Happiness

My mom lies on her side in bed and watches Taiwanese TV shows on her iPhone every night. She gets into bed early. Around 9pm. Even on the weekends.

I came home late today and quietly set my bags down. I crept into her room. Laughter erupted from her small device and I knew she was still awake.

“Honey, I set the temperature in your room a little higher today. So you will be warm. Don’t worry about Mom. I’m very warm under my goose down covers.”

And a tear rolled down my cheek. Because that was the sweetest thing that has ever been said to me.

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Simple Life

I’ve seen circuses and dances. Happy movies and fireworks. Babies in strollers and dogs skipping along their way.

I know the heavens exist. I know the sun is fair. It shines on everyone on Earth whether you’re here or there.

I know you can try to trick time. Fly to LA for the weekend and reclaim a few hours. But at the end of your trip you still have to go back from where you came. And the sands of time, again, slip through your fingers.

I realize that anything can be broken whether you’re careful or not. Sometimes life comes barreling at you like an out of control bus. You can’t stop it. You can only say:

Give me what you have to offer, good or bad. Let me walk the path I was set on, though I may not finish intact. Come at me with seven horns and a grotesque face so I may be scared into motion. Sit still with me in feeble moments. Put me through failures if that’s what I need. Stroke my hair and let me cry. Wake me up to wily lies. Tell serendipity to look after me. And lead me to my dreams.

And if none of that comes true, then will you just let me be? Let me meander through the grasses alone. Admire the view from a distance. I used to care about being loved and I used to care about being somebody. I don’t ask for so much now.

I know you have every right to take me sooner. But if you just wait, you can have me after I am finished with my observations. After I have poked and prodded at human nature itself, and written pages and pages explaining what I have found. Maybe I’ll take up residence in Paris. Hold a warm body when I get too lonely. But expect nothing, because there is nothing to expect.

I will come to you myself when I am done with the earth. I will willingly give you me by walking into the sea. The sand will climb up my ankles and the waves will ravage my pink dress. I will give in when I take my last breath. Life, with your confusing twists and jealous ways. You’ve always had me, me without any say.

Truth

chocolate chip muffins

A slightly hefty woman with brown curls put her hands on her ample hips.

“And what do you think you’re doing, Miss Olivia?” she demanded from her four year old right as the little girl began reaching at a sample tray full of chocolate chip muffins. “Stop it right now. You’re going to ruin your appetite. Come on, girls. We’re going that way.”

The little girl put her fingers in her mouth and looked sheepish. The older girl, probably around eleven years old, gave her mom an annoyed look and followed.

“Anyway, Marie, so getting back to what we were talking about…”

The mom chatted on the phone and pushed her grocery cart absentmindedly. Olivia gently nibbled on her thumb. She looked back at the muffins one last time before skipping forward.

“Marie, I don’t know why you are so nice and accommodating. That woman doesn’t know what she is doing. She doesn’t bake her own stuff for the school sales, buys the cheapest wine for our meetings, and hasn’t even read Pride and Prejudice! I mean, jeez Louise, what right does she have to run a book club? That is the ultimate women’s book club book! I say we tell her that she needs to step down. How about at this Friday’s meeting?”

The mom put the phone on speaker and told her older daughter to hold it while she rummaged through the oranges. The person on the other end’s voice rang clearly, “Meredith, don’t you think you’re being a little harsh? Jenny is devoted to the book club. Yes, we all know she’s lacking a bit, but honestly, don’t you think we should make more of an effort too? We are all part of the club…and anyway, she is a really good friend. I don’t think you understand. You haven’t been in the group for very long…”

Suddenly, Meredith looked up. “Where is Olivia?”

The older daughter looked exasperated. “I don’t know, Mom. You never told me to watch her.”

“I gotta go. Call you later.”

Meredith and her older daughter left the cart behind and raced through the store. They found Olivia teeter-tottering on the stool by the sample tray.

“Olivia! Get your hands off that muffin!”

“Oh my God, Mom, just let her eat it!” cried her older daughter. “God, you’re so mean and bossy. That’s why NO ONE LIKES YOU.”

Some shoppers looked at them curiously.

The mom’s face deepened into a dark red hue. She whispered, “How dare you say that to your mother in public. We’re going home. You’re grounded. For a year!”

The three of them trooped out of the store. Olivia’s chocolate stained lips were the only ones smiling.

Some people don’t like to hear the truth. Do you?

What Makes You Mad?

Asian Girl

A couple months ago, I was at busy Penn Station waiting for the 6:09 when I spotted a seat across the room. Excited to see an empty seat, I walked quickly (very quickly) over there to claim it. I reached it and was mentally patting myself on the back when the guy next to me goes, “I’m saving that seat.”

Oh gosh! I had no idea. I said “Oh sorry!” and got up.

I watched the seat from a distance. Person after person approached the seat and were promptly turned away by the same man. I checked the time. Ten minutes had gone by and the person he was saving the seat for was still nowhere to be seen. I was boiling over with madness!

Angrily, I walked over. “Excuse me, but this is ridiculous. There are tons of people standing, wanting to sit down, and there is still no one in this seat. I am going to sit here. If the person actually comes back then he or she can have it back.”

He shrugged.

I sat down. I sat down even though he was kind of dirty looking and smelled like weed. I sat there even though he was taking up the armrest. I sat there because I was mad.

Another five or so minutes go by. A woman arrived and looked expectantly at the seat I am sitting in. I said to the guy, “Is this the person you’re saving the seat for?”

He replied, “Yes.”

I got up.

Everyone gets mad. But not everyone gets mad over the same things.  The thing that makes me most mad is when people do not think of others around them. I also get mad when I see unfairness. And when I can’t find my favorite earrings. And a whole slew of other things! We are all human =)

What makes you mad? And what do you do to ease your madness?

Ants and Disappointment

ants and apples

The older one went into the fridge and took out an apple. She brought it back to the couch where her younger sister was sitting and watching television. She took a bite out of it and then passed it onto her younger sister. Her sister dutifully ate her share while the older one flipped through the channels. She passed it back and the older one ate it down to the core.

The older one said, “Let’s go outside.” The younger one stood up and followed. The older one weaved through the new patio furniture until a perfect spot was found. She carefully set the apple core on the ground. The younger one looked nervously around and said, “Should we be here? Mom said not to touch the new patio set.”

The older one said, “Mom says not to do a lot of things.”

Ants were starting to notice the core. Big, black, shiny ants with ugly three part bodies and stringy legs. The ants crawled up onto the core and within two minutes the entire thing was covered with the blackness of carpenter ants. Ants gathered all around, crowding as if the core was the pope and they were Catholics in St. Peter’s Square.

The older one had a mischievous twinkle in her eye and began stomping on the gathered ants. Crush, smush, thump. She squished many ants. Still, more ants poured in and the older one kept stomping. The younger one saw the older one’s glee and couldn’t help but stomp too. Who knew stomping on ants was delightfully satisfying?

“Kids!” the mother screamed from inside. “What are you doing by the new furniture?” She ran over and was livid. “My God! What! Are! You! Doing?!”

The younger one burst into tears and said, “I’m sorry, Mommy. I’m sorry!” She hugged her mother’s waist.

“I am very disappointed in both of you,” the mother said.

The younger one gasped for air between apologies. “Mommy! I’m sorry! Don’t be disappointed in me!”

The older one smiled and said, “I’m sorry, too, Mom. I really am.”

But, she wasn’t. She learned many things today. She learned that ants like apples just as much as grapes (which she tried last week) and she learned that the patio furniture was something her mother could get mad about. She didn’t want to be told what was important or not. She wanted to experience it.

2 Lobsters

Lobsters

Luke and Lora are two hungry lobsters.

Side by side,

They crawl the sea.

Luke and Lora want something to eat.

They look inside…

Lobster Inside

And outside…

Lobster outside

Pitter pat, pat, pat they go.

Look what Luke found! A clam.

clams

Then another clam, and another clam!

Luke dances in a circle. He is on a roll.

Luke and Lora love to eat clams.

One day, a mysterious metal thing appears next to Luke and Lora’s cave.

Ghost Lobster Trap

Luke goes to see what the metal thing is.

Lora watches from the cave.

Luke sees fish in the metal thing. Mm breakfast!

Luke tiptoes in and eats the fish.

Lora follows close behind.

Oh no!

The metal thing is a cage! They are trapped!

Uh oh, the cage is moving now.

Where is it taking Luke and Lora?

Up, up, up they go.

Soon, Luke and Lora are above the ocean.

A human sprays them with water to help them breathe.

What a nice human.

Why is that human taking Lora away?

Lobster caught by fisherman

The human pinches Lora.

He is about to throw her back into the sea.

Another human is calling.

Whew.

The human puts Lora down.

Lobsters in tank

Luke and Lora are in a tank in a room.

The room is full of humans.

Luke and Lora are trying to stay side by side.

But there are lots of other lobsters too.

Oh no! A hand is coming straight for Lora!

Luke watches Lora get taken away.

Luke sees Lora on a tray.

A human puts her down on the table next to the tank.

She looks like this now.

Lobster dinner

They start to pull her apart.

Luke pitter pats and turns around.

First, her right claw.

Now, her other one.

Then, they bend her backwards until….Crrraaacckk

Lora is in two.

They open her up.

“Lobster caviar!” they exclaim.

They eat up all their eggs.

The human comes back and reaches for Luke.

Luke knows where he is going.

A few minutes later, the human sets Luke down.

Luke is on a roll.

Lobster Roll

The End.

I wrote this because I had an interesting conversation with someone while in Maine. We were all eating lobsters and this particular person and I were talking about writing. They asked me, “What would you like to write?” And I said, creepily, “Dark children’s books.”

So I wrote one about Maine lobsters. They were delicious.

Strangers

"homeless - please help" sign

He is a blind man in his late forties, homeless and disheveled, a pest to society and even the sidewalk that houses him. He has been sitting in this alley on and off for twenty years. It is a narrow place that was accidentally created when a builder underestimated the space between two buildings. On good days, he runs a comb through his hair and freshens up with the AXE deodorant he found in the trash awhile ago, and then begins his begging routine. On bad days, he curses the world and his existence before setting out a cup and a sign and curling back into a ball under a ragged blanket. He is a pained man, an unwanted one, stuck with a soul with no place to call home.

She is a pretty NYU student who lives at 23 14th Street, between 5th and 6th. She has shoulder-length straight brown hair, wears cute hats, and walks lightly like the sidewalks of New York City are heaven-paved. She shows promise in her studies and is considered one of the best in her classes. A very normal girl who has her share of good friends and a happy status as most charitable in her sorority.

He heard from a passers-by that there is to be an event tomorrow where free vegetables will be given out to people like him. It will happen in a side street by Union Square. She will volunteer for it. He thinks it will be an impossible feat to make it there. She thinks it will be a strenuous six hours, and she has finals to study for.

He put on deodorant today and combed his long, mangled hair carefully. She smoothed the winter snood on top of her head. He reviewed the mental map he kept of Union Square and the surrounding neighborhood. She grabbed her phone and ran out the door. He picked up his blanket and started pushing his heavy cart. She reached into her purse to make sure she had her keys. He took a step, and then another. She was late and was running now.

He had only taken thirty-one steps when he ran over someone’s foot. “Crazy man!” someone shouted next to his ear. “Get out of the way!” He powered on. Another busy person bumped into him. A kid on a skateboard lost his footing and his board flew into the man’s legs.

He was crumbling beneath those dirty clothes. Would he ever make it?

She was checking her phone with her head down when she ran straight into his side. Her snood fell off and he blew up. “Stupid bitch!” he screamed. Together they were there with hearts racing and fists at sides.

She didn’t even see him. She felt on top her head and saw that people were staring. Her covering was gone and the whole world saw her embarrassment, the severe alopecia she suffered from.

He was done and ready to crawl back into his alley.

She saw what was on the ground in front of her and was disgusted. Damp-smelling, brown stains and an air of angry frustration in a pile.

But, somehow, in their joint vulnerability and upon her realization that he was blind, her heart softened and she apologized profusely. She helped him up, despite the unwashed smell, and didn’t bother to pick up her hat.

The public watched as the unlikely pair made their way down the street. Both going to the same place, although neither knew it yet. After today, she will stop by every Tuesday and Friday, bringing fresh vegetables to him and giving him some of her time. He will tell her stories. He will disappear at 1am on Wednesday, June 4, 2014, but she won’t find out until 4pm on Friday.

Blind Belief

She brought the white ceramic mug up, took a sip of coffee, and let it linger against her lips. She thought for a second, then declared in her Chinese accent tinted voice, “Steph, I have to tell you something, and don’t take it the wrong way.”

I gulped and looked down. “Ok Jane. Just say it.”

“I think something is weird with you.  I don’t think you express your emotions very well. You just don’t have the timing. Like when you told us about your ex-boyfriend’s mom some time ago. You sounded so nice about it and you didn’t seem hurt at all. But now I know you and I think it hurt a lot. Why are you pretending?”

I looked at her with surprise. “I didn’t show that I was hurt? Hmm that’s strange. I actually thought I was overly dramatic. I guess I was trying to hide it because I didn’t want to be the negative one. I was scared to be the strange girl…”

“Anyway, I’m just telling you. I think you should show the right emotions with certain events. The way you told me the story today was better. I think everyone should just do and say what they mean, and not try to make themselves what other people want them to be. You know how Hannah is always so bubbly and sweet? She told me once that she is that way around most people, but Brian (her boyfriend) would be able to tell the world what she’s really like when she’s at home. I’m the opposite. I am too open with how I feel. If something bad happens I just let go, you know? I go like ‘AHHHHHH or ughhhhhhh or HAHA.”

Janecontinued. “Sometimes I wonder how everyone is so different. I want to meet more people. Actually, I want to meet someone who is open too, and has my sense of humor and style and all. Come to think of it, I want to meet me! I want to meet Jane!”

I burst out into a voice-cracking, belly-hurting fit of laughter.

“Jane!!!!! You’re too much! I can’t imagine two Janes.”

She switched topics without a warning, Jane-style.

“Hey, I want to tell you a story. It’s random like usual. So I was walking across the street a few weeks ago when I saw a middle-aged lady and it was obvious that she was blind. I went to help her across and we went to the subway. We were going the same way so we sat together too. It turns out, she is an interpreter. She speaks Spanish and English. She did it for years and years and finally started retiring recently. Now she works part-time about three days a week.  You know how I’m going to Guatemala soon and need someone to translate my testimony for me? I asked her if she could help me with it. So we sat in a coffee shop the other day and just talked. We didn’t just do testimony stuff. I asked her a lot of questions about her blindness. In a curious way.

‘How long have you been blind?’ She said, ‘My whole life.’

I questioned her about her love life. She has never been married, she doesn’t have kids, and she is about fifty years old.

I told her that her dog was cute. She said it was, but it was old and not that helpful so she was going to get a new one.

She is a Christian. I asked her How? She said, ‘I believe like I believe you are in front of me. It is no different than how I have to believe this whole world is here.'”

We both took self-reflecting moments. Jane drank some more coffee and I stirred my black lychee tea like it needed to be stirred. Somehow our levels of believing seemed like small echoes lost in a vast canyon.