i know what you mean!

5. what friends normally do

Posted on: March 28, 2014


days passing by
in oblivion

the winds could almost feel the ocean
but they didn’t

and here – am i
and there – am i

if you would only say the words

just to pass the time
just to pass the time

photo: Craig Sadler

That Fall semester, he became my pet project.  I tend to have pet projects. Before him, Pink Girl was my pet project, with her family issues and her one sided love for her gay best friend turned husband for visa purposes.  Who lived with her.  That’s enough material for a 20 episodes drama, no ?  I was not the only one living in drama.  But by Fall, she was mostly ok, with residual complications created by her minor charge, but otherwise, OK.  I was planning to devote the entire semester to pursuing a few really hot guys, and I mean guys who look like catalogue models, not just your average good looking dudes.  But then he crash landed in my room that night, I made room for him.  I was pretty much available to receive his company whenever I wasn’t
a) in class,
b) at one of my 3 jobs,
c) holding meetings with the coordinators
d)going out on a date with hot guy #1,
e)outside, walking to somewhere, wouldn’t have been able to get a hold of me then, because I didn’t have a cell phone,
Actually that’s not true, he woke me up quite a few times when he came buzzing my apartment’s intercom.

I saw so much of him in the next few months that we were becoming quick BFF.  It was something like dinner together 2-3 times a week, sleepover  at my place at least once a week (since I lived 5 minutes away from his work), in addition to seeing each other every Saturday at the volunteer site, movies, walks, talks.  We mostly hung out a lot in my room, since I had a computer and we killed time by trolling chatrooms.  Asianavenue.com was still floating those days, so we would use his ridiculously named handle “Sake Bomb” to troll random chatroom, latching on to a victim and proceeded to spew so much nonsense that I nearly peed in my pants laughing.  I still remember part of the chat, which went like this:

Sake Bomb: HEY Random Guy, nice to see you again, we met before, remember ?
Random Guy: do I know you?
SB: you know me, you KNOW me! we met in Texas that one time, Dallas! You wore a pair of pants and you were speaking English.
RG: reaaaally… I’ve never been to Dallas, I’m from Austin
SB: Oh it’s all in TX, let’s not get bogged down with the details, the point is we have met! And you liked me.

These days, trolls are not considered fun anymore, but back in those days, we were an amusing bunch.  We would also troll anime forums by reading their entire code of conduct, and then do something harmless but obnoxious without breaking any rules until they put in a new rule and threatened to ban us.  Or we would try to write badly.  Told each other bad cheesy jokes.  He was my partner in crime, where ridiculous ideas were involved.  I had never had a better playmate.  We worked the hell out of the Napster program, the original Napster peer-to-peer file sharing program.  It took my computer on average about 1 hour to download a 3MB song, and he would download tons of songs down into my computer for me to sample.  We would play snoods when we ran out of ideas.  We played cards at one point.  Sometimes I had work or assignments to do, he would just sit on my bed and played games on his simple cell phone in silence (my room only had 2 pieces of furniture, which was my bed and my desk which were on opposite sides of each other).  Oh wait, he didn’t have a cellphone back then.  What DID he do while I was working??  Time passed by very quickly that way.

My grad student housemate initially loaned me most of my room’s furniture.  Eventually she needed them back, so he bought me a work table from Staples while I took a chair from another Mr. Cultural Center Director guy(CCD, aka my other driver – poor Mr. CCD who got his title because no one else wanted that title and he ended up running that center for the next 10 years, alone.  CCD tried to rope me into sharing that job, but since there were just tons of older ladies and unattractive middle aged men in the mix, screw that).   A few days later he brought me some hollow bricks and 3 wood slats.  He showed me how to make a bookshelf out of that.  There were things that I had said I wanted in passing conversations, or complaints I had voiced in his presence, and one by one I would get what I wanted or problems resolved by him.  Like the time I spent a whole day time catching up on sleep after pulling all nighters to finish my term papers, woke up with a craving for KFC chicken potpie, walked to the one joint near my house only to find out they ran out (wtf?).  I promptly gave up and went back to bed when he called me.  I complained about KFC running out of chicken potpie among other things (he said I pronounced it something else, just like how he heard me say “Korean Fish” instead of “Abercrombie and Fitch,” told me my English sucks, I told him to go wax his ears because I was the one getting a B.A. in English, not him). I asked him in a hopeful tone if he could go get me one, because the next KFC in town was some 10 miles away.  He said no way, reminding me that he had already told me in advance that he had some event to attend that night.  I whined but agreed that I wasn’t too hopeful that he would anyway.  We hung up, and about an hour later, my doorbell buzzed.   From the intercom, I heard his voice teasing that my unidentifiable dish was being delivered.  I still had the box that the potpie came in, along with some napkins some 7 years later.  I finally threw it away after we moved to east coast.  I was very touched by the gesture, because I grew up without people doing nice things like that for me.

 I still have the receipts of the little radio cassette player my sister bought for me as a Christmas present 18 years ago.  It was something I desperately wanted but never voiced, but she saw it, and used her meagre savings to buy me one on Black Friday.  Because of that radio, I got fluent in Chinese.  My little treasure box has mostly receipts or packagings of things given to me from people I love; a goldfish keychain given to me by my bestfriend from middle school; a single green beaded earring I found on the street; a purple crystal given along with a letter from someone I was never close to and thought she rather disliked me initially, but she loved me with all her blessed heart way back when.  And not much else.  The best friend from middle school has since become estranged due to a misunderstanding that I would not know how to resolve cleanly.  I still keep the P.E.   t-shirt we used to wear together in middle school.  It has my full name on it, she can still read it if she ever sees me wearing it again.  We may not look at each other now as adults, but I’m always looking back at her when she was 14.   I know she’s been through some hardships.  I never thought the future would have that in store for her. I wish I could be there for her, for old times’ sake.   Friendships are so fragile; little things like a little rock on the freeway that could crack your brand new windshield with an imperceptible rift today, only to grow overnight and days to come.  

Those were also the days he introduced me to many American pop culture things.  He taught me about music from the 80’s and famous rock bands.  It was with him I listened to Michael Jackson for the first time.  I watched many movies with him – nothing new, a lot of old classics. Like we went to the midnight showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Parkway Theater together where I liked it so much, we went 2 more times after that.  We also watched “This Is Spinal Tap” at the same place.
Later, when he was doing a job interview, he told me this anecdote he shared with his interviewer when the subject was relevant: When he first took me to Parkway to see “Spinal Tap,” and witnessed how much I enjoyed it, that was the first time he thought of me as the one for him…

Then why did he reject me the first time that spring, then rejected me again right after he slept with me the week before we moved in together as roommates, and continued to reject me for such a long while…?  It boggles the mind.

I went down south with him that Thanksgiving and Christmas, the beginning of many home for the holiday trips together in years to come.  We drove back up together, too, having arrived at a certain level of comfort in our friendship where long stretches of silence was normal.  He gave me the first birthday present that year, a big legit Totoro that our daughter has since pulled out all the whiskers and sat on so much it’s now more flat than round.  He could never get my birthday straight,  so he threw me a birthday celebration in Berkeley that completely surprised me because it was weeks before my actual birthday.    He complained about the discrepancy between my ID info and my true birthday, and even told me that I now had a new birthday because he picked it. Down south, over the winter break,  I went with him to the Christmas service at his church, per his request.  He gave me my first Christmas present that year too, a wire lantern cage in the shape of a cat, with a cat face.  Our son likes that thing a lot these days.  I can’t remember if I bought him any Christmas present.  Probably not.  I really can’t remember now. Maybe I did?  I wonder if he would tell me this, if I ask him.  But I doubt he would remember. What does he remember about those days of our friendship?  Were the memories sweet for him as they were for me?  I didn’t cast the first rift in it.  It wasn’t me.

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