Monthly Archives: October 2006

Transparent Actions

We were watch­ing Boogie Nights, and in the movie, Scotty’s wasted at the New Year’s party. He tries to kiss Dirk, but Dirk throws him off. I asked her if she knew Scotty was gay. Until that point, I thought he never gave off any such sign.

Of course”, she said.

How could you tell?”. I had to ask, because I couldn’t tell. I’ve watched Boogie Nights with dozens of peo­ple before, and they’ve all asked if Scotty was gay before it even got to this scene. It must have been the 20th time I’ve seen this movie, but I still didn’t see what so many oth­ers did. My gay­dar can’t be that bad, I thought to myself.

Just from the way Scotty looks at Dirk all dreamy”.

Dreamy? So Scotty wasn’t being par­tic­u­larly flam­boy­ant, he was sim­ply attracted to Dirk. It was obvi­ous to every­one but me.

Then I recalled Pat telling me a few years ago that a cer­tain girl liked me. He didn’t have some kind of inside knowl­edge, he said he could tell just from the way she looked at me. I never believed him, of course, because I had no inkling of such an mes­sage. I never believed him until she gave me a writ­ten confession.

It made me won­der, am I that obliv­i­ous? More impor­tantly, do I ever give myself away, do I ever make myself so vul­ner­a­ble, with such a look?

It took me almost a year to be com­fort­able enough to pho­to­graph Jenn (let alone get­ting over being so tongue-tied around her), because I was afraid of being too trans­par­ent. I always thought that by ask­ing to take her pic­ture, every­one could see how attracted I was to her. I would go around Aaron’s par­ties and pho­to­graph any­one but her. Now I real­ize that in doing so, I prob­a­bly gave myself away.

It’s scary to think that peo­ple may read me so eas­ily from sub­con­scious body lan­guage. A girl­friend once said that her mom asked how she would feel if I asked her out, about a month before I did. To this day I won­der how her mom knew I would. All we did was have din­ner together on Sunday’s. Did I steal glances from across the table? Did I look away when she looked at me? Did I lose myself in her face and stare?

Am I that transparent?

I’d like to think that I can hide such things, but how can I when I don’t even rec­og­nize what it is I’m doing.

How can I hide my heart, when I don’t even know that I wear it on my sleeve?

My Cat Can Beg

Before giv­ing her food, I use to ask Dolly to shake or beg or give paw, and she’d lift one paw up (always her right one) for me. Now she’s asso­ci­ated the paw-lifting action with being fed, so she skips the step of me say­ing any­thing and auto­mat­i­cally does it.

She’ll do any­thing for food really.

An Intimate Morality


A voice calls me into the back from the wait­ing room.

As I get up, I notice that her eyes are dark against her fair skin, almost black. They’re pierc­ing, but gen­tle, never intim­i­dat­ing. Her face is kind and wel­com­ing, full of youth, like the younger sis­ter of your girlfriend.

I fol­low. Her hair is pulled back in a neat, braided pony­tail. Wrapped around the curves of her body is her den­tal gown, and she looks like a small, ster­ile pack­age of energy. She asks the usual ques­tions, speak­ing with unri­valed con­fi­dence. It’d be intim­i­dat­ing as well, if it wasn’t for the con­trol in her voice.

Even after I’m seated in the chair and the ultra­sonic scaler starts to whirr, I’m sur­pris­ingly calm. The unique buzzing, spin­ning, squirt­ing, suck­ing sounds begin their symphony.

She rests her fore­arm on my chest for lever­age as she works on the posteriors.

With her breasts pressed tightly against my head, she stays like this, com­fort­able in this posi­tion, as she cleans.

I start to won­der how appro­pri­ate it is, if any­one has ever spo­ken out. Or have they not had the heart, like me?

I feel objectified.

As she works, she makes one-sided small-talk, say­ing every word with con­vic­tion. With her tools in my mouth, I answer only in mum­bled pos­i­tives and neg­a­tives. She goes along the arch sys­tem­at­i­cally, molar to molar, lin­gual to buccal.

I want to see her eyes again, to take a closer look at what struck me first. To avoid mak­ing an obvi­ous, dart­ing glance, I pre­emp­tively look where her eyes will be soon as she fol­lows her pre­dictable path, and wait.

Her eyes arrive, and I look away. It’s too uncom­fort­able. I’m peer­ing into the world of another who’s dis­tracted, not return­ing my gaze.

Her phys­i­cal inti­macy was inno­cent, I assume.

Mine may have been less so.

Letter To My Mother

You didn’t know it, but for years I’ve come close to burn­ing the bridge with you. It was a heavy step to take, because in doing so, I knew that I would never be able to go back on such a dras­tic decision.

I appre­ci­ate all the finan­cial sup­port you’ve pro­vided. It’s been more than I can ask for. Unfortunately, what I wanted and needed the most was emo­tional support.

I’ve always played the role of the sub­mis­sive son. Your boy who’s always done what you wanted and agreed with what you said. When we exchanged tears on the phone in August, I let you know how poorly I was treated grow­ing up. I’ve always put up with it, but the way you acted last week was the straw that broke the camels back. I keep giv­ing you a chance, over and over. Seeing you over those few days was the last one. Even if you say now that you can change, the risk isn’t worth it. The poten­tial mis­ery, frus­tra­tion, and anguish you may cause me aren’t worth it.

Normally, I would be sen­si­tive about the tim­ing — the fresh divorce, the tran­si­tion — but I don’t care any­more. I’ve put my feel­ings aside my whole life. You pushed me too far, and now I have to con­sider myself.

Don’t con­tact me again. Not even if some­one dies. Any calls, mes­sages, e-mails will be ignored. This is not an easy or a brash deci­sion for me, a deci­sion I’ve made after cool­ing off and calm­ing down, but from my point of view it’s for the best.

You give me noth­ing but pain and money, and the money doesn’t mean a thing.

From now on, I don’t have a mother.

And you don’t have a son.

A Place To Stay

Thumbnail: Scratch sand 1

Thumbnail: Scratch sand 2

Gua sha, or sand scratch­ing, he calls it.

I’m already sob­bing. The cul­mi­na­tion of another week of stress and lack of sleep. One dis­ap­point­ment after another.

With the bowl of a porce­lain Chinese soup spoon, he scrapes the mus­cles along the back of my neck.

This causes rup­ture of the small sub-dermal cap­il­lar­ies (petechia) and may result in sub-cutaneous bruis­ing (ecchymosis).

According to Chinese med­ical prac­ti­tion­ers, the inter­nal tox­ins in the blood are released and cir­cu­la­tion is improved.

Before con­tin­u­ing down my shoul­ders, he rubs on some Vic’s VapoRub. It lubri­cates the process, cools the skin to ease the burn­ing dis­com­fort, a mix of east­ern and west­ern tech­niques. The patch he rubs turns a muddy mix of red and gar­net, and from this he tells me that I’m work­ing too hard. I have to look after myself bet­ter. Relax every day. Take an hour to exer­cise or walk. The first step to a healthy mind is a healthy body. The colour indi­cates that I have a lot of tox­ins built up in my body.

The darker it is, the more it’s sup­posed to hurt, but I feel nothing.

I take a sip from the mug that he hands me, full of pale yel­low liq­uid. It burns going down. Flavourless, but maybe that’s just the congestion.

It’s spicy”, I mum­ble, no longer speak­ing Chinese. It’s too much on my mind. I need to express myself with­out limitations.

It’s just ginger-water. If you can’t take it, you can add some sugar.”

I don’t reply. The unas­sum­ing con­sommé raises the inter­nal tem­per­a­ture, killing the sick air. To quell the spasms in my chest, I take slower, deeper breaths. It doesn’t work.

I admire you, uncle. One day I hope to be a father like you.”

He breathes a short but heavy sigh. I can tell that these words pain him more than any­thing else I’ve said. He tells me, in Chinese, “Uncle doesn’t make a lot of money. I make sure I spend a lot of time at home”.

I like you, uncle. I hope that no mat­ter what hap­pens, we can still be friends.”

No mat­ter what hap­pens, you’ll always have a place to stay with us in Hong Kong.”