Brief post – 16

A couple of days ago I went to my old community college to put up tutoring flyers. I forgot that the office closes at 2pm, and I think I got there at 3pm, so it was a waste of time. I decided I’d go to the Borders bookstore at the mall to read for a few hours instead of heading home immediately.

The bus service in this town is very bad. I think I must have waited half an hour for the bus to come, and then there were so many people on the bus that I got the last open seat. Interesting fact: no one likes to sit next to you on public transportation here or in Los Angeles, whereas in the Bay Area, sharing public transportation space is welcomed and not stigmatized.

The last person to get on the bus after me was a girl whom I should have given my seat to, but didn’t. I felt bad for a moment but rationalized it by thinking that the transfer station was only a mile away. In retrospect, it was a good idea to stay in my seat. She was standing in front of me, by the front door, and right next to her, a Latina girl, maybe three or four years old, was playing with her purse. The Latina kept looking at this girl, who happened to be Asian, and smiling, and I swear to you, the older girl smiled back and it was like that extra bit of goodwill you need once a day. I could look at that smile all day.

I sat there for the remainder of the ride, looking at the two while they interacted. The little girl kept asking questions and shyly smiling at the older girl, and the older girl kept giving her these huge grins of the whitest teeth I have ever seen. I sat there mesmerized for the whole seven minutes. It just made me happy to see someone interact with a child in that way, by being open and kind, and most of all by smiling. I really wanted to talk to her, but then I got off the bus and walked past her on the way to the bookstore. Coward!

In my last post, I talked about how I don’t ever talk to anyone I find attractive. I ended up standing outside the bookstore for a good five to ten minutes, deliberating whether or not to go back and talk to this girl. It’s hot, I’m standing on the sidewalk, turning both ways and walking one way before turning around and walking the other way, and finally I decide to go back and get on the same bus she’s going to get on, because it will take me home.

Turned out the bus wasn’t there on time because, as usual, it was late. I actually walked past her again, because I was such a nervous wreck, and went to the bathroom at the station before walking back and starting up a conversation.

Turns out she’s also an immigrant, from Vietnam, and her name is Duan (pronounced Juan, as in Don Juan, as in the Lord Byron satiric poem, the title of which is pronounced with an emphasized J), and she’s only been here for a couple of years. We talked for about five minutes, and I asked about school and tried to keep up a conversation. In the end, the bus came, and right when she was about to head off, I asked her how old she was. I had this strange feeling in the back of my head, you know, like I needed to make sure. She’s sixteen.

I felt really awkward for a moment right there. Awkward and really old. This isn’t about getting laid though. I saw some sort of goodness in this girl when she was talking to the little one on the bus and it struck me that she’s so young and perfectly idealistic and not jaded. I needed to talk to someone like that for a moment. I think we lose our sense of idealism and romanticism, and although I still have those to some extent, I hadn’t seen much of those qualities in anyone around me for so long. I don’t want to believe that idealism disappears once you grow older.

I doubt I’ll see her again, and that’s fine. I’m sure she’ll make somebody really happy in the future. It’s one of those things I think about a lot – does age matter? You see people fifteen, twenty years apart in age, and you wonder, how? But here we are, nine year difference. Here I am, thinking about someone who is younger than anyone I’ve ever dated, someone who is still in high school, taking college courses, probably on the way to a great school, a great future, a lot of good things. I wonder what it would be like to be in a relationship with someone at this stage in her life.

It’s a strange thing, I thought to myself. I’d be 30, she’d be 21. But how would that play out in the meantime, in the five years it takes to get there? People go through extreme changes during this time. I wonder how that relationship would play out. Don’t you? In some ways I know I would feel left out when she’d go off to college or whatever, but I also think about the idea of being there for someone during that time. It doesn’t make sense. It’s all stuck in my head and I haven’t slept for thirty one hours and somehow I’m still making some meager amount of sense. This was supposed to be a short entry.

What am I trying to get across here? That I’m a Humbert Humbert, salivating over some nymphet but unwilling to see her transition into a fully fledged reality? Or maybe I’m just seeing the beauty in someone who hasn’t yet been damaged, a small piece of life.

I found ya!

What has happened and what will happen

I’ve been feeling a lot more upbeat about not going anywhere this year, mainly because it gives me a chance to take it a little easier, to try and find work, and to see if immigration reform is possible this year. Right now, I’m operating under the assumption that I won’t be applying to any MFA programs for next year. I thought about the number of MFA students out there ever year, and it’s a bit staggering. In some ways, the system is huge. An average of nine thousand students a year come out of MFA programs (thirty students at the average program multiplied by 300 programs). What do they do after they finish? Here’s a good example.

I ignored or didn’t get good advice until late in the application season. I didn’t apply to many fully funded programs, with the exception of Iowa and Montana (and possibly Houston). I accepted the offer of a program which would have me pay seventeen thousand dollars a year for a somewhat worthless degree. I went in with good intentions, and I’m leaving with them. I’m happy for everyone who is in a program this year, because there’s nothing like workshopping with other writers. For my part, not going to a program has motivated me much more than any workshop could have. If I apply again, I’ll only be applying to fully funded programs, or programs where I can get enough funding to get by. I really do think now that it is foolish to pay for an MFA, just as many people had told me.

My plans are such: to apply for the MacDowell Colony residency and the Jentel residency, the deadlines for both of which are September 15th. I have also been checking out lesser known online publications to see if I could submit work to them. Frankly, I’m disappointed by the quality of work I see in some of these. It’s also an eye-opening experience to read a wonderful piece and then to see that even though the author has gone to the same program I would have gone to (he graduated in the 70s), he is pretty much unknown. It puts a dent into all those expectations of being discovered after writing great work. In some way, this is the time when I have to figure out why I write.

I really hope I can visit Berkeley before the end of the year. I have many unresolved issues with the city.

I started a new piece today. I’m writing in pen now, rather than on the computer, because there are fewer distractions. Sitting at Starbucks lets me focus and relax, although, sadly, my Zune headphones no longer function, so I can’t listen to any music besides the Starbucks radio.

Things aren’t terrible at home, mainly because my father isn’t here. Mostly, everything is just okay. Today I felt really happy, maybe because I have deadlines and things to do and there are opportunities open to me that weren’t open to me before. I feel content. I’m thinking positively.