talk to anyone. I have a big mouth, and I want to hear everyones
story. Sometimes people tell me things they wouldnt normally
tell other people. Unless theyre just saying that, and really
Im the ten thousandth person to hear their story. But since
I hear that line so often, some variation of: I havent told
this to anyone before, butI start to believe it, and I wonder
if maybe I have a bartenders face, or a special talent for
drawing out untold stories, or maybe my desire to give absolution
is spinning like a flashing light on top of my head. But this
is my own story. It was about getting even. I decided that I already
had enough white guys to last me a lifetime. I was going to give
back to my community.
Settling the score all started
with Mr. Wonderful. A clichéd nickname made it easier to
talk about him, and it made me feel like less of a loser. He wasnt
exactly an excellent dresser. He didnt look anything like
his photograph. He looked a lot better, even dressed as he was,
without a discernible style, without much thought except for the
weather. He didnt remind me of my brothers. Maybe he thought
he looked like his picture, and he didnt know he looked
like Dustin Nguyens brother or something. He explained in
his job application that he was living in Japan, and had spent
the early part of the summer in Vietnam doing some kind of research.
A back to the mother and fatherland kind of thing. My colleague
spotted him right away, heading through the turnstiles at the
train station. I was feeling bad about cutting my contract in
half so I could take a job back in California. Hed get my
job, my office, my apartment, my phone numbers. Hed become
a version of me, and then I could imagine I was still there, in
Kansai, and not here, back where I started, in the East Bay. I
could just figure the time difference and see myself there, as
him, walking to class, or laying out the bedding, or pushing open
the noisy wooden door of the bathroom.
Maybe hes gay.
Having read in his cv that hed also spent time living in
Spain, I imagine his lover there, some completely handsome Spanish
guy sitting in a tasteful leather chair, awaiting his lovers
return. Drinking red wine, smiling & talking with their friends,
and watching the door, waiting for his lover to come walking in.
After being in Japan
for a year with no real fluent adult conversation, it was unimaginably
satisfying to hang out with someone who liked to talk and get
to the meaty intimate stuff, like experiences on ecstasy, family
history and the future, right away. Plus, to have a truly nice
face & body to go with it made the whole package pretty irresistible.
What do you do when you meet someone like that? You try to snag
him, especially when you find out he isnt gay after all.
And then what do you do when you find yourselves sitting out on
your fire escape, chainsmoking like a fiend, hearing about how
hes recently embraced celibacy? You keep trying to snag
him. Never mind that you and your son live in a two roku-jo apartment,
the 2 rooms separated by a sliding paper door. The snagging is
unsuccessful. And what do you do when he shows up a few months
later at your door in Berkeley, with his friend, some guy from
Kyoto, in tow, and as he stands there, awkward, like a vampire
from Sunnydale, waiting to be invited in while you barely remain
standing, just melting? You set them up in your sons room,
whos handily off for the weekend with his father, and wonder,
is this guy gay after all?
* * *
I answered an ad from some Asian
guy looking for something. After some insipid emails where he
told me about relationships he had 20 years ago, I decided to
meet him, god knows why. Maybe I thought hed really be someone
else, someone other than his email representation of himself.
We agree to meet at a big chain bookstore that has a café.
I hardly ever go there, and I figure I wont run into anyone
I know there. There he is, waiting in the business section, cell
phone on the shelf in front of him, waiting to find out why Im
7-1/2 minutes late. Hes tall, dressed boring, with eyes
that are too close together or maybe too far apart. Oh god, he
looks like Frank Chin. I introduce myself, shake his hand, & despite
my urge to run for the exit, I go to the counter and start picking
out some cookies for my son, thinking about what I want. He says,
You can buy me coffee. Oh god. Yes, I can buy
you coffee, I say, thinking god, what a fuckin loser.
Hes a management consultant for some pharmaceutical something.
Says the next big breakthrough will be a combination of genetic
engineering and drug something. How nice. His father helped develop
the fastrak system. I pretend to know what that is, having not
yet driven across the bridge since returning from Japan. Finally,
I look at my watch and say, Oh, Ive got to get going.
Later he emails me: dinner?
The next? I think it was a guy
who sent his picture. ABC and also didnt remind me of my
brother. He looked cute enough, seemed intelligent enough. I agree
to meet him at Berkeley EspressoI think thats the
name of it. There he is in an ill-fitting brown leather bomber
jacket, reading Kurt Vonnegut. Hey, I read that when I was
13, I say, always the tactful icebreaker. He looks different
than his photograph. Maybe his body is proportioned in an unusual
way, rather than the jacket being ill-fitting. Long-waisted, among
other things. Hes got an eye googie in his right eye. Should
I tell him? Well gee. This is the first time hes ever done
this. He thought, what the heck, anythings possible. He
lives with a roommate, and theyre moving to another place
in North Beach where the rent will be almost twice what I pay
& can barely afford. He makes more money than me, though he doesnt
look like it. Ive gotta run.
There he is, Mr. Steroid Addict.
With that squared shoulder tough guy gait, like Angel walking
out on Buffy after she gives it up for him and accidentally turns
him back into a real vampire. He sizes me up. I think, oh shit,
I cant meet his standards. He must be looking for
an Asian babe clone. Hes got a nice face and everything,
if excessively buff. No neck. He looks better than his photograph.
Turns out hes got the same last name as me, the same Chinese
character. Thats a rarity here. He excuses himself to go
to the washroom. Hes Canadian. Where everyones a Canadian,
he claims. Well, somehow I pass. We trade STD history, and he
tells me No strings. Its weird how people talk
in clichés without any irony. I go off to my queer J.A. potluck
& then I arrange to meet him on the BART platform. Hes gone
from very nice leather jacket and going out dress ups to a little
boy look. Jeans, vans, even a baseball hat. Your basic het sex
action, not exactly triple x, closer to barely satisfying than
anything memorable. In the morning hes out of bed at 8:30,
even though its Sunday. Jesus. I make myself polite enough
to give him a ride to the BART station, he kisses me on the cheek
goodbye and later emails me with the idea that Im going
to set things up to fulfill his sexual fantasies. 2 shaved women.
Steroids make your testicles shrinkdid you know that? A
lovely womanwho shouldve been in Fallen Angels,
instead of that kind of weird looking apparently hapa womanlater
comes to my house for a party and wants to crank call him, but
Im too drunk to do it properly, so it doesnt happen.
No emotions, hed said. Id said, three people together
and emotional involvement can get sticky, no emotions and it could
get boring. There is no shared vision. He emails me later: you
horny? Of course Im horny, but he doesnt reply, and
I dont see him again.
Who came next? Ah, the 27 year
old virgin. He doesnt tell me this until we meet. ChineseToisan.
He sends me a picture: nipple rings, copious Christian inspired
tattoos: Jesus in thorns. Yes, I know people with that many tattoos,
but whats up with the tattooed tears? He cant be an
ex-con, nothing fits with that. Its all computer generated.
Its all fake. Hes drying out his pager on the café
table when I meet him. Hes disassembled it, after having
taken a picture of it floating in the toilet. We have tea, talk.
Hes living with his parents, it seems. He spent a year unable
to function, just watching TV, waiting to feel ok. He takes our
picture, holding the camera above us. Later he sends me the link
to it. I look dorky. Hes cute. Hes still a virgin.
The link isnt active anymore.
* * *
Mr. Wonderful comes
for another visit. This time hes by himself. Finally, after
delayed and different flights, I find him at the airport and give
him a hug. Oh, hes made out of wood,1
and slowly I have to come to an understanding of what it means
to not be someones type. I cant. The night
before hes to leave, I ask him into my bed; he refuses.
Somewhat gently. Without making anything easier to understand.
Even just to sleep? He says we wouldnt just
sleep. I stoop to anything. I ask him if I was the last person
on earth, would he still not sleep with me? He doesnt say
yes, he doesnt say no. Im going to be a guinea pig
in a kind of experiment, he tells me. Why would you make the time
to go visit someone who was incompatible? Why bother?
He tells me a dream hes had. He was trying to figure out
how to spend his time here. He knew he wanted to spend time with
his sister, whos going through a divorce, and he wanted
to spend time with me. Thats supposed to make things more
clear. To him, Im as important as his sister. Why be there
to witness someone melting over you, when you feel nothing, or
repulsion? I cant imagine being in his spot, because when
someone wants me and the feeling isnt mutual, I feel a deep
disgust, usually, because that person I cant find attractive,
and it disgusts me to be wanted by them. I used to just shut off
that disgust, and just go ahead and put out. Like my body was
a charitable fund, giving to the needy. But I guess not everyone
* * *
Somewhere in a drawer
I have a list. Business cards were collected, but no dates written
on calendars. Who were these people? I cant find the list.
Id have to look at saved email. Now the phone keeps ringing
and whoever it is wont leave a message. Shit. Its
the latest Mr. Internet Date gone stupid. His head was so large,
it was the kind of head youd look at and think, how could
anyones head be so big? I felt compelled to find out exactly
what was inside it, and now I hear his voice being cut off by
the answering machine. Ugh. Not exactly warm, fuzzy feelings.
Instead, almost as if Id think of his body and want to retch.
And yet he was a nice person. Or so I thought, until
the phone kept ringing, no message left, ringing again, until
I lift the receiver and drop it back down.
But thats jumping ahead.
Somewhere along the line came the lecturer. Taiwanese, I think.
We see a movie togetherYi Yi. I feel relieved that
I can understand the little boys essay without the subtitles
when he reads it at his grandmothers funeral. Later, I get
lectured that Ive violated the codes of internet dating.
Someone at a table nearby overhears, and smirks. He said he would
be wearing a navy blue shirt. It isnt navy but a sky blue,
an unpleasant shade. He is unpleasant. He answers my later postings.
Ive stopped telling him its meI just dont
reply. His wealth of knowledge comes from a year of inertia. Like
the fake tattoos guy, he had to stay at home, stuck inside, unable
to function except to take care of simple bodily functions, ones
that dont require another person. From that he learned what?
To lecture other people?
Sometime later, at
the same café, I meet a guy (Asian of course, they all were,
thats the plan, remember?) whos never dated Asian
women. He grew up in the suburbs somewhere in Southern California.
He looks a little bit like David Mura, but not as shiny. The farmers
mustve been the ones who emigrated with their wide faces.
So mean and classist I am, just like my grandmother, who insisted
on becoming Christian in the US, because here, Buddhism was low
class and country. The traveling that makes this one special was
all done ten years ago. He wants to travel again so he can learn
about other cultures. Hes beginning to sound
like Margaret Mead. Much later, to another posting, he sends me
the same formulaic response: how hes traveled to many different
countries (even though this happened a decade ago), & how people
think he looks Hawaiian.
Then Tintin. After lovely late
night emails, Im waiting for him in a mall café. Im
surprised to see how many Asian guys look like Tintin. Hes
sent long, sweet, late night email, told me about seeing the aurora
borealis, about giving his clothes to some kids he met in Thailand,
about love lasting past death. We end up at his house. Its
a shrine to his daughter, whos been taken out of the country
by his ex-wife. The house is packed with his daughters absence.
A stroller in the garage, baby care books on the shelves, a high
chair in the dining room, baby shampoo in the bathtub. Hes
able to confess his sadness to me because we have no mutual friends.
Were strangers. Im kind of interesting to him because
Im just like his daughtera Chinese father, Japanese
mother hafu thing. We get together again, at my house. He says:
this is a weird kind of friendship we have. Its too weird
for him to have a friendship like this, among other things. That
night he sleeps as if trying to meld into the wall. As if fearful
of contamination. He leaves a $60 bottle of tequila thats
like an STD. He got it from some woman & passes it on to me. I
give him a couple of blow jobs and wonder about what I could catch
from swallowing cum.
The Oriental villain is young,
but he shaves his head to fight thinning hair. A goatee completes
the look. Fu Manchu. Its like why I would never have Amy
Tans haircut. China doll? I dont think so. Like most
of the rest, he grew up back east, after reuniting with his parents,
after being left behind in Korea with grandparents. He grows up
protecting his younger brother, whos mildly retarded. He
sees himself as a hero of the Joseph Campbell sort. Hes
endearing. Hes really trying. He ends up coming all over
my blanket. It holds that distinctive smell. Ill have to
take it to the laundromat. I wouldve happily prevented that.
The 2nd time is no better. A rubber is too much for him.
Then theres the
guy who does strange things to his hair: rather than shave it,
he uses some very stiff gel to make a kind of canopy over the
top of his head. I see it as he leans over to get into a corner
table. But the Australian accent makes up for the weird things
he does to his hair. And when I miss BART, we go to his apartment,
an overpriced hotel-like thing, paid for by his work. Hes
relocating here. He was married oncewhite wife. His engagement
present to his ex-wife was a horse, named after some horse in
a childrens book. Black Beauty. They lived on a farm. His
mother was half-white, half Malaysian Chinese, dad was Chinese,
maybe Malaysian. His mothers gone now, dead of cancer. She
told him she loved him. Hes read the Dalai Lama. Oooh, he
thinks Im strong. He knows I like women, since I posted
for queer-friendly, so he tries to act like one, until I tell
him to put on a rubber & fuck me. Which he does, well enough.
He says, youre kind of a hottie . . . sexually.
I love how that added-on bit has to be there. When were
in the shower, the color of his dick surprises me, in a nice way.
Its brown, the same shade as me.
The beautiful boy was as good as
chocolate. Lovely, tall, full head of hair, and suffering from
major trauma. Bad divorce, overbearing mother. Someones
hacked into his email accounts. His wifes brother. He was
having erotic email exchanges with another woman. His wife printed
them all out, and waited, sitting on the sofa crying until he
came home, to ask him, waving them in her hand: what are these?
They can speak Chinese together, even though both of them are
ABC. I give him a menthol cigarette. He inhales and spins around
on his heel, doing a little happy sugar dance. We make out in
the street. He says, a year ago I never wouldve done this.
I cant remember when I last did that. I want to take him
home with me, but the timing is bad. No childcare.
The future CPA pulls up to pick
me up. Im talking to a guy whos playing sax on Market
Street. Hes listing all of his favorite sax players. The
future CPA is one who runs with a pack: one of the expensive hair
products & black leather jacket Asian packs. Hes Filipino/Vietnamese
and mustve gotten all of the best features from both of
his parents. Unlike Rob Schneider. My dad would say hes
really just Chinese, anyway. I dont have the capital to
exchange for him. I know this as I get into his car. His therapist
is on vacation, so I get to hear all about his recent heartache.
The deception he experienced. His white wife (ex) hooking up with someone else in the pack. Her confessing to another someone else, who finally tells all. The story comes out over a few beers. I play therapist and throw in some of my own stories that go well with his. I do enjoy sucking up stories. He says he appreciates my remarks. And then, he tells me Im a nice lady, but. Ive missed BART, he drives me over the bridge. A lady. He shakes my hand goodbye.
When I say goodbye to the resident surgeon who moonlights and harvests organs from dead people, I press a button and make myself kiss him on the cheek. I figure he deserves that, even if I cant feel any attraction towards his body. His large head looms there like what, a big, unattractive head. His body is like a reflection in a funhouse mirror. Squat, squished. And yet, as long as I dont look at him, I enjoy talking with him. Is there any way that he might be a maybe? No. He asks for my phone number to write into his palm pilot. For some reason I dont say no. Then he calls & calls until he reads the email where I say, sorry I guess youre not my type.
Being around Mr. Wonderful is like finding a beautiful new cake shop full of luscious and lovely cakes.2 Im trying to decide what I want to try. I open my wallet, and its empty. Here are the rules: if we have sex, then there will be no friendship. If we are to have a friendship, there must be no sex. Huh? And I must not be his type. What kind of imagination is lacking when you cant sleep with your friends?
In a distinctive typeface, Mr. Spock immediately gives me his phone number. This SAM likes to cuddle. I think thats a bit premature. I can really like fucking someone I dont know, but the thought of cuddling with someone I dont know turns my stomach. Nonetheless, I eventually call him. Monosyllabic responses. I joke about the virgin I met, and ask him if hes one. He says, Oh, I left something in the oven, Ive got to get it out.
* * *
<11.800000>One of Cinderellas slippers is Le Video.<11.800000>311.800000><11.800000> All of the whoevers who live in SF go there. On any given night, they could all bump into each other there, renting the latest Wong Kar Wai or Beat Takeshi movie. They might ask each other movie questions, or do people not speak to strangers in video stores? 11.800000>11.800000>
I dreamed that Mr. Wonderful came to visit and left a wet adult disposable diaper in my bathroom wastepaper basket. Noticing it, I think, oh, he mustve decided it would be more convenient to wear one of those than to bother with going to the bathroom on the plane. How comfortable he must be with me to expose his infantile bladder issues. As if his telling me: platonic friendship or meaninglessness was like tossing a used adult diaper in my trash. Just another weird piece of garbage to deal witha piece of soggy garbage that shows how undeveloped he is . . . and in a way Im surprised that anyone would leave that kind of evidence around instead of wrapping it up or hiding it under something.
Bich says you can be single and lonely, or with someone and irritated. Those are your choices. Do I have to think about doing the ex just because I know he would still have me? But being a born-again Asian complicates things. I remember seeing him in the airport when he came to visit me. After being in Japan for six months, seeing his face was a surprise. It no longer looked like anything but a big nose. Compared to the beautiful faces around me, his face was not easy to look at. Among other things, his whiteness finally made him undesirable. Once I saw him that way it was so much easier to really end things. I just had to not fuck him. Not sleep with him. Not have sex with him. Whatever.
Theres no one who looks like me. I keep checking, I keep looking, but my face is my own. Trying on sunglasses, Im surprised by how butch my face is. Its a matter of eyebrows and something else. Maybe a leftover adolescent desire to be Jean Genet. Sometimes when I sit across the table from my son I find myself staring at his face, wondering how it got to look that way. His brown hair. His hazel eyes that everyone has to comment on. Nothing looks like me, I think. My stupid joke about how I look = Michelle Yeoh on a bad day superimposed over Yoko Ono a few years ago superimposed over Daffy Duck superimposed over Frida Kahlo.
I was putting on my new glasses in a dream. They were a really nice shade of purple, plastic, and completely round. The lenses were small, and when I put them on I couldnt really see. I thought: this just shows how important it is to have a wide field of vision. I need to have bigger glasses. I need to have depth of field.
When I reached underneath Mr. Wonderfuls shirt, still not touching skin but his t-shirt, when I drew him closer to me with my arm around his waist, he did soften for a minute, just a very brief minute. It was a very good minute.
In internet dateland, I forced myself to give Mr. Big Head a kiss because I know how I hang onto a thing like that. Remembering a small kiss on the cheek goodbye, remembering the beautiful boy who would kiss me on the street, remembering a hug given with an open heart.
* * *
<11.800000>One of the last ones claimed that his grandmother was Japanese, and his mother was hapa. He has enough white in him to do a bad genetic thing. Cystic fibrosis usually kills you before you reach your mid-30s. I had a little obsessive pseudo-love thing going on. Forget about that weird anti-fantasy I used to have about someone puking into my mouth, the scent of prescription digestive enzymes wafting up from his stomach triggered some spot in the back of my head, like when a cat smells something and drops its mouth wider to really smell it. I have the impression that it was the best sex Ive ever had. How could someone capable of giving me that lose interest so quickly? 11.800000>
Song lyrics surface like the aftertaste of something I ate decades ago, like all the partially digested steak stuck in John Waynes lower intestine.
Youre breaking my heart, you tore it apart, so fuck you.<11.800000>411.800000><11.800000> 11.800000>
Do you do you want my love?<11.800000>511.800000><11.800000> 11.800000>
Love, I dont know about love.<11.800000>611.800000><11.800000> 11.800000>
Well, at least I got to fuck him to Street Hassle and Coney Island Baby. That was nice.
He was the only person Ive ever been with who said my name during sex.
(Bichs response: I bet he learned that from watching porn.)
Mr. Excellent Fuckbuddy made me feel like my head was going to explode, just from licking the back of my neck.
Bich says: dont fall in love with someones potential
So take the best & think: that was a really nice fling, it was very satisfying for what it was. I met this guy & I liked him & I felt attended to for a short minute, & that has to be enough. But getting dumped just brings up all of those hideous feelings of abandonment, until I feel like Im encased in this thick gelatinous gloppy stuff & I cant get out. Ok, so he just lost interest, I was too much or too little for him. Hed rather do without. But, god, why deny yourself pleasure? Whats the point?! Because of the emptiness that comes from fucking someone you dont care about? But who cares? But isnt excellent sex about making a deep connection? Yes, but. Its also about being observant. Since Mr. Excellent had excellent powers of observation, he could be an excellent fuck. End of story.
Mr. Wonderful is now my successfully adopted brother. Its all so much easier. Then I dream Im in bed with my brother. Not either of my actual brothers (ew), but my brother in my dream. In my dream Im thinking: what does it matter if Im sexual with my brother? Im sexual with everybody and its ok. <
Vivian Chin lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has published essays on pop culture and on Asian American literature.
1 The Velvet Underground, Here She Comes Now, Velvet Underground, MGM 2343 033, 1969.
2 Lou Reed, Street Hassle, Street Hassle, Arista 18499-2, 1978.
3 See Maxine Hong Kingston, Tripmaster Monkey (Vintage, 1990), 1045.
4 Harry Nilsson, Youre Breaking My Heart, Son of Schmilsson, RCA LSP-4717, 1972.
5 Electric Light Orchestra, Do ya, A New World Record, United Artists 679, 1976.
6 Neil Young, Horseshoe Man, Silver and Gold, Reprise Records 47305-2, 2000. Please boycott Neil Younghe publicly supported the USA Patriot Act.
Originally published in the October/November 2003 issue of Boston Review