My jogging buddy

When I lived in LA, I went to Trader Joe’s by myself. I went to the gym by myself. I sometimes went to the movies by myself. I ate mostly by myself.

As I did my daily 5,000-step laps with dad this evening, I realized that he has become my jogging buddy. 

When the rain had became drizzles, we strolled the quiet end of the neighborhood. Our conversation varied from what I’d watched to what I’d written. He listened and sometimes gave me his observations. 

And before I knew it, he’d announced: that’s the fifth lap now. 

Okay. I’d say.

And we slowed down a little as we sauntered back, carefully avoiding the occasional dog poops of the dog owners who have enough money to own labradors but not enough ethics to clean up their dogs’ residues.

The only downside for me is, now I need to find some other chunks of time to listen to podcasts and audiobooks. Because my dad would be the first one to ditch me, also known as the lesser consistent of the two.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

 

Dear parents

Since I moved back to China, I’ve moved into my parents’ apartment, which for the record, I played a big role in paying off our mortgage before I left for LA three years ago.

Excuse my ego, it finds it crucial to point this out. But no matter how much I want to spin this, I’m living with my parents as a fully functioning adult.

It is also crucial to point out that in the Chinese culture, especially in big cities like Shanghai and Beijing that ‘kids’ don’t move out until they get married due to a) strong family tradition; b) devoted parents who are terrible at calculating their ROIs; c) the wacky housing market and unpredictable species called landlords.

Since I’ve had my fair share of landlord sagas (from negotiation to small claims court), I find it almost therapeutic to not to worry about rent and lease and among other things.

And yet, mum and dad can sometimes love me a little too much to my likings. Mostly, my mum…

“Go to bed. It’s almost 10.”

“Finish your rice. We ain’t rich.”

“Why are you throwing away this bag when it’s in perfect condition? Are you out of your mind?

“Why don’t you take a shower now? So you don’t wipe your greasy hair onto my floral pillowcase?”

“Why isn’t my phone working? I’ve done absolutely nothing.”

In some portions of my dreams back when I was in LA, I begged hearing those lines from my parents. “If only I could be there with you in person. I will never get bored.” I remembered crying myself to sleep on that Chinese New Year’s Eve.

Well, as it turns out, be careful what you wish for.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

The hardest goodbye

You found the light in me that I couldn’t find

“Have you told your parents that you were sad to leave here?”

As I sobbed, my friend probed.

“No.”

“Why not?”

I didn’t give an answer. But I had one: How can you be sad when you are going to reunite with your family and friends back in your hometown after three years without one single visit?!

I felt only if I left on my own terms, I would feel better.

But the more I’ve lived, the less things are done utterly on my terms.

“Just accept it.” My friend kept on going.

To be utterly frank, right now I don’t feel an ounce of joy going back.

Home is always here. But my dream? How long would that last when the bubble bursts and now I’m stark naked in front of my parents’ porch asking them to let me in.

Don’t get me wrong, my parents are overjoyed to have me back. So am I to see them as often as I want.

When I’m back home, I know I would be safe. I would sleep well and eat fine. I can have not a worry should I choose to…

But right now, this suffocating feeling is crushing down on my chest. I’m dying the speed of the reality.

It’s past one. And I’m still wide awake.

It’s Saturday the 13th. By 14th noon, I’ll be forced to delete the last line of code I’ve written here in L.A. by catching the flight before Homeland Security catches me. Would anyone remember me, my existance, two months from now, two years from now?

Shanghai has written me off its menu. Now would it let me back in?

 

I’ve been single-looping Lady GaGa’s Always Remember Us This Way from her latest movie A Star Was Born; a film I went two days ago, at the end of which I sobbed till I throbbed.

It’s buried in my soul
Like California gold
You found the light in me that I couldn’t find

You look at me and babe I wanna catch on fire
So when I’m all choked up and I can’t find the words
Every time we say goodbye baby it hurts

When the sun goes down
And the band won’t play
I’ll always remember us this way

The hardest goodbye
Thus far
But I’m not even home yet
And yet
Why am I mourning
Why am I crying

It hurts like a bitch.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

Going home

No choice is a bad choice in the end. It’s just what feels right at the moment. Because we’ll never have the 20/20 hindsight before we launch anything. Before the jump, there is: The surprise. The fear. The excitement. The unknown. 

As the idea lay its foundation, it starts to grow and takes root.

I started to picture my life back in China.

I started to notice the nuances of this American life.

I began to question my stability and growth in LA.

I began to pay attention to opportunities back home.

Friend called me again in the evening checking up on my status since my gloom.

“You assume you won’t attract men back home. Because you’re too independent and strong for most to handle. But you’re also a lovely, gorgeous woman who is wiser because of this sojourn. You’re exotic because of it. I think you’ll be fine.”

“I’ll be missing you terribly.”

“There are things called FaceTime and airplane.” My wiser older friend replied.

No choice is a bad choice in the end. It’s just what feels right at the moment. Because we’ll never have the 20/20 hindsight before we launch anything. Before the jump, there is: The surprise. The fear. The excitement. The unknown. 

But who knows?

Once I’ve made up my mind, the rest is just logistics.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

Just another blow

Then I saw an update from a former professor. His 28-year-old stepson killed himself. I read his wife’s post, the note from a mother who just lost her son.  I said a prayer. For the lost soul. And for myself. 

A friend said he would resign soon. We had a chat.

“What are you trying to be?”

“Writer.”

“You’re just buying time here. You can actually write from anywhere. You’re better off in China, with your package.”

“But I don’t want to go back. Not yet.”

Why wouldn’t I stop the bleeding when I’m in critical condition?

I video-chatted with my parents, I told them that my days in America is numbered, after all. I sounded optimistic. I had to, in front of my folks.

Then my head started to spin. I reached out to a great friend on FaceTime.

“Is it about your ego?”

“No.”

“Then what? Really ask yourself. Why can’t you picture yourself back? It’s your home after all.”

I gave it a thought.

  • I can go back and teach screenwriting, storytelling.
  • I can keep working on my personal projects as a writer.
  • Is it the sunk cost I am worrying about?
  • Is it the promise to myself, from three years ago, that I don’t want to break?

Then, suddenly, I said, “I want to take a pill and be gone.”

“Are you thinking about suicide? Because I don’t want to be the one who has to identify your body.”

I pictured him, standing over my motionless cold body, dried-eyed with disgust written all over his face…

“I’m sorry that I know you.” He said. “You’re thirty. Do you know how young you are, how much potential you have?”

“Actually, I do.”

“Then why are you talking like this?” He demanded an answer. He was livid.

“You can quit. But never check out.”

Knowing when to quit. Knowing when enough is enough. Knowing when to accept things as they are…

“It’s a reality you don’t want to face. You came to the United States as if you already had a green card. But let’s face it, you’re just another foreign student on a student visa with an expiration date.”

I nodded. It was 11:40 PM. We had been talking for well over an hour.

“Because you know what, the Sun always rises the next day.”

“Yeah. But so what?”

He paused for a moment. “Here is what I’m going to do. I will reach out to some attorneys who handle artist visa for Chinese students. You don’t need to listen to me. But hear them out and see about that.”

“Thank you.”

The Sun did come out today. It’s California after all. I dragged myself up. I have a lunch meeting with a director. I can’t afford to call in sick.

Then I texted my friend: Thank you for yesterday.

My heart still aches. But I’m breathing. Later I logged onto Facebook to reach out to a friend for my podcast interview…

Then I saw an update from a former professor. His 28-year-old stepson killed himself. I read his wife’s post, the note from a mother who has just lost her son.

I said a prayer.
For the lost soul. And for myself.

 

Yours truly.
YZ

Ugly Cry

I miss holding my father’s hand. I miss listening to my mum telling on my dad’s ‘misdeeds.’ I miss being the judge of the two, giving out my verdicts. I just miss being around them, like the old days, like a kid.

I stole this phrase from a colleague.

Over a weekend, he proposed to his girlfriend, the picture-perfect woman whom I’ve had the pleasure to meet for a few times.  In the photos, a few yards away were my colleague’s friends, holding pro-cameras and iPhones snapping the moment for the love birds on the beach against the cloudless blue sky under the California sun.

The woman, who works the camera by trade (model/actor), didn’t care how she looked and bawled.

“She had such an ‘ugly cry.'”

This comment from my colleague froze in my head.

This morning, that ugly cry hit me. The difference was, no one proposed.

I was alone in my bachelor’s pad. To put it more precisely, I was in my studio apartment. I just had a video call with my dad. It was my 5 am, his 8 pm. Our vocal cat Michael was meowing for attention slouching against my dad’s feet. Dad was concerned, about my visa. He was worried about the What-ifs.

It was the first time in months since I got up when the alarm first went off at 5. I wanted to use it well. I was going to write. But dad’s text got me thinking: he must be worried. I need to give him a call. A quick one, before I got on with my day. We talked for a bit, about this route, about Michael. I asked where my mum was. Then I heard her voice. Her wet head popped into the frame.

“I was just taking a shower. Where’s the lecture video? I was telling your auntie all about your success the other day.”

“Ma, it may take a few more days. Have some patience.” I replied impatiently.

“You dad starts smoking again!” She blurted out of nowhere.

With dad’s vices, mum never has a problem being the snitch. Her Animal Sign is Rat after all.  Dad just smiled back at me. To the others, he’s known for his scowl, even at home. And Michael (he’s our cat btw) knows it, too. But when he gets busted by Mum, the Policewoman, he lets out a gruff scarce laugh.

I told them that it’s five here in LA and I need to get started. 10 mins in and I had to go. I hated that I had to end our convo so abruptly.

I often picture them living with me in the US. I want it happen so bad. I want it happen right here, right now.

Then I made a mistake. I tuned into The Moth Podcast with the theme on Fathers as I prepped my meal.  It was a series of father-child stories. One story was about a son with his estranged writer dad who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The son drove him around when he visited him at the facility. The son was so full of fear—

“I looked at his hand. Not sure what to do. It was so close but felt so far away. Then I took my right hand off the wheel and lay it on his hand, as if I just took a jump off the cliff. I feared that he would swat it away. I held my breath. Then I felt it. He put his other hand over mine. We stayed that way as I drove… For the last few years of his life, that’s what we did. We held hands.”

I broke down at my kitchen counter and started an ugly cry.

I was disgusted by my selfishness, abandoning them back home, coming here to chase my dream. Nobody told me it’s going to be this hard to do the right thing. Why doesn’t it sound and feel right whenever I look at them through the phone screens, and not into their eyes?

I miss holding my father’s calloused hand. I miss listening to my mum telling on people, mostly my dad’s ‘misdeeds.’ I miss being the judge of the two, giving out my verdicts. I guess, I just miss being around them, like the old days, like a kid, without a care of the world, or of some distant dream.

More and more, that’s what keeps me going. And I hope, with each endeavor, I’ll be closer to them. And them, closer to me.

Damn, I’m cryin’ again.

 

Yours truly,
YZ