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Interests: Angst, Vignettes, Reading other people's Xangas
Expertise: Depicting events that never occurred
Occupation: Being a work of fiction
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[A NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR]
Hello. Sorry I have not written in so long.
I began this webfiction during a stretch of work where I had long periods of inactivity. Fortunately for my career, but unfortunately for this project, that stretch ended rather abruptly.
That, coupled with the fact that in my personal life while things are going well I am dealing with a set of issues (involving married life and family) that are very different than the issues my story dealt with (whose story line was primarily focused on religion, law and being asian, male and single), has made continuing to write at this time difficult.
I had generally sketched the major plotlines for the webfiction to go over the course of 4 years of their lives and reach something of a resolution, so I would like to return to it at some point, but I’m not sure if I ever will. In my mind, I’ve seen where they go and what happens to them – I’d like to be able to capture that in print at some point.
In the meantime, if anyone who reads this is a fiction writer, my vote is for you to write a fiction espionage novel in the Ian Fleming vein about an English educated young Pakistani who works for the Pakistani secret service. I think that would be terrific – the locales would be exotic and would be plausible places where dastardly skullduggery could take place in the shadows, with many factions and conflicted motives (Pakistan’s own tenuous friendship with the United States and its tensions with India, another US ally, for instance). I would do it but never having been in that region of the world I don’t think I’d do it justice.
“Would you like a dessert? Coffee?” the blond waitress asks.
I look over the small dessert menu. I am going to be fighting food coma as it is. “I’m probably ok. You guys?” I ask. Dave shakes his head, as does Lane.
“Another mojito?” suggests the waitress.
Lane laughs, not for the first time this meal, a low pitched throaty chuckle. “I don’t think our employers would appreciate. Check, please,” she says in a friendly but firm way. The waitress nods and walks off.
We’re sitting in the small patio area of the Cuban restaurant we’ve chosen for lunch. It’s a sunny day and warm enough in Los Angeles in November that I can see David’s slightly sweating in his suit – one of the downsides of being a court attorney. My firm and Lane’s group are both business casual – which in Southern California is even less formal than in other parts of the country – and we’re dressed for the warm weather.
“Well, this was great,” Lane smiles. David nods. “Very fun,” I agree, and I mean it.
The meal was good – my Cubano was tasty and the mojito was a nice change of pace from the diet coke I normally quaff in the attorney dining room. David, Lane and I had kept up an effortless conversation, giving Lane tips about fun places to hang and nice places to eat in Los Angeles, playing the “do you know so and so from such and such house” and congratulating ourselves on moving from Cambridge snow to Los Angeles beaches.
In the lull as we wait for the waitress to bring the check Lane breaks in. “When I first accepted the offer from the L.A. office I was pretty bummed by the lack of night life downtown, but things seem to be getting better.”
Maybe I’m just being sensitive but it strikes me that lots of the women I have hung out with would just let that silence linger rather than proactively end it.
“Totally,” David says. “Things have gotten a lot better – there are some nice places to eat that are not ultra-pricey and there’s some nice bars – like the Standard Downtown.”
“I’ve heard of it but haven’t been yet,” Lane says.
“They have a bar on the roof – it’s a little cold now – but they have heaters,” I chime in. “Overpriced drinks but a fun crowd.”
I wonder if the overpriced drink comment was stupid. I try to think of something to say, and am saved by the waitress swinging by with the bill.
“My treat,” I say, grabbing the small black plastic folder and handing it back to the waitress with my credit card before Lane and David can react.
“Richard, you don’t have to…” Lane starts as David also begins to protest.
“No, I insist,” I say firmly. The waitress takes my card and the bill and walks back towards the register.
“Thanks man,” David says.
Lane’s silent for a moment. I see her grey eyes narrow for a second. “Tell you what, I’ll buy you a drink at the Standard sometime,” she says.
“Sounds great,” I say. We all fall silent – finishing up the last dregs of our drinks as we wait for the waitress to return.
I look around – the lunch rush is dissipating – and recall Paul and our earlier conversation.
“How about this Thursday night?” I say, breaking the reverie.
Lane cocks her head to the side and looks at me. I see David’s eyes widen slightly too.
“Let’s grab drinks this Thursday night at the Standard, after work,” I say, “best to collect on debts while their fresh. Plus you might be out of town on an engagement soon”
Lane thinks for a moment. “Sure,” she says with a smile, “that’ll be fun.”
The waitress comes back with my card and I sign. We all stand up to leave, Lane heading in a different direction than David and I. We wave to her as she crosses the street.
“Good lunch,” I remark to David as we watch her walking away. David claps me on the back and gives me a knowing grin.
“Good lunch?” he laughs. “Great lunch.”
It is tactically disadvantageous to start seeing someone after October and before March. That’s my conclusion as I sit in the food court of the mall staring at the remains of my delicious gyro. The mall is beginning to clear out – its almost 8 pm – and the tables are mostly unoccupied. The only congregation of people I see is a line of mostly middle-aged and older white people waiting in line to go see some art film at the terrible little theater stuck in the mall.
Beginning to see someone during that time means that you are almost immediately confronted with either Christmas (or, I guess Channukhah) or Valentine’s Day and the task of giving gifts that have significance. This is a problem on two levels. The first is that you have to find a gift that sends the right message about the relationship. Two, and more importantly, you have to figure out what the “right message” happens to be.
I stand up and start walking.
I pass by the Gap – there’s something not well made about the clothes.
I pass by Banana Republic. Some people might view it as similar to the Gap, but I think their clothes are better. A possibility, but I don’t really know what Sarah would like to wear, which means a gift certificate. A gift certificate is a very functional gift, but early on it can be interpreted as being too lazy to figure out what someone really wants. Better to get something and get a gift receipt. Shows at least you tried.
“Hello,” the greeter says to me as I wander in. I nod in acknowledgment and wander over to the tables. Shirts and light sweaters. Sweaters are a common choice – but they seem similar to what friends get each other rather than people who are more intimate. I ignore pants. Buying pants for a woman is better left to women.
I wonder if I even know what size sweater to buy. Maybe a scarf or throw – but I don’t really know whether she has others. I look at them though – there are sales going on. I continue wandering around the tables, occasionally staring at the mannequins and imagining Sarah’s head on them.
“Are you looking for something in particular?” one of the clerks asks me. I break from my reverie to answer.
“No, just kind of looking. Thanks,” I say.
“Ok, well let me know if you need any help,” she says, and walks off.
Maybe I’ll come back. I head back out and keep walking.
I pass by Victoria’s Secret. The idea of buying her something from there makes me laugh. That would spell the end of the relationship about as fast as buying her a carton of cigarettes and a case of corona as a gag gift. Funny, but rude, and with a tinge of brutality I think.
I hope Sarah doesn’t get me anything too expensive.
I pass by the mall jewelers without looking in. There is something about mall jewelry stores that just seem seedy. I feel more comfortable even in the jewelry district downtown, as urban and gritty as it is. In the tacky fake bright lights and light beige carpeting of the mall jewelers, it just seems to scream “I am going to fucking take all your money and give you a piece of crap.”
I do, however, go to the 1st floor of Nordstroms and look. Earrings are a possibility or a necklace. Jewelry is a little less ambiguous than clothing, but as long as you don’t go crazy, not a gigantic declaration of commitment, depending on the material and make.
Like many Chinese girls, Sarah does not have a lot of jewelry –the only thing I recall is a small jade piece she sometimes wears around her neck. I could even get her a ring.
Maybe a ring is a bad idea actually. Nix that. Earrings or a necklace are a better bet.
“Would you like to see something,” asks an older white woman manning the island whose glass case I am looking at. Its interesting how Banana, the Gap and those places tend to have twenty-some young attractive people but the department stores tend to be filled with lots of middle aged thin white women.
“No thanks,” I say, “just looking today.”
I want Sarah to be happy with the gift. But not too happy. I wonder what that says about the relationship. I can imagine her now, sitting in her beat up lounge chair on her balcony with a textbook, a cigarette and a beer, pausing every few moments to look up and blow smoke up into the air. Its an image that evokes everything that I like about her – smart, sexy, independent, fun. At the same time it seems out of place with our relationship to get something sentimental. Our relationship seems more fun than romantic right now. Not that I’m averse to it becoming something else – but it hasn’t yet. Maybe it will.
Maybe this gift might change that.
But I wonder if that’s what I really want.
“Dear Lord, thank you for loving me,” I begin. My own voice seems loud to my ears as I sit at my kitchen table, head bowed. I think about whispering, but that seems even more weird, to whisper when I’m alone in my own apartment.
Am I talking to the air? Then again, if there’s no God, I should not be embarrassed about it. Just a lonely monkey alone in his cage.
“Thank you for sacrificing your only son on the cross in order to redeem me,” I continue. I think about praying silently, but Paul recommended that I pray aloud. It focuses the mind – prevents you from just daydreaming about work or television or something.
Probably right – right now, I’m thinking about praying even as I pray. Meta-praying, really. What else should I say? I adore you? I love you?
Maybe move onto the next part. Contrition. A very formal word.
“Please forgive me my sins.” What sins? What have I done today?
“Forgive me for my laziness and my apathy, my ungratefulness for the many blessings you have given me.”
Those are true statements, though in some sense I do not feel at all bad about those things. Maybe I should ask for forgiveness for not feeling guilty about sins, but that seems sort of meta too.
Should I ask for forgiveness for my unbelief? Is my unbelief a sin though? Its not volitional that I do not believe. I am not going to ask for forgiveness for that.
I am running out of things to say, I think. I wonder if people can coherently pray out loud for hours. I hear people pray at bible study but they tend to pray about lots of things beyond themselves or they tend to pray in a frenzy, repeating phrases and using lots of filler.
I open my eyes for a moment, staring at the pale wood grain of my kitchen table and the Bible study printout I have in front of me. Scrawled on the side next to random doodles is the acronym Paul gave me to help in praying – ACTS.
I close my eyes again. This is easier.
“Thank you for blessing me and my family with good health. Thank you for bringing friends into my life and blessing me with a good job and good co-workers. Thank you for bringing me into a bible study of nice people.”
Should I thank God for meeting Lane? I don’t even know if Lane is Christian. What if God does not approve of Lane? What if Lane does not approve of God?
I wonder how the lunch will go. Should I order a mojito at lunch? I wonder if I’ll get the Asian flush. That would not be cool. I wonder what I should wear – maybe a sports coat. I wonder if people at work will wonder why I’m so dressed up though.
I guess I should start praying again.
“Thank you for giving me salvation through Christ.”
A (adoration) and T (thankfulness) are somewhat similar, aren’t they? Am I saved yet? If I’m not sure, is it wrong of me to thank God for it?
Is it ok to address God and reference Christ as a separate person even though they are the same person?
“I pray that you help me really feel and believe in you. I pray that you watch over my health and the health of my friends and family and keep us safe. Bless our country and this world, our armed forces in Iraq and missionaries throughout the world. Please bestow your grace on all, both Christian and non-Christian, and save us from ourselves and save the environment from us.”
I wonder if God disapproves of prayers to show mercy and bring relief to those who are not saved. I don’t think so – God is loving. But the world we live in is, by design, a place of suffering. So by definition God can not remove all suffering.
“Help me in my unbelief.”
If prayer is a conversation, how do you hold when you are not sure there is anyone on the other side? I sort of feel like praying before I have faith is premature.
But on the other hand, maybe prayer will help me find faith, as awkward as it is. Maybe we’re like someone trapped in an air pocket in a landslide. We don’t know if anyone will answer us if we call out, but unless we call out we’ll never be found and saved. Unless I try I’ll be trapped forever.
“Jesus, save me,” I whisper.
With a deal closed and December beginning, things are slow. I’m reading the realm forums on the WoW site when suddenly I notice that Sean, the partner Julie and I worked for on the deal, has strode into my office. I quickly close the window, thankful that my monitor is set up to face away from the door.
“Hey,” I say. I wonder for a second whether it turned out that one of the board packages was improperly assembled or whether Julie complained about my work at the closing. It went smoothly enough, I thought.
“Nothing urgent,” Sean says, heavily sitting down on one of my chairs, “I just wanted to thank you for the work you did.”
Relief washes over me, hopefully imperceptibly. “Thanks. It was a good experience,” I say. I now know what accordion files to get, how to get text editing to print labels, how to order food and reserve conference rooms and that final documents have no version numbers and are signed in blue pen – all the critical analytical skills I need to get ahead.
“Yeah, I wish I had an interesting but pretty smooth deal like you just did when I just started,” he replies. “Jules tells me that we’re getting you a leatherbound,” he says, in a statement between a question and a declaration.
“Yeah, I figured I’d appreciate a memento of one of my first soup to nuts deals,” I say. I find myself switching glances from his slightly pudgy mustached face to my outlook inbox. I try to stop it – not a good idea to stare at e-mail while talking with your boss but it’s almost a nervous tic.
“That’s a good decision. I wish it were different but these clients … even the big ones question every call we make and don’t understand that some of these things are important for morale,” Sean sighs.
It occurs to me that he might be able to spare part of his million dollar annual pay to buy me my leatherbound and that would help morale. But then again this is the guy who asked me to put him on my OT meals.
I nod sympathetically. I wonder if that’s a sin. Is it lying when you say nothing at all in response to something you disagree with?
“Anyway, two things. One, to make it up to you, I got these for you,” he says, tossing a white envelope across my desk.
I open it up. 4 Clippers tickets and a parking pass. This did not take him a lot of political capital to use up. Most clients want to see Kobe and the Lakers. On top of that it’s a Sunday game – when most partners would rather be with their families rather than clients and clients would rather be with their families than with their lawyers – and against Chicago, rather than a team with either name brand talent (Cleveland) or a current powerhouse.
It is however, harder to get than Kings tickets. Or, God forbid, Avengers or Sparks or something. I envision myself in the box for a Sparks game with people from duplicating and dining services.
“I hope you like basketball.” Sean says after a moment, his forehead slightly creasing with concern.
I start and respond, “oh, yeah, I love basketball! This is really great. Thanks!” I smile. And I am happy. They are free tickets and something to be thankful about.
He seems relieved, “no problem.”
“Also, we’ve got a little client that will be doing a similar kind of thing – not the spinoff but the financing,” he continues. “It’ll be their first round. I thought it would be a good experience for you, if you wanted to try another deal like the one we did.”
“Sure, that’d be great,” I respond, without even really thinking about it. Not being busy, it does not really matter what I think – I don’t have a good excuse not to take on the project.
“Great … it’ll be small so it’ll be just you and I – better experience for you.”
This must be one of the small dot com clients that Sean made partner on the promise of representing – clients that generally failed to materialize and have put pressure on Sean to produce. The fees from a private round financing are usually not more than $100,000, at most – not attractive to the firm but the hope was that by representing the companies early we’d be in place when they did M&A or accessed the public markets. Since the dot com crash of the late 90s, early 00s, I have heard that we moved away from that. But Sean is one of the guys that still believes in the model – but he needs to keep the costs low to keep it going.
Not that it matters to me. For me, it is a good opportunity to take more responsibility earlier. “Terrific,” I say.
Sean gets out of my chair and grins. “Ok. Well, I think that we’ll be going out to see them early next week. I’ll send you some e-mails with background and a charge number,” he says as he walks to my doorway. “Enjoy the tickets. Open or closed?”
I think for a moment. “Closed,” I say.
The door closes and I begin to think about who I want to bring.