Short Stories

Short Stories

May 24, 1998 – I finally changed my short stories page! As before, there are two fictional stories from my junior year in high school, and one non-fictional one about my dad. Note that I said fictional for those stories, so don’t think I’m a freak or anything. haha I’ve added a story about an Asian American woman telling what it was and is like to be an immigrant. That was written in Spring 97. There’s another kinda corny story about Japanese internment and toys and all that. That was from high school as well. Finally, the last piece isn’t really a short story, but an essay I had to write for my comparative literature class about Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. I hated that book so I wrote that in my paper and I totally expected an F, but I ended up getting an A! So I thought I’d share that with all y’all. =) Anyways, hope you enjoy my stuff!

Long time ago – Thank you for trying out my short stories page. There are two creative stories that I wrote during my junior and senior years in high school, so don’t get on my case if some of the grammar is off. =) The third story is a little more serious. It’s a true story about my father’s passing away. I warn you not to read it if you don’t want to feel all bad afterwards… I think it gives out a good message though. Anyways, hope you enjoy my stories!

Click on the choices to your left to read a story.

My Eyes, His Eyes

I wonder what it’s like, seeing through his eyes;
Is there a struggle, can he hear me.
I had a thought, I pryed open his eyes,
And even though he couldn’t see me, he saw me.

Then he struggled, and my heart jumped.
He tried to talk, but wait;
Why can’t I talk?
I keep trying but my lips do not respond.

What about my hands; I want to move my hands.
Why can’t I move my hands.
I have to;
I just have to.

A tear falls from his eyes, for he knows he is helpless.
Helplessness.
The word is a cacophony in his mind.
But that tear, a lifetime of words, in a second of time.

When it falls, it falls.

I feel such pain.
I have tried so hard.
He is leaving. He is leaving.

Come back.
There is something I need to tell you.

He lies there,
Thinking,
Wondering,
In my eyes, in his eyes.

The Most Boringest Book in the World

In my college career I have encountered a countless number of books and articles used in my academic curriculum. Of these countless numbers of books, a few stand out as the ones I remember most. I remember them because they are either extremely entertaining or extremely boring. Recently in my Comparative Literature class, I read the novel Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. Which category does this book belong in? This book belongs in the extremely boring category. If you ever want to read a book for fun, do not even consider Sense and Sensibility. The book was published in eighteen eleven and therefore the language used in it is also from that time period. For the reader in search of an entertaining book to read, Sense and Sensibility presents a multitude of super-long sentences, each with its vast collection of commas and semi-colons. To this casual reader, all the punctuation marks make reading a chore. Adding to that chore is the fact that many portions of the novel require a close, in-depth reading in order to understand what the passage really means. This repeating process of reading a passage closely chapter after chapter is exhausting and takes away from the pleasure of reading a book. Because of the necessity of a tedious close reading, reading Sense and Sensibility becomes choppy and uninteresting to the casual reader.

One of the longest passages in the book occurs in volume II, chapter II:

Elinor was soon called to the card-table by the conclusion of the first rubber, and the confidential discourse of the two ladies was therefore at an end, to which both of them submitted without any reluctance, for nothing had been said on either side to make them dislike each other less than they had done before; and Elinor sat down to the card-table with the melancholy persuasion that Edward was not only without affection for the person who was to be his wife but that he had not even the chance of being tolerably happy in marriage, which sincere affection on her side would have given; for self-interest alone could induce a woman to keep a man to an engagement of which she seemed so thoroughly aware that he was weary.

Although this passage looks like a paragraph, it is really a giant sentence, a sentence that has a hundred and twenty-eight words, and it is a sentence that today would be considered a run-on sentence; and if I wrote a sentence like that for a comparative literature paper, I would not receive good marks, and as you can see, I am doing so right now, and you, the reader, can probably see my point by now. As you can see, it is difficult to follow such a long “sentence” of sentences. This type of sentence is found everywhere throughout the book. The first few times you encounter one, you would probably take the time to read it closely and evaluate what the sentence is saying. For this sentence, you would notice that “Elinor was soon called to the card-table by the conclusion of the first rubber, and the confidential discourse of the two ladies was therefore at an end …” meaning that Elinor, one of the main characters in the novel, had been talking to Lucy, the woman engaged to Elinor’s love, Edward. When the other members of their party finished a hand of Casino, they called Elinor to their table, ” … to which both of them submitted without any reluctance, for nothing had been said on either side to make them dislike each other less than they had done before …” Neither Elinor nor Lucy wanted to continue in their conversation, because they had said what needed to be said and still felt the same way about each other. Elinor, unhappy about Lucy and Edward’s engagement, is convinced that Edward would not be happy if he married Lucy because he does not love her. Elinor feels that Edward would be better off marrying her instead. Elinor also seems to know that Edward does not feel any affection for Lucy, and that Lucy is only considering her own desires and feelings in her relationship with Edward. After taking the time to deduce all the information from one single sentence, the casual reader becomes disinterested with the book and hopes for an outlet. Unfortunately for him, he encounters another long sentence.

Another long sentence is in chapter I of Volume II:

She wanted to hear many particulars of their engagement repeated again; she wanted more clearly to understand what Lucy really felt for Edward, whether there were any sincerity in her declaration of tender regard for him; and she particularly wanted to convince Lucy, by her readiness to enter on the matter again and her calmness in conversing on it, that she was no otherwise interested in it that as a friend, which she very much feared her involuntary agitation in their morning discourse must have left at least doubtful.

Once again the casual reader encounters a sentence that looks like a paragraph. This sentence is eighty-nine words long. By this time, he is probably wondering why he is still reading the book. Taking another close read, he realizes that Lucy had informed Elinor earlier that Lucy is engaged to Edward, and now Elinor wants to get some further information on the matter. Elinor, in denial, wants to know if Lucy really is in love with Edward, whether she is sincere. Elinor also wants to show that she is only concerned as a friend of Edward’s, because in her previous conversation with Lucy she made it seem as if Edward was more than a friend to her. Although these close readings may seem trivial, they actually help the casual reader to understand what is going on better. When the reader reads the sentence all at once, he simply cannot comprehend what is exactly going on. For example, try reading the sentence out loud and see if you run out of breath. If the reader takes a closer look and breaks up the sentence into smaller ideas, however, then it is easy to figure out what is happening. Even though to some Jane Austen’s work is excellent and insightful to the mores and manners of her time, the casual reader only wants to know what the story is. He does not want to make the extra effort to do the close reading and break up the giant sentences. Unfortunately, most of Sense and Sensibility is full of these long, boring sentences.

Besides long, boring sentences, there are short, boring sentences. Although these sentences are not extremely long, they still require a deep, close reading in order for them to be understood. At first, deciphering what these passages mean is no chore, but after half a book of them, it becomes quite tedious. For example, take this passage from volume II, chapter I:

The necessity of concealing from her mother and Marianne what had been entrusted in confidence to herself, though it obliged her to unceasing exertion, was no aggravation of Elinor’s distress. On the contrary it was a relief to her to be spared the communication of what would give such affliction to them, and to be saved likewise from hearing that condemnation of Edward which would probably flow from the excess of their partial affection for herself, and which was more than she felt equal to support.

The sentences in this passage are short, and at first glance it may seem difficult to decipher their meaning. The reality is, if you take the time to uncover their meaning then it is quite easy to understand what is going on. “The necessity of concealing from her mother and Marianne what had been entrusted to herself” refers to Elinor’s withholding from her mother and her sister Marianne the fact that Lucy is engaged to Edward. By withholding this fact, however, Elinor is obliged to “unceasing exertion.” Yet, this “unceasing exertion” did not distress Elinor too much. It was “no aggravation of Elinor’s distress.” Elinor is instead relieved because she does not want to let her family know about the situation and cause them anguish. She is also relieved because she knows that if her family knows, they would blast Edward because they love her so much, and she could not stand to see them do such a thing to her love. Only after the close reading can the reader really understand what is going on in this passage. It is this act of close reading that makes Sense and Sensibility a chore to read, because the reader has to make one close reading after another in order to figure out what is happening. This is an extremely tedious process and bores the reader to death.

What bores the casual reader in Sense and Sensibility is the need to do close readings for the majority of the novel. This need to do close readings repeatedly causes the reading to become choppy and uninteresting. In addition to the need for close readings, the sentence length in Sense and Sensibility discourages the reader from wanting to advance further in the novel. He wants to skip to the next sentence. When he does so, he misses vital information. For the casual reader who is only interested in entertaining himself, Sense and Sensibility fails by delivering a complex story that cannot be read smoothly. Personally, I passionately dislike this book because of the reasons I have mentioned. They make the book extremely boring, choppy, and time consuming to read. I feel like I am wasting time when I read this book. I will, however, always remember this book, because it will become a part of my most boring college book list.

The Paradox

Recently my son was telling me about the “American Paradox,” a term coined by author Carlos Bulosan referring to the American Dream. According to Bulosan, America can truly be a dream, but at the same time it can be a nightmare. The dream is how this so-called “Land of Opportunity” can be so kind, while the nightmare is how this land can be so cruel. The path that I have traveled, my coming to the United States and building a life here, has encompassed both the extreme kindness and the extreme cruelty of this country. In this recollection of events, I want to describe what pushed me to the United States, what pulled me here, and my own experience of the paradox: the kindness and cruelty that I experienced as a new immigrant. Although America can be cruel, it can also be kind, and it is this notion of kindness that spreads throughout the world and gives America the reputation of the “Land of Opportunity.”

At this point it may be appropriate to give a little background of myself. I was born in China on January first, nineteen-fifty-one, shortly before I migrated with my family to Hong Kong fearing the rise of communism in China. In nineteen sixty-eight, I migrated to the United States under a student visa, eventually ending up in the Mission District in San Francisco. There I still live, and work, too. My current profession is a parent liaison at Hawthorne Elementary School located in the middle of the Mission. My husband passed away last year, my daughter is in her third high school year, and my son is a sophomore at the University of California with an undeclared major. Recently we were finally able to fulfill our dream of owning a new house. Moving in was hectic at first, but once we settled down, life was quite pleasant. There is not more that we could ask for. As you can see, we are a good example of the American dream. My family did not, however, achieve the dream easily as we had expected to. We struggled for a long time before we could finally settle down. So what made us decide to immigrate? That question brings me to the reasons why we migrated to the United States.

There were many reasons why we migrated to the United States. The main push factor was communism. We fled to Hong Kong because of the Cultural Revolution in China. Many, many people left China because of fear from communism. I read about a Betty Chu who emigrated from China because of communism. She “saw how people were beginning to live in fear,” and was “worried about the rising political repression of the Cultural Revolution in China.” In addition, a number of people my family knew were executed for what the government termed as “disloyalty.” Friends were accused of being “spies” and sentenced to extended prison terms. Although no one in my family was picked out for such punishment, we were afraid that we would be next. So one night we brought whatever belongings we could with us and took the train to Hong Kong. While in Hong Kong, however, the fear of communism remained with me. Although I was not old enough to witness the horror of the revolution, I could still remember my parents describing to me the tears rolling down the prisoners’ eyes as they were being dragged away to their deaths. Knowing that Hong Kong would eventually become a communist territory in 1997, I wanted to leave. I did not want to be a part of a communist society. Like many others, the thought of living in such a society was a push factor in my decision to migrate to the United States, but it was not the only factor. The United States also had pull factors that attracted me to its shores.

The pull factor that attracted me to the United States was education. In Hong Kong, newspapers published articles about how proficient and easy to get into American schools were. Everybody talked about going to the United States to attend school. In Hong Kong, there was not much of a chance of attending a university, since at that time only two universities existed and it was difficult to get accepted into them. Another immigrant, Wing Ng, reiterates: “In Hong Kong it is difficult to go to college, too. Only two universities.” My husband, John Young, also migrated to the United States for education. So you can see, back then it was the trend to have an education here. It was the idea of being accepted into any university, let alone an American university, meaning a good education that would make it easier to find a job and make more money, which appealed to immigrants like myself. Thus, education was not only a pull factor for me, but also for many others. After being pulled here, however, we faced many difficulties. One of these difficulties was prejudice.

As a minority, prejudice met me wherever I went. One of the places where I found it most was at school. In nineteen sixty-nine, I started school at the California State University at Hayward and majored in history. Being one of few yellow-skinned students there, I saw prejudice quite often. One experience that I remember vividly was during the administration of a final examination. The professor was an old white man, grumpy most of the time, and not friendly at all. I had thought that he would give us questions to write down and then we would have time to write out the answers. Instead, after reciting all the questions, the professor announced that the test was over. I was horrified! I tried to answer the questions as fast as I could, but it was no use. I couldn’t even completely answer the first question. I had failed the test. After class ended, I went to the professor and explained to him that I failed the test because the directions were unclear, and that I wanted a retest. Coldly, the professor attacked me: “I don’t care if you failed this test. You chinks don’t belong here anyway. Why should you bother with obtaining a degree?” Holding back tears, I walked out of his office, my hands shaking. I did not want to cry in front of the professor, so I ran into the restroom and cried and cried and cried. I had never experienced such a painful attack before. As I was crying, another professor, a Dr. Betty McDonald, walked into the restroom. I will never forget Dr. McDonald. She comforted me and explained to me that she would try and get a retest for me. I was grateful, and happy that I would not have to fail the class. After my son told me about the “American Paradox,” this particular event occurred to me. The paradox was that one professor wanted me to leave while another wanted me to stay. It was how I felt wanted and unwanted at the same time. How could one professor be so cruel, and how could another be so kind? Only through a paradox can this idea where prejudice and kindness juxtapose be explained.

Another way in which I experienced this paradox was through my search for housing in the United States. When I first arrived here, I stayed with my girlfriend’s sister Dorothy, but I did not want to stay with her long because she had a family and I felt like I was in her way. I did not, however, want to leave either. I had seen how Dorothy’s neighbors treated her, how they stared at her with hatred in their eyes. When she first moved in, people spray-painted her house with racist remarks such as “We don’t want chinks” and “No chinamans here.” I was afraid that I would have to face the same ordeal when I moved out. Nonetheless, I went in search of an apartment. Unfortunately, my intuition was correct and I indeed faced blatant racism. Because back then I could not speak English well, many landlords took advantage of me by making me pay more rent, falsely accusing me of damaging their property, or both. I remember one white landlord who always referred to me as “China.” I hated being called China, because it made me feel cheap. I felt that he perceived me as a Chinese prostitute with China for a pet name. I let him know that my name was JC, but when I did so he stopped talking, stared at me with a simultaneously hating and surprised look, and continued as if I had said nothing. Every time he came to collect the rent, he’d say, “China, do you have my rent?” and “You have to pay for these scratches on the wall you made, China.” I had not made the scratches; they had already been there, and he knew it. If I was a white person I would not have to pay for someone else’s damage on the property, but since I was a single Chinese lady with no one to back me up he took advantage of me. Throughout my time in university, I moved from apartment to apartment, unhappy with all of them, until finally I met an elderly female landlord by the name of Rosa. Rosa is another one of those kind people whom I will never forget. She charged me a low rent and treated me as she treated everyone else. On my first visit to the apartment, Rosa gave me a tour of everything and explained to me what everything was. I had never seen a fireplace before so when I saw it, I wondered why there was a hole in the wall. It didn’t look practical. So I asked Rosa and she patiently explained to me that a fireplace allows a fire to be lit indoors because a pipe allows the smoke from the fire to escape. It may sound silly, but I was amazed that you could light a big fire indoors. I ended up staying at Rosa’s apartment for the rest of my university years, and needless to say I was utterly satisfied and grateful to have such a kind, open-minded landlord in Rosa. Once again, the idea of the paradox stands out: even though the prejudice from one landlord tried to push me out of society, my encounter with Rosa made me feel that America welcomed me and wanted me to stay.

Oftentimes I did not want to stay in the United States because of violence and intimidation. At times I could feel the anti-Asian sentiment in the air while walking down the street. In 1974, I was the target of a purse snatching that I believe was not a random attack. The attack was specifically directed towards me because I was Chinese. I was walking home from the supermarket when a man ran towards me and grabbed my purse. I held on to my purse and the man, not expecting any resistance, yelled, “Let go, you Chinese bitch!” Not letting go of my purse, I swung my bag of groceries at him and knocked him unconscious. When the police came, they told me that the man had suffered a broken nose, and that they needed to take me into the station for questioning. I was confused as to why they needed me to go with them, but I went along. When we walked into the station, the man with the broken nose started explaining to the police that I had assaulted him! In my broken English, I frantically tried to explain to the officer that it was the man who had tried to snatch my purse and that I was only defending myself. Unfortunately for me, the officer was a racist as well and would not listen. He put me into jail overnight and in the morning, another officer came. I explained to him what had happened and he was kind enough to apologize to and release me. He even offered to buy me breakfast, but I decided I wanted nothing more to do with the police. I had wanted to pursue the matter further but, knowing that it would be a hopeless fight, I just went home and cried. At that moment I really wanted to go back home to Hong Kong. I thought that it would be better to face a communist society instead of a racist one. Then I thought of all the people who had helped me: Betty McDonald, Rosa, Dorothy, and the officer at the station. It was strange how America could do me so much wrong and at the same time do me so much good. Even though I had thought of leaving, the good experiences that I had in America convinced me to stay. It is this thought that a country could make a person want to leave and stay at the same time that comprises the paradox.

Though I experienced the paradox many years ago, I still witness people experiencing the paradox today. My present job as a parent liaison at Hawthorne Elementary School in San Francisco gives me the opportunity to assist many new immigrants from Hong Kong and China. To a lot of these parents, America is still the “land of opportunity.” They feel that if they come to the United States they can find a better life for themselves and their family. Unfortunately for most of these parents, this has not been true. I can think of one family right now that fits the argument perfectly. It is the family of my friend Yi Sing Tam. Yi Sing gave birth to two sons in China and migrated to the United States 10 years ago. To Yi Sing and her husband, the United States appeared to be the “land of opportunity.” They dreamt of coming here and owning their own restaurant, gaining citizenship, and giving their sons a good education . They wanted to provide medical treatment for their younger son, Andy, who is mentally disadvantaged. Upon arriving here, the couple invested in a restaurant and business went well. They even found doctors that could improve Andy’s condition. They seemed to be living the American dream. Then all of a sudden, business stopped. The location of the restaurant, in the heart of the Mission district in San Francisco, was also in the heart of gang territory. After a series of shootings, people stopped going out, and naturally less patrons frequented the restaurant. The Tams had to sell their restaurant. Now Yi Sing and her husband have to work two jobs, 12 hours a day, in order to support their family. Andy no longer receives treatment for his disorder. Again, the same question arises: how can America be so kind and so cruel at the same time? To the Tams, America has shown them not only opportunity, but bitterness and pain. They believe, however, that if they work hard and save their money, then can make it again. The Tams hope that their bitter life can turn sweet again as quickly as it had turned bitter in the first place. They still have hope in this country they call the “land of opportunity,” this country where the lives of many immigrants like the Tams reflect a paradox.

It is the “American paradox,” the idea that a country can be so cruel and at the same time be so kind, that gives America its reputation as the “land of opportunity.” Although people do not understand the paradox before they arrive in the United States, they realize it after they reach this country. I have understood this paradox, that just because the United States is known as the “land of opportunity,” I should not just come in expecting an easy journey in reaching the American dream. I was, however, once an unknowing immigrant myself. Pushed here by communism, pulled here by America’s appeal, I tasted the most pungent bitterness, and yet I also tasted the most delightful sweetness. Through my ordeal with my professor at school, from searching for a home, from almost being robbed, and from my friend Kwan Sing’s experiences, I have seen both sad times and happy times. When you ask yourself that same question again, “How can America be so cruel, and yet so kind?” remember that life in America for an immigrant constitutes a paradox. Even though a paradoxical question cannot be answered, you can create your own answer. I made my own answer – I experienced hardship and now I have a piece of the American dream. It is this notion of reaching your own answer to the paradox, of being able to be a part of the American dream, that portrays America as the “land of opportunity” to all the potential immigrants throughout the world.

Dad

This story is presented as written at the time, with giant paragraphs. An edited version may be presented in the future.

October 27th, 1996

I am writing this so that I have a note as to what happens during this time period. Maybe later I will write a formal story or essay or whatever, but right now I just want to take notes. If you don’t know what’s going on, then let me tell you. My father was seriously injured in an automobile accident (I still am unclear as to how it happened) and now he is in a hospital, barely clinging to life. I suppose I’ll go about this in a chronological order. It was Thursday morning, about 7 am when the phone of my dorm room rang and awakened me. I didn’t want to pick up the phone, so I just stayed in bed. The answering machine picked up the phone, and I listened to the message being left. My mother said that it was an emergency, that my father got into an accident. I got up immediately and called my mother. She explained to me what happened. “He was hit and thrown 30 feet”. I felt so pissed that I punched the wall as hard as I could. Actually I’m trying to remember exactly what happened after that. I remember getting pissed off at whoever had done this to my dad. The severity of what happened didn’t sink in as much as it’s in now, but still I was shocked. I just talked to my mom about it and she told me he was in a hospital, that my aunt had called and let her know about the whole thing. I was so out of it that when my mom said bye to my sister (who was leaving for school) I thought that it was me who was being told bye and so I hung up the phone and crawled back into bed. I tried going back to sleep, but the thought of my innocent father being thrown thirty feet by a truck’s rear-view mirror wouldn’t let me. After what seemed like an eternity, however, fatigue finally took over and I fell back to sleep. When I woke up at 9, I tried not to imagine things too much, and knowing that I should get to school, went and took a shower. Half way through the shower, my mom calls and my roommate yells into the shower letting me know that she called. I finished my shower as quickly as I could, and then got out and called her back. She told me we’d be returning to Hong Kong on that night (Thursday, October 24th, 1996) and that I had to return to San Francisco to obtain my passport. I talked with my roommate and told him the situation and left my Phantom tickets with him. He offered me his bag which I thought was hella cool. So I packed some things with me, made sure everything would be cool while I was gone, wrote some people from class about what happened, and then left my room. I walked to the BART station with my big, heavy bag and backpack, and then took the BART to Montgomery Station.

October 28th, 1996

Alright, let me continue what the story. So after getting off at Montgomery Station, I walk to the San Francisco Passport Office and wait for my mom and sister to arrive. I grabbed a couple of applications and filled out my own, and then they arrived about ten minutes later. We went inside the office and explained the situation to the security guard on duty, and he directed us to call a number, the passport office administration. So I called and explained the situation to them and the woman on the other end of the line instructed me to obtain a flight itinerary to prove my situation in order to rush a passport. We headed out towards Chinatown on the bus, and went to the Delights Travel place where my mom had ordered the tickets. The man there was a former student of my father’s, and he was extremely helpful. We got hooked up with the tickets on that day without having to have a passport which was what we were supposed to do at first. He also helped us take passport pictures, but they didn’t turn out well, which was why we ended up going to Samy Studio in Chinatown to take them. I just knew that i was hella grateful for the man at the travel agency. After we took pictures, we headed to Walgreens and bought gum and chap stick, and then we walked down to Geary street to pick up the tickets. Well before grabbing the tickets we stopped by b of a so that my mom could transfer funds, and then we went and got the tickets. We went back to the passport office and realized that we were two numbers past. We were 322 and the number they were calling was already 324. So we asked the woman at the counter if we could go (actually my mom told her that we went to the bathroom) and the woman was cool and let us get our passport. We did the administrative stuff, and then paid, and then were told that we should be back at three to line up and get our passport. Instead of waiting, we decided to go to McDonalds to grab some food. We had McNuggets and my sister had a Filet o Fish meal. We stayed there until about 2:45 and then headed back to the passport office and we finally got our passports. After we got our passports we went home, and packed and did other stuff to prepare for the flight to Hong Kong. We got ready and my cousin came and picked us up to take us to the airport. Before we left I had two cup o soups. When we got to the airport we checked in and then finally we got on the plane and left for Hong Kong. The flight was pretty good. The seats were comfortable and the stewardess was pretty. When we got back to Hong Kong, our cousin and uncle greeted us and picked as up. We drove back to my aunt’s house and dropped off our luggage, and then we headed straight for the hospital in a taxi. It was the worse, the feeling of uncertainty. At first, I didn’t feel so bad because my mind had not imagined it to be too serious. But when I walked into the hospital room, I smelled a smell that I didn’t like, and I put on one of those robes that they make you wear and walked in. When I saw my dad, I was so shocked. He didn’t even look like my dad. His body was still the same, but his head was all puffy and swollen. He looked all fat and it hella scared me. He looked like some fat guy in a movie, not my father. The top of his head was wrapped in bandages, and tubes went in and came out of his body, some filled with red stuff that I assumed was blood. He also had an artificial respirator tube leading out of his mouth; undoubtedly helping him breathe. I was told that he wasn’t breathing on his own, that it was the machine who was helping him. They said that a lorry mirror had hit him in the front of his head and threw him 10 meters, or about 30 feet. Just imagining how this could have happened makes me feel so sad, afraid, and pissed off all at the same time. I think about how I always used to feel bad for him as he walked on the streets, and I imagine just how all of a sudden he’d be thrown by a damn truck. Shit. It just pisses me off. When he arrived at the hospital, he was still conscious, and knew his name, number, and everything. But then they told me that he started to go crazy, that they had to restrain him in bed. He looked like he was in a lot of pain, people said. He was yelling and shouting out incomprehensible sounds. I wish I could have seen him like that. Maybe then he’d recognize me and stop, and something would happen. I thought that perhaps he was struggling because he knew he had two great children in me and my sister, and that he had to let them know that he loved us, or that he just needed to talk to us. If that was true, he didn’t have that chance because they approved him to have surgery. The doctors said that he had to have his blood clot removed from his brain cavity, because it was causing dangerous pressure on his brain. Besides that, the fronts of both sides of his brain were severely damaged. The first operation was pretty successful, and they were able to remove the bad blood. But then the doctors said that my dad had an abnormal biochemistry, that his clotting mechanism in his blood didn’t function at 100%. So they had to go through a second operation, one in which he wasn’t expected to survive. The problem was that his blood didn’t clot, which meant that it didn’t stop at they were performing the surgery. They said it was fortunate that he was able to make it out of the operating room. When we saw him, it was after the second operation. The swelling in his face scared me a lot. Everytime I thought about it, I felt like I didn’t want to go see him anymore. But after we waited for the doctors to tell us what happened, we came home and didn’t return to the hospital until the next day. (we arrived on Saturday, yesterday was Sunday, and today is monday). When I saw him the next day, he looked so much better. I felt a lot better, too. He actually looked like my dad. Oh ya, the first day I saw him, I wanted to give him a hug, but there were so many instruments and pipes, that I couldn’t. I just held his hand and talked to him, and told him that I loved him. It’s so strange because normally we rarely tell our father that we love him. Even for my mom, it’s rare. It’s just that in our family, it’s more understood than anything else. But I said it anyways. We left the hospital (just me and my mom, my sister didn’t want to go) and we went to the mall to hang around for awhile. Then we went dim sum with my aunt and then dinner at my grandmas. We came home with my uncle who drove us, and then that leads us to today. In the morning me and my mom went to the immigration office to get a new id card for me, and after that was done, we came back and prepared to go to the hospital again. The thing was my aunt Julia called and told us that they were moving him to a different floor, and that we should get down there immediately. So we went down there, and now I saw him again. This time he looked better still, but the doctors said that the way he looked didn’t reflect what was going on inside his body. Things were still just as bad. We hung around in a tiny room for awhile, and soon they closed the door and said we couldn’t go in for awhile. So we just sat in the room and then my mom and my sister went to go eat with me, and then we came back. We talked about all the traditional stuff about death and everything, but I feel like I don’t want to go through with it. It’s so pointless. Waiting is pointless. I didn’t want to wait so we all came back here. I know my dad wouldn’t want me to wait, so why should I? I knew he wouldn’t want to go through all the trouble with funerals and burials and all that. Yet, they say that I should do it, that’s it’s my responsibility. I really want to go home and go on with my life, but I think I will do this anyway. Perhaps right now I don’t understand, but maybe sometime in the future I will and I don’t want to risk regretting what I didn’t do at the time. Well, that’s it for now, but there is a lot more that needs to be said. I will write more later.

March 3, 1997

It has been four months and I am finally adding to this recount. I don’t exactly remember what happened after I wrote my journal, just that we did eventually leave Hong Kong. Looking at the calendar, I think we left about six days after my last entry. I didn’t want to keep any further entries because I felt like I wouldn’t be able to handle it anymore. I am finally able to talk about what happened. It was after that day that I felt like I wanted to run away and not face the situation anymore. My friend Mark wrote me an e-mail message saying that because my father was a such a great man, I should not give up on him. I had only told Mark that my father was a professor, but he interpreted it in a way that shed a new hope on me. I felt at that moment that my dad would indeed survive. My aunts were really pissing me off… to this day, I still hold a grudge. So let me recall what happened that week… I know I got my id card, which I wrote up there somewhere, but I also went to the computer mall to buy CDs for my computer. My mom bought some CDs for Alan and Stanley, and some stuff for my sister too. After we got out of that mall, we noticed a little cart and a man selling counterfeit music CDs and we bought a few. Then we went to eat at a cheap restaurant. It was good, even though it was cheap. After that, I think we went to the supermarket (Wellcome) to buy some groceries for my aunt, and some candies and stuff for me to bring back to the US. I bought some cola candies for myself and my cousin, and also a box of instant noodle bowls for my dorm. That took my mind off of my father’s situation. We continued to visit my dad, and one time we had a conference with the doctors. I think that happened the day after we arrived, except that I didn’t mention it above. I think logically I knew things were really bad because we were actually flying back to Hong Kong. That is a big deal. But what clinched my fears was the fact that the doctors advised us to prepare ourselves. It’s like something from a movie, you just never expect it to happen to you or your family. I want to say that the doctor was cool about it… he was nice. But there was this other doctor that kinda pissed me off. He seemed so indifferent about it, as if it was another day of work. He knew nothing about his patient, but perhaps if he did, he’d have a little more respect. Fuck him. Fuck him and others like him. Anyways, during that week, we also took the time to visit my dad’s school, the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He had a job there and we wanted to find out about what would happen with the insurance and pay and benefits and all that other stuff. We took the train up to University, took the shuttle, and went to talk with the manager/whatever he was. Then we went back to the station and took a taxi to my dad’s place. No one knew that I had a key to my dad’s house except my mom and her family. I never told my stupid aunts. The taxi drivers pissed me off too… one guy told us to take a green taxi, and the green taxi said take the red one. I knew that we were supposed to take the red one, but the red driver was lazy. I explained to him the address, and we went to my dad’s house. I won’t forget for a long time, maybe forever what I saw at my dad’s place. When I opened the gate, a sense of anticipation filled me. I finally got to the front door and I opened it. Inside the house, things were neatly kept. It looked like he was preparing to leave for somewhere for awhile (that’s another story). In the kitchen, I remember opening the fridge and looking at what’s inside. I saw some food that I wanted to take, because I did not want to waste it, but then I decided not to. It seemed that my dad had stocked up because he knew that my grandma was going to Hong Kong. I usually feel bad when I waste food, so I felt even worse when I left the food and had left it under the circumstances. In the living room, his slippers were still there, placed together. He was wearing them before he left the house… as always. His cup of tea or coffee was on the little table by the sofa, still stained. He must have taken a drink before he left. Everything looked the same as it did when I stayed there during the summer, but the feeling was different. I felt like things were going to waste. I noticed his papers on the dinner table, his mail, his toys. I played with those toys while I was there. My sister watered the plants for him… I still feel horrible for yelling at my sister. She watered the plants and water spilled onto his documents. It was the frustration I felt… I just blew up. I noticed on the other table a watch, a NIKE watch with a red wristband… when he was in the US I told him that mine had broken, so he must have bought a new one for me… it was an exact copy. I felt even worse. Slowly I walked into the corridor leading to his room… I checked out the two side rooms, but I don’t remember seeing anything in there… I think there were clothes hanging from the shower. I walked into my dad’s room… he had just done laundry, for his clothes were scattered on his bed. On the chair of his writing desk, I noticed the green shorts that I used to wear when I had stayed during the summer. My dad’s shorts that he let me borrow. He still wore them. Then I noticed something that almost made me cry. The two cans of shaving cream that we had bought together at a Target store on our way back from our trip to Reno. I still remember how we got the cans cheap, because the man couldn’t find the bar code and so he gave them to us for 99 cents or something. That was something that made my dad happy because he always wanted to save money. I also saw a picture of my sister, my dad, and I from the time we were at Lantau Island. That made me really sad. I looked in his closets and saw his suits. I wanted to take them, but I decided not to. I noticed his fax machine… there was a long roll of fax paper coming out… he had many faxes awaiting to be read. Then I remembered that he kept the metal plaque of his doctorate degree in his tv shelf. I decided to take that. I wanted to remind myself of what a smart man my father was. I remember asking him why he didn’t put it up. I guess he was just modest. I thought it was dope, to have a phd at such a young age. When I got back to my dorm, I put up the plaque in my room to remind myself to work hard. As I type this, I look up at it and see my dad’s name, John Dragon Young. It’s just dope. After we left my dad’s house, we went back to the train station to take the train to my grandma’s for dinner. There, either I yelled or my mom yelled at my sister. Throughout the entire ordeal, she had not shed a single tear. I knew that it was tearing her little 16 year old self apart, but I also knew that she was one of those people who won’t show their sorrow. She hadn’t cried. With the yelling at the train station and the yelling I did to her earlier, she could no longer take it. She burst into tears and my mom gave her I hug and started crying too. I gave them both a hug, and there we were, the three of us, embracing as the train rolled by. It was totally like a scene from a movie. My mom said that she would never forget that moment. I know I haven’t forgotten it yet, and I don’t think I ever will, either. After that things got worst with my dad. Even though he looked better, and there wasn’t swelling, the doctors still insisted that his outside look had nothing to do with his inside condition. At this point I really wanted to return to the US, because I had midterms coming and I had not studied anything in Hong Kong. There was a time when I went to the hospital to say goodbye to my father, because I did not want to see him in that condition again. Do you remember how I said that I would stay so that I wouldn’t regret something later on? Right now I feel it. I feel some regret. I went to his bedside and talked to him. I told him about the Discman that my friends had gotten me for my birthday. I knew he liked getting expensive things for free, so I mentioned that. But he just lay there, his machine inhaling and exhaling for him. I said goodbye to him, thinking it was forever. I didn’t like the smell in the hospital. I could also smell my dad’s rotting blood/fluid which no nurse cared to clean because he spewed it sporadically. I couldn’t stand it anymore. After that I made my decision to return to the US. At this point, I stopped going to see my father. But the day before I left, or actually the day I did leave, I don’t quite remember, I went back, even though I said I wouldn’t. This time, I held his hand. It was warm. Like I said, his body was in good shape, but his brain was wrecked. I said goodbye to him now, forever. It is this moment that I regret now. At this very moment, I feel like maybe I should have been there until the final moment. But back then, I couldn’t wait. I couldn’t comprehend what was going on. We flew back to San Francisco, and I went back to school the day after, a Monday. I went back to SF on Tuesday to vote, and after I voted, my mom told me that he had died. They took away his machines. I had already expected the worst and made myself feel better, but that barrier I built crumbled again. I did not cry. To this day, I still don’t cry. I think about what happened everytime I’m in the shower. I don’t know why, but I do. In my room, there is a picture of just me and my dad. We took it at the rest area on our way back from Reno. He actually had a big smile on his face. He was beginning to smile when he took pictures, something he didn’t really do before. I felt he was finally starting to enjoy life. I was accepting him as my father, developing a better relationship. And on one fateful day, it all comes crashing down. I looked at that picture tonight, which is why I’m writing this now. I look at my own ID card, and I see him in me. Or I see me in him. I don’t know. I really miss my father. How can that be? I was so used to his being away. Why am I not used to it now? I don’t know. I do know that I had always thought we could be friends, playing chess, or talking. I dreamt about how in the movies, a son and his father, two grown men, debate and play chess, like in Independence Day when David and his father play chess. I have an Asian American studies class where I need to do an interview… my dad would have been the perfect subject. There is also a lot of scandal surrounding my father’s death and life. I will not go into that anymore. That will be saved in my head. Maybe I will write it down one day. Another reason why I am writing this is because I read about Carlos Bulosan’s life. His life was way worse than mine, but I felt like I could relate to his pain somehow. It was the paternal bond that really took me. I am still afraid to turn on the tape of our Reno trip in April. I regret not bringing my camcorder to Hong Kong during the 1996 summer, because that’s when my father and I really got along. I will only have memories in my head, not on tape. I am afraid that I will cry if I watch the tape. I want to cry alone, by myself. I don’t want anyone to comfort me, I just want to cry and let it all out. As I write this, I don’t feel a damn thing close to crying. I wish he wasn’t dead. It’s still unbelievable to me sometimes. His greatest achievement, his greatest asset, his brain, his education and his studies, his books, all gone in a matter of seconds. Why was his best part struck? The topic of waste comes to mind again. It is such a waste. What did he go to all those years of school for? He lost it all. His brain cells weren’t there anymore. I am sort of glad that he enjoyed himself near the end. I felt like he was happier than he ever had been. His kids actually talked to him, shared jokes. But he always had this thing… he left without mentioning it before. Or maybe it was me. I still didn’t pay attention sometimes. That explains why there aren’t many pictures of him and I in Hong Kong. He wanted to take pictures, but I always refused. On the day he left, he called me to say bye. I said bye, but it was early morning and I was impatient. I recall telling my roommate David later that day that I felt bad for not saying bye to my dad. The last time I ever spoke to my dad was on my birthday. He called me while I was at the computer or something… and I did not bother to stay longer and chat. What a piece of shit I am. If only I had known… but these things you can never know. That’s why you always have to cherish your moments, and treat everybody with love. And yet, even though I’ve gone through this and have experienced a lesson, I sometimes forget the lesson. Why is it hard to express love? Am I afraid to be hurt? Will I be embarrassed? I don’t even kiss my mom, not even on the cheek. It’s this thing I have. Maybe that is not important, but sometimes I get impatient with my mom. But especially my sister. We are not on very good terms. Why can’t I be more tolerant? Perhaps I have been. I don’t know. I don’t want to talk about that right now. I’ve typed a lot. It’s time to go back to writing my Odyssey paper. Or maybe get some sleep. It’s 3:29 am right now. I’ll end it here, for now.

May 10, 1998

Well, who would’ve known that it’d take me this long to add to this journal? It’s just that I haven’t felt this overwhelmed with sadness and emotion in a long time. Even until now, I had had second thoughts about continuing this journal, but I saw what you might consider to be “signs”. I saw a single drop fall from my water flask, just like a tear falling, as if it were reminding me to do something. Then, as I was re-reading my journal from above, I heard the DJ on the radio say “Hong Kong” right when I was looking at the words “Hong Kong” in my journal. It’s a strange thing… but what really got me worked up and unable to sleep tonight was a movie I just watched. We always watch movies that bring out feelings, don’t we? This movie was about a single father trying to raise his family, and it made me think about my mom trying to raise my sister and I. The son didn’t know how to act and got into all these bad things, like crime and triad stuff, and people around him starting dying everywhere. Unfortunately, this kid still doesn’t get it and he tries to get revenge. His father is there, and the father does so many things for the son that it made me sick to see the son still not listen to his father. In the end, the father grabbed the gun from his son and shot the bad guy, with cops watching and all so that the son wouldn’t have to go to jail. When his son asked his father, “Why father, why did you do it?” the father replied, “No matter how bad you are, you are still my son.” Those words ring really loud in my head, because I know that both of my parents feel the same way. Lately I’ve been really missing home and I wish that I could just stop everything and go home to be with my family. It seems all of a sudden I understand what it means to be alive, that I understand what the meaning of life is. To me, being with my family is all that counts. All these other things around me are there, but in the end my family will always be there. My mom’s been telling me about how she feels sick and all that, and of course I am worried and concerned. Next year my sister is going off to college, and my mom will be alone. I know how bad it is to be alone. Here, I have only myself to turn to when I need someone from my family. Even though when I go home I fight with my sister sometimes, I still miss that. Just being near someone you know cares makes a big difference. The people in this apartment are my friends, but I can’t, I don’t feel the comfort that I feel when I am with family. There was some other stuff that I wanted to write, but I don’t remember. Let me scroll back up and check… Right, my mom says that she’ll have to be alone some day, so she should get used to it now. I don’t know why my mom has so much pride, but I don’t think she really feels that she can be alone. How can a mother let go of her children whom she raised with all of herself? The answer is she can’t. During these times my mortality has really been talking to me. Before, I knew that people had to go away some day, but now I’ve experienced it, and I can almost feel it. I think about the future and the past at the same time, and I think to myself that I don’t want to die. I don’t want my family to die. I imagine how I am going to be when I am 80 years old and in my death bed, about to die… it’s something that I can comprehend, and yet at the same time I don’t want to comprehend it. It’s like my sociology professor said, we’re not afraid of dying, but we’re afraid of leaving everything behind. I’ve also thought that maybe by the time I’m 80 I would’ve experienced so many things that I’ll be ready to go… but at the same time I would have acquired so many things that I wouldn’t want to let go. When I say “things”, I don’t mean tangible property or objects, but friendships, relationships, family. But back to the things I wanted to talk about, I finally had the nerve to turn on the tape of me and my dad and our trip to Reno. When I watched it, I didn’t cry, but instead I wanted to smile because I saw him and I saw us and I saw how happy we were. I still haven’t shed a tear, but I feel like I am really close to doing so. It was this past week where something happened that triggered all these emotions inside of me. The thing was, I’ve been living here for almost an entire school year, and so far it hasn’t been the greatest thing, and so I wanted to talk to one of my roommates about it, since he was the main reason why things weren’t so great. So I just took everything that bothered me out and put it on the table and offered to try and make things better. We got into some arguments about some things, and then he falsely accused me of being confrontational – and yet he was the one who was raising his voice and cussing. But I don’t want to get into that. The thing was, or is, I get the feeling that he doesn’t see me on the same level as he is. Rather, I am so small that he has to speak to me like a child… and everything that I say sounds like garbage to him. I don’t know what makes him assume that, but I try not to let it bother me. The point is, after my little skirmish with my stupid roommate, I felt really emotional, like my hands were shaking and I was breathing heavily and my heart was pounding. I compounded the situation by listening to Sammi Cheng’s Can’t Let Go on my way to class… and it was then that I felt like I wanted to cry. I imagined that I’d call my mom over the phone and tell her that I miss her, and that I also miss my dad, and then I’d be crying over the phone and everyone at VLSB would be watching me. But that never happened. I didn’t have the guts to do it, but I called home anyway and nobody answered. It was that kind of day too, with clouds and rain falling hard. I still remember everything so clearly. I read my original journal at times and I can see everything as vividly and clearly as if it were yesterday. I thought about the times when my mom was in Hong Kong for a year and my dad was here to take care of my sister and I and what we had to go through. Talking about it brings all the emotions back out. I learned that on the day of the accident, my father was indeed conscious and was also screaming in pain. Like I said before, when I found out about that I wished that I could have been there, perhaps to help soothe his pain. The other night I was so stressed out that I recorded my own voice – I just wanted to talk and let everything out. When I played it back, I thought that I sounded like my dad a bit. If I tried hard it seemed like he was speaking. I had no idea that someone like my dad could have such a huge effect on me – doesn’t that sound strange? It’s just that it wasn’t really the greatest father/son relationship ever, but like the father in the movie said, no matter how bad he is, he is still my father. And the thing was, he wasn’t that bad anyways. At least he tried to make things up… I thought about what it’d be like to be in his shoes, and it makes me really sad. Seeing your two kids not talking to you because you made a mistake, being stuck between a rock and a hard place, not knowing what to do, and at the same time seeing things get worse as a result of your own stupidity. I don’t know if my sadness is warranted, because like my mom says, I am a very soft-hearted person. I feel bad about everything. I sometimes feel like that maybe I am different from everyone else because I am like that. I don’t know how I can think that, because it may seem arrogant, but sometimes I just do. I feel like that I am one in a million in terms of the ways that I think. Often it just seems like that nobody understands me, understands where I’m coming from, what I’m trying to say. Remember how I said I thought about dying… well I want to write and write and leave behind my words – because I was reading some books from school, listening to classical music – two things whose creators are long dead. The only thing people remember those dead people is through their creations. So I want to make a difference and leave behind my writings. My father was a very smart and educated man and he left behind some writings as well. Unfortunately I haven’t read any of them. I’ve read a few excerpts, but that’s all. I found his pocket thesaurus that he had when he first came to the United States, and it once again made me imagine what it’d be like to be in those shoes, coming to the United States for the very first time and being young. It must have been really exciting. I never asked him about those things, and now it’s too late. I can only ask my mom and his friends. Another thing is, being a student myself, I see professors lecturing up on that stage, and I try to picture my father doing the same thing. It would be really special to be a student in my own father’s class. He was a professor too, and sitting there listening to him and taking notes would’ve been bad-ass. And then after class we could go home and discuss the day’s topics. That’s something I would have really cherished. But that’s not going to happen, and I can only imagine such a thing happening. I don’t know if think about what happened everyday, or even if I think of him everyday, but I do know that it’s always happening. It probably is everyday, but I don’t want to say just in case it isn’t. But anyways, it seems like that I’ve gone on forever… and my head is getting heavy coz I’m sleepy. It’s 2:38am, and I started at 2:00 am just for the record. Good night.

 

We the Raindrops

Down we go us raindrops fall,
Hitting first those people tall,
‘Gainst the Earth we all will crash,
To form new puddles with a splash.

Pitter patter patter pit,
Falling fast we never quit,
‘Til our homes the clouds go dry,
And we give way to blue blue sky.

When we’re gone we’ll come again,
We’ll be back and it’ll rain,
We’ll fall hard and we’ll fall strong,
And all the while we’ll sing this song.

Faith

Sometimes when I feel really bad,
All I have to do is think of the good times we’ve had,
And a light will shine down on me,
Easing my mind and setting me free.

That light relieves my worry and hesitation,
Gives me strength again, my regeneration,
Gently it guides me back on my path,
And allows me to fear not my frustration’s wrath.

If I gave this light a name then what would it be?
Why, it’d be faith of course, cannot you see?
The word that defines trust and belief,
Not pain nor worry nor anger nor grief.

It is faith which allows me to go on,
Reminding me that this journey is one quite long,
That even when my love’s away,
The time will come when I see her again.

So with faith in mind I live each day,
Knowing that someone out there
feels the same way,
And that someone out there I know I should trust,
The reason being I have faith in us.

Assumptions

I first met Judy when I attended summer school two years ago. The minute I saw her face I was in love with her. Judy had the most striking eyes; they would penetrate mine and make me feel vulnerable. I liked that. I asked her out on a first date and she agreed. The date went fantastically. We had a candlelight dinner, watched a movie, and took a stroll in the park. The date was like a fairy tale come true. I walked her to her door, and we bid each other goodbye. She asked me if I wanted to kiss. I responded by pulling her lips onto mine. The kiss was beautiful. I never felt anything like it. At that moment, a thought occurred to me. I thought that maybe Judy wanted to have sex. So, I asked her. She looked me in the eye. Tears were starting to fall from her beautiful eyes. “I knew it! You guys all look for the same thing. I never should have gone out with you,” she cried. I was terrified. I knew that our relationship could possibly end right then and there. I tried to comfort her, but it was no use. She opened her front door and slammed it in my face. That was the end of our date.

The next day I saw Judy at school. I said “hi” to her but she ignored me. Our teacher had decided to split the class up into groups that day, and I was assigned to be Judy’s partner. What luck, I thought. I slowly walked over to sit next to her. She didn’t say a word. I started doing all the work myself, because Judy was just sitting there. Our teacher noticed that and asked her why she wasn’t participating. There was a terrible silence. Suddenly, Judy burst into tears and ran out of the classroom. The teacher looked at me and asked me if I knew what was wrong. I dared not tell her. I asked to go to the bathroom and maybe see if I could talk to Judy. Judy was sitting in the hall, her arms cradling her head. She was crying. I sat down next to her. I begged her not to cry. She finally spoke to me. “I trusted you. But you defied that trust. How could you? I really liked you.” I didn’t know what to say. So stupidly, I asked her why she didn’t have sex with me if she liked me. This time I had really done it. She screamed in her loudest voice and slapped me in the face. Then she walked away.

I returned to the classroom, silent. Judy later came back, too. She pretended like nothing had happened. The only difference now was that she didn’t speak to me. I knew that I had lost her forever. We finished our group work silently. That was the last thing that we ever did together. When I look back on what happened today, this question crosses my mind: how could I have been so stupid to assume that a little kiss could give me the right to ask for sex? I am mature enough now to ask myself that question. And I am also mature enough now to know that I lost something that can never be replaced. Judy.

Junior Prom Pressure

“Would it be worth it if you got some pussy?”

“I don’t know man, I’m not sure about this. What if I get a disease? What if I get her pregnant?”

“Use a condom, then.”

“Yeah, what if the condom breaks?”

“Dude, what’s wrong with you? Everyone likes to have sex. Seems like you’re the only one that doesn’t.”

“Naw, I like sex, it’s just that all the things that could come after it scare me.”

“That’s your problem, you’re too scared. I think you’re just chicken.”

“No! I’m not chicken. Watch, you’ll see. I’ll be the only one getting pussy on prom night while you’ll be at home jacking off.”

I left Dave with a statement that made me sound sure of myself, even though I wasn’t. It was the week before Junior Prom, and everyone was talking about how Dave was going to sleep with Heather and how Ben was going to get it on with Danielle. For me, it was Rose. Rose had the perfect body. Everyone said that I was the luckiest guy on Earth when she asked me to the Prom. I asked them why but all they did was wink and nudge their sharp elbows at me. I didn’t know why it was so important for me to have sex with Rose even though I didn’t want to. My friends and I even had a hotel room reserved for that night.

When the night finally came, the pressure on me was tremendous. It was as if I was on a stage and all eyes were fixed on me. Ben, Dave, and I had dinner with our dates first. After dinner, we checked into the room that would become a pressure cooker later. The room was beautiful: two king-sized beds placed side by side in the middle, a television placed so that it could be watched while in bed(though later the t.v. wouldn’t be necessary), and a glass window that treated the occupants of the room with a pleasant view of the city below. We placed what luggage we had on the dresser and left the room.

After we had unpacked and marveled at our room, we went down to the convention hall. The hall had a small, wooden dance floor in the middle. The rest of the room was filled with chairs and tables so those not dancing could sit and socialize. The hall could easily have carried a thousand people.

The hall began to fill up with those one thousand people. The voices of these enthusiastic prom-goers echoed through the walls of the hall. One voice, however, was quiet. For some reason, Rose never talked. When I asked her if she wanted a drink, she just nodded her head. She never talked. Maybe she was just as nervous as I was.

As the night passed, Rose and I danced. Dancing with Rose was a new experience, as I held her in my arms and pulled her close to me. The night went smoothly except when every two or three songs, someone I didn’t know would walk up to me and wink at me or give me one of those smiles that says “I know something you don’t know.” Overall, I had an uplifting time at the Prom. I wished it would never end, but like everything in this world, as soon as I wished it, the Prom was over. It was time to return to our room; it was time to do what I didn’t want to do.

The click of the room door lock announced our entrance into our room. Ben had brought his cassette player, and he put on some sensuous music. He claimed that that kind of music would put me in the “mood.” As the girls came out of the bathroom, a look of hunger descended upon both of my friends’ faces. They divided the room into two parts: a blanket hung down the ceiling separated the room into two sections, each section having one bed. Ben and Dave took the beds, while I was assigned the bathroom.

Rose and I were in the bathroom now, alone. What would I do? I was so scared. Then, for the first time that night, Rose spoke. “Well, what are you waiting for? Are you gonna fuck me or not?” she demanded. I was truly surprised. Below the coat of nervousness and quietness was a sex-hungry, no care for anything else freak. I knew my reputation was on the line, so I told her that I would do what she wanted, but only if proper protection was used. She brought out a condom and placed it on the counter. I took the condom, turned on the shower, and went in. She came in after me. Then, we did it.

After that night, I tried to uncover a reason for why I did what I did. I couldn’t find one. Clearly, I did something that I was against doing, and it was too late to regret. Rose never did talk to me again, but that’s just as well, because I didn’t want to talk to her. Because of my carelessness, I lost something that I know now was very important to me: my virginity.

Why You at the Toy Store, Old Man?

Author’s Note: The objective of this writing assignment was to write my autobiography or a biography of someone else. I decided to do the latter, and thus went on a search for an interview subject. While looking around in a toy store, I happened to find Walter Kasahara, a Japanese senior citizen, for my interview. The following is a recount of what happened, and what I learned.

The place is FAO Schwartz, the biggest toy store in Downtown San Francisco. I’m looking around for a person who looks like he may have an interesting story to tell. The toy store is so spacious that three flights of escalators must be taken in order to reach the top floor. In fact, it took me half an hour to find the place where I was going: the video game department. Since I was in a toy store, I thought I might take a look at what new high-tech games were on sale. The toy store was very crowded, hundreds of people looking at thousands of toys stacked on shelves and on the floor. I had to stand in a line of twenty people just to try out one of the three video games on display. The person behind me was the perfect subject for my interview.

Brown-skinned and white-haired was the man behind me. His hair was not an ordinary white, though. When I looked at it, I was reminded of snow in the Sierras, of vanilla ice cream, of writing paper. His skin was a light dark, that is, neither too dark nor too light. His forehead was small; he is one of very few older men who have not lost their hair yet. His eyes were dark brown, like dark chocolate. His nose was pointed at the end and was large, walnut-sized. His lips were thick and full; when he smiled, he resembled Santa Claus giving out presents to all the greedy little children.

That was exactly what he was doing: playing Santa Claus. He told me that he was looking for a toy for his grandson. He had wanted a video game for Christmas but Grandpa couldn’t afford it until now. I asked him if he was in financial trouble, and he said sadly, “I am currently unemployed, and my life savings ran out years ago. My family takes care of me, but for once, I actually wanted to buy something for the kid(the grandson) with my own money. So, I got a part-time job as a dish washer and also started recycling cans and bottles. I finally have enough money after four months.” “Why are you looking for a game here, then?” I asked him. “Don’t you know that this store is probably the most expensive in San Francisco?” “I didn’t know that, all I knew was that my grandson wanted a video game and this place had it. Do you know where else video games are sold?” I told him that I would inform him of the cheap video game store locations if he promised to let me interview him. “Alright,” he said, “sounds fair. Fire away.” And that is how my interview began.

First, I had to ask him if it was alright if I took notes on what he said. He told me it was alright, and I asked him how old he was. “I’m seventy years old, but I feel like I’m fifty.” “The retirement age here is sixty-five, isn’t it?” I asked him. “Yes, I believe it is,” he replied, “and I know what your next question will be so I’ll just tell you. When I retired, I received a sum of money from my boss, and had about a hundred thousand dollars in my bank account. It still is vague to me, I didn’t even know what was going on. My nephew was a stock broker. He told me that if I put my retirement money into stocks, it would double or even triple. So, without knowing what the hell I was doing, I gave him a check for a hundred thousand dollars. I actually thought that I could get rich. Instead, my nephew disappeared and so did my money. Ever since that incident, I have never trusted anyone on anything.” “Wow, that is a really interesting yet sad story,” I said. “But what about me? Are you going to trust me when I tell you the place of the cheap video game store?” I joked. “Yes, I trust you, you look very innocent, like a little baby,” he chuckled, and we just stood there for a while and laughed, as if to hide his pain from losing so much money.

After that relieving laugh session, I began to wonder why he was lining up to sample the games if he was buying them for his grandson. So, I asked him: “Why are you lined up to try a game? I thought you said you’re buying it for your grandson; shouldn’t he be here to test it out himself?” “Well, he already knows what title he wants. I just want to try it out to see where my hard earned money is going to. Besides, I haven’t had time to release myself in a long while. I hear that video games are very relaxing.” I myself am an avid video game player, and the more I talked to this man, the more I liked him. Then I realized that I had not even introduced myself yet. My face began to turn red, and I felt a rushing of blood into my head. “Oops, I’m sorry, but I forgot to introduce myself. My name is Jonathan, Jonathan Young.” “It’s alright, I forgot to tell you my name, too. I’m Walter Kasahara. Nice to meet you, Jonathan.” He offered me his hand, and I took it. His grip was tight, I felt like I was shaking hands with a person that had gone through many hardships. Somehow I felt that this was true, that he had had to suffer a lot before. “Are you Japanese, Walter?” I asked him. “Yes, how did you know?” he asked jokingly. “What’s so funny?” I wondered out loud. “Nothing, just that I thought you would know I am Japanese from my name.” “Well, can you tell what I am from my name?” I challenged him. “No, I can’t, but I would assume you were mixed from looking at you.” “How did you know?” He smiled as if he had solved the greatest mystery of all time. “That I’m not?” I said slyly. “Oh, you tricked me! What are you then?” I informed him that I was Chinese.

On a more serious note, I thought I might ask him where he was in World War II. Knowing that he is Japanese and is old enough to have lived during the war, I said: “Where were you during World War II?” He then told me a story that I will never forget. Walter was a Nisei, meaning that he was born here by Japanese parents, who were known as Issei, those Japanese who emigrated here. On the day when the Japanese airforce bombed Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and started the war, Walter knew that he would not be able to live normally as he did before. At the time, he lived in Hawaii, close to the site of the bombing. When President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, Walter and his family were forced to live in internment camps. They were shipped from Hawaii and sent to an internment camp in Fresno, California. They had nothing, except their clothes. In the camps, they were given absolutely no human rights at all. Walter revealed that he would have rather died than live on. Soldiers beat Walter, raped his mother and sister, and herded his family like animals. Walter’s mother could not endure the pain and suffering and killed herself. As Walter told me about this, a tear fell from his eye. “You know, if this is too hard for you, you don’t have to tell me anymore,” I suggested. But Walter went on to tell me that in the winters, temperatures would drop to at least ten to twenty degrees below zero. In the summer, the temperatures would rise to the hundreds range. All in all, this period in time caused Walter a lot of hardship, and I could tell that he still felt the pain.

A little more composed, Walter revealed that when the war ended, a friend in Hawaii informed Walter that his family’s property had been severely damaged. He thanked his friend for caring for his land, and gave it to him, although he knew that his friend was probably involved in damaging it. Penniless, he decided to move to San Francisco where an uncle of his lived. His uncle was lucky and had been able to sell his belongings before the executive order was enforced. “I remember that he was so nice to me and let me live with him,” Walter recalled. Since then, Walter has married and has had three children and nine grandchildren. “I just love those grandkids; that’s why I worked so hard just to buy him a game.”

Just as he said those words, the person trying the game in front of us finished. “Here, now you can find out where all your hard-earned money is going to.” He picked up the controller and began playing. “I don’t think my money will be put to good use if I buy this. This game is not relaxing!” Walter chuckled. I knew, however, that he liked the game a lot. He just didn’t want to show it to me. “You know, even though I don’t like this game that much, I know my grandson wants it really bad, so I’ll buy it. You promised me that you would tell me where to get this game cheap, now tell me,” he insisted. “Alright, I’ll tell you. It will be on sale here tomorrow in the special one-hour sale at 3:00 pm.” I was lying to him because I had a surprise for him. “You mean I have to come back to this damn place? Alright, anything to save a dollar. Hey, it was nice talking to you Jonathan, but now I must leave now that I’ve tested the game. My son will probably be worried about me. Well, if fate brings us together again, I’ll see you. Bye!” “Bye, ” I said. I was thinking that fate must be really predictable, because I knew I was going to meet him again the next day. The game that he wanted, Street Fighter Alpha, just happened to be a game I was selling. But instead of selling it to him, I decided to give it to him. Here is what happened: I went back to the store the next day at 3:00 pm. I saw Walter standing around looking lost. I walked up to him and saw that he had his grandson with him. Grandson was dragging Grandpa to the checkout to get the game. Secretly, I slipped the game into Walter’s hand. He turned around and I gave him a big smile. He tried to refuse it, but I waved him off and left him with his eager and now screaming grandson.

That was just about how my encounter with Walter occurred. Never have I met such a man with such a background, a background full of pain and hardships. His own nephew swindled him, his country mistreated him, and his mother passed away on him. If any of these things happened to me, I know that I’d be too devastated to live. But Walter did not quit on himself and kept going, fought through all of those hardships. I have learned so much from these hardships. Before Walter, I never knew that the American Government mistreated Japanese Americans and wrongly accused them of sabotage during World War II. I never knew that someone as close to you as your nephew could swindle you. And I never knew what it would be like if my mother was not there for me. From these three events, I’ve learned that wrongly accusing someone can cause much harm, that relatives cannot always be trusted, and that my mother will not always be there for me. My interview with Walter really made me look closer at the things I normally take for granted! For my closing remark, I would like to make this statement:

“Thank you, Walter, for helping me see that life is not just fun and pleasure. Thank you for teaching me to be cautious of the people around me. I hope that you and your family prosper in the future and that you live the rest of your life in happiness.”