Homework

About a year ago, I hustled a trip back to SoCal, booked the flight ticket a week before leaving, texted to the one I was going there for right after the confirmation letter arrived in my inbox. My flight there was partially Paul Kalanithi partially an endless waiting. The suitcase was packed two days before I leave. No need for a huge prep for a week’s trip, no matter how far is it.

I’ve found out, only recently, how embarrassing it is where modern technology leads us to, you know, like the sausage in between two bread buns one stands for the past, another for the future. We are so in between that an eleven hours across continent flight plus a four hours overlap plus a one hour in state flight seems like a distance neither too long for you to feel those critical tiny feelings which forms the tipping point of our future, nor too short for you to be straight minded casting away your kindness and patience and sympathy towards something you had already denied.

So I’ve been putting up so many photos, pieces and fragments, onto that album titled “the assignment album” with all letters lower cased. Then you see also, how moments rolling into days, days into years, years into decades, (?) decades into life. (will they?)

My new scheduled departure date is again approaching, but I haven’t told you that I had been stop hopping and hoping. That around trip we talked about to Alpha Centuri, it probably wouldn’t close the gap, but it once burnt my flesh and now still flicking in the back of my hand.

I’ve got tons of homework for myself, about the museums, about coffee shops, about apartment homes, about many of the upcoming cheering reunion, about my ocean, about the wind…but here it comes, again I cannot devote to the homework. Maybe I won’t be packing until the day before setting off. And there is only one thing haunting throughly, piercing the peaceful nights, creating dreams of my childhood best friend and secret assassin plans and monsters about to devour half of this world, it goes like will you come back will you come back will you come back will you come back will you come back will you come back for home or just for me will you…not even a question.

I see you like trimming stuff, for those physical trims, you never failed. But I had laughed at your failure on trimming the intangible. Lines of lines of encrypted codes, converging into a small potato chip, in Super Bowl, others’ holiday makes no difference in our lives. But your lines, they do converge onto the chip, and it failed you. You made a joke on that, instead of laughing, I laughed at the failure. Such an Ahole I was when we first met.

I bought many gifts, boxes of chocolate, nights open for going out with anyone available in sight, night dresses, lip gloss, instruments paints brushes not for art but for killing time, never enough for all things in my plan by then, so abundant and skinny when I’m left all alone.

You don’t know the room, do you? The one he held her entering into, the shadows casted on the wall, an empty room full of light that makes time sacred. That’s when a moment becomes forever. It happened before. I sing that song a lot in the summer, now don’t you understand that I’m never changing who I am. I thought it’s easy to stop at the moment and never look back, but I was so wrong that I bear all those wronged ideas you may have about me. The faked world of the adults you opened up for me, surprisingly and sadly, doesn’t looks like what Neil described. Even it is a lie, I still go a long way behind for its complexity, for holding up the fervent expectation to find something relevant or could be consider as your creator. Now don’t get me wrong again, this is just “spiritual”, I’m not even as half religious as you are. But faith is contagious.

Back to my homework, it never get to the top of my list just because I know the answer to the chapter quiz is coming and I don’t want to overthink it.

Do you think it’ll be misty while I’m around?

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[The Legend of S] Old Town Market

Things are piling up, so many colors and shapes, all in a primitive manner which rouses endless sentimentality from an alien culture.
We went through Calhoun St, entered Temecula Olive Oil Company.
“I was here two days ago, and there was a woman singing on the open stage.” There are less and less words in between; it mattered a lot to me at that time, though not any more.
S smiled at me, then add a comment on the garlic flavored olive oil. “This is really nice! Do you just add in the flavor?”
“No. We do cold press of the olive with garlic, all residuals are filtered out,” she said proudly, “if you ever see any olive oil with garlic powders at the bottom, they likely add the flavor afterwards.”
Did S try the olive oil? Yes he did. He likes to try new things, to know new people, to have new life; but all prevent him doing so is that he’s lazy. He’s afraid of changes, so we always go to the same coffee shop; so we always hang out at the same shrine of our memories.
Washington Square had fallen into a peaceful sleep. There were only two or three tourists sauntering and chatting in low voices.
“Tell me, how do you feel when Bree got married?” I asked him casually when we walk past Cosmopolitan. He didn’t answer, instead sliding into the half opened door. I followed him, feeling like a student afraid of being caught in the middle of cheating in her final.
We entered a palace. The dining hall was lighted up by the huge crystal pendant light, and vintage wooden chairs all has soft colored makeovers neatly circling around the small round dining tables. If Blue Bayou ever has land setting, it supposed to looks like the Cosmopolitan.
We kept walking on Calhoun and made a turn in front of San Diego Art. The art booth already closed but the market place was still playing out some Mexican music.
“Every time I listened to this kind of music, I want to dance.” I remembered my Salsa classes back at school, our teacher is a Cuban lady, she has red hair like burning flame, she told us she dyed it that way to show her passion about life, and dancing. It was the first time I listened Tu Amor Fue Diferente of David Kada. I never stepped on my partners but never stop giving my teacher a headache. The song we heard outside of the art market was something unfamiliar.
S stepped forward then backward with awkward salsa steps. I couldn’t help smiling then joined him.
“I’m so bad at dancing.” he admitted.
“Haha me too.” I laughed out, “this is a lot of fun though.”
I was thinking impish kids are not always caught in the middle of their mischief. Maybe S and Bree were merely unlucky when someone from the other dorm yelling and daring them for a duel when he saw the salami Frisbee hit his window and slid down with an oily trace.
*
Several months later, I found a playlist called Salsa Nation. I use that list to practice my salsa dance in the small wooden floor studio. Tu Amor Fue Diferente is in the list too, and whenever this song is on, I find myself standing on Calhoun St, stepping on the dirt road in Old Town’s night fall. Then I’d do a spin to start, and then another to finish.

[The Legend of S] Werewolf

That was the first Meetup event I chose to attend. Around twenty people gathered at a Friday night, regardless of the chilly SoCal breeze in late autumn, in front of the Panera at the District. Tustin is close by everywhere, and there are more office places around. I guess this is why Dev picked the District at the first place.
We were sitting by the table, near the open air fire place, playing Teletranslation. The man sat next to me just moved from Boston.

“Why here?” I asked him.
“Cuz I had a very unpleasant memory back there, and I cannot bear living in Boston any more.” he mumbled.
“A break-up?” I guessed.
“Sort of. A separation.” he looked absentminded.

*

When Fone and Joshua came to Beijing for a business trip, we were strolling down Chang’an St. The two boys wrapped in their leather jackets joked that no one would even think about messing with me since they are around.
“Where the hell do your partners get a clue of you guys working on private equity?” I tried reaching my hands to the deepest corner of my coat pockets for it’s still winter in February in Beijing.
“Well, we wear suits when we don’t wear jackets.” he winked, “and we build emotional connections instead of throwing out business to our clients. So what’s your favorite city?”
“Chicago.”
“Oh, I was born in Chicago but my parents moved when I was 4, so I only have a blur impression of the fierce winter. So, who’s at Chicago?”
“What?” I must looked shocked, “well, I could see why people would rather have Men in Black to do business with. So why?”
“Because I ask this question all the time, most of the time there is an explanation following with the answer. In rare cases, there is none. It only happens when the reason is someone rather than somewhere.” he raised the left corner of his mouth with a proud and triumphant smile. I suddenly remembered that board game night in Tustin. I used to do my rental car renewal at the Enterprise on Auto Center Dr., but never a fan of hanging around that region.

*

Dev’s girlfriend was majored in psychology, she told me she is working on a novel, and it’s about a mysterious man unexpectedly appears at the heroin’s front door, covered with blood and delivered a shocking information-he is her brother.
“So how’s the writing going?” I tried my best to draw a fire plug meanwhile.
“It is going well, slowly though.” she smiled.
“Then where are you now?” I didn’t mean to be pushy but the question just came out of curiosity.
“Well, I’m still on Chapter 1. You know when you write, and after a while you read it thoroughly and all you want is to redo everything?”
We got to switch our drawing board before I could come up with an answer.

*

I learnt about S in a memo he wrote on himself. He said that he plays board games with his family and friends on weekends. It started to get warmer in Chicago at that time. I had never thought about getting my driver’s license nor did I wonder how much street parking used to cost in downtown back in the 90’s.
His words remind me of my childhood, very very long time ago, I used to play board game with my parents and friends too. We used to spend the whole afternoon playing all kinds of chess and Monopoly. Then finally my companion would stand up and say she had to cook or he has to go back for dinner, and we’d say “see you next week” as the most natural thing in this world. There used to be next weeks, many of them. However not until we’ve apart, did I start to learn that S is a Master of board game, literally. He got a Bachelor’s degree in computer science with his capstone project on board game designing.

When he was in college, the least thing he care about is his classes. S and his best friend Bree used to skip a whole day class playing Counter-Strike in their dorm. They somehow held a firm but blind believe that their professor would never find out their absence in a 50 sophomore’s lecture class. But of course he found out, becaus Bree, too different from S, always acts quite actively in their class. So every time he’s not there, the classroom was captured by an embarrassing silence. People expect him to answer the question or at least throw out a joke, later on even the professor kind of anticipates the same. However, on days when him and S sitting in their dorm violently shooting at each other, no one take the savior role in their classroom.
S used to complain about this.
“Would you mind to be quieter next semester on our core course? Or I will likely get another B just for not physically being in the classroom.”
“Sounds like you are spiritually there.” Bree mocked.
“Well, I am. How do you prove I’m not spiritually there?”
“You should shut up right here.” Bree stopped typing on his MSN, turning towards his best friend.
“Want to do something crazy?” S lays in his bed, stretching and let out a big yawn.
“Want to go and get a girl?” Bree turned back to his best friend, “seriously! Anyone!”
“I think we still got the overdue salami in our fridge. It’s been… how long?” S idled to the fridge.
“A month? Maybe two?” Bree sounds desperate.
“So, what we are going to do with this?” S inspired.
“When was the last time we played frisbee?”
“This is why I love you.” S smiled. The best thing about their friendship is that there is always a tacit understanding between them. S tends to be lazy on explaining himself, so anything save him from using more words on articulating naturally fell into the “nice” category for him. This mischievous action plan was the beginning of his way becoming the legend.

[The Legend of S]-Dusk Dawn

It’s called “Dusk Dawn Club”, hidden in the deepest corner of Shanlao Hutong. I knew this because that’s where the car accident happened.
The second weekend after my trip from SD, I booked a jazz bar concert organized by InterNation. That was about to be my first music event with them, if the accident never happened.
Of course I drove in a Hutong before, once. Last time, I scratched the right side of the car, a minor paint peeling. But this time, things run wild and completely get out of control.
After missing the parking lot outside of South Scissors Hutong, the GPS redirects me into the deep and narrow labyrinth.

“You are gonna get us killed.” S joked.
“Did you just take both of your hands off the steering wheel?” S asked with his right eyebrow rising.
“You need to speed up.” S commented in the middle of me mumbling.

Fragments shattered through the passenger’s seat. By that time I still didn’t know in Finnish, they call it pelkääjän paikka – “the fearer’s seat”, and in Czech sedadlo smrti-“seat of the death”; by that time, he was sitting there and said those things.

When the cracking sound caught my attention, I didn’t make a stop or even slow down. I pulled the car over at the slightly opened fork, shockingly to find out it gets two flat tires and a flipping back bumper on the right side.

I texted to David “I cannot make it to the concert tonight. Just had an accident.”
“As long as no one gets hurt, you’ll have another chance for the concert.” he typed back kindly.

“What the hell are you doing here, lady?” some middle aged local guys emerged from the small restaurant along the ally.
“I…”
“It is already getting dark and how could your parents let you go out like this alone?” a second question followed without leaving any space for an answer, “So why are you here?”
“I come for a concert.” I explained.
“What kind of concert would be held in a small hutong like this?” they asked.
“A small jazz concert.”
“Oh, I see, there is a small bar around the corner, in Shanlao Hutong.” one man said to another.
“So you got a flat tire?” the first one asked.
“She’s got two.” the second answered.
“Don’t worry, we’ll help you.” they gave me a number of local police office, and I called the roadside assistant and the insurance company.
“It happened a lot. Cars scratch the walls, bikes, another car, all the time.” they tried to comfort me, but I know that this is an accident.

Chapter 

One thing I learnt when I was still out there. never speak for any one because there are too many facets of life that you cannot see.I hope that I may go back to Route 66 again, for the last time I was driving across there was that so clear destination. I’m about to go back and don’t remember many details on my way.

Before MI, everywhere is horrific and sort of plain. I’m scared but proud of myself keep going my way.

You know when I cross the boundary of AZ and NM, I pulled the car on the side of the interstate and got out. It was the only car on the road. I walked back to the sign, saying NM with a jalapeño on it. Along the road, there is only endless land covering with dry grass. 

It was so windy and chilly that I had to run to the sign, taking pictures as quickly as possible and jumping back inside. 

The sunset casts shadow and a bloody hue on those red rocks. Those rich layers of the rock defeat the relative simple sky. The topography still reminds me of AZ, of the imagined West America in cow boy stories. 

There is too few people so that you won’t feel safe if you are used to any city. 

A story could happen exactly there. I knew that when I was driving by Zuni’s territory. It would be a horror story, one that you may read and tell me that there is nothing unreasonable in it but because of this it is so freakin scary. 

If you were there being with me, you’d understand what I’m talking about. But you weren’t there, you were sitting in the most comfortable couch in the world at your newly rented apartment, with the laptop on your laps and a cup of instant coffee in one hand, and the other hand jumping on the keyboard.

I guess when this picture emerges, it becomes the reason of me not being able to say bye. 
One thing I learnt when I was still out there–not close to you not close to home–never speak for any one because there are too many facets of life that you cannot see.