where have I been?

You’ve been extremely good, a little lonely, content with your friends, feeling alienated from close friends, feeling alienated from fading friends, feeling like a second-class friend, suddenly ready to cut people out, exceedingly comfortable with the people you love, willing to reach out to people you’ve looked over, unsure if this was out of desperation, motivated to reach out to people you’re intimidated by, confident in your independence, confident in your ability to walk into parties alone, confident in your ability to carry conversations and connect with people unlike you, neurotically depressed when friends prioritize others over you, endlessly needy about attention and shows of care, peaceful about activities alone.

Fast bikes to the beach in Tevas and sexless t-shirts, strolls by shirtless, tanned college students playing volleyball, and upturned sprawls on Mickey Mouse towels with Infinite Jest: unpretentious because no one cares. Chilly breeze but warm sun. Beach flies on a singular spot on the ankle; perhaps you wiped away a drop of honey there.

Leaving SS’s house with MB and N; she tells you she’s read Infinite Jest. Not unrelated, you begin to notice how self-aware, snarky, smart, self-satirizing she is. Also not unrelated, you hate that you’ve become this uncontrollably pretentious. Regardless, you want to be friends. Later, she tells you there is not enough room for you to come on the trip they are planning. The moment passes, tense, and goes.

You meet up with your group for the first time in a year. You notice, in passing conversation, that they have a group chat without you. The moment passes, sad, but only for you; its traces linger.

Long silences in a car driving to a gratifying nowhere; shotgun. Bad music and bad harmonizing; glazed eyes out to East. Bursts of laughter and camaraderie, internal smiles. You don’t need many friends. You have this one, and you know that it’s the ones like these that eclipse any quantity.

Trudging alone along a ridge, taking occasional photos of the ant-like figure that pops over peaks up ahead. Silence, silence, silence somehow more vast than the view. Ever-changing rocks: pink, brown, and that far-off blue.

The aurora of the sunset, minus the sun. Red-cheeked smiles and disheveled, damp cotton. A pebble tinkles down the ledge behind. Later, you trudge down with shitty headlamps, cold and sore. You forget to look up. You are happy.

Idiotic and yet delightful stories, even if all they do is provide and foothold for visual memories: shapes, imagined shapes: patterns and stories and people and imagined meaning: you decide: the stars must be seen everywhere.

Past midnight: all three of you are falling asleep on the carpeted floor to Black Mirror. None of you ask why the other two do not have plans for New Year’s Eve, are not partying with countless friends. It is still good. You may not have chose this, but it is good.

She is driving and you are shotgun and you are driving away from an incredible feat of modern parenting and laughing, laughing at an inside joke — when was the last time you had an inside joke? How do some create inside jokes with such ease? — it is something to latch onto, something that the trip has yielded. Your tongues sting with mango salsa and tostadas.

You toil over the dough, kneading and sweating, and timing, and pacing, and heating, and checking, and waiting, and it comes out: a miracle! a beauty! a child! and you feel it: the pleasure of doing something for you, for you.

Golden hour is thrown into relief against an already-yellowing series of perplexing metal poles. You meander there: you take a photo of you. He is smiling, really smiling, shockingly so: it is so difficult to get a capture of that smile. Later, you look at that photo over and over. You look at his open smile. You look at his crinkling eyes. It glows: gold.

You are muting his messages for the night. You do not want to see his apology for the thing he didn’t really do wrong. He cannot sleepover for this whatever reason, you know, but you also ask: why can’t you sleep over there? But you don’t actually ask. Instead, you act simply sad, but understanding, little vulnerable but in a loving way. But you are not actually vulnerable. To be fully vulnerable is to show the emotionally needy and the pathetic and the insecure, and you think maybe if you show that too much — as you worked up the courage to do last year — he might just begin to not stick around. Denial may just work yet.

You make a photo album of the trip and share it with his parents and him. On second thought, you share it with your mother. His parents respond immediately: lovely! beautiful!; your mother takes a bit. You are sad and happy that she takes a bit. You want her to have a full life, an overflowing life, with too many people to love. He does not look; does not like that you would know if he looks. You think about this: that he cares and does not want.

Tea and music in the backyard in the patch of sun just outside the shaded cover. Mellow, yellow.

A phenomenon: rain drops, at certain velocities and sizes, turn to fleeting, quivering bubbles on jacuzzi water. You think: there are few joys to eclipse dunking hair in hot water, head tipped back, face an island. You sit on the entrance steps, steaming. He kisses your feet: a prayer.

To be blatant: sex. Art, it is art, you are slow and you let out all the missing, all the thinking.

He wants Chick-a-fil-a and he knows you have moral issues with them and he spits you out, or so it feels, to the Panera. Is this ok? he asks. You are disheveled, angry, stressed, insecure. You find the heart and maturity to fill his tea and recup his tea bag. You eat your chili alone at the table nearest the window and want to punch him when he gets back and looks at you with apologetic and still impatient eyes. You don’t punch him. You hunch in and say: I’m don’t deal well with being rushed.

You cry your way through a movie that makes you remember that he will leave you, must leave you, or else you must drive him away eventually. You sit at the night spot with your friends. A vaguely recognizable girl comes to talk to your friend, does not acknowledge you, though you stare at her, willing her to turn, to nod at your presence, to validate your social capital. She does not. But at least you stared.

You go to a party of his friend’s girlfriend, alone. You are the first one there. Oh, you came! the hostess exclaims. You sit with his friend and his friend’s girlfriend, aware of the brimming awkwardness, refusing to acknowledge it. It’s surprisingly ok. You stay twice as long as you’d planned. People laugh at your jokes.

Maybe, she tells you, when you invite her to a thing, when you haven’t seen her it months. I’m telling everyone: maybe.

You pet this blind, deaf dog. It snores lightly. It bumps into a tree. Somehow, you and your friend feel these things together: love, care, the hilarity of it all, the tragicomedy of this trotting, courageous dog.

The waiter assumes you are not adventurous. Maybe you do not look adventurous. You do the jalapeño vinegar shot in one go to prove him wrong.

You message someone two things, both thoughtful, relevant, and requiring a response. You get nothing. You wonder: how many times are you supposed to try before taking a hint?

You jump: down the rabbit hole, excel sheets and wikipedia. It comes together. It’s coming together.

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post a marxist essay on chinese women

I find that dialogue around the racialized experience in the US is odd in that it completely excludes the relationship with the home country. While I am not Chinese, my parents are. My extended family is. They all exerted pressures and mapped influences onto me during my most impressionable periods of development, and the exclusion of that guiding hand from my self-narrative — due in part to a universal (or so as it has been presented to me, which would still say something in its own right) exclusion of that perceived influence from the general narrative of the Non-White Person In The USA — only now has been recognized by me, and in that recognition explains so fucking much.

Ex. 1: Contextualizing my perception of my mother’s (and father’s) flaws with respect to history and origin

We need to be encouraged to learn about our own histories.

8/30/17, 10:33am

I suppose I can’t really be sure whether I’m only home for a short enough time that there’s not enough time for things to blow up or whether I’ve matured enough to preserve my healthy self in a toxic environment. I hope it’s the latter. More likely, it’s a combination of both, possibly skewed towards the former —

I’m coming more to terms with the fact that my parents are people first and parents second: that being a parent was a role they played, but not their entire being. It’s having lived a summer as a bona fide, financially independent, solo adult playing her own one-dimensional roles out for certain people. It’s then having come home to a mother who is now a middle-aged single woman falling way too fast for a middle-aged single man, and although he seems like a wonderful person, it’s all too fast and too much and too middle-school naiveté all the same. It’s noticing that my father is now an aging single emotionally-stunted man with a twisted worldview that will never bring happiness or community, that perhaps if he’d been more lucky he’d have gone down in history books as some sort of crazy genius, but instead fishes every day and gives the catchings to friends he can’t bring himself to truly trust and is happiest when reliving small inventions of his childhood. They have been freed of the immediate role of parenting and have become people — and it’s taken me this long to see that, to treat them as damaged people and not adversary parents, to realize that I can give them love and understanding and support without being influenced by their toxic philosophies and fights.

It’s good to be away. Maybe it can also be good to be home.

08/15/17, 8:25am

dream

I’m in a helicopter or some sort of flying device with my brother next to me and my father and some other man across from me. We’re strapped in with seatbelts, hunched with the bad posture of awkwardness. We’re chatting uncomfortably. It becomes clear that Dad had been gone a while and we hadn’t known what he was up to, and on his latest job, he’d been in the area of (I suppose New York) and thought he’d visit.

He explains that he’s been in the business of going to the government and learning about how it works, and then bringing that information back to his clients. This brain-heavy work makes sense — if it’s one thing my dad is always good at, it’s having quick brains.

We find out that he goes to get the information from the Statue of Liberty, which for some reason completely normally is situated in an idyllic garden, with a large swimming pool and a small flowered island, as well as granite steps on one wide overflowing with greenery. The other man’s kids are here as well; they’re SoCal kids, cross-country kids: girls with long blonde hair and guys with tanned skin and skinny wired muscles.

My dad goes about learning or whatever, and it’s going fine until the SOL wakes up. For a bit, we’re not sure what she’s feeling. It almost seems fine. Then, she begins slinging slow, huge, blimp-like donuts, which we easily avoid. It’s a slow game to jog to the other side of the pool and dodge her donut. Someone yells about how it’s appropriative of Italians, which is nonsensical.

But the donuts come faster and faster and it spirals pretty quickly into something terrifying. She’s sprinting around the pool, as are us kids, and we’re hiding desperately in the shrubbery but she’s finding us there, and suddenly there’s another giant: a dude in an orange shirt, and he’s extremely fast and terrifying, running hard and fast around and squishing us. They squish one of the girls: I’m not there, I’m hiding, but someone yells that her blood is yellow. I try to hide in plain sight, in a groove of the stairs, but I’m too big; my mother is there, screaming, and the boy has set his sights on squishing me and I’m so tired I can’t run anymore and so I shoot straight out and fly out of the garden and push through a small bubble, it seems, and it logically seems I’m safe but somehow I don’t feel so because I keep flying without looking back — I wake up with my heart pounding.

05/25/17 6:27pm, on my bed in Beijing, China

I want to love China. I want this culture that is somehow supposed to be mine, which I am supposed to represent — I want to be able to cherish it, to have Asian Pride, to bring it forcefully crashing against whiteness, against assimilation.

But here’s a secret.

I hate China.

I hate the hyper-humble performative act. I hate the objectification of women, of children, of anyone really. I hate the easy fulfillment of roles stratified solely by age and gender. I hate that every single type of person has an articulated ideal: three days here with my grandmother and I already know exactly the person I was supposed to be: conscientiously neat, quiet, domestic, impeccably caring, studious, successful. Even what I eat: it’s never enough, and if it’s enough, perhaps maybe then we can criticize the ratio? I hate being called ‘mei nu’ by strangers, as if the most important part of my being such that it must be included in my title is that I must be ‘pretty’. I hate sitting in between two adults and hearing the same conversation about my round face but long legs and eating habits and my too-hyped piano playing and my university and how well I care for my grandmother.

It took being away from family to fully realize how oppressive the culture is, and yet it took even more time away from family to realize that it may not be oppressive at all. Who am I to say what is right? But I can say this: I can say what is right for me. I am American. Narcissistic individualism and tanned skin run in my veins. I don’t want to be Chinese; I never can be Chinese.

And the only thing I suppose I can hope for now is that one phrase I heard from someone not too long ago: that this situation — my self-loathing but hyper-aware being — is the flawed but necessary transition to a better ideal come next generation.