Exit Through the Gift Shop

The hospital’s gift shop is the one gift shop I can think of where its contents are meant to be redistributed within the building’s walls. The refrigerator case with zombified Gerber daisies and the rack of overpriced candy I get, but the other shit in there is straight up cray-cray.

Who buys this shit? Emotionally vulnerable and trapped friends/relatives of patients, that’s who.

Hospital gift shop

These music boxes play “Wind Beneath My Wings” and “You Light Up My Life”. There’s a whole carousel of them. I weep for the relationships that are either too repressed to vocalize such thoughts or too literal for nuanced love. (Maybe I just weep because I’m a cold oyster who’ll never know such unironic, grammatically-tolerant love.)

Hospital gift shop

I want to know why the designer thought to pair “The words you are looking for are, ‘Yes Dear’” with a Mediterranean olive and bread spread. What does it mean?? That Italian and Greek spouses are simpering?

Hospital gift shop

Little Aryan angels not your style?

Hospital gift shop

How about this assortment of Neil Gaiman rejects? I especially like the buxom phlebotomist on the far left with blood dripping out of her mouth.

Hospital gift shop

Or you can buy one of your own smiling, brown Native American babies. Not culturally insensitive at all.

Hospital gift shop

Especially compared to these $15 statues in the shape of your favorite hospital characters, including the curvaceous Latina nurse with sassy eyeshadow and Divine eyebrows. (Like those Homies you used to be able to buy from candy machines by the cashiers in grocery stores, only 60x the price!)

Hospital gift shop

 

Oh, but here’s the one reminder that not everybody’s in the hospital for bad news.

Hospital Humor

My dad was admitted him to the hospital again. It’s not funny. But sometimes there’s shit to laugh about.

NURSE: Are you having chest pains now?

PAU: No.

NURSE: Have you been having anxiety lately?

PAU: (assuredly) No.

The nurse returns to her paperwork.

PAU: (to me, half in Thai) Did she ask if I am dieting?

ME: No! She asked if you have anxiety, are you anxious?

PAU: Why should I have anxiety? I have lived a good life.

PAU: In Thailand, they call old maids chanee — you know what that is?

ME: No.

PAU: Gibbons! (Laughing) They cry, “Pua, pua, pua, pua, pua!

[Pua means husband in Thai.] 

PAU: Of course, women in Thailand are different than people who grow up here. They’re not independent, like you.

image

This is the fountain outside the entrance to the hospital. It’s often full of ducks.

ME: Where do you think these ducks go when they’re not here?

MAE: Nowhere. They can’t fly.

ME: Yes they can! [Pointing up at some flying birds] Look, there they are up there!

MAE: No, those aren’t ducks.

ME: Don’t you remember Duck Hunt, the Nintendo game Danny [my brother] used to play? They are totally those ducks.

MAE: Nooooooo. The ducks in my village didn’t fly.

ME: Here. I’m going to make this one fly. [I go chasing after a  lady duck waddling on the pavement.]

MAE: Don’t touch it! Probably has a lot of bacteria!

 

 

 

Bamboo stew

IMG_0558Shortly before my grandfather passed away, my Mae left home to go to school in the city of Kalasin. It would take her half a day to walk from the village to the place where she could ride the bus into town. The jungle she walked through was named after a man who had allegedly been eaten by a tiger, and villagers they passed would warn of fresh tiger tracks. Monkeys cackled overhead, mocking her fear. That’s her in the picture. She was 9.

My grandfather, a school principal, believed in the power of education to raise his children out of the poverty they lived in. He had four sons, five daughters. The rice paddies were the only alternative, a life of backbreaking and painstaking manual labor. They were poorer than I can imagine, but they didn’t know well enough to be unhappy about it. The first words I learned in Pu Thai, my family’s obscure dialect, were, “Kin khao kap paleuh?” — what are you eating rice with?  I didn’t know that they ate sticky rice, but not much besides. A fish if they were lucky. A chicken if they had raised one.

And bamboo stew. Swamp green, the color of crocodile skin, thick as muck. The kind you’ll never see on any restaurant menu. My Mae and her siblings would dig the bamboo shoots up along their walk home using trained eyes. They’d add wild mushrooms — the older villagers taught them which mushrooms to gather from the jungle and which to ignore. (My aunt once discovered a motherlode of fungi on her walk to school. Not only did she convince her walking buddy to skip class with her that day, she also got the pal to take her shirt off so they could use it to transport the goods home.) Herbs with funny names — pak ee thu, bai ya nang — disintegrate down to their chlorophyll essence. Sweet pumpkin brightens the bubbling ooze like golden half moon islands. With a slow-burn chile heat and salt from pla raa, fermented fish, bamboo stew tastes of Earth — her iron, her magma, her wood, her sulfur.

bamboo stewMy Mae makes bamboo stew here in L.A., with some of the ingredients frozen or from cans. When she’s lucky, she can get herbs from a farmers market at a nearby Buddhist temple. The frilly oyster mushrooms come on styrofoam trays sealed in plastic wrap.

As a child, I once told her that her bamboo stew smelled funny. With a severity that made my internal temperature drop five degrees, she said, “Never make fun of other people’s food.”

I didn’t know what it meant to her. I may never really know. Tonight, she said to me, “As a Pu Thai daughter, you must learn to eat bamboo stew.” I wish I could taste the stew she shared with her ravenous brothers and sisters, 9 hands dipping balls of sticky rice into a bowl of the wild country.

Mango madness

For some people, it’s nails on chalkboard. For others, it’s things with holes in them. For me, it’s watching a mango get crushed by terrible de-pitting methods. This page makes me crazy.

I’m writing an article about mangoes right now, and I came across this lovely passage in Jane Grigson’s Fruit Book on the difficulties of prepping a mango, which I know the magazine is not going to want:

Publicity leaflets make it all seem easy. ‘Slice round the middle, or round the edge like an avocado. Twist the two halves in opposite directions, until they come apart, and remove the stone.’

Elated with anticipation, knowing, you make a cut. You give a delicate twist — nothing happens beyond an internal lurch. A stronger twist, a couple of curses, then more strong twists. You are now covered with juice to above the wrist, and the mango looks battered. Salvage what you can with any implement to hand, and turn the pulp — exactly the right word in this instance — into a mango fool or water ice. At least you have the pleasure of licking your hands and arms before washing them clean in plenty of water.

Dog Days Are Over

For food writers, Thanksgiving starts as early as summer, when November magazine issues are getting ready to go to press, and generally go through all the way to the end of November for web. I’ve been thinking about mashed potatoes a lot for work lately, and I remembered a particular lesson I learned when I was teaching myself to cook western food.

Early in my New York life, I used to dogsit a little blond dachshund mix named Luna. She had pee pads for days she couldn’t wait for her dogsitter to come home. Sometimes, I’d come back to the apartment after work and find little skid marks on the pee pad, but no poop. I never had dogs growing up. I’d think, she didn’t eat her poop, did she???

One time, there was a downpour and I tried to take her out for a walk, not wanting to shirk one of my few duties as caretaker. I fastened a little raincoat around her narrow shoulders and we took the elevator down. When we got to the lobby, she dug her heels in and refused to cross the threshold onto Bleecker St. I pulled on her leash. She growled. Petulant and indignant, she popped a squat and peed right there in the doorway. I don’t remember if the doorman offered the clean it up or if I went back to the apartment to get paper towels. I just remember thinking, well, even posh blond dogs in the west village are still just dogs.

Luna belonged to a very fancy couple who lived at Bank St. and Bleecker St. They had purchased two apartments on the ground floor and knocked the wall down to combine them. Even then, 15 years ago, I guessed I’d never have a life like that.

They had a pretty kitchen, gorgeous Le Creuset pots, and terrible Ginsu-style serrated knives. There were shelves of cookbooks for perusing.  As a thank you for taking care of Luna, the lady of the house cooked me dinner once — a gigantic, curling fillet of monkfish over wet, tomatoey couscous. I had never had monkfish. “It’s supposed to taste kind of like lobster,” she said. I had never had lobster.

They encouraged me to cook while they were away, to take advantage of all of their amenities. Rooting around in their cabinets, I found a food processor, the first I’d ever touched. Here was my chance to take this technology for a spin. I decided to make mashed potatoes.

I boiled the potatoes, stuck them into the processor and poured hot milk and butter down the chute. Whizz whizz whizz! I removed the cover and stuck a spoon in.

Disgusting! The potatoes had become glue. There’s no other way to describe it — they were gloppy and elastic in a way I never knew potatoes could be. How could such a benign substance betray like that?

The food processor lost my trust that night, and, frankly, it hasn’t done much to earn it back in the years since.

If I had to draw a lesson from this persistent memory, it would be this: I’ve been in L.A. for five months now, and I’m frustrated with how little progress I’ve made getting to know the city. I still don’t even know my way around my local grocery store. This transition feels a little like those early years in New York did, when my days were full of questions and frustration and experiments gone awry. These feelings were fine when I was in my 20s, but they’re discomfiting now. I guess it’s good to remember what it was like to be green, and to know that it passes. And to know that, like Luna, I’ll always be who I am wherever I am.

 

Einstein on the Beach

einsteinOnBeach-LightboxI’ve been struggling with how to explain Einstein on the Beach to people, and what an impactful, unexpectedly moving piece of art it was. And I could tell you what it meant to me, but it would have nothing to do with what it might mean to you. I’ve never seen anything like it and I’m sure I never will again.

I really, really didn’t expect to love it as much as I did. I had never understood Philip Glass’s music before. Full disclosure: I went to see Satyagraha at the Met from our usual nosebleed balcony box seats and slept through half of it. But a friend gave me tickets to opening night for Einstein on the Beach at the LA Opera and I jumped at the chance to check it out*.

Einstein on the Beach

It runs 4 hours without intermission, with music that constantly repeats itself (and mostly stays in the high end range, puffing the sinuses). Maybe that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea. Whose cup of tea could it possibly be? But stay with me.

I had the privilege of sitting in the third row orchestra, dead center, and looking into the pit to watch the orchestra, ensemble, and chorus. The first two scenes are difficult and feel interminable; the organ cycles are relentless bordering on sadistic; the repetitive scenes made me squirm with discomfort. I watched several people plug their ears, then file out of their primo seats, never to return.

But then I found a fissure in what Robert Wilson calls a “knee play”, an interstitial scene performed from the pit. I watched the chorus and the astonishing Lisa Bielawa sing the numbers “1, 2, 3, 4…” over and over again. What I love about opera in general has nothing to do with any lofty intellectual appreciation. I love opera the way other people love the Olympics — it’s a chance for me to watch people contort their bodies through sheer will and do what few others in the world can do. In this knee play, I found that mind-boggling virtuosity, not in showy high Cs but in an ensemble keeping track of time and space in a superhuman way. That fissure became a crack that poured light over the whole experience. My body and mind made the transition from linear expectation into a kind of trance.

Einstein_2212890bEINSTEIN-articleLargeFrom there, it became a meditation in kairos time. I was glued to my seat, and my nerves were firing. I got lost in the imagery on stage, the choreography, the unbelievably difficult music. Scenes would typically cycle through a sequence and repeat again and again, adding a layer here, a note there, a new character or a new movement. A woman with anime eyes and Minnie Mouse hair puts her ear to a conch shell and bathes in its sound. A chorus, as a jury, simultaneously and gingerly places their paper lunch bags next to their feet. A white bar of light oppresses, blinding you, but you miss it when it rises up and leaves. Dancers in white and beige uniforms pirouette and jeté across the stage in a sequence that is light and energetic at first until its length feels cruel.

02EINSTEIN1_SPAN-articleLargeIt rings in my ears. This week, I found myself thinking about the repetitive motions of modern life. Wake up, work, go to sleep. Stoplight red, green light go. 9-5, 9-5, 9-5, 9-5, 9-5, weekend. It is the moments that break those cycles that can crank up the tension but also offer relief from monotony. My life was propelling forward in daily cycles at an unnoticeably rapid clip until my father had a heart attack and I moved back to L.A. This year is one of those extraordinary moments for me — a dilation of time and space, a paradigm shift, an atomic bomb.

Maybe you don’t buy it. I don’t blame you; my articulation has limitations. But if you have a chance to see it, you really should.

* With deepest gratitude to the friend who gave me the tickets. Holy shit, I owe you.

Lessons in LA Public Transportation

When you are new to an area, there are costs accrued in learning to get around. Sometimes you pay in transportation fares or gas, sometimes you pay in time; often, it’s both.

When I first moved to New York, I’d often get on the D train at Broadway/Lafayette and wind up in Brooklyn instead of midtown. Seems so elementary now, recognizing the difference between the downtown trains and the uptown trains, but it took me a while to figure it out. When I got lost, I’d just exit the train and cross over to the opposite platform. I mostly paid in lost time, which I had plenty of back then.

20131014-110141.jpgI’m back to being a n00b here in L.A., and it sucks. On the way to the Central Library today, I paid $17 for a round trip Metrolink ticket + $1.50 for Metro Red subway. But when I got there, the homeless folks and I clustered around the entrance only to find it closed for Columbus Day. (I have never had a job that gave me the day off on Columbus Day. It is not a real holiday!) So I stepped on the wrong bus and paid $1.50 (fuck) before I took the Metro Silver bus back ($2.45), thus learning that it is a much cheaper and more efficient way to move between my hood and downtown.

Well, that’s what I thought while I was on the bus. Then I realized that it takes about 25 minutes to drive to the El Monte bus station, which is about how long it takes to drive to the library. The only thing I avoid by taking the bus is having to navigate the confusing, swirly one-way streets of downtown L.A. Oh, and I also don’t have to deal with the confounding business of parking validation. (I once parked in the wrong lot and had to pay $15 for parking. $15! On a Saturday! That is outrageous.)

So the morning was a complete bust and I generously donated $23 to the Metro. I’m not even going to calculate the cost of gas used on roundtrips to pick me up from the stations.

All of which is to say that I miss the simplicity and reach of my unlimited NYC Metrocard. Do you know how much freedom you have, my New York friends, and how cheap it comes? I don’t know that I did.

 

 

Habemus Papam!

Saint_Francis_statue_in_gardenLike many, I’m really enjoying the tenure of Pope Francis so far. I’m charmed! The guy chose the name of a saint whose statue always has little creatures perched around him. I’m in no danger of being converted, but I like the mystic, generous form of the religion the Pope is presenting — one that is virtually unrecognizable to me as an outsider.

One part of his recent interview in La Repubblica hit home for me:

The most serious of the evils that afflict the world these days are youth unemployment and the loneliness of the old. The old need care and companionship; the young need work and hope but have neither one nor the other, and the problem is they don’t even look for them any more.

Was like a little pearl of affirmation for me. Not that my parents are so old yet, but they will be.

A nice thing about seeing my father every day is that we can now joke about shit that used to be too serious to laugh about. Like after my dad’s been at the 99-cent store down the street for hours:

MEI thought maybe you got forgot your way and I’d have to drive out to find you.

or after I complain about my dad’s affinity for junk:

PAU: The house is yours, but the stuff is mine. When I die, you can just put all my stuff in my coffin so they can cremate it with me.

 

Gestures of Love

“Pau is in hospital call for details.”

In April, my mother tapped that blunt message out to me from her ancient cell phone at 2:30am her time. Back when I lived in Brooklyn, whenever I got texts in the middle of the night, I’d always be up like a shot. This was the scary message I had expected for many years, not the good night texts or “emergency” website outage texts I got from work. I came to fear this message after my father had a quadruple bypass while I was doing a junior year abroad in London. I worried when I saw him pull the car over to take a nitroglycerin pill for his not-infrequent chest pains.  I fretted at the thought of my Pau overexerting his body while threading the mouth of a 5-gallon Sparkletts bottle into the water cooler.

Despite my mom’s protestations that I wait a few hours and see how my dad felt, I purchased the next available ticket to LAX, put my laptop and two outfits in my backpack (oops — minus socks), and called a cab to get to New York’s LaGuardia airport.

In the cardiac ICU, my dad’s jolly Buddha proportions were flattened out and woven with tubes. He looked like a frog on its back, white belly round and vulnerable. I felt so acutely the utter uselessness of my chosen profession while watching the evening nurse administer morphine and oxygen to my panicking, out-of-breath father. The ominous machines around him blinked, beeped, and hissed, communicating his status in codes I was powerless to understand. My mom asked me to take a damp cloth to clean his hair and head. I realized as I wiped his forehead down gently that I had never put my hands that close to his face, as Thai culture forbids the younger from touching the heads of elders.

The hospital dinner came, a sweaty tray served with small packets of acrid, dessicated “salt-free seasoning”, which failed to make the drab, but heart-healthy, entree any more appealing. I used the plastic knife to dice a pale, thin chicken breast swathed in dull, beige gravy, and flexed the bendy straw into a small plastic tumbler of water for my dad to drink from. We laid another washcloth down to use as a bib and he scooped up the chunks of meat with a bit of dry brown rice pilaf and spongy frozen string beans. He ate, and he groused about the nurses stealing his Jello cup.

Eating and complaining — this is life.

***
Family

I’ve told this story before, but I’ll tell it again: I last attempted to hug my father about twelve years ago. I had just flown in from Brooklyn to L.A., and my parents had both come to pick me up. Seeing them smaller and older, I felt daughterly guilt and altitude sentimentalism burst from my heart like goop from a pimple. I wrapped my arms around my Pau. His whole body kind of clenched, and when I released him from my grip, he gruffly said, “Chinese people don’t hug.”

He may not have been speaking for the whole diaspora, but it’s certainly true in our Thai-Chinese family; we’re not touchy-feely. But my Pau showed his love in the kitchen. My whole life, he’d go to great lengths to prepare the foods my brother and I loved. Dinner always included at least two dishes with rice, which he’d have prepared while cooking until midnight the night before. Sundays were reserved for congee with a phone book-thick, speckled frittata; or Thai rice soup made with firm, sweet fish or long-simmered pork ribs, fragrant with julienned ginger and a shower of cilantro. When my brother and I clamored for the lasagnes we saw on TV shows, my Pau used his imagination and approximated the dish using pasta layered with cottage cheese, pepperoni, and little cocktail weenies. When we begged for McDonald’s Egg McMuffins, my Pau fashioned a ring mold from a folded piece of tin foil and fried eggs into the perfect circles his facsimile demanded. His culture — our culture — had never given my Pau the vocabulary for expressing affection, but I had always recognized these thrice daily culinary rituals as gestures of love, as demonstrative and clear as American TV families’ mawkish embraces.

***

Now, food has become the enemy in our midst.

The household is on a diabetes-friendly, low-salt, low-cholesterol diet now. All for one and one for all! If he can’t have white rice with every meal, neither will I! I worship the nurses and doctors who literally saved my father’s life, but I don’t want to have to see those people again. Once my dad was discharged, I came home and purged their kitchen of bouillon cubes, breads, croutons, and other high sodium culprits.

But I paused in front of my dad’s stoveside army of Asian condiment bottles. The once familiar, brown friends, flavors that nourished me and stoked my appetite, had become infiltrated perpetrators overnight. What used to be benign fish sauce, thick black soy sauce, coffee, palm sugar, and Splenda had become harbingers of high blood pressure, lung fluid retention, heart palpitations, diabetes, and cancer.

This is a problem, me being a food writer and all. I haven’t figured out how to reconcile it, yet.

***

At first, my mom and I shared cooking duties, making invisibly seasoned vegetable stir-fries and kaeng jud, bland, clear broths with mild blocks and blobs like translucent winter melon, tofu, and a tiny bit of ground meat.

On the second night he was home, I made a fish soup meant to be ladled over rice. Even after boiling the bones for some time with aromatic Chinese celery, slices of ginger, and crushed cloves of garlic, the soup was wan, and not up to par, I knew.

Later that night, I saw my dad enjoying his dinner with a suspicious amount of gusto, so I went to the pot and stuck a spoon in. He had clearly added thang-chai, mouth-puckeringly high-sodium preserved vegetables. Look, I knew it needed the thang-chai‘s unique musty tang and salinity; I also knew he didn’t need it. I surreptitiously added more water to the pot to dilute it down.

This would be our game now, I could see.

***

My cousins sometimes hint that I ought not to police my dad’s diet so much. That’s what he enjoys in life, they say; Can’t you let him have what he likes? NO. I want him to live, and I’m going to be selfish about it.

Months have passed since my move back here, my grand gesture. My dad’s back to doing most of the cooking, though he’s recalibrated his seasoning hand to accommodate the doctor’s orders. Though we still don’t hug, this latest brush with death seems to have made him a little more ABC Afterschool Special.

As he watches me eat, he says, “You know, my Mae used to cook for me, too. Even when I visited her in Thailand before she died, she tried to get up and cook for me. Can you believe that? At 80 years old.” He shakes his head. “Nothing tastes like home, right? That’s why I cook for you. Makes me happy to see you happy,” he says with a smile.

Sometimes, my social network feeds are dangerous to peruse. I see what my friends are eating (particularly my friends in New York), and I am seized with cravings that make me want to chew my tongue off. I try to scroll quickly past descriptions of chewy soppressata pizza hit with hot honey or milky pork tonkotsu ramen. For now, I’m eating in solidarity with my parents; after all, it was never the food that mattered. We are eating together, and that’s enough for me.

***
Pau

(My dad asked me what I was doing. I said I wanted to take a picture of him wearing this insane highlighter yellow, probably irregular, XXL t-shirt, surely purchased at the 99 cent store. He laughed. I took the picture.)

***
And so the natural pecking order has been re-established in our kitchen. The other day, I spy my Mae at the sink with the biggest kabocha pumpkin I’ve ever seen. She’s balancing the monster on one curved side and is trying to hack into it with a thin, long carving knife. I feel pretty confident that she’s going to take off several of her delicate digits with it.

“Mae, don’t do that.” I come over and choose a large, heavy, 10” chef’s knife from the block. After setting the pumpkin on its ample bottom, I dig the heel of the blade into the pumpkin near its stem. Just as I’m about to give the knife another whack with the flat of my palm, I see my Pau hovering next to me, shaking his head with disdain.

Lheek,” my dad says in Thai. Get out of the way. He pulls a giant cleaver out of the knife block. Using a wooden pestle as a mallet, he taps the cleaver blade and chisels the tough gourd into chunks. Tap-tap-thwack. Tap-tap-tap-thunk. I smile at his ingenuity, and I hear his message, loud and clear.

FML

So last Friday, I’m on my regular morning jog route which goes by my old high school. I’ve got my KPCC going, Morning Edition, and Renée Montagne is putting Ted Cruz on blast or some shit. Then I pass a parked van and a parked truck and there are these two kids standing there. And they are just standing there. But let me give you the details of this freeze frame.

So the girl is high school age; I assume this because her lush mane is groomed with the kind of precision that only girls with no responsibilities can muster the energy for. Her hair falls down to her waist in fat, hot roller curls that lay on her back like big logs of bologna. Her hair is that special shade of rusty schoolbus yellow that the children of immigrants get when they try to bleach their dark brown hair blond before they know better. (No hate — you will see below that I speak from experience. This photo was taken probs the year 2000. Look at the size of the cell phone pocket on my velcro one-shoulder messenger bag. Ha!)

Untitled

Why am I so focused on her hair? Because I can’t see her face. You see, she’s resting her cheek against the hood of the van she is leaning against. Like she was so tired that she needed to take a nap for a second and the nearest place to rest her head was on the hood of this car.

Meanwhile, her companion also seems to be from the high school. He’s wearing some sort of athletic top, I think, and baggy pants. Completing the athletic theme is a baseball cap, which he has turned backwards. He is facing, and perhaps contemplating, his companion’s bologna curls.

And they are standing perfectly still.

Here’s a visual aide.

Blank-3

Now, what do you think they are doing? I can’t tell. The fact that they are standing totally still and not making eye contact with each other or with me makes me think nothing is going on at all.

Just kidding!

But seriously, WERE THEY DOING IT? Or were they just making out? Am I a perv for thinking they might be doing it? Isn’t this a terrible place for a romantic tryst, chaste or not? Is she happy to be here? Is she really into this guy or is she demeaning herself in public because she has low self esteem? Did she do her hair perfectly for him? Was he able to appreciate her perfect coif? These thoughts kind of bloom in my mind like algae on the surface of a murky lake.

And so with all of these questions, I come home, bursting at the seams to tell this story. But who am I going to tell, my parents? I do not acknowledge the existence of sex when I talk to them. Also, my mom would make me change my jogging route, and because I am a dutiful Asian daughter, I would probably comply; better not to tell them anything at all.

The next day, I go to a party where I only know the hosts. It’s at a big park in town, and we are all kind of sitting in clumps on the grass. I’ve really been very good about saying yes to every social opportunity that comes up here, despite my general fear of introducing myself to strangers. I find that I am unable to tell people I live in the San Gabriel Valley and just leave it at that — I also have to divulge that I’m living with my parents. No matter how justified the move was by love and duty, it still makes me feel like a capital L Loser.

So this woman is telling a story about how she works at a hospital and recently watched two patients beat the shit out of each other. When I think she is done, I tell these strangers my story about the two teenagers. And the woman is like, “Were they beating each other up?” And I am like, no. And she is like, “What does that have to do with what I was saying?” Because, as it turns out, I’ve interjected in the middle of her story with what must seem like a non sequitur. You know that moment where you just know you’ve lost your audience? Riiiiiiight…there!

I realize that I am telling a totally inappropriate story, poorly, to a bunch of people who do not know me well enough to forgive my social awkwardness. And that while this event was the most interesting thing to happen to me all week, it did not actually deserve to be told as a story, but I don’t know any better because my life is so boring now. And I realize that perhaps the stagnation that comes with living with your parents like you are 14 years old again is not as benign as it seems.

I miss my old life and my old self right now.