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I’ll talk to anyone. I have a big mouth, and I want to hear everyone’s story. Sometimes people tell me things they wouldn’t normally tell other people. Unless they’re just saying that, and really I’m the ten thousandth person to hear their story. But since I hear that line so often, some variation of: I haven’t told this to anyone before, but—I start to believe it, and I wonder if maybe I have a bartender’s 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 wasn’t exactly an excellent dresser. He didn’t 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 didn’t remind me of my brothers. Maybe he thought he looked like his picture, and he didn’t know he looked like Dustin Nguyen’s 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. He’d get my job, my office, my apartment, my phone numbers. He’d 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 he’s gay. Having read in his cv that he’d also spent time living in Spain, I imagine his lover there, some completely handsome Spanish guy sitting in a tasteful leather chair, awaiting his lover’s 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 isn’t 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 he’s 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 son’s room, who’s 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 he’d 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 won’t 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 I’m 7-1/2 minutes late. He’s 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. He’s 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, I’ve got to get going.” Later he emails me: dinner?
The next? I think it was a guy who sent his picture. ABC and also didn’t remind me of my brother. He looked cute enough, seemed intelligent enough. I agree to meet him at Berkeley Espresso—I think that’s 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. He’s got an eye googie in his right eye. Should I tell him? Well gee. This is the first time he’s ever done this. He thought, what the heck, anything’s possible. He lives with a roommate, and they’re 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 doesn’t look like it. I’ve 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 can’t meet his standards. He must be looking for an Asian babe clone. He’s got a nice face and everything, if excessively buff. No neck. He looks better than his photograph. Turns out he’s got the same last name as me, the same Chinese character. That’s a rarity here. He excuses himself to go to the washroom. He’s Canadian. Where everyone’s a Canadian, he claims. Well, somehow I pass. We trade STD history, and he tells me “No strings.” It’s 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. He’s 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 he’s out of bed at 8:30, even though it’s 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 I’m going to set things up to fulfill his sexual fantasies. 2 shaved women. Steroids make your testicles shrink—did you know that? A lovely woman—who should’ve been in Fallen Angels, instead of that kind of weird looking apparently hapa woman—later comes to my house for a party and wants to crank call him, but I’m too drunk to do it properly, so it doesn’t happen. No emotions, he’d said. I’d 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 I’m horny, but he doesn’t reply, and I don’t see him again.
Who came next? Ah, the 27 year old virgin. He doesn’t tell me this until we meet. Chinese—Toisan. He sends me a picture: nipple rings, copious Christian inspired tattoos: Jesus in thorns. Yes, I know people with that many tattoos, but what’s up with the tattooed tears? He can’t be an ex-con, nothing fits with that. It’s all computer generated. It’s all fake. He’s drying out his pager on the café table when I meet him. He’s disassembled it, after having taken a picture of it floating in the toilet. We have tea, talk. He’s 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. He’s cute. He’s still a virgin. The link isn’t active anymore.
• • •
Mr. Wonderful comes for another visit. This time he’s by himself. Finally, after delayed and different flights, I find him at the airport and give him a hug. Oh, he’s made out of wood,1 and slowly I have to come to an understanding of what it means to not be someone’s “type.” I can’t. The night before he’s 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 wouldn’t 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 doesn’t say yes, he doesn’t say no. I’m 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 he’s had. He was trying to figure out how to spend his time here. He knew he wanted to spend time with his sister, who’s going through a divorce, and he wanted to spend time with me. That’s supposed to make things more clear. To him, I’m as important as his sister. Why be there to witness someone melting over you, when you feel nothing, or repulsion? I can’t imagine being in his spot, because when someone wants me and the feeling isn’t mutual, I feel a deep disgust, usually, because that person I can’t 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 does that.
• • •
Somewhere in a drawer I have a list. Business cards were collected, but no dates written on calendars. Who were these people? I can’t find the list. I’d have to look at saved email. Now the phone keeps ringing and whoever it is won’t leave a message. Shit. It’s the latest Mr. Internet Date gone stupid. His head was so large, it was the kind of head you’d look at and think, how could anyone’s 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 I’d 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 that’s jumping ahead. Somewhere along the line came the lecturer. Taiwanese, I think. We see a movie together—Yi Yi. I feel relieved that I can understand the little boy’s essay without the subtitles when he reads it at his grandmother’s funeral. Later, I get lectured that I’ve 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 isn’t navy but a sky blue, an unpleasant shade. He is unpleasant. He answers my later postings. I’ve stopped telling him it’s me—I just don’t 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 don’t 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, that’s the plan, remember?) who’s 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 must’ve 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.” He’s beginning to sound like Margaret Mead. Much later, to another posting, he sends me the same formulaic response: how he’s 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, I’m waiting for him in a mall café. I’m surprised to see how many Asian guys look like Tintin. He’s 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. It’s a shrine to his daughter, who’s been taken out of the country by his ex-wife. The house is packed with his daughter’s absence. A stroller in the garage, baby care books on the shelves, a high chair in the dining room, baby shampoo in the bathtub. He’s able to confess his sadness to me because we have no mutual friends. We’re strangers. I’m kind of interesting to him because I’m just like his daughter—a Chinese father, Japanese mother hafu thing. We get together again, at my house. He says: this is a weird kind of friendship we have. It’s 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 that’s 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. It’s like why I would never have Amy Tan’s haircut. China doll? I don’t 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, who’s mildly retarded. He sees himself as a hero of the Joseph Campbell sort. He’s endearing. He’s really trying. He ends up coming all over my blanket. It holds that distinctive smell. I’ll have to take it to the laundromat. I would’ve happily prevented that. The 2nd time is no better. A rubber is too much for him.
Then there’s 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. He’s relocating here. He was married once—white wife. His engagement present to his ex-wife was a horse, named after some horse in a children’s book. Black Beauty. They lived on a farm. His mother was half-white, half Malaysian Chinese, dad was Chinese, maybe Malaysian. His mother’s gone now, dead of cancer. She told him she loved him. He’s read the Dalai Lama. Oooh, he thinks I’m 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, “you’re kind of a hottie . . . sexually.” I love how that added-on bit has to be there. When we’re in the shower, the color of his dick surprises me, in a nice way. It’s 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. Someone’s hacked into his email accounts. His wife’s 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 would’ve done this. I can’t 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. I’m talking to a guy who’s playing sax on Market Street. He’s 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. He’s Filipino/Vietnamese and must’ve gotten all of the best features from both of his parents. Unlike Rob Schneider. My dad would say he’s really just Chinese, anyway. I don’t 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 I’m a nice “lady,” but. I’ve 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 can’t 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 don’t 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 don’t say no. Then he calls & calls until he reads the email where I say, “sorry I guess you’re not my type.”
Being around Mr. Wonderful is like finding a beautiful new cake shop full of luscious and lovely cakes.2 I’m trying to decide what I want to try. I open my wallet, and it’s 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 can’t sleep with your friends?
In a distinctive typeface, Mr. Spock immediately gives me his phone number. This SAM likes to cuddle. I think that’s a bit premature. I can really like fucking someone I don’t know, but the thought of “cuddling” with someone I don’t know turns my stomach. Nonetheless, I eventually call him. Monosyllabic responses. I joke about the virgin I met, and ask him if he’s one. He says, “Oh, I left something in the oven, I’ve got to get it out.”
• • •
One of Cinderella’s slippers is Le Video.3 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?
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 must’ve 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 with—a piece of soggy garbage that shows how undeveloped he is . . . and in a way I’m 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.
There’s no one who looks like me. I keep checking, I keep looking, but my face is my own. Trying on sunglasses, I’m surprised by how butch my face is. It’s 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 couldn’t 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. Wonderful’s 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 date–land, 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.
• • •
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 I’ve ever had. How could someone capable of giving me that lose interest so quickly?
Song lyrics surface like the aftertaste of something I ate decades ago, like all the partially digested steak stuck in John Wayne’s lower intestine.
“You’re breaking my heart, you tore it apart, so fuck you.”4
“Do you do you want my love?”5
“Love, I don’t know about love.”6
Well, at least I got to fuck him to Street Hassle and Coney Island Baby. That was nice.
He was the only person I’ve ever been with who said my name during sex.
(Bich’s 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: don’t fall in love with someone’s 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 I’m encased in this thick gelatinous gloppy stuff & I can’t get out. Ok, so he just lost interest, I was too much or too little for him. He’d rather do without. But, god, why deny yourself pleasure? What’s the point?! Because of the emptiness that comes from fucking someone you don’t care about? But who cares? But isn’t excellent sex about making a deep connection? Yes, but. It’s 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. It’s all so much easier. Then I dream I’m in bed with my brother. Not either of my actual brothers (ew), but my brother in my dream. In my dream I’m thinking: what does it matter if I’m sexual with my brother? I’m sexual with everybody and it’s ok.
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), 104–5.
4 Harry Nilsson, “You’re 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 Young—he publicly supported the USA Patriot Act.
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