Then I summoned the courage…

…to keep trying again and again all for love.

That’s what I thought when I saw this. And after all, I just bought a PS4…

In reality, I would never have the energy to finish this game. But to save a life, to keep going in spite of it all? To know that if I “die”, then I would have to return to the very beginning? All in hopes that my skill will allow me to finish the entire game?

All for love?

Looking up

As I walked from the embarcadero, I heard squawking. A plethora of people? Children?

No, it was the parrots of Telegraph Hill, roosting around the Financial District.

A video posted by Jenn Ng (@jennism) on

I paused for a second, in my rush to an event. I stared at the birds. An item on my bucket list, because I never was quite sure where to find them.

And there I was, drawn to the squawks. What struck me at the moment was not that I finally found the birds. But what if I had been like my fellow commuters on the BART, plugging our earphones in, listening to the same track over and over again on Spotify. What if I had submitted myself to simply blocking the outside world for my own “sanity”? And had completely missed this all?

On the way back from BART, I looked up 24th Street and spotted an unusual sight—a guy crawling on the side of a building, making his way to a partially open window. If he slipped, he would have fallen more than 15 feet past the awning of a restaurant onto the concrete sidewalk. I stopped and gawked. But people passed me by without a single turn of the head, absorbed into their phone. Maybe one or two followed my gaze. But so many, their voice shouting into their phone or their gaze locked into the bright screen at 8:30 PM. I watched the guy made it in successfully.

And one woman said to me, “What an idiot. He’s going to break his neck. Was he trying going out or coming back in?”

“Coming back in,” I said.

Don’t get in my way of food

In late 2001, a boy invited me to dinner. I obliged, always looking for adventure. We walked to his red two seater. As I got into the front seat, he pulled a box from the backseat and handed it to me. I gasped in happiness. “Donuts,” I said and put the Krispy Kreme box back down in the backseat. “You know exactly what I like! But better not to spoil our appetite.”

“Open it!” he said.

I lifted the box and peered inside. Puzzled at first as it was not round and sweet and tasty. A bouquet of my favorite flowers laid in the white box. Calla lily. A thought flew across my mind that he must have remembered that I mentioned it once. What I didn’t know at that moment was that I was going to dislike. I knew what the gesture meant, so I turned to him and laid a hand on his shoulder. Hiding my disappointment, I forced a smile and said, “Wow, thank you! You got my favorite flower!”

“I knew that you would love it!” he said and turned the key.

The car roared to life, and the entire evening, I wanted the glazed donuts.

What I didn’t know was that less than 2 weeks later, I would break up with him, not just because of the donuts, but because of so many things. What I also didn’t know was that I would establish a lifelong rule of “no flowers”. “They die,” I say.

But I would bite my lip when they did arrive, knowing the thoughtfulness intended.

“Calla lilies were my last favorite flower,” I said to a friend as we took a loop around the park.

We idly glanced at the hipster stores along 18th street and the crowd forming along the major food stops. It was the day before Valentine’s Day. I related the story of the boy. “I suppose that I was more upset that he didn’t know me,” I said.

“Well, that was traumatic for you,” my friend said. “You were only 19.”

“I was.”

This was 2012

Pulled apart by my choice
I stood alone
Anything to grasp
To feel unbroken
And there you were, and you said
Open palms for friends
But my heart desired more
More of what I had before
And so I said okay

Letting the mud drip
And dry on my shoulders
Weighing every step
But I never noticed
Because I thought
That’s how to feel normal again

I asked you to help me through
But you said no
And we reversed to the age of four
Crying, going low
Swing fists, hurting hard
Apologies given and forgotten
Stingers unremoved

Then in an email sent
I wrote “Thank you and I am sorry”
And the words stopped
And then the pain stopped

Forget all the worries and concerns

If you stood above the swirling dark waters
And you let the colored rain wash away
All the dirt collected
From the words unleashed
From the dreams trampled
From the hearts pricked
Dripping down to the cliffs below

Would it feel better now?
Would you feel clean?
Would your fingers feel the breeze?
Or insist that the wind does not care?

I’ll hold my palms up
And gather those anxieties
Cupping them here
Bury them into a box
Deep into the unseen cave

Forget those worries
Forget those concerns
Remember this moment

Harmless violation

An oxymoron, for sure.

Last night, I dreamed of a digital device. I was responsible for it and needed to use it for something important—a presentation, a demo, or similar. But somehow in the exchange of hands or perhaps a lack of awareness on my part, it fell into the hands of someone that constantly wanted the best for me (in his twisted way), but I distrusted his results.

And so, perhaps moments before the showcase of my device, I discovered that it had been tampered. “I was trying to make it better,” he said in a obnoxious tone.

“You did?” I said and could feel anger flare throughout my body.

I glared at him, and he did notice. “This is better,” he said.

I woke up, finding myself pushed down in the bed, clutching the pillow. To me, it’s somewhat interesting that I have landed in a responsible position, to present and demonstrate to others. I remember this person—someone who I had rebuffed, but insisted that he felt that he connected with me. In those moments, my irritation melted away, and I would agree to catsit while he traveled. But my displeasure would return when I found that he used my accounts with my knowledge or demanded that I change my ways. He called his behavior “brutal honesty.”

There was once when he gave me the sunglasses and scarf his subtenant left behind. “This is a present for you,” he said. “For catsitting.”

“Don’t,” I said and pushed it back into his arms.

One time, because I ran out of cash, I wrote a check to pay him back for a concert ticket. “I don’t take checks,” he said.

He took the check and tore it into little pieces, dropping it like confetti in front of me. I must have laughed then, amused at his ridiculousness. But inside, I was seething. I never paid him back him back.

It has been more than three years since we last spoke. In our initial silence, he unfriended me on Facebook. But several months passed by and he sent a friend request. I did not offer any “accept” in return. And the silence continues to this day.

Back then, he lived less than 100 steps from my building. Occasionally, when I walk down Valencia Street, I glance up to the third story window. Almost by habit, I wonder if the light is still on and whether the cat is cold from the open window. Then I continue walking, happy to jog up my steps back into my apartment.

Then I realized that I was the only Asian present.

And one of the few minorities.

Sitting in the orchestra of Herbst theater, I relished in the words of Cheryl Strayed. A few months ago, coming upon a Facebook advertising her visit to San Francisco, I mindlessly (digitally) ran to buy tickets. Thrilled that I was able to score orchestra tickets, I declared that I was attending in the Facebook event. And today, I settled in the lush red velvet seats and watched two women—Caroline the interviewer chatting with Cheryl Strayed.

Her sense of humor was just right. Never too overly inspirational or spiritual. With some good gotchas here and there. It was as if I was there, on the couch, listening to her, like I have with some good friends. Those are the times that I enjoy the most. Leaning forward in fascination of a friend’s self-awareness and provocative nature.

I have to admit that I loved Tiny Beautiful Things—her collection of Dear Sugar columns. So much more than Wild. The heartbreaking tragedies and an intimate attempt to help someone. She and Steve Almond later called it radical empathy (better than that ridiculous philosophy of radical honesty). I loved it and dreamed that I could structure my words that beautifully.

Then the hours concluded and Cheryl Strayed greeted some onstage guests. Chris tried to urge me forward to unleash my fangirlness. But embarrassment always overcomes me here. I know how it goes especially when I appear at authors’ book signings and the only thing that I can utter is “I want to be like you!” What can the author say? I know when someone says to me that I smile and nod and say thank you. But the connection that I desire so much won’t just appear.

As I walked into the lobby, I suddenly was struck by the diversity of the audience. Earlier, we had nearly walked into the neighboring War Memorial Opera House where gray-haired guests decked in formal wear wandered the staircases. We were directed to the appropriate building which was filled with women my age. Young and very urban. Chris was one of the few guys present.

But as were leaving, I looked at everyone. Women, for sure, which made sense. Writing and this kind of self-awareness attracts a certain type. But to my surprise (and maybe increasing awkwardness), I noticed that there wasn’t a single Asian present. Save for 1 or 2 Asian males that accompanied a while female. Everyone was blond, brunette. There was an African American flying near the edges of the lobby. But I was the only one.

Yesterday, a friend was attempting to understand my hesitation of moving to Oakland. Oakland for sure embodies a lot of the writing community. But I lamented that I haven’t been able to make the connections. She mentioned that it was probably because of the people I surround myself with. But I pointed out that it’s not that. I choose the people that I surround myself with. And quite naturally, I found my comfort in tech. And moreover, I found comfort (oddly) with people who happen to be Asian in tech. I love food and so they do too. With ample disposable income. But if I was meant to bond with writers, I just never had. It’s a challenge for me, because I love writing, but the community has been so hard to find. At least the type of writers I seek. If I was meant to befriend them, wouldn’t I have met them already?

And so as I wandered in the lobby, I hoped to see someone I knew. But the faces were all unfamiliar. So then I did what I normally do in an awkward situation when out in the city. I went to find dessert. In moments, I had a toffee milk chocolate chip cookie in my hands.