Sentimental Plates

Moving in together is weird.  Relationship semantics aside, just the physical act of combining two people’s things is a feat in and of itself.  I feel like George Carlin put it best:

Now the missus and I have been living together for almost five months now.  Her stuff and my stuff have happily melded together to become our stuff.  But because we took over her grandparents’ house, there’s also a lot of residual stuff left over from them too.   Some of it was useful: her grandfather had a massive collection of tools, most of them in great working condition.  Some of it was clearly old and meant to be disposed of: Like that 1970’s vacuum cleaner with the millions of broken attachments, or the lamp that was more rust than lamp.

But there was one thing that simply could not be touched– The plates.

Her grandmother had amassed quite the collection of plates of the years.  Serving platters from the nearby Chinese restaurant the family loved to frequent.  Dishes brought home all the way from Japan.  The little cat bowl grandma used to serve my girlfriend as a kid.  Each dish has its own unique history and story.

But I don’t know any of these stories.  All I know is I have a cabinet full of plates.  Some of them will blow up the microwave because they have gold flecks inlayed in the edges.  Some of them may contain lead.  None of them stack, because this mismatched menagerie of dishware is amassed from so many different sources.  So our cabinets are full of a Dr. Seuss-ian dystopian toppling towers of dishware.

Now I can’t get rid of any of the dishes.  But I can… disappear some of them.  I am taller than my girlfriend by about three inches and we have one particular shelf that is waaaay up there where where only cobwebs and a rogue cat hangs out.   And ever so slowly, week by week I hide a dish up there.

In a way, I’m preserving them.  Like the Monument’s Men saving priceless artwork from the clutches of evil Nazis, I am saving her grandparent’s dishes from the inevitability of gravity, chipped corners, and explosions… all of which I am prone.

So I’m a hero.  A hero of plates.  Until that day she cleans up there and finds them all again.  And I’m back to square one.  But boy can I dream.

A letter to my Sister

Hey Little Sis,

So Mum said you and Mr. Potatohead broke up.  So obviously if mom knows something I too know it within a matter of hours.  Just kidding, I called her to tell her that Asahi went to the beach and has been pooping out sand all day, and she casually mentioned it.  See mom, I told you I’d be discrete.  *Ahem.*  I feel like I need to bequeath some brotherly wisdom to you.  So here goes:

We are baggage.
And I don’t mean that in some emo metaphor about how we carry around our past with us.  Literally, we are baggage.  We’re made out of hard unyielding suitcases and soft squishable duffel bags.  Being together with someone is making all that baggage fit into one finite shared space.  Some things are soft like duffel bags, able to stretch and squish and fit into the cracks.  Kayla wanted a cat.  We got a cat.  Kayla likes listening to Kpop whenever we drive.  We listen to Kpop when we drive.  These are not choices I would’ve made for myself, but choices I can live with and have grown to enjoy.

But there are hard inflexible surfaces as well; shells and frames and ribs that cannot be compromised, things that shouldn’t be bent or folded because it weakens and cracks the integrity of who we are.   Family, Career, my love of dogs and my long luxurious hair…  these all need to fit together too.  Love is compromise.  But at the same time it isn’t.  It’s not changing or throwing things away, it’s fitting your luggage where nothing breaks on the journey together.

I feel like you’ve been squeezed into an uncomfortable shape of who you thought you wanted to be.  And maybe you’ve been in that position, with a craned neck and tucked knees for so long that maybe you’ve forgotten your natural shape.   Have you ever seen the video of the happy cows?  Where they were kept in the barn all winter and then they get to see grass for the first time in months and they’re stretching and dancing and jumping.  That’s you.  Minus the impending sense of doom of being led off to the slaughterhouse of course.  Stretch out and figure out where all your luggage sits without someone else’s shit in the way.  Honestly, it’s a really good feeling.

You deserve the best.  Now I don’t mean Joseph Gordon Levitt best.  Because I’m pretty sure that guy is married.  Or gay.  Or both.  But the best of someone else, where their best is enough.  Y’know?  If you keep drinking from the same cup and you’re still thirsty… it’s not the cups fault.  You can’t be mad at the cup for being shallow and unsatisfying.  You just need to find a bigger cup.   I’m writing this as I’m sitting at the bar of my restaurant, and I’m drinking a beer.  Which is why I think the metaphor shifted from suitcases to liquids.  Which, side note, can you still only bring three ounces of liquid with you on board?  In which case, yes– you definitely need a big cup.

I love Kayla’s parents because they’re just like Mom n’ Dad.  Kayla’s mom sends us home with food almost every week.  She buys toys for Hibiki and Asahi just because she can.  Kayla’s dad did my taxes and is offering to buy us lawn equipment because he knows that’s my latest project– to fix up our lawn.  They’re not something to contend with or an obstacle to overcome– they’re two more supporting players in our growing relationship.  The only time I stress out about Kayla’s parents is because I don’t want to let them down or disappoint them (mom n’ dad are stuck with me so I can relax there).  But it makes such a difference having in-laws you can be yourself around.  And I want you to find that.  It feels so good not to have to put on emotional armor just to go to a family holiday party.  Because if you marry this person, you will see their people a lot.  Sure I drink less and am uber-polite but I’m still essentially me.  And for some reason, her family likes me.

Mr. Potatohead is a good guy.  And I feel like he’s done his best.  And that says something. When someone does their best you can either lower your standards or keep shopping for cups.  Otherwise you’ll squish like a duffel bag or crack like a suitcase. Or be thirsty.  I forget where I was going with this.

Anyhow, I love you.
Hit me up for anything and everything,

What’s Your Secret?

One of the best parts of working in the restaurant industry is the multitude of people I get to talk to over the course of my day.  These are people who I would never otherwise interact with, each with their own unique tapestry of life-experiences trailing behind them.  I’ve met captains of industry, CEO’s and movie stars.  I’ve met small business owners and people from just about every walk of life.   My absolute favorite by far, are the old couples coming in to the restaurant to celebrate their anniversaries.  I always have one question for them: what is the secret to a long marriage?  And I’ve gotten so many beautiful answers, I thought it might be worth writing down.

What is the secret to a long marriage?

“There is no secret.  Marriage is work.”  (wife gives him a cold stare) “…what I mean by that is, you’re constantly working to make the marriage better to find new ways to make the other person happy.  You’re gonna get comfortable in marriage, but you can’t get lazy.”

– – – –

“You have to be able to laugh at yourselves.  Life sends you some big heavy problems sometimes, and you just need to be able to have a sense of humor about things rather than get serious and angry at each other.”

– – – –

“Everyone says marriage is 50 / 50 —  It’s not.  Marriage is 60 / 40.  You always want to be the one giving that 60, because if both people are giving it more than half, working hard to make the other person happier and [the marriage] better then it’ll grow.”

– – – –

“We met when we were seventeen and we were married by nineteen.  I never thought I could love him as much as I did then, but love grows.  You find ways to love your partner, ways to keep that fire going.  And it’s not always *boom* *boom* like in the movies.  That’s the easy part.  It’s finding ways to love the other person in a deeper and more meaningful ways.”

“like football.”  the husband pipes in

“Like football?!”  (she is incredulous)

“She hates football.  But she’s been with me to a hundred football games because she knows I love it.  That’s love.”

“I don’t hate football.”

“Yeah but you don’t like it either.”  he winks.

Deaf Fight

You just don’t listen anymore…

…what?  

I witnessed perhaps the most beautiful and honest fight of my lifetime.  There I was, stuck in traffic with mere minutes to kill before the lazy light gave me the right to go again.  And to my right through my window I witnessed a battle unfolding.  At first I thought my music was too loud.  So I turned it down.  And then I lowered my window, every the curious voyeur, hoping to catch the stray shouting wisps of someone else’s misery unfolding on the sidewalk.  As my ears perked up waiting for the cacophony of conflict… realizing there was none to be heard.

I was all the more intrigued.

There she blazed, on the walkway of her second story apartment, ready to scorch the world below her with vehement fury.   And there at the bottom of her steps, one foot on the asphalt, one foot on the first tenuous-tremulous concrete step, unsure of how to progress from here, HE stood– the object of her fury.

Her hands moved swiftly and deftly, her fingertips cutting through the sparse space in front of her with such veracity the air seemed to sizzle and pop.  He stood his ground in spite of his heavy-burdened shoulders, his drooping spine, his head tilted to one side, as if to catch her flaming arcane runes all upon his pale and exposed cheek.  And his hands weaving the soft swoops of appeasement and apology.

Her hands exploded in more fury, at her throat and in fists, her eyebrows bent into an angry red chevron in the middle of her face as her dark pursed lips holding back the words her hands shouted.  And he, with his pleading palms upturned to the heavens hoping to catch her mercy but instead finding nothing but the endless torrential downpour of her rage.

It was at that moment… the light changed.  And I was on my way.

Gross Boy

I am gross.

I’ve been living on my own for almost three years, and my bad habits have become exclusively my own.  I leave my dirty dishes in the sink, sometimes for days on end.  I judge the cleanliness of my clothes by smell more than anything.  I change my sheets when I start to stick to them.  Sometimes I eat mint chocolate chip ice cream instead of brushing my teeth, because cool and mint, is kinda the same thing, right?

But lately… lately I have someone in my life who makes me want to clean.  She teaches me things, like dish soap is different from hand soap, and laundry is something to be done regularly and not when I’m out of clothes.  And floss isn’t just for when things get stuck in my teeth.  I learned to exfoliate and moisturize.  And I use daily sunblock, almost every day sometimes.

And I like it.

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Moving Targets Pt. II

I stopped writing about relationships.  I stopped writing about finding love.  Because it happened.  And at first I was disappointed with myself.  Had I lost my passion?  Had I settled for something less than I imagined?   Had I gotten too comfortable in my own skin too quickly?

But in truth, I am the well fed man no longer hungering after food.  It was easy to daydream about candy and pizza while I was ravenously empty.  It was easy to write a book about all the meals I didn’t have.  But upon being satiated and satisfied– the target moved.  I had inadvertently stumbled up the staircase of Maslow’s hierarchy.

And when I dusted myself off I was working on my credit score.  And repainting the guest room.  And trying to figure out how to cut branches from the tangerine tree without it dripping acid sap on me again.   So bundled up in gloves and linens like some wilderness man on a stepladder with pruning sheers in hand… I took a look around, and realized this is who I am now.

And I’m happy.

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Gay Thoughts

I have natural proclivities for homosexual tendencies; I like fashion to the point where I own more clothes than most girls I date.  I have a jewelry tree, ladened with accessories.  I own more rings than I have fingers and toes.  I wear a headband.   I like musicals, plural like I know the lyrics to most musicals and I can do both halves of the male-female duets.  I like Taylor Swift just a little too much.  My favorite bar is a gay bar.  I’m small and lithe, and was never particularly good at sports.  And the list goes on of stereotypes and archetypes for what a gay man is.

So I thought to myself, “What if I’m gay?”

I had a prostate exam a few years ago, and I realized there’s a reason so many men die from skipping this particular appointment.  Even if there was wine and dancing and good conversation, I can’t think of a scenario where I’d particularly enjoy something in me again.  So I thought maybe I could be a giver and not a receiver.  So I tried to imagine my potential gay lover.

He’d have to be smaller than me, because if he were bigger he’d probably bend me over.  At least I think that’s how these things work.  For some reason I imagine two gladiators circling round and round.  Like fresh caught crabs in a bucket opening and closing their one massive claw as they size each other up, circling, each unwilling to present their vulnerable back to the other.  Yeah that sounds about right.

Besides those hairy burly barrel chested guys never really struck me as attractive.  i’d want him thin, and smooth skinned.  Maybe with long silky black hair. I’d want him to have delicate high cheek bones, and a soft spoken voice, and big doey eyes.  I’d want his collar bones to protrude from the top of his blous… I mean shirt.   And I’d want him to smell of fresh cut flowers, and to taste like honey.  And then I’d bend him over and grab his supple breasts… and that’s where the imagination ends.  Because really, I want what I want. Hardwired into me, call it instinct or biology– I want a woman.

Because vaginas are a beautiful magical mystery to me.  They are the prize at the end of the pubescent marathon I’ve been running since I was fourteen.  They are soft and delicate, hidden under lace and denim.  Eager hands grasping upskirts, only exposed to me in the most intimate of moments.  But butts (haha), I have one of those.  And I know what happens with tacos and hot sauce or a binge night of beer drinking.  I know what it’s like to drop coils of soft-serve-disgusting into the porcelain bowl.  I know what it’s like to exclaim “Hey corn, I remember eating that!”

Butts, not for me.

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It’s Been a Year

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 It’s been a year.

There wasn’t much of you left to bury, so I just carried around your bits’ and pieces until they fell out of my pockets’ over the journey of everything to come after. And it hasn’t been very long, but I’ve traveled further than I thought I’d ever want to go.

That smell on the side of the mountain that filled our windows on the drive home– they’re wild onions.  I found them while hiking with another girl.  I picked some and tried to cook them but they tasted terrible.  Then I googled them and turns out they might be poisonous.   I think you would’ve applauded the effort.

They put a restaurant on the wharf where you wanted to build your plaza.  Someone else’s dream went into that space; but I suppose we’re all impermanent in that way.  When I think about buildings or beaches and the number of people to have enjoyed them I begin to feel very small.

I don’t miss you.

But there are still moments that hurt’ unexpectedly sometimes.  Like that play with the actors speaking in English-Chinese that was such a disaster, and how we couldn’t stop laughing afterwards.  A friend of mine saw the same play too… and it came up in conversation and it made me think of you.  Only for a flickering moment, but it was enough to dim the lights on an otherwise sparkling night.  I hope you never think of me.

You always had this long line of monkey-bar-boys, a safe ‘next rung’ to be clung to when we fell loose, but me… lately I’ve been feeling like I was in free fall when you let go– and I’ve finally hit the bottom.  With every girl I kissed and every moment of loneliness somehow knocking down the deep well of You’ that obstructed my view of the future.  I have loose stones and cracked slate of all the big dreams I thought we were building, but as of late’ I’m seeing that the shuffle of rubble is the best foundation for something concrete.  Just add an outpouring of opportunity and someone new to fill in all the gaps.

If you could see me now, I think you’d be impressed.

…You, in that Orange Dress.

Bump it with:

Mirror Match (Part III) Broken Glass and Sturdy Roots

Mirror Match Part I: You Handsome Devil
Mirror Match Part II: A Crack in the Mirror

I sleep at home for the next few days.  Our conversations are thin and strained.  I’m sorting through my emotions trying to figure out how much did I drunkenly imagine, and how much is just my heart’s hyperbolic exaggeration.  I can’t trust my feelings until I talk to her, like really talk to her.  We make plans later on that night and that’s when I finally broach the subject:

“Did you and Cro-Magnon ever have a thing?”

“That would be silly.”  She replies, laughing anxiously.  That’s not an answer.

“Did you guys ever hook up?”

“Why would you think that?”  Answering a question with a question.

“Honestly?” I press her.  Did you fuck him?  

“No.” she gnaws on her lip nervously.

I pause.  The tell-tale signs are all there.  I already know the answer without having to ask again.  But it’s important that she tell me the truth.  One lie is the gunshot at the top of the mountain that sends an avalanche of everything else tumbling down, burying skiers and baby mountain goats under a thick, smothering blanket of “I call bullshit”. 

“Now is the time to be honest.  While we’re just getting started.  I mean, I like you and I don’t care.”

Clumsly.  Stupid.  Words.

I wince internally as I say it.  The worst feeling for a writer, delivering a product knowing the revisions would’ve been so much better.  When I really meant to say:

If you can tell me what this is, or what it was I can cope with it.  I can understand it.  I can deal with it.  I’m not judging you; we all have our history and our hang-ups. When you lie to me, my imagination runs wild.  And my imagination is a huge expansive space.  And you’re fucking him in there.  Like in a whole bunch of positions, all over your furniture, and my happiness.  Your honesty here determines our chance for anything months and years from now.  So tell me what we both already know, so I’m not fighting shadows.  

But that never came out.  And neither did the truth.   In the weeks to follow, I could see Him everywhere.  On her Facebook, on her phone, in her text messages, in everything she did and everywhere else.

Right now I am good-natured and stoic, able to weather these insecurities.  But these tangled roots run deep.  How much time with the shovel and weedkiller will it take to make Him go away?  What type of victory will it be with calloused palms and poisoned lungs?  I want to build a future, not excavate a past.  

So I quit.

She could never be my Fish with someone else’s hook still in her mouth.  Catch and release.

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