table.  When he realized I was startled by his greeting, he laughed, and nodded, “Yeah, you, the one who looks like a lost deer in headlights.”  And as I gingerly walked over, he had instructed that I be paired up with you, the scruffy brown-haired guy, clad in black skinny jeans and a black novelty shirt, with tattoo sleeves laughing to his friend -not about me, you were too caught up in the moment talking to him over the loud music to notice your newly-assigned beer pong partner.

Someone had put us on the same beer pong team, but we were a poorly matched pair.  You missed almost all your shots while I made most of them, which hobbled us to victory by slim margins and I constantly rubbed that in.  Fuelled by the increasing amount of alcohol in my blood, I spent a great part of the night loudly complaining to everyone about how bad you were at the game and playfully demanding a better partner.  And every time I complained, you would shrug over your shoulder, palms open, and smile at me beer in one hand and ball in the other.  The smugness pissed me off, but in my drunken stupor, I laughed, took the ball out of your hand with playful force, and would begin the next round.  There was something startling about you, maybe it was just the California cool that I wasn’t used to being around, but I refused to think about it so I wouldn’t start digging myself something that resembles a well, so I dismissed it as an annoyance about your character.  You pestered me with constant quips about my competitiveness in that game, where you tried to make the argument that this made up for how devastatingly bad you were, and silently I didn’t want the night to end.

“Never trust a pretty girl with two different colored eyes”, you whispered in my ear, once I missed a shot that I had loudly and haughtily announced that I would sink.  I smirked and refused to look at you, like some hapless attempt to save face when my heart was already lost and somehow square in your hands.  Checkmate.  I must have lost while I was too busy trying to win at Checkers. And how right you were: I couldn’t even trust myself.

I went home with you that night.  We both saw it coming and I just let my feet lead me away.

I was 22.  You were eight years older.  You woke up to the sound of my slamming your cupboards looking to make breakfast, and complaining that you were so much of a bachelor that you didn’t have basic breakfast foods.  I see eggs and bacon in the fridge, but where’s the toast? Where’s the cheese?  Mushrooms? Avocado? Come on, you live in Los Angeles.  How do you not have a single avocado in your house?  You didn’t like my questions but you were amused, this brash brunette New Yorker visibly out of place in this Valley abode.  Later as we sat at your table munching on the eggs and bacon, me visibly defeated, we laughed over our mutual agreement that it was a decent hook-up and that we should do it again.  Just like that, it was so casual, so flit of the hands.  And before I knew it, I flew across the country two weeks later to see you again like I couldn’t stop myself from coming.  That time around, I brought eggs, milk, and cheese so I could make myself an omelette in the morning, and you thought it was the funniest thing ever when I carried that grocery bag into your house.

I didn’t know what to think about you: you were charismatic, effortlessly humorous, amusingly and alarmingly immature.  Yet there was always something nagging at me that never sat right, something right at the tip of my tongue but I could never put it into words.  Like there was this heaviness that felt empty, this emptiness that felt heavy; the intensity of free falling without the liability of falling in love.  And I told myself that’s what I wanted, that you were everything I’d ever wanted in some manifestation that I hadn’t anticipated: to feel free from facing consequences, to feel recklessly happy.  Is that what love would feel like when you’re not trying to hold onto it?

We hooked up casually for almost a year and fell out of it for a while due to busy schedules, and the situation felt like the childhood game of holding bubbles in your palm: now you see and feel it, and next, you don’t feel anything at all.  The high would last for a night, and then afterwards for a fortnight, we would claim there was never anything there except some remnants of chemistry that you could wipe off your hands and onto your shirt to be forgotten.  And we laughed.  All the time.  And I acted like it didn’t start to hurt every time the morning came around, because how can you hurt when you weren’t supposed to feel anything at all?

I vividly remember when I dove head-first into the sharks.  We went to Dave and Buster’s, one of your go-to casual haunts for a typical meal, and I insisted it was a date.

We’re grabbing dinner and you took me out for a night of fun.  I asserted.

Yeah, but a date requires both parties to agree that it’s a date. And we’re at Dave and Busters to eat because I like the food.  We’re not here to play games so therefore it’s not a date.  You retorted.

No it doesn’t.  You can accidentally go on a date. You chuckled at that.

Fine.  I replied.  Let’s ask the girl working the prize counter.

I laid out my case for both parties’ amusement, and she ultimately agreed with me. I bought us 20 tokens.  On me. I said gleefully, looking back at you.  You shook your head and smiled.  We used all of them on a basketball game.  You won only because I’m atrocious at basketball.

You naturally lit up every room you walked in.  You could start a conversation with anyone so effortlessly that I would feel a small pang of resentment.  I’d watch you from afar at our mutual friends’ house parties and it never ceased to impress me how everyone could fall for your sneaky concoction of easy-going California cool, a red solo cup in hand, and a smile that would spread to your eyes.  It was an open secret that we were hooking up and it was not at all exclusive, and I played it off as though it were an afterthought for the both of us.  Because I too was supposed to be cool.  I was what Gone Girl would call a Cool Girl, except I wanted so badly to convince myself that she were real, she was me, that I had somehow defied the laws of physics and wholly embodied the girl who could drink beer and hold her liquor without gaining any weight, who could laugh with the boys, who didn’t treat anything too seriously.  I was done treating things seriously, dealing with this insatiable hunger to prove to myself that a break-up that had broken me had instead made me stronger.  I wanted to be cool among your friends, who were all jet-setter creative types who always knew what the next big thing would be.  They were underground Valley royalty, whereas my only LA childhood connection was a smattering of early teenage years growing up in Brentwood playing lacrosse and taking ocean pictures in American Apparel hoodies.  You could tell that I was a kid from the Hills (by some liberal means of naturalization, I suppose) from a mile away.  I never really fit in.  In hindsight, I’m not sure why I had even tried.

Eventually it caught up to me though, because like Gone Girl’s Cool Girl, she doesn’t exist. And when you feel like you’ve been living a lie on weekend nights for a full year, it breaks you the instance you let your mask slide and are reckoned with an about-face.  So I said I needed to talk to you on a Wednesday afternoon out of the blue, and I know it must have been a strange message to receive given the nature of our usual conversation.  I asked for 30 minutes of your time; I needed to talk.  I would fly home afterwards.  I was literally flying coast-to-coast to have a conversation with you.  Please. I reticently pleaded.

You know I’ve never actually visited your house without sleeping with you.  I muse as I stepped apprehensively into your bungalow.  We were both standing awkwardly, too stoic for this to feel familiar or natural.  Not sure where to keep our hands, how to stand, where our feet should go, where we should look, how to fill this silence in a manner that wasn’t physical. How ironically comical this all was given that down the hall from your foyer in the enclave of your bedroom, we had never had that problem.

First time for everything.  You said curtly, breaking out in a smile.  There was silence that we both didn’t know how to cut or fill.  I think you knew what was coming, but thought it was ludicrous that I would bring it up now.   You had been working that morning, clad in a black hoodie and flannel pyjama pants, hair dishevelled, stubble out to play.  It was heartbreaking to see you dressed like that -it would probably be the last time I’d see you so unfiltered.

I told you that I couldn’t keep doing this.  I told you that it was fun at the beginning but I slowly realized I liked you too much for this to be nothing.  This had dragged on for a year and I was kidding myself. And if this was going to end, I’d rather have the Band-Aid ripped off in one go than have this prolong itself into something that felt like self-torture mixed with false hope, to endure this game knowing I would never win.  I cried and told you not to hug me.

No, just let me go through with this.  It’s not you, you’re a good person.  You’ve been nothing but honest about where you saw this going. I said.  I don’t hate you.  I just… I just needed to do this, and I’m going to cry but I’m going to be happy after this.  Please don’t hate me.

I smiled weakly through tears.  It really wasn’t your fault.  I just needed to be honest with myself.

About a month later, you asked me for lunch and I knew that it was futile to fight the urge, so I said yes.  When I got on the plane, I kept telling myself that I was crazy to fly across the country once again for some remnants of false hope that I still had left in my heart.  I was apprehensive when my car pulled up to Chateau Marmont, slowly walking to the back restaurant with thoughts racing through my head about whether or not this was a joke.  When we sat down, exchanged platitudes, and ordered our food, you asked me if I wanted to go to Dave and Buster’s afterwards.  You know… like a date, you said.  And your smile curled up and almost reached your eyes and I felt my stomach drop and my heart break once again.   I felt a lot of things, but I was feeling so many things at once that it was difficult for me to compartmentalise and lay out exactly what I felt.

I don’t understand where this is coming from. I told you, rather bewildered.

You told me that you had thought about our parting conversation quite a lot over the past month, but not by choice.  I would pop into your head as you were doing other things, and you began to realize that you kind of, well, missed me around your house, in your car running errands with you, and going to Dave and Buster’s.  Specifically, you told me the amusing and grand classic story of how you had gotten a blonde into your bed and it was going so horribly for so many reasons that you knew this would make a great story. So you had started to laugh and turned to the right to tell me exactly that, except I wasn’t there on my usual side of the bed, and there wasn’t going to be me on that side of the bed any longer, and in some strange twist it started to feel lonely in your bachelor house without the usual plus one.  And I laughed sheepishly at the story and told you that I didn’t find it that funny at all, because I actually still really liked you and frankly, this story wasn’t really helping any cause.  So you digressed, and said you acknowledged that it wasn’t executed well since you hadn’t fully thought how you were going to tell it but just that you needed to tell it when I got to lunch.  And I smiled, I said I understood.  I said that whichever way this story goes from here, I would not win.

And despite all my reservations, I went with you anyway to Dave and Busters after that lunch.  I went home with you that night just like clockwork except this time we didn’t punch out.  I was just shy of 23.  Your birthday had recently passed.  I hadn’t said happy birthday.

I had a reputation for jokingly charging my friends $1,000 exclusive of travel and accommodations as a wedding-date-for-hire because I knew all their mothers and peers, and was a good conversationalist.  I also loved going to these weddings because it almost counted as crashing them.  I’d done about 11 before you asked me in the car while we were running an errand if you could hire me as a wedding date for a family friend’s wedding.  It was three weeks after the Dave and Buster’s Official Date.  Your parents along with your extended family would be there .  You said you’d throw in an extra $2000 if that would convince me to come.  You were nervous asking me.  It was the first time I’d ever seen you nervous and uncomfortable.  I smirked and didn’t look at you so you could save face just a little.

For you, it’s free.

And when I said that, you kept your eyes on the road and didn’t look at me.  And you were trying not to smile, but I could tell.  It was settled then: it was another date.

What a perfect love story.

==============

When E had said “Say something that will make us all uncomfortable”, I had immediately thought of something else.  The thought came naturally to me since I’d been thinking about it for a long time although I had never hinted it at you.  It was something that I knew would have won me the whole damn game, ended the game, cleared the room.    It was a sore topic, frankly, as its iterations appeared more often as you had gotten older and your parents had been insinuating that they were hoping you were going to settle down and have a family soon. But I did’t know how to bring it up without it seeming like a terrible omen.

You see, it would be World War III if we ever broke up.  We weren’t mature enough to handle a break-up because we were still patting ourselves on the back for making this relationship work, for recounting how we met and how we started dating to all our friends at parties and gatherings like it was this triumphant, timeless love story.  Imagine two people who were casually hooking up, but they fell in love! They live on different coasts, but they still visit each other!  They work on their relationship, because if they didn’t it would fall apart!  Five-foot-eleven cheeky golden boy posing with his five-foot-five WASP girlfriend on a friend’s Malibu balcony, both with their charming smiles and convincing body language!

It’s not a lie, not at all.  But how much do you work on a relationship until your relationship can’t exist without intervention?   How much glue can you squeeze in the cracks of the relationship before it seems like a side project that should have long been abandoned?  Our personalities meant we each had to win in order to feel good about ourselves, and that meant denying that we both felt this reckless yet empty happy, that we were tying each other down for no reason, that we had made a mistake.

Our lives and our relationship with each other’s friends and family were so entwined now that if we were to break up, we couldn’t stay friends, our friends couldn’t stay friends with each other, we couldn’t stay friends with each other’s friends.  I would have to move out, you would not visit me.  You’d have to start again but now, the bed would feel undeniably empty.  I’d hit rock bottom again and have to climb back out again.  People like us don’t settle down, we hustle.  Sticking it out with each other started to feel like we were tethered to proving everyone right and making our parents and friends happy, affording us no chance to drift off to our ambitions.  You don’t free fall for this long without repercussions, everyone knows that, and alas, here we are.  We couldn’t admit to each other that we should have quit long ago.  I couldn’t admit to myself that I regretted coming over to your house three years ago, shouldn’t have said yes to Dave and Buster’s.  Was this all my fault?

That was what I had really wanted to say.

It would shatter us.  We would never truly recover.

Everywhere around us stood the signs that we wouldn’t last, but neither of us would dare touch the topic: how your friends have kids but aren’t married anymore (or never were), how you still travelled for work, how I had gotten approached about a civil service opportunity in Detroit but haven’t divulged it to you.  You would have been so proud of me in some alternate universe or some universe that existed two years ago, but not in this one.  Because it is unsaid that I would eventually move to LA and we would live together.  And that expectation is supposed to come to fruition soon, if not yesterday.  But this is complicated and you hate this topic getting brought up in social situations and with your parents, so we pretend that this arrangement of my living in New York and visiting you almost every weekend like in the nascent days is working fine, like we are still hooking up with nothing to lose.  But obviously the most hilarious part is that it wasn’t, but no one wants to point out the omen until the omen has consumed everything.

And that’s why we’re here now, in this living room with its vaulted white ceilings that now seemed to cave us all into this roomy glass-pocked prison.  The sun is shining bright and bathing everything with light.  E has brought his legs all the way up on the couch, lounging comfortably like he owns this place, no care in the world.  It’s not like he would put his legs down if any one of us called him out on it anyway.  And I am the only girl in the room, with thirty articles of clothing stashed messily in the right side of your closet like I live here every once in a while.  And the game continues.  And we all sip our drinks.  And the elephant stays in the room and grows larger each day, but it’s a big airy living room, high ceilings and all.  So it can grow larger than most elephants can, what a feat.  It’s an anomaly that it can grow so big and show no sign of bursting just yet.

And he taps the screen.  Another instruction shows up.  It’s not my turn.

I never disappoint with the uncomfortable and controversial in games like these.

I say it. Out of the blue.

I got a job in Detroit.  I think I’m going to take it.

And then the elephant disappears.  But the room doesn’t clear like I imagined it would.  The boys are still here and one of them looks up and nods as a polite gesture and gets his head back in the game while the rest are waiting for O to come up with a good answer.  But your eyes train on me.  Because you understand the ramifications of what I’ve just said.  Your head is now completely out of the game and it feels like it’s just me and you in the room.  We looking at each other.  I breathe in.

I have so much to tell you.