Coming to age story about an Asian American boy in college.
| I buckle as my jaw cracks and I feel my brain whirl and spin. A million stars explode in my vision and for a split second my universe is a static black, a slight buzzing of my ears like the fluorescent hum from the lobby of a hospital lobby. Like a sea of floating jellyfish in a stormy haze, not really knowing where you are or even who you are. Just drifting along with the static and the darkness, but knowing somewhere that you’re at least still semi-conscious. I crumple to my hands and knees and try not to throw up. Getting punched in the face is something you just never really get use to, no matter how tough you are. It’s not as if I wasn’t expecting it, I was practically begging to get punched, I just didn’t expect him to actually do it.
It’s like when you wake up in the middle of a night in a cold sweat and you’re not sure if you’re awake yet. You’re still halfway stuck in between a nightmare and a faint grasp of reality and that all the demons that you’ve had chasing after you all your life have finally caught up. The sharp autumn cold bites at my split lip and the world still seems to be tilting on a diagonal plane. As I clear the cobwebs out of my head, I look behind me to see who is still left and a fuzzy version of Sean smiles at me and gives me a devious look as if to say, “Are you really going let that slide?” There are only a few options for a scenario like this I suppose.
For about half a life time nobody makes a sound, everything a quiet, eerie hush. I’m sure the asshole who punched me assumes that this is all over and that he’s punched me in the face and we’re done. I use this moment to do some damage reassessment. My face hurts, I’m bleeding some. The left side of my upper lip is starting to swell like a sausage. I still haven’t regained my balance and my legs a little wobbly. Every time I wake up from a concussion it feels like a rebirth. And it feels wonderful, like the first line of coke after a binge.
I reach into my pocket and grip the lighter in my pocket. I stand up and swing my right fist around like a hammer. There’s no way that he can protect his chin. I see his eyes light up in fear, his mouth gradually pulls agape. He has no where to go, like a deer caught in headlights. I can feel my hand drive through his face and I watch gleefully as his body slowly melts to the floor, arms flailing limply about. I watch as his head bounces off the floor, once, twice, and three times before finally coming down to earth with a violent thud. It’s beautiful. And to think all of this silliness started over a few meager words.
The six henchmen behind the lines quickly jump in and Sean and Tyler are already chucking bombs. Sean body checks a kid and sends him sailing five feet back, while Tyler runs up and front kicks the shit out of a poor bastard. “Get the fuck down you faggot.” Sean gets triple teamed and Tyler gets punched in the face. The only thing you can really try to do is just react in the chaos and keep moving forward. My friend on the ground is starting to show signs of consciousness. He moans loudly and clutches his damp hair with his left hand. I kick him once violently in the stomach because he’s the asshole that started all this mess. He doubles over into the fetal position and I quickly run to Sean’s aid. In a moment like this you already know who you can count on and who will be standing on the sidelines. All you can hear is the shouting, just shouting and pandemonium. And through the bloody carnage, I can’t help but crack a little smile. And through the grunts of pain and hysteria you’ll see a splatter of blood here, maybe a tooth sailing through the night sky there. The quiet night is now replaced with the thick thumps and slaps of muscle on bone, bone on concrete; bodies getting destroyed. I live for moments like these, self-destruction at its goddamn best.
I remember when I was young I would sit for hours staring at my father. He was always hunched over his desk, a cloud of cigarette smoke always hovering around him. I can still smell it, the wretched stench. The ammonia clung to his breath like death. My father was a business man, or is rather, and as far as I can remember, it has always been expected that I do the same, to follow the same course.
My parents had decided when I was about five that they wanted to move to the United States so that my brother and I could get a better education and opportunities for success. We moved around quite a bit during my childhood depending on the influx of money my father generated from his business, first from the living rooms of aunts and uncles, to a crappy apartment in a bad neighborhood, to a small condo on the other side of the county, and finally settling in a small quiet suburb near the San Francisco airport when my dad’s business finally took off and he had finally made it. America was the opportunity that my father thought would allow us a better future. He wanted us to integrate and become American while retaining Chinese culture, language, and heritage. He wanted us to do something magnificent, to have all the things and accomplish all the dreams which he himself never had the opportunity to do. America was for us, like most immigrants, the epitome of a better life.
He had grown up in a very poor family so he was very frugal by nature. Having visited my grandparents once every other year in Taiwan, I knew that my father came from a very different world. One in which there was sometimes not enough to eat, where clothes were worn until they were threadbare, where beatings were always just around the corner, where everyday was a struggle. When my father was young, they lived in a one bedroom house shared with 4 siblings, grandparents, and poverty. It was a sharp contrast to the blatant capitalism which we moved into. I grew up believing in the all-mighty dollar and how all I knew was that I wanted a lot of it, to swim in its arms and buy all the happiness which poverty and the lower class could not. I
His office was always kept extremely immaculate - even the dust seemed to fall in line. The bookshelves in his office were filled with thick business manuals, product orders, booklets and projects, awards, recognition plaques, his life’s work. Everything was put into its appropriate place and nothing was to be disturbed, the stern look on my father’s face most often times was warning enough for me to follow his rules. It wasn’t so much that I was afraid of him, more so that anything I would ever accomplish would just not be enough. “You’re going to be a great doctor or lawyer someday kid” he would announce. That just killed me. It was as if every success was a mandate, nothing I did was out of the ordinary, more of a creed.
My father had always been a very conservative individual. He never took risks that he didn’t study and calculate first. He always took the safe road. Even his attire was old and boring. Yet, I respected him dutifully. I knew his expectations of me, which were grand, and I knew I could not disappoint him, yet at other times I cursed the life and lie that he had brought me into, working so hard and striving for what. I feel as if I don’t succeed and do well in this world, that all of it will have meant nothing.
“Dad, do you think you could drop me off at baseball practice later? Mom, has to pick up Gabe and she doesn’t have time to take me.”
“I can’t right now son, can’t you ask one of your friends? Where’s mom?”
“Taking Gabe to Violin class.”
“I can’t Elliot, you’ve just got to wait until your mom gets home.”
“But she’s not going to get back until seven.”
“I’ve got to finish this project. I’m sorry son.”
It was always work first. Yet another generation raised by women. The private schools, toys, gifts, all those pretty things that money could buy, were little consolation to deprivation of a father figure. My father would start a furniture company in China when I entered the second grade which took him out of my life for nine months out of the year. I hung my head in silent consternation. Was it too much to ask that I wanted my father to take an interest in my life? I had always wished that he could be more like the other dads. I wanted him to play catch with me, to ask how school was going, like maybe we were just an average family. But I’m sure if I had a dad like that, I would have wanted one that was more like mine. But his one love had always been his work. He had no time to waste.
“Gabe will probably come back early from practice today, he’s been doing quite well recently.”
Gabe is my little brother by the way. He was the good one, the one that relatives crooned over at family gatherings, the one that received good letters home from elementary school for his exceptional behavior. I always had an odd sense that my parents were deliberately pitting us against one another. Both my parents never spoke English to us, we spoke Mandarin in the house whether that was due to their own avoidance of learning a new language or their desire for to retain the old tongue. It was often hard to keep up in class and it wasn’t until maybe the fifth grade that I really understood what the hell was going on at school.
I was the kid who couldn’t keep still in class, the one who received angry letters homes for rowdy behavior. “Your child is not performing up to his grade level” were the correct words I believe. My third grade teacher had demanded a parent-teacher conference for my antics in class which landed me a trip to the therapist. I was diagnosed with O.C.D and clinical depression, but my mom quickly denounced my being on prescription pills due to her innate distrust of Western medicine. The little incident was kept hush-hush and I don’t hardly even remember it myself most times besides when it works itself back into my life. Sometimes things got so bad that I would shut myself off from the world and just idle by at weeks at a time in my room, not knowing what the hell to do.
I just stood in the doorway of my father’s study not sure of what to do. I longed for him to turn around and give up his stupid work so he could take me to practice. It seemed that athletics were the only thing I was any good at.
“Could you please stop fidgeting around? You’re making me lose my concentration” said my father.
I turned and sighed loudly. No amount of whining or complaining would solve this issue. I would’ve probably just been asking for a smack or two. I just hoped that mom would get home soon.
I’ve just gotten off a pretty shitty Thursday at school. I just totally bombed my economics final, I might as well just have not shown up and dropped the class. It’s not like I actually knew half the information or anything like that. I didn’t know anything. I spent the first ten minutes staring at the test. It was eleven pages long with 8 equations. If I’m lucky I might have answered one. What I can only pray for now is that nobody else studied for the test because of the curve, hopefully a thirty two out of hundred is good enough for a D. And for the most part that’s what college has been really been like, trying to scrape together enough brain cells to just pass the classes. To collect that college degree.
I knew what was coming though, I totally deserve it. The semester is halfway through and I have been to a little less than half my classes, and that’s being generous. I don’t even really know where my heads been at the last couple of months. I still have assignments that are weeks past due, another set of midterms, and hours and hours of reading.
I take off my backpack and set it beside my bookshelf. It’s already mimicking my father’s, the top half is neatly lined with three and a half years worth of engineering textbooks and manuscripts, the bottom with my DVD’s and my Maxim subscription. My left pant pocket starts vibrating, I dig in my pocket and pull out my phone, it’s Sean.
“Sup, how’d your midterm go?”
“Fucking horrible dude, I’m pretty sure I failed.”
“That sucks. What are you talking? C minus?”
“No, probably thirty, forty percent tops.”
“Well if you didn’t fucking sit around all day sulking and smoking pot, maybe you could do something with your life.”
“I’m just praying for that curve scaled to kick in big. It doesn’t matter anyways. What are you guys doing?”
“Nothing yet, we’re just sitting around, about to watch the game and start drinking. Just come over whenever.”
“Alright, sounds good. ”
I click the receiver shut. The truth is I really haven’t been going to class. I haven’t been really doing much of anything. Most mornings I just wake up around eleven with the taste of vodka tonic in my mouth and a feeling of brooding regret. When I do make it to class I spend most of the time bored out of my mind making sketches in my notebook, and when I do go I usually leave early. I look at the other students around the classroom and hate everyone in it, everyone trying so hard to get to nowhere. And it’s been a pretty bad habit that I’ve picked up in the last year but I usually get stoned before class which probably isn’t the brightest thing to do. You know how those things go. I really just don’t have particular interest learning at this point in time. Maybe what I need is just a long vacation. I’ve got just a couple of quarters left and in reality it shouldn’t really be that tough if I just cut out the drinking and drugs for a little while, but it’s really a tough thing to do, when you haven’t really got much else to do.
I was pretty excited for college. I knew it was the escape that I had wanted all my life, away from the strict rules which had always governed my childhood and onwards to the freedom and independence which awaited me. And to be honest, I was excited for college because of the beer, blunts, and bitches that would ensue. I’m not going to lie, that’s what college to me is all about.
My father was away on business so only my mom and Gabe were able to come drop me off, as parking permits are not allowed for incoming, undergraduate freshmen. Davis is a small suburban town right next to California capital and a dry staggering heat and I started sweating carrying the loads back and forth from the car. It also didn’t help too much that my dorms were right next to the dairy farm, it was even worse during the spring when the pollen and shit mixed together and wafted their way through the dormitories, but after awhile you can get use to anything. We trudged up the stairs and shouldered past other parents and kids who were moving into the dorms with my two duffel bags and boxes of possessions. I surveyed each person that would walk past. I actually just wanted my mom and Gabe to leave. I wanted to be off on my own.
I had the misfortune of being crammed into a triple, a dorm room usually occupied by two people with an extra bunk crammed in. Of course showing up at ten in the morning wasn’t early enough and the single bed had already been reserved. The thing is I already knew that I was moving into a triple before coming to college and I really didn’t mind at all even after I had met the bastards.
In the information packet I received over the summer before fall semester included the names, numbers, and addresses of my new roommates for freshmen year. One’s name Justin Shurtleff from a small Northen California town and the other one was Patel Gandhi who actually just lived a town over from me and went to a neighboring high school.
I called Patel up first and met him up at a fast food diner just to get a feel for the guy and to see if we would get along. He was a chubby kid and wore a t shirt, shorts, and worn sandals. He was not shaven and his skin was sprinkled with acne and scars, his lips wet and when he talked.
“Nice to meet you, I’m Elliot”
“So you go to Espresso High huh?”
“How do you like it?”
“You know what you’re majoring in?” I asked as we made our way to the ordering counter.
“Yeah, I’m going BioSci, I want to be a doctor.”
This was on account that his father was a doctor and being a single child from a strict Indian descent he figured that this was what he had to do because he knew no other route. I could relate.
“I can’t wait to start partying” he said his eyes lighting up like a child on Christmas day. “I’m thinking about joining a frat or something.”
“Yeah, it’s where you’ll get all the bitches” he said offhandedly while nervously looking away. I knew then that I would not get along with him, because he would never get any so called “bitches” and that I would have to spend many nights figuring out a reason why he couldn’t come out along for midnight shenanigans. “Too bad most of my friends aren’t coming out to the same college, we would have a hell of a time.”
“So what do you and your buddies do for fun?”
He then regaled me with tales of how they would go down to the local mall with trays full of food and pretend to fall down in the middle of the food court. He chuckled madly at his own recollection and I stared disgustedly away as he talked with his mouth full of food. I tried to tell myself that this was who I had to live with for a year and tried to be civil. I was just hoping in the back of my mind that the other roommate would be more adequate of a companion.
After the meal we said our farewells and that we would see each other again on move in day. I left with a feeling of disappointment and I wonder why then I hadn’t requested a room change or anytime thereafter throughout my freshmen year.
I called Justin the day after that and his mom answered the phone.
“Hi, my name is Elliot and I believe I will be rooming with your son in the dorms this upcoming fall.”
“Oh, that’s great to hear, let me just get him on the phone for you. One moment please.”
“Hey this is Justin”
“Hey what’s up Justin, this is Daniel I’ll be one of your roommates next year.”
“Hi” he answered nervously.
“You looking forward to college?”
“Yeah” he said clearing his throat. So far the conversation wasn’t going so hot.
“So, what are you going to be studying for the next few years?”
“I’m not quite sure yet. You?”
“I’m going to be in managerial economics, business, you know wherever the money takes me.” He didn’t answer.
“Well, you looking forward to going out and maybe hitting a few parties at all?”
“Nah, that’s not really my thing” he stammered.
“Hopefully I won’t be too crazy then” I joked, yet another uncomfortable silence.
“Look,” he finally said “I only have one rule. That you don’t keep any drugs or alcohol in the room, I don’t want to get into any trouble. They have a pretty strict policy about that up in the dorms.”
“Um, ok” I answered. Who the fuck said anything about drugs or alcohol? Although I am pretty sure I had my fingers crossed and did end up stashing both of those in the room throughout the year with or without his acknowledgement. “Listen I gotta go, it was nice talking to you.”
I hung up the phone feeling at the dumps and hoping that somewhere down the line I would find a few friends who were down. I had one roommate who was going to try to tag along while the other was going to snitch me out at the first sign of misconduct.
It turned out to be Justin who had his stuff on the single bed so I was going to be stuck in a bunk bed with Patel for the rest of the year. My mom and Gabe helped me unpack most of the stuff and I could tell that my mom was starting to get all sentimental on me so I walked them out to the car gave her a hug and said bye to my brother. And I was free.
When I finally moved in, the top bunk was still unoccupied. I walked my mom and Gabe back to the car and headed back to my dorm room. I met Justin and his parents who turned out to be nice folks. His father was a big guy who kept on talking about baseball and his mom seemed out of the loop, probably had a little too much fun during the hippie era. Justin and his dad were having a real father to son all about “how this is the big step” and “you’ve done us proud” and all this garbage while his mom had this serene hindu cow expression on her face the whole time, but I knew she wasn’t listening at all. I told them it was nice to meet them and I got the hell out.
I saw Patel coming up the hall with armloads of crap with his folks and helped him bring it to the room. Their parents shook each other’s hands and since it was such a damn small room, they all shifted out uncomfortably. And that was my introduction to the dorms.
I wanted to watch the game at Sean’s and drink away the memories of the botched midterm so I hurry downstairs to the kitchen to grab something to eat. I quickly slap together a ham sandwich and grab a bag a chips from the food cupboard. I wrap the sandwich in a paper towel and run back upstairs to my room. As I head up the hall, I peer into first door on the left and wonder whether or not John is in his room. He is a quiet, shy Cantonese kid, who struggles through school and always seems sickly ill from some perilous disease. I can always hear him sniffling and coughing through the walls. I like him well enough, he pays his share of the bills and keeps to himself. He is still sleeping though, still sleeping with the blinds shut at 2:30 in the afternoon. Maybe it’s pneumonia today. I wonder what he is going to do with his life, then I wonder what the hell it is I’m exactly going to do with my life. He seems to take every other quarter off and at the pace he was going, he is probably going to be in college for the next seven years. I walk through my door and spot my cell phone, I check for any missed calls.
I head back to my room and make sure that whatever I need for the night are in my pockets. This includes: $40 dollars in cash, cell phone, a pack of half smoked cigarettes, a lighter, keys, wallet, a condom (you never know), and a pack of gum. All the things you need when drinking ensues, my own alcohol survival pack. Leaving an open tab at a bar with my friends is usually bad news.
I sit down at my desk and peek at the tremendous amount of work I have to do. I have to do this weekend, two papers, a lab, and a midterm next week. Looks like this weekend will be spent cramming at the library. I hastily glance over some course review sheets and turn off my monitor while letting my computer buzz away on idle. I stare at a leather bound journal that sits on the corner of my desk. I pick up the smooth, tan book and open the cover. On the first page is written in long graceful handwriting:
To the man of my dreams, Happy 20th Birthday baby! I hope all your dreams come true. I love you with all my heart and always will.
It’s the only thing that I kept that she’s given me. Everything else, all the pictures, letter, presents, sentimental bullshit, everything that reminded me of her I had thrown away. And in it I had written several poems. My favorite one was about Emma, a pitbull we had adopted together, but that she had taken after our breakup.
Emma is so dumb
She tenderly watches a fly
And tries to eat it
I miss that stupid dog and to be totally frank I missed the hell out of Diane who I haven’t spoken to in months. Her face haunts me everywhere I go, but things are the way they are and beautiful things sometimes get broken, but that’s the way things are I guess.
And for some reason I just couldn’t seem to shake it. A deep emptiness prevailed through periods throughout high school and college, but it’s hard to discern how much of it was due to the partying and how much it is due to my brain receptors not receiving enough serotonin. I would hate life at home and how I would never become the prominent figure my parents wanted me to be. “It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as it is respectable or for God” they would say. “If you have a problem in life, you should just turn to God, ask him for the answers in your prayers” was often the answer I would receive. And not to sound to blasphemous, but God really didn’t really help me out with the depression.
Ever Sunday, we would get woken up and dragged to church. A place I would grow up to distrust because of the constant bickering rivalries that would often split up even the senior members of the congregation, it wasn’t easy to watch even as a child. And I just laughed at the other kids I would see wearing their WWJD bracelets. More than half the guys who went to church were there for the girls and honestly I didn’t give a fuck about what the daily sermon was. Imagine standing during congregation and being forced to sing your praise. Right like a bunch of phony people singing together will really make God happy.
What pissed me off most about church was the constant gossip and chattering heads. Since everyone lived so strictly according to the Bible, it’s as if they had to live vicariously through all the lies and hearsay from all the other members. Like they really had nothing better to do with their fucking lives, people meeting up each week with their plastic smiles and how do you do’s which was sickening because you know after they turned around they would be spitting venom and hate about you to everyone else.
After I had been forced to learn to play classical piano, my mom thought it was time for me to play the sheet music for Sunday congregations. I was thirteen years old and I hated the thought of it and having to be forced against my will to do such a thing. And it just isn’t the type of life I want to lead. I wanted to be normal and to play baseball and watch cartoons on Sundays like the other kids at school and not have to waste three hours of my life every week instead of watching Sunday football. It didn’t help that my preadolescent hormones went crazy and any fleeting thought of a girl would set me off and I would be sitting full mast in the middle of the congregation. But I was young and didn’t have a choice so it went on through my parent’s command. That’s until my dad’s company took off internationally and he was gone nine months of the year. We would see each other at periods of two weeks a time, a couple of times a year.
And still church went on, a gathering of chattering heads. The only thing I ever liked about church was the food. And in reality, it isn’t even that good, it’s just that that was the only thing to look forward to. So that was life for awhile, fatherless and without discipline.
“So what are you doing tonight?” It’s Friday during freshmen year and I was finishing up some lab assignments and really couldn’t wait to get haggard drunk with the fellas and hit on some breezies. We had already bought a couple of handles of vodka from one of Tyler’s older friends. Since there were always so many residential advisors knocking on doors and making sure the freshmen weren’t drinking or horsing around, we always drank really fast. At one point, Brad was taking red cups of vodka in one gulp.
“I’m not sure yet. Probably just gonna wing it” I lied.
“Oh yeah, I’m sure there’s a lot of parties going on. We can head down to frat row, there has to be people out.”
“That sounds fun, yeah maybe.” It was going to be hard to get out of this one.
That was probably the last thing I wanted to do in the entire world. Spend the evening walking around the campus with Justin, not getting into parties. Hearing him make bad jokes and trying to imitate us to try to fit in, but he never would because he was just not really socially adept.
He was the type of guy that could kind of ruin your reputation. He was the type of guy to throw up on his bed while you were on the bottom bunk and just decide to sleep in his puke and not wake up until later in the afternoon. He tried to hang out with me and some of the other guys, but we tried to make ourselves as scarce as possible. It was like avoiding the plague. It took Justin awhile to figure out that I really didn’t want to hang out with him, but Sean kept letting him tag along because he was such a nice guy and all. They ended up living together one year which I thought was a horrible idea.
I’m a senior in college and I’ve never really been what you could studious, maybe back in middle school and a part of high school. It’s been three years and I’ve barely learned anything really. Sure I’m going to graduate with my Managerial Econ degree. I can just picture it now, finishing grad school at twenty five, married at thirty, and a slave to the corporate system until I’m sixty five: sitting in some goddamn cubicle in front of a monitor until I want to puke my guts out developing carpel tunnel syndrome. The dismal, drone which will be the daily grind of the white collar life: the power suits, board meetings, paid vacations, pensions plans, the pretentiously professional business cards, work, work, work to spend, spend, spend. Honestly making me think about it makes me want to smash my car into a goddamn pole. Waking up everyday to work to make money, to buy things in order to let people know how much money I make. Monkeys dressing up in monkey suits, performing monkey tasks.
I always start out every quarter with a full head of steam. I promise myself that this is the quarter, this is when I’m going to start turning it all around. I’ve just never really taken college that seriously, it’s probably due to the fact that I had an overbearing mother who deemed it necessary to have her children to grow up into something great. It seriously just came easy to me, this whole doing homework and going to school deal for the early part of my life when I was followed orders. And I just don’t really care anymore, I’m merely going through the motion. You mix that with a little procrastination, a touch of resentment towards your parents and authority, a lot of booze, and you get my version of college.
Look up: burgeoning alcoholic. I am so used to getting tanked and stoned that I don’t even make it out to a party or a social scene without feeling entirely way too anxious about the whole ordeal.
And mixed in with the laziness are alcohol and drugs, of all varying degrees. The fun morning are the ones spent bent over in front of the toilet retching up battery acid until my throat is burned raw and there are traces of bright red with the bile yellow. Those are the fun mornings, retracing the night of idiocy; piecing together another night that would make my parents proud, the ones that are paying my tuition.
I wouldn’t even really say hangover is really not quite the word anymore. Hangover is the headaches I would get back in high school after having a forty or two. The bile sitting in my stomach and creeping up my throat, the constant shakes and the cold shivers, it’s the unexplained bouts of depression and anxiety. Months and months on end with the only foreseeable cure at the end of a bottle.
It’s me sitting alone, feeling miserable for half the day, stewing in self loathing. And the way I’m going, sometimes I forget what day it is, what classes I’m going to, how I got the black eye, what assignments are due, why I got thrown into the drunk tank, when midterms are. When you think that your body really can’t take it anymore, I take another drink. Tell me what you would do when your life spins in this vicious cycle, instead making reasonable decisions. How did I arrive at this point? What happened to my moment of clarity? My grades aren’t ever bad, but they definitely won’t get me ahead in the world. Yeah, maybe I’m just undisciplined, maybe I just need to whip myself into shape and lift myself from the bootstraps. I’ll start trying, what’s my rush?
All I want to really do is get away from all this nonsense, Just get out and just leave it all behind, like Sal Holliday. Get all my money together, hop in the car and just head out. Just get the hell on the road. But like that’s really going to happen.
I get to Tyler’s apartment around three thirty. Tyler lives on the college side of town. This is where most of the undergrads rent apartments so there are always a ton of parties. I had decided to move into the suburbs during the two years of my college career to finally get some studying done and to get away from clamor and ruckus. As I pull up to his complex, I opt to park out on the street due to the insanely stringent parking laws of the apartment complexes. Due to the very limited parking, towing is always a threat upon unattended cars which do not belong in the parking lot. Tyler also lives with Sean and Brad, you’ll meet them soon enough. I walk through the filled parking lot and head towards 2013, their apartment number.
I jog up the flight of cement stairs and turn to the left, 113. I don’t even bother to knock, I just turn the handle and let myself in.
“Waddup Elliot” Tyler says while looking away from the television.
They’re all in the living room playing Madden. Tyler’s the guy on the bean bag in the far left corner in the brown, Sean’s the big guy on the left with the goofy haircut, and Brad is the Asian guy next to him. I’m sure you’ve met us all before, we’re the group of idiots who get wasted and break things, drive drunk, crash parties, start fights, and all other sorts of debaucherous fun. It’s Friday and there’s only one thing on everyone’s minds. It is basically the same game plan every week; we meet up, sit around, and slowly lose our sobriety and paint the town in our puke, blood, and piss, and if we’re really lucky we get to take a lucky lady home.
“What’s up fellas” I say as I head over towards a frail looking arm chair next to the sofa.
“Nothing much man, looks like just another Friday night man. Ain’t anything special going on” Sean answers.
We are a pretty close knit group of friends. The bond we share isn’t complicated, we have basically been partying together for four years now. We’ve lived together, fought, cussed, drank, drunk, used drugs, banged sluts, analyzed life and love, and all the in between and this was our last year doing this shit and living this lifestyle and it will never be the same.
“So, what’s the plan then, we can’t just sit around here all day.” Tyler says.
“I dunno, I heard one the frats is having a party” Brad answers, “It’s the one across the street from the rec pool.”
“The asian frat?” Brad asks.
“Yeah, girl from my chem class asked me to head over, wants my nuts.”
“Some kid from that frat got killed last weekend” Brad says
“No shit? How do you know?”
“Lab partners in the same class. Highway suicide.”
“He got really drunk and decided to cross the highway, now I don’t care how goddamn drunk you are, but you gotta know that you’re crossing a freeway. It had to be intentional.”
“What the fuck, where’d you hear that?” I ask, “What was he doing trying to cross the highway?”
“I dunno, my lab partner didn’t say much about it, the whole frats trying to keep the whole thing hush hush, I can’t even believe they’re having a party.”
“What about that kid freshmen year cutting his wrists in Building F bathroom freshmen year. He barricaded the door and the firemen had to kick it in. Goddamn place looked like a slaughterhouse.”
“I think I heard something about that, damn that’s one hell of a way to go.”
“At what point does one rationally decide to kill himself?”
“Depression, anxiety, chronic pain.”
“Goddamn that is a hell of a way to go, getting run over by a car.”
“Think about all the greats: Cobain, Hemingway, Freud, Mishima, London.”
“That’s crazy.” Tyler turns back to the TV.
“This sure is a hell of a macabre conversation.”
“And I sure am not going to an Asian frat party” Sean adds.
“Why the fuck not?”
“Because I don’t enjoy being mugged at the entire night by twenty asian guys that’s why. A lot of you guys seriously have a staring problem.”
“That still doesn’t discount the fact that there is a free keg and that there will be asian girls there.”
Sean gives me a look like he is unimpressed, but he can’t hold it, he gives and cracks his usual stupid crooked grin. “It’s not like I don’t like the asian parties, I just feel awkward, most Asian people aren’t the most welcoming. It’s not like I already feel like that guy all the time hanging out with you dirty chinamen. Let’s just hit the bars.” Sean is one of the two white boys, Tyler being the other one. His family comes from the same income bracket as mine, upper middle class that is, and besides the fact that he is white I like him well enough. He’s an avid gym rat and works out constantly and is built basically like a yeti; big, dumb, and hairy. One time he almost chugged six beers in a row in six minutes as a bet, he made it to five.
“Don’t be a racist and just come out.”
“Racialist, not racist.”
My mom sat beside the dining room window, drinking coffee and reading her Sunday edition of the Chinese newspaper “World Journal”. For someone who constantly got on my case and yelled at me for the dumbest, most trivial bullshit, she was a very good mom. Aside from the frown which was permanently affixed to her brow she was also a beautiful lady. She was constantly up to date with the new health foods, make up stuff, clothes and such. She had grown up the daughter of a Taiwanese diplomat and grew up in the lap of luxury, a far distant cry from what my father had experienced. I wouldn’t call what she has as fatal flaw, rather more so a character glitch in which she assumed that everyone would do her bidding; everyone that is except my father. My mom adored my father and bade his every whim.
They had a very odd relationship, at least from the American standpoint. They hardly ever kissed, actually I have never recalled them kissing. They never really hugged or embraced or nothing like that, it was more the way they looked at each other. I knew that whatever their formula was it worked. My mother had left the wealth she had grown up with in order to marry my father. Yet, somehow I always questioned the validity of their relationship. How happy can two people really ever be, not showing any affection.
They would lounge for hours in the family room sitting cozily on their large leather couches, reading magazines, newspapers, enjoying coffee or tea, without much banter. It wasn’t the cold silences, maybe a quiet contentment, a consolation. I’m not sure how you would describe it.
She caught me studying her in lost contemplation. She glanced over at me with a disapproving look. She lowered her coffee and gently placed the paper on the dining room table. My mom was a pretty first-rate interior designer everything she chose to add to the home had a certain reason a certain look it portrayed. She fiddled with the handle of her coffee cup delicately. I knew what was coming, she had that look in her eyes.
“Why are you just sitting there looking at me? Why aren’t you practicing piano. You know that you have a recital next week right?”
I was the only kid stuck at home on a Sunday while other kids played on the streets and enjoyed the warm spring weather. It wasn’t fair. “What are you doing this weekend?” Oh, I don’t know, a few hours of piano practice, a few hours of Chinese classes, a few hours of accelerated math homework, you know the usual shit that an eight year old kid does. My mom had this absurd belief that if I learned and retained as much information now (even when it was against my will) it would greatly benefit me in the future. Her philosophy was that children who were kept constantly busy would have no energy to cause trouble or relax.
“You know that your friend Willy is already starting level 8? His mom doesn’t even have to force him to practice. You’ll thank me one day for this. What about your room it’s a mess! Look at your clothes, they’re all wrinkled go change your shirt! You’re suppose to be setting the example for your younger brother. Sometimes I think that Gabe is a lot more responsible than you are”
Oh god, another one of her rants. It wasn’t as if all the extracurricular shit she had me doing wasn’t enough stress on a eight year old boy, now she was starting in on the comparisons. The constant level of competition which she held upon me against the rest of the population was quite a drag.
“I didn’t leave Taiwan and bring you here so that you could just sit around and do nothing. Your father and I work entirely way too hard for you and you don’t even appreciate it. You have so much potential yet you do nothing about it. The reason we brought you to America is to learn and make a name for yourself.”
I didn’t want to get into this with her. She usually gave me one of these lectures every other day. Don’t get me wrong, I love my mother, I absolutely adore her, but she sure could make me feel bigger than nothing sometimes. She was an overbearing mother as a child and through my adolescence until I said fuck it and ran away from home and eventually stayed with my Uncle Charlie for the last two years of high school.
I just did what she told me to, I didn’t know any better or worse. She always laid this guilt trip on me that I could not shake. She had this power over me which I did not know how to escape. She constantly reminded me of the fact of how lucky I was to have parents who cared so much, how lucky I was that I was in America, and how lucky I was to have an education. I always knew that what she wanted of me would never make me happy, but I owed it to her. They had sacrificed everything.
But it isn’t what I wanted. What my parents wanted me to be and for all the obligation I felt, I wanted to throw it away. I was tired of being known as the nerdy Asian kid who is in accelerated math and doesn’t get the girls and watches from the sidelines.