I am a Ghost

There is a special place in the 626 where you can stand on a pinnacle of a suburban island and gaze around you an ocean of glimmering city lights. Listen to the static hum and lose yourself in your thoughts. Here, someone not much older than I committed suicide. I won’t go into the details of the suicide, but I’ve often felt the presence of his ghost. And I felt his pain too, for it was my pain.

 

I left home in search of something better. I’m not entirely certain how I became conscious that home was a bubble. I think it was because I always felt that I didn’t belong. This might partly be due to my parents’ and my generational, ideological differences. But there was also a cultural difference: one American, and one Taiwanese. These cultures were like great forces pulling me in different directions, and I think much of my life was misspent trying to choose a direction. There was this great riff between expectations and reality. Granted, I think that’s something every child experiences. However, my being raised in an Asian culture particularly put me and my parents at odds. You feel your parent’s expectation. They shape you. They become the ideal of what you should be. Simultaneously, you have your own ideas, your own personality, and your own dreams. In my case, they were extremely polarizing. I was nothing like my parent’s expectations. This was something I didn’t come in terms with. Instead, I walked the road of compromises, and it led me to hell. Monsters and shadows followed me. They whispered terrible ideas into my ears, and before long, I found myself on the ledge of a 30 floor building with one foot over the edge. I was a ghost as I walked through hell. I don’t know why I didn’t take the second step. Maybe I was a coward. Maybe I was hoping something better was waiting for me.

 

So I left home, knowing that I was an outsider. I could feel my world shifting. Things were falling apart. People I’ve known were being pulled in different directions. I was becoming someone different, someone I thought incompatible with the 626. I became a wanderer for some time. I packed my backpack so I could stay out late every night. I walked, I skateboarded, I took a plane across the ocean and briefly lived in Spain, I came back, I drove along the coast, and I saw some other states. And from my experience, I never found a place like the 626. It’s a cliché, but the 626 became this unchanging, endearing place. It was a place that I could never call my own, but I could no longer deny that it was very much a part of me.

 

Thinking back, I probably hoped for some sort of rebirth. I wanted change, the ultimate change, in which I would be freed from my pains. I thought of myself as a ghost that drifted from place to place, hoping that a place could restore me to some sort of whole. I did this with my relationships. I needed to be fulfilled by something, someone. That longing sent me spiraling into hell. I wanted some form of paradise so I could never hurt again. This was naïve.

 

I am a ghost. I accept that there is a deep sadness to me. I accept that I constitute polarizing forces and ideas sometimes, but so do many people.

 

 

 

IMG_2830I took the plunge. I remember falling. I wanted to keep my eyes opened until the Listerine-colored water engulfed me. It was a haze as the water rushed up my nose. A bitter taste of strong chlorine stayed on my tongue. I wish I was writing figuratively. For my 25th birthday, I flew up to San Francisco to see a childhood friend. We met in middle school, and for half of my life we’ve remained friends. I have this tendency of holding on to people. But I digress. There were so many moments I found picturesque throughout my travels. The best part, they were so mundane –nothing out of the ordinary, nothing spectacular. But it was oddly cinematic. That’s just my perspective. It was the middle of nowhere, on what seemed to be someone’s old farm. I can easily imagine one day a farmer got tired of the heat, and decided he wanted to create a water park in the middle of nowhere. And then he did. There was wake boarding, an artificial beach, and this obstacle course of floaties on this radioactive, murky water. Did I mention I’m terrified of water? I stood on the ledge, and I remember fuck it, just jump. I think there’s a lesson in there somewhere. This is coming from a person who is afraid of many things. The bubbles swirled about me. I couldn’t see, but this feeling of freedom overcame me. It was relief. It was excitement and I was clearly outside my comfort zone.

 

I took the last train to the airport. I sat in a shuttering cart alone for some time. This was after an unexpected detour. Passengers for the San Francisco Airport, please exit and transfer. Transfer? Transfer to what? Me and other disgruntled people are corralled down an escalator and a bus awaits us. A well-dressed blind man holds onto the arm of a construction worker. I’m thinking all of this is rather surreal. Somehow, I didn’t get off on the wrong stop. I wrote at the airport as I watched the zombies stumble from one end to the other. Eventually I joined them in their laps. It’s surprisingly cold in San Francisco in the middle of summer. The fluorescent lighting makes it hard to sleep, so I sleep with my hoodie backwards, covering my face.

 

We said goodbye so many times, and I think I’m doing all this to forget you. I’m sorry we had to end like this. I’m sorry I hurt you, and I know you’re sorry you hurt me. But this is the price for growth… I’m smoking seaside. I’m smoking on hilltops. And I’m smoking outside coffee shops.

 

It was a good trip.

 

 

 

 

My Findings in the Wrong Desert

I have this mental block recently. I thought I should go to the desert. That seemed symbolic of my barren imagination. I hoped to see something beautiful in that desolation, maybe find something hidden, secretive. I can’t say there wasn’t any beauty to my wandering around. There were moments oddly picturesque as I sat outside the shit hotel, smoking cigarettes. I remember the half-lit sign, the empty parking lot, the few cars that sped along that cracked highway because they knew nothing was worth staying for where I was at. We found chairs lined with plush outside, strewn about as if the previous tenants dragged them out and decided that the owners wouldn’t mind. Of course, they were right in their assumption because the chairs had a film of sand over them. I remember the grittiness that brushed against my bare back. The night had been quiet. There was this silence I had not been accustomed to. I remember thinking why would anyone want to live out there, and I still think that way; but to say the least, it was an experience I didn’t regret having. The moon had this iridescent glow and a few clouds sat strangely in the sky. The entire night had this feeling of unnaturalness to it. And it was pretty great because of that strange, alien feeling. Sure, it sucked staying there in the intense heat. But truthfully, I don’t remember the heat. I just remember those oddly picturesque images that I’ve burned into my memory. We chased the sunrise across this almost ghost town, and we found it in endless fields. Clearly, there was some sort of beauty there, for a couple was having their pregnancy photos taken there… This seems to be a theme with me; of making the best of a situation and coming short. We ultimately did not go to the actual national park, which had been the goal of this spontaneous trip. Thinking back, I should’ve fought for it. I mean I barely wanted to anymore… but I think I should’ve pushed myself to. After all why did we drive out there?

 

I just remember this terrible feeling of impotence; that I had this vision of what I wanted to experience, yet nothing came close to what I had envisioned. I don’t know where this pressure came from, or why I would subjugate myself to it. But there was this need, this hunger for something amazing or beautiful. Of course nothing of the sort happened. It was a mundane night. The shrooms did not work –our fault. I think what I learned from this is there are little moments of beauty scattered throughout any moment, and that I should probably plan better before I embark on one of my overly spontaneous trips. Lessons learned, and it was overall a new experience!

 

Our consciousness scrambled and blended together. I saw you in an electric, iridescent glow. I could see the currents running across your skin. I thought you were the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I saw your skin melt until you were bones. I saw you at your end. I wanted nothing more than to waste away my life with you. Only that wasn’t true.

 

I didn’t know you could lose yourself in another person. I thought we could lift each other up. We both tried until we went insane. We were each other’s black hole.

 

I left half of my mind with you. I don’t know why it has to be ultimatums. But it just does.  Life makes you sacrifice regardless. I just never thought we needed to sacrifice each other for happiness. Among my friends and family, you were the most precious. I never wanted to let you go. I blame romantic movies and pop culture romance. They make you think this magical person will come into your life and make you happy. But when I finally quit my whining, I know I’m to blame for being gullible. I learned too late my happiness is my own responsibility.

 

Becoming strangers scares me. It’s been some time since I last saw you, and I can’t say we’re the same people anymore. Part of me wishes to retreat to the past, but I know that’s my weaker half speaking. The past feels stable to say the least. It’s extreme to say but this felt cataclysmic. I lose myself in LA, and the surrealism eats at my sanity sometimes. Sometimes I have conversations that don’t feel real. I talked to this person for hours and I never got his name. It was all gibberish.

 

At the end of this, I just hope it was worth something, anything; I hope we grow in the ways we wanted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Follow a Wavering Light

The woods rose around me for some time now; I had been accustomed to oppressive shadows that seemed to detain me. The thing about these trees with their creeping branches, they begin to anthropomorphize with visages and limbs. The grooves had turned to features, of eyes, nose, and mouth. And they smile at you. I can tell after so long, you’d start to believe you were one of the trees. And maybe at some point you’d calcify, your flesh would deteriorate, and the vines and branches finally envelop you in a tomb, leaving the faintest marks of a person. But when I looked to my feet, I saw that I was not entangled as I had imagined. For so long, I felt the strongest weight on my feet like great anchors. But I was always free to walk the woods. My perception dispelled, leaving me disorientated and my grasp on my reality began to change. I suppose nothing is gained without pain. I moved for some time scared, anxious, and timid. Shadowed trees turned human back to trees in an endless cycle, reminders of a fated path had I remained still. As I wandered, my path was illuminated with a sudden light. I shied away, thinking it was my destruction. But it was warmth. The will-o-wisp bobbed through the air and I followed it. It had a gravity, and I wanted to believe it was for me and me only. I am shackled to my arrogance and vanity, but I need them to not become rooted in oblivion. I couldn’t stay in the light. There were intervals of absolute darkness again. But it was not an eternity as I had feared.  Always the fire returned until eventually I walked with neither expectation that light and darkness would last. The world around me seemed less frightening. I’m on a path somewhere, of which trajectory I don’t fully understand, but there is movement rather than stagnancy. I felt alive for once. I’d like to think that taking the first step was my saving grace.

A Gifted Thought Sitting in an Art Exhibition about Childbirth

You look like someone I loved. When I saw you, I thought of being bundled in blankets in an ACed room with a blistering summer day wasting away. Drifting to sleep was easy enough. The blankets smothered my consciousness. But I always wake up with my joints aching, and the air stolen from me, swirling about in some ethereal plane. You’re a luxury gone bad, and I had forgotten the bad.

Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain gave me hope.  I felt trapped in an endless routine of work and sleep. That was my reality, but his show offered me a glimpse of a greater experience. His travels made me feel small. At the same time, his show allowed me to vicariously experience more of humanity. He visited countries in poverty. He ate with people going through problems I could never fathom. But they would laugh and eat together. Those moments made me appreciative of having meals with my friends and family. It was never a solution to all our problems, but it was a reminder that we’re all of the same species with the same primal need; and sadly, we as a species are prone to our demons. When he talked about his troubles in Argentina, my delusions of travel, fame, and money were dispelled. It made me realize my depression was his depression. We all feel trapped in some shape and form –that seemed to be a human condition. Nonetheless, he made me want to experience humanity to its fullest scope. Both the lows and the highs.  His introspective writing connected people, and made me realize the best way to understand others is to dig deep into oneself. But he also showed me life was waiting for me to see all that it had to offer. I just had to be brave like him. I really look up to him.