First Date Monologue

Excuse me, but you are not that special. I’ve had girls open doors for me before, drew portraits of me, written songs about me, explained the entire Eurozone crisis to me like it’s the A-B-C. I’ve seen them all, heard them all, felt them all. No one is that special. No, this is not a dare. Bring it.

Is that strawberry you smell like strawberry. Maybe if I scoot a little closer I could – oh, hey you don’t like that? Hey, I’m cool. I like personal space, too. At least that’s one thing we have in common.

Oh my God we have nothing in common. Of course, I just had to ask you what your thesis was about. And you just had to say stem cells. Seriously? Say, if I excuse myself to the washroom and quickly look up the Wikipedia article for stem cells like I did with the Eurozone crisis girl, would that be okay?

Screw that. I’ll bring you to my turf. Who’s your favorite writer? Let me impress the hell out of you by bashing popular writers. Like Murakami. Well, fuck me your favorite writer is Murakami. Abort mission. Abort!

Why did I have to have coffee earlier? Now I’m fidgeting. And you ain’t helping here by being all quiet. Speak, woman!

But, okay, if you just want to sit there and say absolutely nothing and make me feel even more self-conscious. I am going to talk now and look anywhere but your eyes because if I do I will not help but stare at your lips eventually and you’ll think I’m creepy. I promise I’m not creepy. Please don’t think I’m creepy.

And then you say, “I’m sorry I’m being a little awkward. I am a nervous wreck.” A little?!

Wait a minute, you’re nervous too? I will sigh now, loudly, to indicate that the feeling is mutual. And then I’m going to grab your hand. Are you ready? We gotta do this, woman, because it’s 10 PM and we have been out all day and I’m gonna have to take you home soon. To your home, I mean, in which I will not be staying over. I’m not that kind of girl.

Your skin feels great. Really great.

Oh, so strawberry and… is that caramel? Vanilla? I like sweet things, I like ice cream. We should have ice cream. Next time. Maybe.

We just sit there in the middle of the park for the longest time, just holding hands, no big deal. For once I finally feel like I have my shit together. We have shit-togethered ourselves.

That is until you say, “Can I kiss you?”

It would be so uncool if I fainted right now, wouldn’t it?

Could Not be Found – Short Story

On the day that my girlfriend disappeared, we were walking along the fruits section of the grocery store looking for papaya. I didn’t care much for papaya, I thought there were prettier fruits like strawberries or pears or grapes – they were less heavy and required no peeling the skin with a knife and no cutting them to smaller pieces. Strawberries or pears or grapes you could just pop right into your mouth, I would tell her this over and over again, to which she would respond by pointing out that I never had to use the knife anyway because she was the one in charge when it comes to preparing food.

I guess I must have been lost in the mission to spot the papaya because I didn’t realize I was the one pushing the trolley – another thing she was usually in charge of. My job was to carry the shopping list and spot things. She would never let me do anything physical, chivalrous woman that she was. She always insisted that she be the one carrying the shopping bags, “you open the doors and lead the way,” she would say, not patronizingly, but in a tone that would make me believe as if opening doors and leading the way required just as much if not more effort than carrying heavy bags.

When I finally realized she was not there I figured she had gone to get milk and cereals. They were the only things left from the list that we hadn’t picked up yet. Like everything else in our relationship, we were methodical when it comes to grocery shopping. Toiletries would be the first things taken care of, and then packaged foods – after that, fresh produce. Sometimes we would indulge in snacks and cereals and even ice cream.

The grocery store wasn’t crowded, in fact, I hadn’t seen anyone else besides us, which was why we picked this time and place in the first place to conduct this monthly business. Every last Sunday of the month, 11 AM. The rest of the population were probably sleeping in or at church or were still on their way here, and by the time they arrived to do their shopping we would have been on our taxi ride home.

It was now 1 PM. How long could it possibly take to get milk and cereals? We had been planning to cook a big meal, or rather, she cooked while I helped do kitchen grunt work. Captain and co-captain, those were our roles, and ones that we played interchangeably. The kitchen was hers to rule, obviously. So was selecting which movies to watch. I would take care of travel plans and anything that required a set of tools. This was a system we both decided we were comfortable in.

Irritated, I pulled out my phone from my pocket. I did not put her on speed dial, since I memorized her number and most of the time her name was on top of my calls history anyway. This time, it wasn’t.

In fact, her name was not even on my Contacts list.

I punched in the numbers that I knew by heart and waited. The number you are calling cannot be found. Please check again the number you are calling.

Stupid goddamn provider. I tried again a few times, making sure that I had typed in the correct numbers, her number, but to no avail. The number you are calling cannot be found. Please check again the number you are calling, the operator lady told me in that annoying sing-song voice. No, she didn’t say that it was not active or out of coverage area, and she didn’t suggest me to please try again in a few minutes, but that my girlfriend’s number cannot be found.

I spent another half an hour scouring every aisle in the grocery store before I decided to go home. I had almost forgotten how it felt like to carry the shopping bags all the way to my flat, how it felt like to fumble with the elevator buttons and then searched the keys to open the door… I had almost forgotten how to perform simple tasks. It was at this moment that I realised that the bliss in sharing a life with someone else was not just about the romance, it was also, for the most part, the convenience of sharing burdens in half.

I entered our home and she was not there. I was half expecting she would greet me and told me how she somehow lost her phone and couldn’t reach me and so the logical thing to do was go home and wait. She would apologize, feeling so guilty as if she had done something horrible, and I would assure her that it was all right and told her that I was just glad she was fine. She was always predictably worried and I was always predictably assuring. Captain and co-captain.

But she wasn’t there… and so were her shoes. The shoes – our shoes, had been neatly stacked in a rack, mine on the left side and hers on the right. Now the rack was completely occupied on one side and completely empty on the other. My stomach sank.

The first thing I would usually do after a trip to the grocery store was, naturally, to store the stuff into the fridge. She would put all toiletries to the top shelf of our closet, and then she would proceed to fold the plastic bags. This time, I dropped the grocery bags to the floor – the fat papaya made a thudding sound, and walked over to the closet.

What used to be her section of the closet that was filled with her clothes, just like her section of the shoe rack that had been filled with her shoes, was now nothing but empty.

I met my girlfriend on a dating site. We never stopped feeling amused at the cliché. In fact, there was nothing extraordinary about how we met. It had been a dinner and a movie – classic date. Before there was a chance to develop meaningful conversation, we accidentally run into a mutual friend, who decided it would be a good idea to tag along with us – because why not? The mutual friend ended up dominating the conversation; it was safe to say the whole thing was a disaster.

But we didn’t give up. I had found her interesting, and by God, she was cute. I guess there must have been something she found interesting in me too as she agreed for a re-date immediately the next day.

What started as a textbook example of a disastrous date turned into something completely amazing. It wasn’t long before I felt as if I was talking with someone I had known all my life.

And now, it was as if she was never here. Even the pillow on her side of the bed had no trace of her scent – and she had a smell of vanilla and caramel. It was as if she intended to leave no trace at all, not her shoes and her clothes, and she wouldn’t even let me have her scent.

What else was there to say? She left, there was no doubt about it. I could be angry or I suppose I could question why she had to leave in the middle of the freaking Carrefour, or the fact that she had managed to take all of her belongings with her in less than two hours, or that she had left no explanation, no we-need-to-talk-it’s-not-you-it’s-me, and not even a letter – for God’s sake, and the woman loved writing letters.

Writing letters was her favorite thing to do, it was apparent by our second date. She would write me a letter whenever I was traveling out of town, slipping a postcard in my book or inside my suitcase – her postcards were always a welcome distraction. She wrote me letters after every fight, to apologize or to explain herself and then to reiterate that she loved me and that nothing mattered more to her than us. Birthdays and anniversaries were a no-brainer, and so were Big Dates. I had come to accept and love this particular habit of hers, and even suspected that she was more comfortable expressing herself in writing above else. I thought it was adorable.

But then she decided to leave me and not even a single letter for me.

I kept all of her letters and postcards in a shoebox on the top corner of the bookshelf. By the time I had reached it, I knew the shoebox was empty. She wouldn’t even leave me her letters, the letters she wrote for me, the letters who were technically mine since she gave them to me.

It was then that I started to cry.

***

I soon discovered that when your girlfriend walked out on you out of the blue, everything else pretty much stayed the same. I still had to wake up in the morning, still had house chores to do, and I was still being chased by deadlines. The only difference was that I had to do all these things alone, and I spent half my waking moment trying to convince myself that I could.

By the second week, however, not having someone to talk to was driving me crazy. I texted my best friend, Stella. “I need to see you.”

The coffee shop was packed but I spotted Stella right away. She was the kind of woman who stood out – tall, gorgeous, impeccably dressed, commanding respect. My girlfriend used to say she was “a typical alpha-female”, and I guess she was right.

When she saw me she stood up and reached for a hug. I realized it had been a while since I had physical contact with another human being, and I realized I needed just that. Stella and I were not the type of friends that would go out on drinks every week and then text each other to gossip every day. We both led busy lives – she with her demanding career and adventurous love life, and I with my mediocre job and fulfilling but monotonous relationship. But we had each other’s backs – we were each other’s emergency contact.

“You look like shit. What’s up with you?” I figured the typical alpha-female could not be bothered to waste time on pleasantries, and I couldn’t as well, but it wasn’t until I ordered a bottle of beer that I spoke up.

“So. She left.” That was all I said.

Stella reached over to grab my lighter and lit a cigarette. One drag, then another. “Okay. Go on.”

I couldn’t help but laugh. What I loved about Stella was, I could just as well told her that I turned straight and I met a guy I fell in love with and we were getting married, or I could just as well told her that I killed someone and she would have had the same exact response – lighting a cigarette and then okay, go on. And I was just the same if not worse. When she told me that she broke up her last serious relationship my first response was congratulations.

But this was exactly why she was my go-to person, and I hers. We were each other’s voice of reason, not voice of comfort.

So I told Stella everything from the beginning, how she left just like that, no explanations, no warning, and we had not even been fighting, everything had been going just fine. I was in the middle of telling Stella all this when she interrupted me.

“Wait. What was her name?”

What startled me was not the fact that my best friend did not know the name of the woman I had been in a relationship with, what startled me was the fact that I could not, for the life of me, remember her name.

“You know everything about me. Am I that predictable?” she would always say, and I was always proud of that. I knew exactly how much sugar to put in her tea – she liked hers sweet. I could tell what kind of day at work had it been by the way she kissed me when she came home. Yes, she was predictable. Tuesdays and Thursdays were our date nights out, and she would make reservations by phone the day before. She was the only person I knew in this city who actually made reservations by phone. On Saturdays she would have lunch with her friends or her family, but Sundays were reserved either for grocery shopping or a quality time just the two of us.

I knew all of these things about her, I knew her that much, and yet right now I could not recall even her name.

“Are you okay?” Stella had been waiting for an answer. Silly her, of course I was not okay. What was the name of my girlfriend again?

It was then that I realized something weird that happened at the grocery store that I had shrugged off. Her name was not on my Contacts list. When I called her number, the operator said that it could not be found. Not inactive, or was out of coverage area, but could not be found.

I just had to entertain the possibility, I just had to. Ignoring Stella, who was by now at her third cigarette, I pulled out my phone from my pocket.

Whenever we had the chance, we loved to go out of town and travel for a few days. It was our thing. It was never anything fancy, no staying at four-star hotels or anything like that, our travels were always modest. In fact, like any other budget traveler out there, we detested people who stayed at four-star hotels. We enjoyed the experiences, the surprises, the adventure, not luxuries. Our latest weekend escape was at a modest beach cottage off the coast of northern Belitung. The water in the bathroom had been dirty, and we pretended to be disgusted as we washed ourselves with it.

I pulled out my phone from my pocket and went straight to my Photos, and there they were, pictures of the Belitung beach, the breathtaking sunset, our run-down cottage, and the stray dog we had met there who had been a real sweetheart – we named her Lulu.

But there was no photo of her.

I remembered clearly how I giggled as she insisted we took a selfie of her kissing me on the beach.

Come on, there’s no one here!

Don’t we look adorable?”

“I want it to be like a silhouette of us holding each other in the sunset”

“My smiles look awkward, why do I always look awkward when I smile?”

But there was none of those. It was as if I had completely imagined it in my head.

It was becoming more and more obvious that I had completely imagined her in my head.

 

Love is not.

My dear,
Love is not
The constant terror
of waking up in the morning, wondering:what error would I make today, that will set you on fire again?

Love is not
The feel of your hands on my face
Where they no longer feel burning pain
Where I can no longer
Distinguish
A slap from a caress

Love is not
Dodging throws
and sharp blows to the head

Love is not
Running away in the middle of the night
Checking into hotels, or
Crashing at a friend’s

Love is not
Relief
When I’m out of town
And then fear
When I’m back in town

Love is not
Tearing apart my favorite books
Just so you could see how I would react
Yet I’m too numb to be angry

Love is not
Every little thing that you took
Like my dignity
Or my self-esteem
Not even
My favorite books

My dear,
Love is not you
Love is not me
It is not the years we’ve wasted
Just so we could come to this conclusion

Love is the forgiveness that I’m not ready to give
Love is the apologies I’m not ready to give nor receive
Love is resolution, of what’s the good of all this
What’s the good of all this?

Love is I’m sorry we didn’t find it in each other
Or did we, but I can’t remember

Love is the peace I didn’t get in you, that you never found in me
And for that
I am sorry
I am so very sorry

You say “Cafe”, I Say…

Who are you trying to fool? It’s a cozy, hang-out space pretending to be a cafe. What person in their right mind would call this cup of bitter, weird-tasting liquid that I am having as “coffee”? I ordered a club sandwich to go with it, which took 30 pages of an Oliver Sacks book to arrive… with a fork and knife. Is this a joke? I picked up the sandwich in my hands and the thing imploded with mayonnaise. Is this a joke? Do they even know what a club sandwich is?

I look around me. Everyone else doesn’t seem to be angry, nor staging a revolution against this abomination. Why would they, when the couch is comfortable, the Wi-fi works, and the room is air-conditioned?

Is there a law that says it’s okay to commit culinary crime and serve horrible food as long as the place is comfortable? If not, then why do people settle for less? Are we that desperate to sit down, find somewhere to talk or anywhere as long as there is Wi-fi?

Not long ago my Grammy came to visit. She had packed her own coffee with her and refused to be served with any other coffee. That amused me, but now I understand: I was raised by a snob. And that she was somewhat smart. 

The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human by Jonathan Gottschall

image

It’s 3 in the morning and I’m still sitting on the couch, breathless, relieved yet a little bit sad once I finally reached that final page. 

This book is a story about stories. It’s a story about how, as early as two years old, human beings are already able to grasp the concept of plots, characters, and conflicts through pretend-plays. We spend our childhood narrating, directing, and even acting our own movies, creating realities outside of our own. 

Our penchant for stories began early in our lives, but why is that? If fiction is nothing more than mere entertainment, something to occupy ourselves with to avoid boredom, then why do we live and breathe stories throughout our lives? 

It could be that stories are merely a form of escapism. It could be that stories serve a function to prepare us for real life problems in a kind of “moral of the story” manner. It could be that there had been a glitch in our design making us vulnerable to stories. The book explores these possibilities and so much more.

There is no doubt that narratives have the power to shape our lives. Even our memories are stored in the form of a “story” instead of “data”. This book is a humble call to embrace the storytellers in us. 

I recommend this book to those who love novels, poems, comic books, songs, plays, film, and even games, who have all their lives struggled to come up with an answer to the condescending question of “Why do you love it so much? They’re just fiction!” 

On Rachel Maddow and the Butch-Femme dichotomy:

Hello, this is Rachel Maddow and I’m absolutely in love with her. Like, if she were to stand in front of me right now I would do either of these two things: 1) Scream hysterically and take off my shirt; or (most likely) 2) Just stare at her like the idiot that I am and blush uncontrollably.

I swear this post has a point. Bear with me. Right. *clears throat*

I hate how one of the biggest stereotypes about lesbians is actually perpetuated by lesbians themselves. I’m talking about the whole butch-and-femme dichotomy. What the hell is up with that?!

Because clearly, when I was coming to terms with my sexuality I didn’t get the handbook about this. Apparently you’re supposed to be either a macho butch or a girly femme. And it gets even weirder – a butch is not supposed to fall for fellow butches, and vice versa. ???

I’m raising this point because I’m feeling the pressure from this stereotype. Just because I have short hair and am more comfortable in jeans and t-shirt, it doesn’t mean I’m less of a “girl”.

People would carelessly identify me as a “butch” yet I am so much more than that. I love teddy bears and the color pink and get pampered for hours at the salon and window-shopping at the mall. I would also scream whenever I see cockroaches and rats. I’m sure butches don’t scream at cockroaches and rats. I love being spoiled and cuddled.

But I’m not a “femme” either because I think dresses and make-ups are such inconveniences, and although I’m pretty sentimental I like to reserve emotional expressions to only my closest friends. And I’m not high maintenance. I think high heels are a device of torture; and I like talking about cars and sometimes I even drive trucks.

It’s such a shame – assigning someone in arbitrary (might I say imaginary) boxes when a person is supposed to be multidimensional, sometimes even self-contradicting. Well, the interesting ones anyway.

And who’s to say it’s weird for me, a so-called tomboy, to fall for Rachel Maddow, who is also a so-called tomboy? It’d be weird NOT to. I love a woman who is confident, opinionated, and knows how to carry herself. If she happens to like to dress in man’s clothes, so what? I’d probably even borrow her flannel shirts sometimes.

(Oh, yeah, girls in flannels. Man, isn’t that the hottest thing ever.)

(Also, I admire Rachel Maddow even though she’s a raging Democrat. We could settle our differences in b- my point is):

It’s about time the words “butch” and “femme” be denounced in the lesbian community. It’s a lazy, simplistic, heteronormative stereotype and it certainly doesn’t belong in my life.

View on Path

Filthy Habit (Part One)

Note: Welcome to the first installment of a very cheesy short story. Warning – lesbian content, but really what else do you expect from this blog? Feedback is highly appreciated. Also, this is only my second short story ever to be published online, so please be gentle with the comments. Besides, I’m no professional – yours truly only writes for fun. 

I stepped into the smoking area at the parking lot. The hot air hits my face immediately – it happens every time one steps out of an air-conditioned building, but it also gets me every time. I pulled out a cigarette and sniffed it. Damn. Heaven, if it does exist, must smell like an unlit cigarette. It must smell like other things too, I suppose, like coffee beans, paper, or fresh laundry. Nothing too strong like food or, heaven forbid, perfume, because those scents would be too intrusive for such a public place.

“Need a lighter?” I turned around to see her leaning against the wall. I get irritated when my inner monologue gets interrupted by someone, but I quickly caught on. “Um, no, thanks,” I waved the cigarette. “I don’t smoke during office hours.”

She raised an eyebrow. “And you’re just here to… enjoy the view?”

I chuckled out of politeness. Did she really think it was funny? Because it’s not. Besides, this parking lot seems aesthetically fine to me. There’s something comforting about the dull gray pillars. And the lack of people.

I felt like I had to say something. “My, uh… boss. She can’t stand the smell.”

She nodded. “I understand. Wouldn’t want to inconvenience her.” She flicked her lighter. Tick.

I’ve been in a lot of smoking areas and met my fair share of smokers. I put them into categories. There’s the neurotic ones, who fumble with their cigarettes, trying desperately to keep the smoke away from their eyes, so awkward about the act of smoking that its very purpose of winding people down end up making them becoming even more, well, neurotic. On the other hand, there’s the experienced ones, people who actually get smoking, confident and nonchalant in handling a cigarette that they don’t make such a big deal out of it. They could even multitask – smoking while looking at their watch, while texting, or talking, or thinking. I like to think I’m in this category.

At first I thought she was the former. She had looked at her unlit cigarette as if she was… unsure. But then she closed her eyes, and slowly took her first drag. The cigarette remained between her lips until she exhaled just as slowly as she’d inhaled. She was not just breathing out smoke – she was also breathing out relief. It was the most cinematic thing I’ve ever seen in my life, and I stood there feeling like an intruder who’d just witnessed something very personal.

“Mine lives overseas.” What? Who?

She cleared her throat. “So I don’t have to worry about his comfort.” Oh, right. I was the one who had brought up the topic of bosses, wasn’t I? Now I feel dumb.

“My boss, she’s great, actually,” I said. I really don’t know where I’m going with this. Couldn’t we have stuck to the standard small talks like “what time is it” or something? “She’s sixty-five years old, an amazing woman, really. She’s also Jewish.”

She was slightly stunned for a moment, and then laughed. You’ve got to give me credit for turning small talks into politically incorrect comments. She seemed justifiably unsure of how to respond to that, and I saw it as an opportunity to redeem myself.

“No, no, I’m not anti-Semitic, nothing like that. The thing is, I’m very fond of Beth Goldstein. She’s my mentor, really. And I feel like her religion is an… an interesting aspect of her grand personality, you know?” I wanted to say more, but the change in her facial expression showed that she got the idea.

“Yeah, I know,” she said, and took another drag of her cigarette. I looked away this time. “Though I’m not very well-read in Jewish history or stereotypes, so it didn’t really help to describe her better.”

“Oh yeah? What are you well-read in?” I asked. She looked mildly surprised. Sometimes I surprise myself too for being bold, but I am genuinely curious about what this woman –  who has such an intimate relationship with her cigarettes – likes to read.

“Oh, well, I’m not sure, um…” she bit her lip and paused for a second to think. “I like books that tell stories about the experience of being a stranger, or being in unfamiliar situations.”

I cocked my head to one side.  “Well, that’s not specific enough. 50 Shades of Grey seems pretty unfamiliar if you ask me.” She laughed, and her laugh grew harder.

My comment is supposed to achieve two things. First, eliminate the possibility that she actually reads 50 Shades and God forbid, enjoyed it. Number two, it’s a cheap shot at determining whether she’s straight. It’s also a long, long shot.

She shook her head. “50 Shades of Grey is definitely not my cup of tea. You’ve no idea how much it’s not.” Gosh, I wish I could just ask her right away if she’s into girls. We stared at each other for what seemed like forever. “You know,” she went on. “Novels about… foreigners. People living in another country. I like those kinds of stories, where the main conflict is inner conflicts, or conflicts about identities.”

Did I just hear music to my ears or what? “I really, really love Zadie Smith. She is up there on my list of favorite authors. Have you read any of her works?” I asked. I didn’t want to sound like I was trying too hard to find things in common with her, but you have to understand, this is not about work, nor food, nor movies. Any other trivial things and I would have played it cool, but this is about books.

She seemed surprised. And then she looked at me as if she was sizing me up and taking me seriously this time. She cleared her throat to speak. “Yes, but…”

‘Yes, but?’ Are you kidding me? One does not simply ‘yes, but’ Zadie Smith. She is goddess personified. Now my ego is bruised, on behalf of my favorite writer.

And then she went on. “… but I was thinking a little bit older than that. Milan Kundera, perhaps.”

You know, I don’t really have a type, though that’s not to say I’m not picky, but a gorgeous woman who reads Milan Kundera? What sane person would not drool? I tried hard to maintain my composure, but I’m only human.

“Hey,” I began, as I walked closer towards her. She smiled as she gestured to come stand near her. “I’ll go ahead and have that lighter now.”

“A-ha. I guess Beth Goldstein would have to suck it.”

I shrugged, and quickly lit the cigarette. There was no time to attempt to mimic her cinematic act of taking the first drag, not only would I fail miserably, but also because I had something very important to say.

“Yeah, sure. Milan Kundera. Unbearable Lightness rose him to fame, but personally, I love The Joke. It was far easier for my simple mind to… digest, I guess,” I wanted to make myself seem as humble as possible, but as soon as the words came out of my mouth I became worried of sounding like an anti-mainstream hipster. But then again, hipsters love Unbearable Lightness of Being, such predictable miserable beings that they are.

“Yeah, I get you,” she responded in a singsong voice. “The very first Milan Kundera book that I read was Laughable Loves, so I guess that’s why it’s my favorite.”

Damn, I wished I’d said Laughable Loves. I swear to God it’s a close second, but I didn’t want to tell her that because that would just seem desperate. I stared at my watch. My break time was over five minutes ago.

“Oh crap, I have to go,” I said. She nodded.

“Keep it,” she brushed me off as I handed her lighter back. “I’m here often during breaks. There’s a big chance we’ll see each other soon.”

And even though I smiled, I didn’t say anything as I walked away. Didn’t even thank her.