Thursday, October 6, 2016

A Photo Supplement to "The Motel Mansion" on Full Grown People

I have a new essay up on Full Grown People today about my mom and the crazy adventure she took us on in Hawaii. As a supplement to the story, I thought it'd be fun to share some pictures from our family vacation. 

First is the picture up top from when we did a self-guided tour through this old Hawaiian palace. My mom couldn't figure out how to work the iPod, and I doubted she could understand the English being spoken so quickly, so from time to time, I'd provide a quick summary of what I'd learned. "This is the room where they locked up the princess for months. She made this quilt." "This painting is from a Frenchman." "Her bed looks really small, but it's actually the size of a standard twin." Her very good questions of why the princess was removed from power or why she was locked in a room in her own palace for months went unanswered. I can only guess what my mom must think of my auditory-learning skills. 

When we got back home, and we were all missing that beautiful island, my mom told my dad that he should spread her ashes in Waikiki if she should die before him. He said, “Now look here, no one’s dying before or after anyone. There's only dying together." My mom called right after to tell me, whereupon we both had a good laugh. Neither of us mentioned how it melted our hearts. We have that in common, my mom and I: We acknowledge sweet things, sad things and scary things alike by making jokes of them. 

My mom is the boldest person I know. She can soak in the ocean for hours and hours. When we arrive at a new place, she says "Look at all the people" in a voice so convincing you can't help but feel a similar state of wonder. She tells me sometimes that I look like a movie star. When I have children, I shall tell them the same. 

Friday, September 9, 2016

The Zombies at the Bar

Marnie has a new boyfriend. She’s meeting him after dinner. We pick at our beef chow fun and braised eggplant the way you do when you’re full but don’t want to stop eating. Want to come with? she asks. I have no plans aside from watching Netflix and ordering random things on Amazon. It could be fun. But so could my original plans. I pick up a rice noodle. I have been wanting to meet him. Okay, I decide. She smiles broadly.

The first place we go is a restaurant where we walk in and sit at the bar. Dan, the new boyfriend, is the exact build that Marnie described. I’m impressed by her descriptive accuracy, but before I can tell her she would do well describing someone for a police sketch, Dan’s friend makes a comment about Marnie’s weight. 

“What happened?” he asks.

“What do you mean?” she says.

He holds his hands wide out in front of him, then slowly brings them a few inches apart.

“You lost weight,” he says.

“Yeah, I lost 27 pounds!” she exclaims proudly.

“My condolences.”

Marnie gives me a look.

“She’s happy. There’s nothing to feel bad about,” I say.

He says something about there being more to love before. I pretend not to hear and busy myself with reading the menu.

The bartender arrives.

“What would you recommend for something light and fruity?,” I ask. “The Union Sour or the Mai Tai?”

“Definitely the Mai Tai,” the bartender says.

The menu describes it as having a passion-fruit-cream finish which does sound delightful. The bartender disappears for a few minutes before walking a murky glass towards me. One sip in, and it is neither light nor fruity. The cream-top sits like old sea foam in a mess at the edge of the glass. I decide not to incite any attention over my terrible drink and take the tiniest of sips.

“Sorry we’re late. We couldn’t stop watching this stand-up show that Sobrina showed me,” Marnie says.

“You like stand-up?” the friend asks.

“I like certain ones,” I say. “Have you seen Baby Cobra on Netflix?”

“No,” he says.

“It’s really funny,” I say. “I went to school with her!”

“You did?”

“Yeah, nothing like seeing someone you went to school with on TV to know how far you haven’t come,” I joke.

He stares at me blankly.

“Can you please get a new drink? It’s paining me watching you drink that,” he says. Apparently, my invisible sips aren’t fooling anyone.

The bartender comes by to check on the two girls sitting next to us. They also have the sea-foam drinks.

“She hates her drink,” the friend calls out after the bartender.

“It’s fine,” I say and pretend to vigorously drink it.

“We should just take shots. What do you drink?” Dan asks me.

“She’s driving,” Marnie says. “Don’t worry, Sobrina.”

Just in case, I text my sister where I’m at and ask if I can crash at her place if I need to. She texts back: You’re brave. There were three shootings around there this week.

The night is off to a classy start.

We leave for the next place. There is a line outside, but we get in quickly. I follow Marnie who follows Dan and his friend to the back where there is a mass of people. The music is blaring and everyone is standing with their backs to us. Time freezes and no one moves. We are in a zombie movie. I wait for them to all turn towards us at the same time, revealing their bloodied mouths and pale skin. Instead, a girl walks past us, hitting the play button on the scene. Carrying two drinks in her hands, she makes her way back through the crowd towards the front of the room. It clicks then that there’s a bar back there. We’re just getting more drinks.

Marnie orders me something orange and actually light and fruity. I am touched and bumped from every direction and decide we are in a zombie wasteland after all. There is something else. I noticed it when we first came in and the entire way walking to the bar. I am a head taller than everyone in the room. Never mind that I’m 5’3”. All that matters is that here I’m a gazelle! I am a supermodel! I let it go to my head for a second, enjoying that which never happens. I think of Alan. I like feeling for a minute how he must have felt everywhere he went, towering above most at 6’2”.

Three guys along the wall do nothing but stand and stare with hungry eyes. They look like the type to refer to women as “females.” A group of girls sings along to Rihanna’s “Work.” Who knew there were words besides work, work, work, work, work?

Marnie leaves me to find the bathroom.

“Come down here much?” Dan asks.

“Not really. I used to go to one place though,” I say. It’s not the entire truth but not a lie either. I’d been there at least a few times. “Loft. You know it?”

“Oh, you don’t wanna go there. It’s ghetto,” he says.

In my head I think it might be more fun than standing next to the three guys man-handling all the females with their eyes.

When Marnie returns, we finish our drinks. By now, my orange drink has kicked in. While everyone downs shots of something, I quietly enjoy the swish of my insides rocking on a gentle sea. The kind of place you can go for a warm swim. I turn down drinks offered to me. There is a fine line between this and having my head collapse.

We go outside and then we just stand there. I wonder what we are waiting for. After tugging at my hand unsuccessfully, Marnie leaves me again to get an ice cream sandwich with new friends she’s made. When she comes back, I convince Marnie we should walk to Loft. There’s a dance floor there. I hate standing around doing nothing.

Dan’s friend and I start walking, and Marnie and Dan follow behind us. As we turn the corner, Dan stops and heads back towards the street. Marnie chases after him. I stand with the friend, neither of us knowing what’s going on. We make small talk. He is turning out to be okay.

“He just left,” Marnie says when she returns.

“He just left?” I repeat.

“Yeah, just got in an Uber and went home.”

The warm island I’m on softens how I might have felt about this otherwise.

At Loft, we make our way to the dance floor. I feel the music reverberate through me and dance like I’m in a music video, a tasteful one. I imagine Alan there, too, dancing without a care in the world. Someone grabs my hips and presses his pelvis against me. I haven’t had someone try that in forever. It almost makes me laugh, but instead I turn around and shake my hand between us, like a parent who has to hide her amusement when disciplining her child. He backs up. Marnie is lost in the music video too. She doesn’t notice the grinder. It surprises her when the grinder’s friend backs his butt up into hers. I see him coming at her from the corner of my eye, but I don’t warn her so I can see her reaction. She whips around and mouths a big “NO.” Maybe she says it too, but I can’t hear it over the music. He moves away but, in a ballsy move, doesn't leave our dance circle. He just gets really into the music.

Another guy joins our group. He looks like a recent Indian immigrant. Did he even come with anyone? People are so courageous. Next to us a couple are dancing. He has “Blud Life” printed on his shirt. I wonder if there is a tie to the gang and try not to bump into him too much.

When the streak of good songs ends, we leave the dance floor. The grinder’s friend and the immigrant get absorbed into somebody else’s music video. At home, I notice a stain on my shirt. Someone has spilled an orange-pink drink on me. I drop my keys by the front door and am glad I remembered to buy more laundry stain stick on Amazon last week.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

New Writing on Full Grown People

A personal essay I wrote about the loneliness of grief is up on Full Grown People today if you'd like to read it.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Dear Alan: 3-Month Update

Dear Alan,

Today I am 32 years old, and in so many ways, I don't feel it. I still get excited about going to the candy store. I have a tendency to dress like I'm five. And I have no idea how my 401k works. Then something will remind me of you and I feel a hundred years older. The door to my grief swings open and I am swept away. I am like the 75-year-old widows in the bereavement group the hospital set me up with. Except we wear different shoes. Theirs are thick-soled and unabashedly comfortable-looking. They cover every inch of skin. My shoes are strappy and offer no arch support. They're not the most comfortable, but they're not terrible either. The ladies in the group talk about their 50+ years of marriage, their kids and their grandkids. I tell them that you and I were married for a year and that we really wanted kids. It's clear that I'm not 75 either.

I don't plan beyond the next two weeks. I struggle with verbs. I say things like, "My husband is a software engineer." I don't know how to answer when new people ask how long we've been married. I look down at my hands so they won't see me cry.

I think about all the times I asked you if you would still be with me if I was a zombie, and the way you always said yes without a moment's hesitation. I'm sorry I told you I wasn't sure what I would do if the situation was reversed. In the movies, staying with your zombie lover is always a futile effort. But now that you're gone, I get it. I would still be with you. It would be worth it to be together.

I kept my promise. I didn't sleep alone in our apartment for the first three months. A different friend stayed over each night. Sometimes we'd go to dinner, sometimes we'd just watch TV. When I'm alone, sometimes the silence is deafening. I miss the sound of us. I miss hearing you eat five bowls of raisin bran. I miss hearing your mechanical keyboard at the desk next to mine. I miss hearing about Project 1999. I would take zombie youany youany day.

I used to joke that it didn't matter if I died in a car accident because then I'd get to be with you again. Sophie told me at some point she'd have to start worrying and taking that seriously. So I stopped saying things like that out loud. I try not to even think it but sometimes I can't help it.

I know I promised I'd keep living my beautiful life for you, but it's hard. I've gone hiking a bunch and I've been swimming and eating good food. I pretend like you're still going to bust me when I'm in the kitchen late at night eating chips. It makes me laugh. Oh, and I wore the skirt you liked to Lu and Jesse's wedding. We still have to get them a wedding gift. I want to sign the card for the both of us, but is that weird?

Anyway, I'm trying my best. Over the past three months:

Sophie and I took the meepy parents to Hawaii. They never thought they'd get the chance to go in this lifetime (their actual words). That would sound so dramatic if I didn't know they truly meant it. They loved sleeping by the ocean and would wake with the sun and run out to the beach. Oh, meepy parents!
We went to a luau. You would have been so disappointed in us! (Tourist trap!) You were right, it ended up being pretty terrible, especially the food, but the sunset over the water was nice.

I drank a bajillion lava flows because did you know they taste like delicious milkshakes? The fact that I could drink a bajillion (read: two and a half) and not feel anything makes me think they were, in fact, milkshakes.

We went to the Twin Falls. You would have loved it. Before you get to the water you walk through (landscaped) jungle. Your two favorite things: water and jungle!

The water was chilly but you quickly forget because you're swimming in a waterfall and you feel like you're in a Disney movie.

paia hawaii
I tried to watch the sunset every night. This one was eerily beautiful.

mama's fish house
We got this for dessert at Mama's Fish House. You wouldn't have liked it because of all the chocolate, but isn't it pretty? p.s. I've had better fish at Nick's.

crop top and skirt
Lu and Jesse got married. I wore the new skirt I showed you. You called it a "fun" color. I love how everything is fun to you, from car rides to colors.

Everyone coincidentally wore petal pink nails and nude shoes. It was fun.

We celebrated the Fourth of July on the Leclair's new rooftop deck. The view of the fireworks was great, and we didn't have to deal with any crazy crowds. Grace brought sparklers because they reminded her of you. What a sweetie. 

I visited Roy in L.A. and we ate so much food. We also spent a lot of time looking at cute things. You would have been so happy for me. I wish I could have shown you the Venice Canals. Roy and I both saw them for the first time, and he's lived there his whole life!

One morning we had brunch in a greenhouse which I know you would have loved.

Petrie stayed with me for two months because the meepy parents "wanted me to have a friend." At first I was scared I would forget to take care of him and he would accidentally die, but it was nice having him around. Do you know how many weird people stop to talk to you when you have a dog? So many! One lady kept talking to me about the guy that pulled out a chainsaw and was threatening everyone in her apartment complex. At first she made it seem like she just wanted help finding this karate studio, but I think she needed a lot more. Petrie and I got out of there real quick. Anyway, he kept asking where you were.

Then he got really loud and really mad when he found out you were gone...

...and then just really sad and quiet when I told him it was for forever. He's still trying to make sense of it.

We went on our annual trip to visit Stacy and Rob at the Mouse House in Capitola. This would have been our fifth year in a row.

The clouds dotting the sky were beautiful.

And then the sun set and the sky turned pink and purple and blue. It almost made me cry.

I've been swimming a lot at PJ's. And Omeida took me swimming at the SJSU pool a few times. I'm getting so much better at relaxing; you'd be proud of me. I wore my snorkel a couple of times. Really nerdy, but I saw someone else do it and it makes swimming way funner.

montage portland
I went to this late-night restaurant in Portland for mac and cheese. They bring your leftovers wrapped up in aluminum foil shapes. I really wanted the three-foot sword (as I know you would have too), but I got a bunny. Lame.

Omeida showed me a new trail at Quicksilver. I can't believe how big the park is! She didn't know about the trail we always do, so next time I'll show her that one. It was really hot and sunny that day, but I loved it. It felt like summer was seeping deep into my bones.

I don't know what I'll do when the days are shorter, the light slips away faster and the darkness comes quicker. That's further than two weeks away, so I'll think more about that later.

I still can't believe you're gone.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Riding Off Into the Sunset

handsome man
beach selfie
drinking coffee in the woods
giant pizza
My friends, I have sad news to share. On the morning of May 22, my husband Alan passed away in peace at home. Never one to leave you without a visual, he called it "riding off into the sunset." Writing about it now brings a giant lump to my throat and tears to my eyes. We are so touched by the many people who have reached out and cared for us during this difficult time. We had people praying for us every day, people driving around town to pick up Alan's favorite foods and personally delivering it to our doorstep, friends from near and far coming to visit and cook for us, bosses that allowed for flexible work schedules, our favorite restaurant whipping up complimentary, off-menu items catered to Alan's tastes, friends and family helping us at home and in the hospital in whatever way we needed. We are so blessed. I cry every time I receive a card or an arrangement of flowers. Some are from people I've never even met. Please know that I've read every note (and I'm sorry if I haven't responded) and have been encouraged by your words. You are all so, so sweet.

Alan once told me, "It's easier to be brave when you have someone to be brave for. I try to be brave for you. Maybe it would help you to be brave for someone." I didn't really understand what he meant at the time, but when he was gone, I knew. I would be brave for Alan. I would live the beautiful life he'd made me promise I would.

One day I will share more about his last moments. I feel honored that he chose to share the end of his story (at least the one here in this world) with me. Until then, I'll continue to blog about delightful things to eat, see and wear and live my best life possible. Because that's what Alan wanted.

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