“But then we can eat everyone together!”

Chris tells me this, without any pretension.

“I don’t know if I want to be a zombie,” I say.

I have thought about this carefully. That one day, I would want to sign a DNR order. That in case of the zombie apocalypse, perhaps caused by a vegetarian type food like quinoa, I would prefer to survive. And if bitten, I would rather die than to cause others the pain of my own bites. Chris said that he would join me. “Wouldn’t it be great if we were eating people together?” he says.

“But then I wouldn’t be myself,” I say, thinking of rotting skin and my mindless head, devoid of any of the Jennifer personality beyond the general weak constitution.

“Okay,” he agrees. “But just believe me when there are zombies. Don’t disbelieve me like all those characters on TV and movies. Believe me when I say that there are zombies. We will need a safe word.”


What is as cold and distant as shoplifting?

I wrote that as a note in a draft of a story.

The act of shoplifting is cold and distant, because the core concept is the idea that things are taken away from a mysterious being. The being that owns the shop. and that being even if it’s a real family isn’t visible. It’s distant from the things that stock shelves and the people that run the store. Buying something, stealing something isn’t as visibly wrong as mugging someone.

So what else is? Is anything that is done through the Internet that cold and distant? The idea of an online dating service which at its core could be seen a meat market. Or just the idea of a man absent from a scene where the only interaction is through a machine. Isn’t that cold and distant?

What is the end if I am afraid to reach it?

I am actually nearing the completion of my book, and it terrifies me. I am admitting it.

It has been the excuse for many things. To freelance instead of committing to a full-time job, which has been a great decision. To give me the headspace to write. To have ice cream, talk about it constantly, and wonder what else I could do to make the book better.

But it must come to an end. Partially, because I made a commitment and it would disappoint myself so much that I couldn’t follow through. Flakiness is not within myself (although tardiness is prevalent). I always…eventually…show up.

A year ago, this whole project paralyzed me and I often laid in bed, wondering what I was doing. Twisted underneath the blankets, the enormity of the project weighed down physically on my body. The expectations, the rejection I got from publishers, and the unknown. But somehow I came to terms with it and I woke up. I sought help and slowly finished it. And now it’s really here.

What if all it takes now is to walk to the door and open it? Then close it with a satisfying slam. It’s done, I yell, it’s done, I whisper, and that doneness ripples through my body wrenching a familiar feeling away. Then I think: what’s next?

It was then that I decided that I didn’t want to be religious

“Does everyone get to go to heaven?” a kid asked in my CCD class, the weekly bible study for kids.

The instructor, that day was a father of a classmate, answered solemnly. I admired him, because he was an airline pilot. That was a cool job to my 11 year old self. But my imagination of flying high above cities and oceans was abruptly halted when he answered, “No, not everybody. Only those who believe in God. Specifically Christians.”

A discomfort grew in my belly. A fire, perhaps, that spread from my inside to my limbs, to my finger tips, up my neck, up my scalp. It didn’t seem right. Heaven was supposed to be for all good people. Yet what was good if it was so narrowly defined by beliefs. I wasn’t sure if I believed in God then. I was following everybody else in my scared, fearful way. But I had decided way before I was 11 that morality is about equality. After all, that’s what all the movies said. That’s what TV said. The instructor, no longer a role model, was an adult spewing nonsense. Back then, it was the first time, but not the last, that I didn’t trust what an adult said.

Yet I said nothing. My eyes narrowed. And I knew then that I couldn’t finish the rites of passage. Even if it meant that I could be like everybody else.

Chris told me once that he wanted to believe, but heard nothing. I never heard anything. But it wasn’t that lack of action that dissuaded me from staying with a religion. It was the hypocrisy that I heard when I was 11.

My car honked softly

Because I was driving, I had circled around the block slowly, finding clear, defined spots. No sudden movements. No crazy U-towns across the middle of the street. I remember my friend remarking after we drove past an open spot in front of our destination on College Avenue more than ten years, “I would have swerved into that spot.”

Hmm, I said thoughtfully. But that day, I found a spot at the corner and reversed into it. Turning the wheels and the brakes. All set.

Then we went to see a movie. On the way out, we chatted with our friend about the movie. What did they not show in the movie? Why didn’t they show any of the abuse of women? I loved that song and kept listening to it growing up even though my mom hated it.

Chris unlocked my car, and it softly honked. In 2004, my parents decided to buy a new car and I came with them. When my dad couldn’t make it to the final negotiation meeting for the sale, I was present with my mom. The salesman said, “A security alarm would be perfect for the car! You’ll never know! And it decreases the insurance premium.”

Despite not even paying the money for the car, I piped up, “What a good idea! We should do it.”

My mom gave me a look, but she didn’t have the ability to negotiate out of it anymore.

And in turn, a third-party car alarm was added to the 2004 Toyota Corolla. And my parents said, scolding me, “The car alarm is your graduation present.”

More than ten years later, I returned to Van Ness and Ellis to hear the recognizable soft honk. The kind that meant that the alarm was set off. The kind that honked when I returned to my car after work to find that the windshield was cracked. And again one week later to find that the windshield cracked again after a repair. And the kind that surprised me after a holiday party near 17th and Folsom just last December to find that two windows was broken and that someone stole a GPS and pens. A few days, I saw that the rear wing window was broken and that the UPS receipts was crumpled and tossed on the ground of my car.

My friend brushed the glass onto the asphalt. Nothing else was taken. Not my sunglasses. Not the garage opener. “I think that he probably got scared,” Chris said. “Maybe someone interrupted him.”

A him, always.

On controversial issues and people you know

“You support the death penalty?” I remarked, each word dripping with anger.

“Yes,” he said.

The conversation became something else then. Mostly because of me. And we never talked like normal people again. I was 19 and just began my second year in college. He was my roommate’s friend, attended community college, and had fallen in love. In love with my words and the way I said them eloquently in blog and through instant message. The attraction wasn’t mutual.

But you see, then, I didn’t know how to say things kindly to someone—whether they hurt me or angered me. I didn’t know how to say: I need some time away.

Instead, I found myself hunting for a contentious issue. An issue that would divide us. And most often the issues are the ones that Errol Louis from CNN describes as “a conversational dead-end, on which nearly all intelligent adults have already made up their minds.” That is, the issues of abortion, gay marriage, or death penalty. I swing extremely left on all of those, but as I have discovered, the world is diverse.

Here I am performing

I dream of being on stage. A performer. The way I say, sing, dance or whatever it is…moves people. Someone described my dream as my deep desire to express myself. In whatever method possible.

But reality is not like that. I get up on stage. Anxiety seizes me. But the motivation to do it, propels me up there. Yet, it’s never quite how I want it to be. But I never want it to be anybody else. I always believe this: next time, it will be better. But I am the worst critic.

Oddly enough, I have always wondered if I could split myself into two. So that I could engineer the perfect version of me to perform on stage. Whether it’s to give a presentation, a talk, or other performance. So that my habit of slurring words disappears. My volume of my voice is loud. And my posture is straight and confident. So that I scan the audience, taking control of them, instead of whimpering wondering when I’ll get back to my seat. And how I would space out my words in my sentences, breathing. Actually breathing. And gesture at the right times.

I have mastered one-on-one conversations. Even one-to-a-few. But one-to-many? Not yet.

Yesterday, I stood in front of 15 respected people. Outside of my company, a networking event. I had volunteered right away to speak. I casually joked around beforehand. And jumped to the stage with my prepared 7.5 minute stage. I looked at people in the eye, remembering my script. Slipping several times when the words could not come to my lips. “Promoting?” I asked aloud to nobody.

“Yes, the national newspaper promoted him,” I finally said, not quite happy with my phrasing knowing that the line was not surfacing.

And instead, I smiled and continued. A dash of envy filled me as I watched the following speaker spoke with such authority on his talk. Although I had no idea what he was talking about, because it was so obscure, I wondered…could I be split into two? To steal all the components of a great speaker in one. In the other, to be pulling the strings, to orchestrate the performance.

But this is reality. And to have sensory detail of everything, isn’t that why I am here? Isn’t what it means to live?

A $24 mistake

I suppose that I should be glad that it wasn’t more than $24.

It was early, and I wasn’t ready to get out of bed. But I had promised that I would be ready at 7:45 AM. I opened my eyes at 7:20 AM and browsed through my emails—a bad habit that I had built the last few years. Then I heard the crash of the metal gate close and my front door open. Quite promptly, the stairs thumped rapidly up the stairs. A jangle of metal keys fell into a silver platter. I opened my door. “You’re here early,” I said and headed to the bathroom.

In a few minutes, I was ready to go. In a skirt, a buttondown shirt, and camisole. I pulled on my Frye black flats, which I hoped wouldn’t feel tight later on the day. In the back my mind, I cursed the stylist who sold it hard to me for over $100 when I didn’t have the logic to actually see they fit. At least I would look casual for the participants.

I got a ride to the caltrain. It was still so early and the even earlier train had just left. “Okay, I am ready to go,” I said and hopped out to saunter down the stairs.

I saw a friend at the ticket machine, still wearing her helmet and next to her bike. I tagged my card and walked over. “Youna,” I said brightly.

She blinked and said, “Oh hello!”

She, her friend, and I chatted a bit. Then a train arrived. I wanted to sit in another car, but I wasn’t ready to embarrass myself by struggling to open the doors between cars. So instead, I took an empty seat next to other people. I pulled up a presentation that I had been working on—made adjustments. Then I switched over to edit my ice cream book. So fascinating, these two brothers in Rome, their love and passion. The girl next to me motioned that she was getting off. Millbrae. Just a few more stops. I edited the words. I moved sentences back and forth. I fixed the quotes. Copy and paste. I was annoyed by all the rocking of the car, making my laptop slide back and forth all over my lap. Then I looked up, satisfied with my work.

I didn’t recognize the surroundings. A stadium? Sparse suburban area. Where were the leafy tree-lined streets? The startup world. I looked down at my phone. 9:16 am? How is that possible? I was supposed to get to my stop shortly before 9 am. Unless…

I brought up the map on my phone. I was closing in San Jose. I screamed silently, realizing my mistake of missing my stop. I stuffed my laptop in my bag and briefly thanked that the conductor didn’t come through. I anxiously plotted what I should do. Uber, of course. No point of trying to sneak onto another train back up. it would never make it in time.

So I hurried through the station. Impressed that it just looked like the train stations in Italy. But this one looked exactly like English. But my fascination was squashed by my irritation and anxiety. Mountain View, shouldn’t be that far right?

Outside the station, I looked at the app. Now irritated that I had to use uber and the estimated fee was about $25. I didn’t have a choice. I looked at the taxis and hesitated. No way. The uber driver arrived and without hesitation, I jumped into the front seat. She was amicable. Oddly for a uber driver. She wanted passengers to chat with and widen her world. She sympathized with my plight, commenting that it’s really common. Then she complained about passengers who made out in her car. “I wish that I drove a limo so I could roll up a window between me and them,” she said.

And then I arrived in Mountain View 22 minutes later. I jogged over to tag my card. Then I jogged to the office. I could feel my feet swell and the shoes feeling tighter. In a brief glance at email, I saw the total. Almost $24. I grumbled and told the Internet my plight.