A coming to age story about an Asian American boy in college.
|“So who is DD tonight?”
“Not me, I drove last week.”
“I’ll drive but I’m leaving my car downtown.”
“We’ll just find rides back. Shouldn’t be that bad, worse comes to worse, we could always just share a cab.”
Brad snatches out his keys and we head for his car out on the other side of the parking lot.
“I cannot believe they charge us all that money for rent and then have the audacity to charge us extra for parking spaces” Brad groans as make our way across the lot. There are other kids out and in the sounds of parties carry across the night sky.
It feels like a good night. But that’s what it feels like every night I guess. So really, it’s nothing new. Something entertaining always ends up happening. I’ve woken up so many times in so many strange places that not type of drunken behavior really surprises me anymore. Sean once woke up to a broken leg, he would later find out that he had drunkenly volunteered to wrestle an Army Ranger. Idiot. And it’s sad to say, but it’s not an infrequent occurrence that sometimes someone will still wet their bed.
We spot the car and q uickly head over. We reek of booze and Brad will take a breathalyzer for sure if we’re pulled over. If all else fails: deny, deny, deny. In a worse case scenario, never get breathalyzed at scene, demand a blood test back at the station. That way, you probably have another twenty minutes or so to sober up before they throw your ass in the slammer. And all the tricks that you hear about: gum, mouth wash, sucking on a battery, eating bread, none of that shit really works. If you’re caught, you’re pretty much fucked.
“You sure you can drive Brad?” I ask.
“Yeah, no problem man, I only had four beers.”
“Shotgun” Tyler yells.
We clamor into Brad’s hand me down Honda. It’s a two door and thank god Brad is a pretty neat guy and doesn’t leave shit everywhere. We all settle into our respective seats and Brad starts up the car. The stereo blazes to life and Snoop Dogg’s “Ain’t No Fun” is on the radio.
And this one goes out to the ladies, from all the guys.
A big bow wow wow, cuz we gonna make it a little mystery
here tonight, this is DJ Eaaaaaaazy Dick, on the station that
slaps you across your fat ass, with a fat dick.
“Do you know what’s wrong with fucking girls man? They’re all just huge attention whores”
“You hit that shit right on the head man. Does a girl really think that she is important enough for me to actually drop any type of shit for her?”
When I met you last night baby, before you opened up your gap.
I had respect for ya lady, but now I take it all back.
I know we might seem like a bunch of immature, callow pricks, but there is also reasoning behind our actions. We hadn’t been born these horrible creatures, we were once young, innocent boys ready for love and care. And then it happens, the terrible heartbreak, the one that gets away, the one girl that destroys you. For me, it was Diane, for the other guys it was girls from their pasts, girls I would probably never meet. Rebecca, Sean’s was Ashley, Brad’s was Claire. We all have a sad story, we all had someone who we had once adored and kept on a pedestal. Sean walked in on his ex-girlfriend cheating on him with his best friend while he was visiting her at her college for her birthday. Brad found out that Claire was fucking another guy when he read through some of her emails. These girls are the ones that got away, the ones that broke hearts, the ones that ruined it for every girl we met after them. So you can’t really blame us, we’re just vindictive assholes.
“I will never fall for a girl again, as far as I am concerned every girls is just another notch on the belt to me.”
“You’re one to talk Brad, when was the last time you got laid? Didn’t you fuck that fat chick Jessica about two weeks ago? She counts as two right?” Tyler says.
“Hey man, all I care about is the numbers, I’m quantity over quality. Fa sho” Brad answers.
The truth is there is something about all chicks that I love, even the big ones. One girl might have the most beautiful smile, one girl might be a great conversationalist, one girl might love the same music I do, there’s always something. I have loved every single girl I have ever dated, scout’s honor. The thing is, girls get way too attached, and I have a fear of commitment. There, I said it. I’ve told every single girl I’ve ever dated right off the bat that “I can’t handle a relationship right now” and that translates to something else their brains, and in the end it gets to be too mcuh. There’s no real formula for the girls I choose to chase after, it just happens. A bat of the eye, a furtive smile, a sidelong glance, something about them envelops me and I’m theirs, at least for one month.
Next time I'm feelin kinda horny, You can come on over, and I'll break you off.
Cause I have never met a girl, that I love in the whole wide world.
“Tyler you remember that one crazy bitch Elaine you use to date?”
“Yeah, that ho is nuts, I heard she’s moved back in with her folks.”
“So you don’t really know what’s going on with her?”
“What the fuck would I do that for?”
Elaine was a chick that Tyler had dated. She told him that she loved him. Tyler told her he didn’t want a relationship. She told him she loved him. Tyler went and had sex with another girl. She told him that he was the only one for her. Tyler stopped picking up her calls. She told him that she was losing her mind without him. Tyler told her to get out of his life. She punched his front window out and severed her brachial artery and almost died. Tyler never went to the hospital even though I told him he probably should have.
I have no love for hoes, that's something I learned in the pound
So how the fuck am I supposed to pay this hoe, just to lay this hoe.
“Man I still can’t believe that happened.” Sean responds.
“I’m not sure whether that is a compliment or an insult, but I’ll just go ahead and say thanks anways.” Tyler looks at me and gives me an evil grin. Nothing he can say can be good right now. “What about you big guy, where’s Grace at?” Everyone burst out in laughter.
Grace was a girl I had met during my sophomore year in college. We hit it off big time. We met at some random party and had one of those conversations that you remember and rarely ever have. We were talking about music and I was pretty big into some underground rap stuff and so was she. She had on the cute polka-dot chucks and big hoop earrings and was one of the most fascinating people I had met in awhile. We exchanged numbers and started hanging out. I knew she liked me and I gave her the “talk”. I told her I was just trying to have fun and was steering quite clear from a relationship. She agreed and said that was what she was looking for as well. We went out on little dates and I did sweet things for her. I made her dinner, I bought her flowers, I was her dream man, and I was everything she had ever been looking for. And I never said that I wasn’t a gentleman, I’m just not ready to settle down and all that. There was something unique about her. When she smiled at me, it brought me home, so I brought her home.
And the thing was, I liked her too, it was light, fun, and casual. For about two months it was beautiful. But inevitably, she got attached. I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but I could feel it. This disease spread like forest fire and it scared the living shit out of me. She told me she liked me. She pressured me about giving her a sign, she wanted to know what we were. I wasn’t ready. She started to annoy me with her nagging, her constant calls, her questioning, her wanting every second of my day. “Why are you always with your friends? When can I see you again?” It was too much.
I gave her backside breakup. And this is something I actually feel horrible about. I would just back out of dates. It’s basically a huge cop out. Whatever. Sometimes I “forgot” to pick up her calls, sometimes I was way too busy to hang out. After about two weeks of this, most chicks get the point. The calls will gradually stop, she’ll reconsider the prince charming she has met.
“Elliot have I done something wrong?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well you seem distant.”
“I’ve just been busy, it’s midterms and all.”
“I dunno, you just seem different, did I do something?”
“Nothing, it’s nothing, I’m just busy. Listen I have to go, I’ll call you later okay?”
“Okay Elliot, bye.”
Grace was wise to my tricks and refused to drop me. I guess it didn’t really help the situation that I would call her drunk sometimes and she would drive over late nights, me wasted out of my mind and whispering sweet nothings in her ear. She nagged me even more, the calls became more frequent. Extreme situations call for extreme measures. One night while I was at a bar with the boys at G Street Pub, shooting pool and Grace shows up. It’s kind of a divey bar so it’s not her usual spot. I know she only came to “bump” into me. I purposely flirted with other girls. I was curt to her. I could tell that she wanted to stab me in the face. I smiled.
She walked up to me and slapped me in the face and threw her drink on me. She told me I was an asshole. She said I was horrible at sex and had a small wiener. I sat there dripping sex on the beach without saying a word. The bar turned silent as this girl unloaded her hate on me and I just sat there. Tyler howled with laughter. At least I wasn’t the asshole who broke up with her. The bouncer came up and asked her to leave but before he could finish she stormed off with her friends who all shot me the evil eye and I deserved every second of the humiliation. She has a new boyfriend and everything, but she would she still drives over sometimes late nights when they get in fights and I end up being the one who consoles her.
“Hey needledick, where’s Grace, she was a looker. You should call her up.”
“You don’t meet a girl like that everyday”
“You’re damn right you don’t”
I know the pussy's mines, I'ma fuck a couple more times.
And then I'm through with it, there's nothing else to do with it
Pass it to the homie, now you hit it.
Cause she ain't nuthin but a bitch to me
And y'all know, that bitches ain't shit to me.
Someone phone goes off. Brad turns down the stereo and reaches in his pocket and looks at the caller ID.
“It’s Jack” he announces. “Whattup Jack. What are you doing?”
Jack’s muffled voice comes through the receiver. It’s too distorted to discern.
“Well I’m just with the rest of the crew, if you want to come through you’ll have to ride trunk.” Pause. “Okay, well then I’ll come get you. You break up with Julia again? Yeah, well I figured.”
“We picking up Jack?” I ask.
“Yeah, he’s gotten his heart broken again.”
“Poor guy, let’s find him some pussy.”
Brad turns up the radio again. And we drive down the street music blasting and us just nodding our heads as if we had everything figured out.
I was hanging out with Diane; we were planning a trip out to the wine country for a little vacation, just the two of us. It was our first vacation together and she wanted it to be special even though we were on a bit of a budget, but it was good to get away from everything. She was also tired of being the girl who hung out with my bonehead friends and was constantly on my case about my debauchery and late night carousing. She liked my friends well enough, especially Tyler for some reason which was weird because usually girls hated Tyler.
It was the tail end of spring and I was sitting in her bed while she was at her desk sifting through different travel sites. A few days prior I had been snowboarding with Sean and suffered a severe separated shoulder and slight concussion after taking a bad jump off a ramp. I have had a huge aversion to hospitals after witnessing my maternal grandfather’s chemotherapy and subsequent at a young age. Doctors and the waiting room aren’t especially my favorite place in the world.
I had taken a jump which and bailed out last second, caught a front edge and ate pretty hard shit. I sat in the snow in a daze, feeling like someone had ripped my right arm right out of the socket. It dangled limply at my side, but I could still move my fingers so I knew that I was still okay. “I think we should get the paramedics” Sean offered as he sat down next to me “that was a pretty fucked up spill, you totally pussed out.” “Just give me a minute,” I said sitting in pain and not really knowing what my plan was. The humerus bone had been totally ripped out of my rotator cuff and several ligaments had been torn, as later x rays would indicate. After about ten minutes, I mustered enough balls up and used my left hand and tried to relocate that shit back in place. It took about three tries and a lot of screaming, but I popped it back in and never felt that much relief in my life.
I actually ended up taking a few more runs after that, although I took it pretty easy since it felt like my shoulder was on fire and the smart thing would probably have to been to go to the hospital and ice that shit down and maybe get it checked out.
Thank god we had taken Sean’s car and he drove all the way back because I felt like puking half the time and when I finally got home I crashed. I ended having a pretty bad fever for a few days after that and thank god Diane was there because I don’t think I could’ve done much without her. She was terrific and I couldn’t have asked for more. I probably milked the pain some, but it’s not like I wasn’t appreciative.
“Oh my god, I’m so excited!” Diane exclaimed.
“It’ll be good to get away, no?”
“Definitely. I’m glad we can finally do something without your friends around.”
“Yeah, me too.” I said as I picked up a magazine off her nightstand a leafed through it.
“And no drinking! I want this to be about you and me. Let’s just enjoy each other’s company.”
“What do you think about this place?” She asked pointing to a resort on the monitor.
“Looks good, I don’t really care where we go as long as you’re happy.”
“They’ve got a mineral spa and everything, it’ll probably be good for your shoulder.”
“I love it, it looks great.”
“You didn’t even look.”
“I would go anywhere with you.”
“You don’t mean that.”
“Sure I do, why would I say it if I didn’t mean it?” I said looking up at her.
“Because you’re a boy and you just like to say things that I like to hear.”
“Diane, I love you. I’ve never loved anyone else as I much as I love you.”
She turned to face me and her eyes and soft. She had this melancholy look on her face as if what I said hurt her and touched her soul at the same time. I couldn’t really decipher the look and it made me sad a little bit, because I said it and I meant it. And it was such a strange feeling to have such an influence over someone else that something I said could bring about such emotion and it scared me.
“I love you too, Elliot. Do you think we will always love each other?” She said as she sat down on the bed next to me and nestled her head gently on my chest.
“Yes, I do.”
“What if I get old and wrinkly and fat?”
“I’ll just have to look past that I guess.” I said with a smile.
“You know I don’t mean it.”
“I know, but it doesn’t make it any less mean.”
“As long as we love each other, everything will be okay.”
“I promise.” And after I said it I immediately regretted because I didn’t know if I could keep such a promise, but I absolved to do the best I could.
“Oh Elliot Cheng, you are such a sweet boy.” She said beaming at me all the sadness wiped away from her face. Her trust and her heart were in my hands and it was such a tremendous task, but I thought I was ready for it because I couldn’t picture my life without her. “My poor baby, with his broken body, does it still hurt very much?”
“It’s just sore, I can barely raise it.”
“You should probably just go to the doctor and get it checked it.”
“I think I’ll survive, I put it back in the socket and everything so I think it should be okay.”
“You and your machismo, I wish you would just get it looked at, I’m just worried.” She gave my shoulder a kiss.
No one besides my mother had ever cared about me that much and it felt good. We sat there without saying a word for hours and it seemed like the afternoon slept by in serene tranquility. The mirror sheen of an undisturbed lake and it was beautiful.
In high school I was in love with this white girl in my English class. Her name was Brittany Hudson and she was definitely the first non-asian girl who I liked. We bonded in class one day over a shit talking fest about our exes and how stupid they were. We went out on a few dates together and we would drive around town listening to Jack Johnson cd’s, her singing along all merrily. I showed her how to use chopstick and introduced her to raw fish and she invited me to white parties and the drinking culture.
I mostly hung out with the Asian kids up to that point and it was weird to them that I was interested in a white girl, much less going to their parties. It was an eye-opening experience though and I was having a lot of meeting new people and integrating into a culture, which to me had always seemed foreign and distant. I liked Brittany a lot and in those days since my dad wasn’t home much of the time I would just bring girls home after school or late nights and try to mess around. My mom never liked any of the girls I brought home and would often out rightly refuse to acknowledge their presence.
I remember I brought Brittany back to my place to hang out and introduced her to my mom. My mom gave me a look of absolute bewilderment and shock and asked me and Mandarin who the girl was.
“She’s just a friend mom, from school. We have English class together.”
“Is she smart? What kind of girl is she?”
“Yeah she’s smart. What does that have to do with anything?” I looked at Brittany and gave her a reassuring look. Brittany had on a plastic smile and seemed uneasy.
“Well you should just remain friends.”
I was so befuddled and angry that I didn’t really know what to say or do so I didn’t say anything and just lead Brittany back up to my room.
We arrive at Jack’s apartment. He lives in a piece of shit apartment across town from us. He’s never lived with a roommate, his single is kept plainly droll, with no decorations, except the wall of taped magazine pictures next to his desk. All the cutouts are of large, tanned, steroid injected, muscle flexing men, each in a different pose of pronounced expenditure. I guess you can call him kind of a meathead. He is waiting for us at the front of the complex when we show up. He is puffing on a cigarette. Brad pops open the trunk.
“Do I really have to get in the back?”
“It’s your only choice buddy, take it or leave it.”
He reluctantly climbs in.
“Ok, close the lid” says the muffled voice in the trunk.
“You ok back their boss?” I ask turning my head towards the rear.
There’s a sudden squeal of rubber on asphalt and we hear Jack’s body slam against the back. Brad slams on the gas and guns down the dark suburban neighborhood, we shout and howl. Tyler slaps Brad in the face, Brad tells him to fuck off. They crank up the music. Sean starts doing air guitar next to me crammed in the back seat. Jack’s yelling at Brad to stop taking corners so fast. Nobody can hear him though on the account of the music and general mayhem. Tyler slaps Brad in the face again and laughs. Brad slams on the brakes, causing Jack to slam into the backseat, and punches Tyler in the face. Tyler laughs it off and says “I deserved it.”
“So Jack, I hear that your relationship with Julia is on the rocks again?” I ask.
“It’s not just on the rocks, I’m done with that bitch. I can’t believe I keep getting reeled back in by her” he shouts through the trunk.
They broke up one in awhile for stupid reasons, but always ended up back together. Jack is a compulsive weightlifter and is always online forums to find the newest trends, training methods, and growth supplements in which enabled Jack to stay at what he deemed to be “peak condition”. He would later have a bout with anabolic steroids when he started to work out with an ex-cage fighter named Damian, but that’s another story. He is an extremely smart individual, but tended to be a habitual recluse and misogynist. He treated his ex/girlfriend like shit and often yelled and ridiculed her in public, but she put up with it and on some level I am sure she enjoyed it. The times they would come out together, she sat stone faced and quiet while we just did our thing. She never seemed like she had any fun and it happened on more than one occasion where Jack was verbally abusive. I often wondered at what he and Julia did all day while they were cooped up together at their place, either manically in love or at each other’s throats.
“Well good thing you called, this party we’re going to should be pretty fun.”
“I don’t doubt it, especially a night with you animals” came Jack’s muffled voice through the backseat.
Diane and I started out kind of just as friends. I wasn’t ready at all for a relationship and just mainly played it cool, although I wanted to jump her bones. The relationship remained completely platonic and it was what it was. I had several trysts during the first several months of college and was quite enjoying myself.
The only times I would ever really see her was when we had class together. Diane wasn’t what you would call the most studious girl and to be honest, college was the last place that she wanted to be or should have been. Getting your college degree really isn’t that hard especially if your parents are backing you financially.
I admittedly am quite self-absorbed and don’t read others very well and never quite got the hint that Diane was very much into me. She would always come around to my dorms, even though she lived out in Segundo which was about two miles away and would come bike ride over just to watch me and my friends get drunk and degrade each other. Diane didn’t ever drink.
She was quite patient about it all and I honestly never really understood why she was interested in me or even considered me to be her boyfriend. She had boys all over her and I told her that I wasn’t looking for anything and that I just wanted to be friends. She got quite upset once and demanded “Elliot Chang I will not take this neglect any longer! Why have you been avoiding me?” she gave me such a look of forlorn despair that I could not, but assent to have a “talk” with her. She said that there were no nice boys left in the world. I didn’t think much of it. She wanted to know where I was on the weekends and why I would never pick up my phone. She was extremely possessive of me despite our friendship which was confusing. I walked her back to her dorms after class one day carrying her backpack and books. And she really didn’t know it, but she could have asked me to do anything for her and I would have done it.
Diane was the type of girl to remain adamantly reticent about her personal life. Since she had always been such a pretty girl, everyone just assumed that she led the same pretty life. Behind her bright smiles and deceitful eyes laid a dark and tragic life. “But she’s so pretty” everyone would say. She lavished upon attention, but commanded it without effort and was always smiling. Smiling and smiling for the world.
“Elliot, do you want to have dinner sometime?”
“Yeah that would be nice.”
“You want to come inside and hang out?”
We walked to her dorm room who she shared with two other girls, Christina and Brianna, who never seemed to be there. Christina was Tongan while Brianna was Mormon, and both always went home quite a bit as they were both quite family oriented.
“I can’t really stay for long, I’ve got to go back to my dorms and finish up a paper for my English three class. Sean says there is a party out at Sig Ep later and I really got to finish this paper.”
“What time are you guys heading out there?”
“I’m not sure.”
“Oh.” She waited for me to say something, but I didn’t, so we just sat there for awhile not doing anything.
“If you have to do something for me.” She said suddenly.
“What is it?”
“You have to promise to do it first.”
“I’m not going to promise anything unless I know what I’m getting myself into.”
“Please, for me?” She said with her pretty upturned face with her begging eyes and I couldn’t say no.
We made plans for the weekend and she made me promise to do whatever whim her mind was set on for the moment. So on a rainy April Saturday morning she decided that it would be a good day for a walk. She even bought me a pair of red plastic rain boots because she knew I would never own a pair of my own. We took the bus and through downtown and stopped just outside the library and sloshed and squelched across the art building and down to the pond. The rain was intermittent and once in awhile the sun would make an appearance and the world would gleam with happiness. She insisted that I wear the boots, for the full experience.
“Oh God Elliot, get over it. I bought them just for you.”
“I just don’t really think red rain boots are in this season.”
“Well that just shows how much you know about things that are in season.”
I satisfied her whims and had put on the boots before we left. They fit well and definitely made trekking through the mud a much more pleasant exerpience. We walked around downtown for awhile and she grabbed my hand and clutched it tightly in hers. She held on tight and squeezed and my heart gave a little. We went to a little delicatessen and bought two sandwiches and two cups of soup. We ventured back through the arboretum on the southside of campus and Diane suggested a little bench overlooking the stream that ran through school. Sparrows clamored noisily through the tall redwoods and we sat down on the damp bench even though it made the seats of our jeans wet.
“Isn’t it beautiful today?” she asked as the rain pattered across the hood of her raincoat. The clouds cleared and the sun decided to make another appearance. She gazed imploringly at the sky. I watched a duck with a brood of her ducklings float downstream. We sat and ate the sandwiches and soup. For some reason, she was unusually reticent. And for whatever particular reason, she found that day to be perfect to tell me all the things that haunted her.
“Do we actually know anyone at this party?” I ask as Brad parks his car across the street from a dingy looking apartment complex. Loud music drifts across the street and an upstairs balcony is littered with college kids.
“Yeah, I know a guy named Peter, it’s his roommates’ birthday”, Sean answers. “Could you guys also take it easy tonight? I don’t really know this guy and I don’t want to leave a bad impression.”
“What are you trying to say Sean? That we’re not classy fellas?”
Brad shrugs his shoulders in resignation as he pops the trunk and we squeeze our way out of the car. Jack climbs out of the trunk and stretches his limbs. I check my phone, 8:45. “Aren’t we a little early?”
“Free liquor man.”
“What’s the birthday girl’s name?”
“Is she hot?”
“She’s alright, a little chub, but she’s got a cute face and a good personality.”
“Good personality? You turning gay on me buddy?”
“It’s okay to like fat chicks, you don’t have to lie to me.”
Look up: misogynistic.
We are probably going to stand around the liquor and make fun of people for the next hour or so. If you’re not drinking, I don’t know how much fun you’re really going to have. I’ve tried being DD (designated driver) a couple of times, but that just made me realize how big of assholes and douchebags we were and if you’re not part of the bigger pictures, you might as well have stayed home.
Crashing parties really isn’t that hard, just pretend like you belong. We make our way up to the second story apartment and there are already some jack-o-lanterns adorning a few patios. The wind suddenly picks up and rustles the dead leaves choking the gutter. Suddenly I have a slight feeling that I would have rather stayed home tonight. Maybe I am just tired from all the weed smoking.
“France, what the fuck were you thinking? Fuck France.” I guess it was kind of funny that this is coming out of Tyler of all people, he’s half fucking French. “All those motherfuckers stink, they’re snobs, and they’re fucking socialist. I’m really disappointed Elliot.” After saving up for awhile and a little help from my parents I had been able to afford a trip abroad. It was easy to convince my mom to fund the trip based on the fact that I was to attend a month long class in Paris which was fine with me. “The French suck, good luck with that and turning into a huge fag.”
Look up: Homophobic.
The French always seem to sit distastefully among the palates of most Americans. I had no idea what the abroad class was about, having never attended the meetings back on campus before departing to Europe. I just chose the class because it fit into my Eurotrip schedule and I figured since I was already going to be in the country, I might as well take a class there and earn some units toward my degree.
I ended having two professors, both in their early 60's, both in very good health, both expatriates. Professor Meb, wore a full white beard, brim spectacles, and a earring on his left ear. He would often go into long, drawling tangents, and would often cover the students nearest him in spit through the excitement of his narratives. Professor Scherr was a stunning woman for her age, well-dressed, and vivacious despite her small frame. She was of sharp mind and tongue and caught me often for bullshitting in class or basically not reading any of the material. It was this past summer and despite the class and the oppressive Parisian July heat, I loved every moment in France.
My first two weeks in Europe were spent venturing the streets of Spain and Italy. And goddamn if I wasn’t blowing through money as if the shit didn’t matter. My first few days in Barcelona and I dipped heavily into my funds by drinking and eating tapas and late night carousing like no ones business. The country was beautiful, along with their architecture, women, and weather. After that I ventured out to Italy, which I didn’t quite enjoy as much since I found the people to be a little bit abrasive, although the museums and the bakeries were superb.
Myfirst encounter with a Frenchmen strangely enough was of Chinese descent. I was standing at a train station in Florence and asked for help from him at the station and we sort of struck up a conversation. He immigrated to France twenty years ago for economic reasons and now owned a small Chinese restaurant in District Three, which subsequently was a Chinatown. I asked him whether there were many Chinese people in Paris. “There are many, just in my neighborhood alone, most of the people are from Guang Zhao.” I could tell from his dress and demeanor that he was of the lower class and a working man. He chained smoked, and his sport jacket was old and faded. He told me his son attended French school, but was now working. “He is also traveling with us today. We were here in Florence to celebrate a cousins wedding. He is picking up some food before we leave.” Coincidentally I would end up in the same compartment as the son on the train, once we boarded.
The son, who’s name I have since regrettably forgotten, was in his early twenties and quite excitable that I was to be on the same compartment as he. He was a thin, young man with an earnest demeanor. He fired questions at me endlessly despite our sharing the compartment with two other people, a man who had already been sleeping on his bed when we boarded and a young Italian lady who kept to herself and read by the window despite the coming dusk. He wanted to know everything about American life. “What do you eat? Where do you live? Do you have white friends?” His life revolved in District Three, just as his father’s did. He did not work at his father’s restaurant, but instead worked at a sweatshop and made knock off brand name clothing to be sold to tourists and other idiots.
He had never met anyone from America and promptly invited me to have breakfast with him the following morning upon arrival in Paris. I agreed whole-heartedly and was quite glad when that seemed to suffice his imploring nature for I was able to go to sleep a little while afterwards. When we arrived, he showed me through the metro and quickly showed me the route to my hostel. My hostel turned out to be on Rue de Temple in District 11, only five blocks away from the apartment he shared with his parents, younger sister, and fiancé. As we walked along the French streets I learned more about his daily life and how he was going to be married just later the following month.
He treated me to a traditional Chinese breakfast, which included porridge, and some bakery goods and even a soda. He paid for the meal despite my protests and said in a mix of bad English and provincial Mandarin “We are both Chinese, I can only be a good host as you are here in my country.” Since it was still early in the morning and I had two hours until I was able to check into my room, he invited me to his house just down the street. Despite his warm and inviting manner, I held some deep rooted suspicion which I found myself harboring. “How could you just invite a complete stranger to your house” I thought to myself. Being alone and a new country, my quite natural instinct was to run through possible devious reasons for this young man would want me to go to his house.
I pushed this away and followed him up the street and up four flights of stairs into the small two bedroom apartment which he shared with his entire family. It was small and cramped, but definitely Chinese. It smelled of moth balls and dried herbs. Clothes dried on a line tied across two windowsills. His entire family worked very hard and shared their finances and it was funny how very much the same we were all the way across the seas.
He opened a bottle of cheap merlot and we drank while he showed me a video of one of his friend’s weddings. The conversation lulled and I grew sleepy from the wine and the travel. I bid my host farewell and thanked him for his graciousness. He left me his number and name and told me to call, yet I never got around to it for entirety of my stay. Even after the random acts of kindness my host bestowed on me, I could not rub off a sense of paranoia that a stranger would be so inviting and kind, as if the whole thing were some ruse.
To be honest, I’ve wanted to tell my dad that I don’t really want to go school anymore. At least for now, I just need a break. I remember talking this over with Diane after we had been dating for over a year. We had moved out of the dorms and into the same complex a few miles south of campus. Sophomore year was insane, with the schizophrenia and the riots, and Diane was with me through it all.
We were lounging around on a Sunday afternoon, me sipping on a few beers and watching football and her cuddled and nestled on my lap. I remember all my roommates had left for a roadtrip to Santa Barbara. I had opted out which was kind of disappointing, but me and Diane had the place to ourselves and she even cleaned everything so it was nice and pleasant. I lived with Brad and Sean at the time. We made dinner together the night before and talked about everything and nothing and flirted and the entire world passed by and it didn’t matter.
“What would I do if I really dropped out of school?”
She looked at me, “What do you mean? You could do anything you want.” She walked into the kitchen and opened the fridge door. I watched her as she grabbed two beers and walked back to the living room in her baby blue low top socks. She bent over low to and my boxers she was wearing pulled taut against her. “Elliot, you can do anything you want.”
“But I don’t really want to do his anymore. I don’t want to get my degree and I sure as hell don’t want to work for my dad. ”
“You do whatever you feel is right. You know you don’t have to get a degree, it wouldn’t be the end of the world.”
“Yeah, but it definitely would kill my parents, you know that.”
She plopped down on the couch next to me and handed me one of the Coors. She sidled up to me and nuzzled her head right up to the nape of my neck. “I love you Elliot and I don’t know if I will ever love anybody else like I love you” she said and that put the end to that part of the conversation. She popped the top off of her beer and sidled up close to me kissing the nape of my neck. I cracked my beer open and sipped on it in quiet contemplation.
How easy it would be to just slip into a structured life like that. Working to save up for a house, for kids, for the future, for everything that is still unsure and unsettled, and I didn’t want any of it. I loved Diane. I loved her sincerity, her innocence, her genuine integrity, but doubt still ran rampant about the commitment and where this was all going and where we were headed. I could hardly take care of myself, much less another person.
“What are you thinking about baby?”
I turned away from the football game, “Nothing, just… nothing.”
“No, what is it? You can tell me.”
“Just all this running around.”
“What do you mean?”
“All this business, people running around for nothing.”
“Running around where Elliot? Aren’t you happy with me here? Don’t I make you happy?”
“Of course you do, but…” it seemed that no words could express the deep emptiness I felt, the constant bugs which crawled and festered underneath my skin and that I could quite put my finger on. “Nevermind baby, I’m just rambling.”
“I love you Elliot” she paused and seemed to ponder delicately before she said what she said next. I watched as she gathered her thoughts and her countenance changed to that of a childish awe. “Elliot the way I feel about you, how intimately close and open I feel with you, I don’t think I’ll ever feel this way with anyone else.”
“Baby I don’t…”
“No wait Elliot, let me finish. I know you think I’m just being ridiculous, but listen to me” she said looking defiantly into my eyes. “I will never love anyone the way I love you and there’s no other way I know how to put it.”
I knew that she was merely caught up in the moment, she really didn’t really mean to say what she just did. It was just a slip of the tongue, an accident. Looking back, you can’t really regret moments like these, no matter whatever the consequences had conspired. And I guess there was a sad truth to it, for that one moment a wretchedly, lost, young boy, yours truly, was what Diane put all her faith and love into. The sad thing is I believed it. Because she was everything I thought I had ever wanted, sitting there on the couch, knowing that she would get the answer that she wanted.
She made me feel as if everything was going to be okay. We were just two lonely kids who found each other in a new world. I thought I had everything I ever wanted. I turned back to the game. She traced her fingers down my arm and rested her palm in my lap. She started kissing my neck and I could feel her hand move up to my belt buckle. I turned to her and kissed her deeply.
She undid my belt. “Just watch your game baby.”