Sunday, October 26, 2008

They Say to Wait

They say waiting is the hardest part. You sit patiently, not knowing exactly what’s going to happen. You sit. You wait. Wait. And wait...

You’ll be fine. They say, but they have no idea. Every second turns into a minute, and every minute feels like an hour. Perhaps the anticipation is the most painful. Perhaps you are just dying to know the answer. At the same time, you dare not to find out, and at the same time, you cannot wait to get the suffering over with.

You are cautious, at every move you make, and constantly have second thoughts. You have your phone by your side. You stare. You want to press those numbers, but they say, patience is virtue

Off Track

Run! Run! Run! People around me shouted. I didn’t run. I walked. In fact, for a moment I just stood there. What are you doing? Why aren’t you running? Come on! Run! The voices sounded astound. People were in disbelief. Why isn’t he running?

I looked around me. I saw the faces of people. Some shouted. Some cheered. Some looked enthused. Some looked blank. Some seemed to be excited for the event. Some were just standing in the crowd. The time seemed to be at a still, with every second running as if it was an hour. I was walking. I was walking and felt faster than the runners. I could see them passing me. Slowly.

I didn’t know where I was walking to and wondered why everyone was trying so hard. The only way is to move forward, I thought, but where does this lead?

Sweat was dropping from people’s body. Tears were falling out of people’s eyes. I could hear the footsteps hitting the tracks and see the debris coming off of people’s shoes. They were running as hard as they can and breathing as if it was their last breath on earth. Their hearts were pounding like drums as if they were right next to me. Their movement followed the beats. I was off beat.runner

What am I doing here? How did I get here? Why did I do this? I looked at my coach. He looked angry. He was shouting something as the saliva spouted out of his mouth. I glanced up and saw my parents. They were disappointed. I can hear their frowns asking why. My friends didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t know either.

It was only 400 meters. I did it before. I‘ve seen it before. But I couldn’t see it at that moment. It was an intense training. You got talent. You can do this. People told me. You are fast, pretty darn fast. Coach told me. It’s good for you. My parents told me. So I ran, and I ran. But I didn’t know where I was running to.

Everyone was nice. They were nice people. They helped me through my training, invited me to parties and events, and asked me how I am when I was down. They treated me more than just someone on their team. They viewed me as their friend.

The excitement filled everyone as the runners entered the stadium. I could sense the anticipation from the crowd as they were expecting something grand. It was my debut. The gun was cocked. On your mark, get set… The gun fired and I ran. I ran like everyone else did. Then I stopped.

I walked. A gust of wind suddenly burst in my face. It felt refreshing. Time gradually picked up. Everything was back to speed. I heard cheers. Someone crossed the finished line. Then another, and another. I was happy for them. Some were still struggling to reach the end. Some were in pain. My friends were still in disbelief. My coach was still angry. My parents were still disappointed. I was happy.

I walked off the track, away from the stadium, away from the people. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to let you down, but I didn’t want to let myself down.

The Bartender

It was a usual lonely night in the city, being just moved in for three weeks, as I walked in to perhaps the only comparably hip local bar in Chinatown. I have been there a few times greeted mostly by the unfriendly vibe from the locals (somehow I felt like it’s the only place I can go to), except one bartender, Whitney, who was from a different neighborhood, Brooklyn. She was friendly, optimistic, and exuded a coolness that could be one of the guy’s best female buddies. Tall, beautiful, with a well-built figure attracted every guy from the bar. We talked a few times, without making it to the friend note. But that night, as I sat in and ordered a bottle of Heineken, we made a conversation that remained in my mind for a long time.

“It’s so boring here!” she said with exuberance, as if she was glad to see me.
“It sure is!” I said smilingly. “People got something stuck up their ass here.”
“Yea isn’t it intimidating?”Heineken
“Hmm not really,” as I tried to act like I don’t easily get intimidated, “It’s just that they shouldn’t have a reason to act this way.”

She looked at her cell phone a few times, perhaps looking at the time or whether if anyone had called her, as I sat with my Heineken, wondering what my life will be like in my future residency in New York.

“It’s… twelve thirty. You’re almost half done.” I said jokingly
“Thanks!!!” she said

“I love this song!” She said as Maroon5’s Makes Me Wonder started playing.
“Me too!” I said excitingly, since they generally play hip-hop. “What type of music do you usually listen to?”

“Alternative Rock.” she said with a smile. I smiled back and gave her the thumbs up. We then started chatting up and begin to get to know each other at our best. She told me that the bar is usually dead and the tips aren’t good at all, especially for a college student trying to make some money over the summer. It was her last night working there; she was going to a different bar on the Lower East where the tips are better and the more charming vibe that fits her personality wonderfully. In my mind, I finally found someone with such an uplifting character and attitude that I can easily get along with, after meeting with too many eccentric people in the city. She walked out of the counter and sat next to me. The night began to fill with joy, as we continued to converse, we noticed we had connected quite well.

“Man I hate this song…” as the This is Why I’m Hott song began to play.
“Me too!” she said in accordance, as I realized her agreement was triggered by the mutual, perhaps friendship, attraction.
“I should go get my iPod to play here.”
“You should!” She said excitingly.
“K, I’ll be right back.”

I walked anxiously to my apartment, filled with content. I haven’t had so much fun talking to someone in a long time. I started to tell myself not to screw this one up, even though so far I only see her as a good friend, I wanted a lasting friendship. As insecure as I was, I yello barwas afraid of getting too close. I got to my apartment, hoping that my conceded roommate was up so I can show off what a great and beautiful friend I have made. But he was locked in his room, along with his physically-looking-challenged duo… his ugly girlfriend. Without hesitation, I abruptly grabbed my iPod and quickly started my path back to the bar to enjoy every lasting moment.

As I entered and sat, she was talking to one of the locals but noticing my presence at the glance of her eye. I went to the bathroom to distract my attention for her. I was never fond of these locals. They all seemed so full of themselves thinking they can pick up any girl they want, when in fact they all bunch of fucking ugly midgets and acted like bunch of drunken fools. My conclusion of the way they were was that they have money, which Whitney informed me earlier that one of them was the owner of the bar. A real conceded bastard, I recalled her saying. I then came back sitting, acting nonchalant, as if nothing else matters. She looked at me again from the corner of her eye as the locals kept trying to get her attention, and later came up to me excitingly to grab my iPOd.

“It won’t work.” She said with despair. “The hole is too small.”
“Really?” I said, “That sucks.”
“Wait! Let me try again, I think it’ll work.”

She plugged it in and her favorite song of Maroon5’s Makes Me Wonder began to play again.
“You love this song!” I shouted through the loud music.
“Me too!” she cried, thinking that I said I love this song.

We then chat up some more, discussing utterance that brought our hearts closer. A compilation of Maroon 5 I had on my iPOd excited her mundane night at the usually slow bar.

“You can change the song if you want.” I shouted, thinking that dominance is what attracts the opposite sex. She then searched through my song selection and began to play Jet. What A great choice! I thought, as I began to enjoy the night and her obedient personality even further.

Maroon5The song reminded her of her prom, which made me realized underneath her independent bravado was the young girl who was still in school. Perhaps native New Yorkers are born to be “individuals” who are witty and smart, but her personality reminded me of a Jersey girl I used to know. It seemed as if we knew each other more than the chit-chat that we had. I wondered deeply what this attraction really was, whether it was love or friendship, as I had been very confused about my emotions lately. But I soon left that thought behind, realizing she wasn’t going to be around the neighborhood anymore longer, I focused on the fun we had. The night drifted into euphoria, where we both enjoyed each other’s company and musical selection. When I told her it was getting a bit late and I should go soon, she gave me the sad puppy face that made me said “I’ll stay for five minutes more.”

She deliberately played more than a song, to keep her night more entertaining for the long hours she had to suffer, or perhaps it was our mutual connection. As the other locals called for her assistance, I thought to myself that being a challenge will keep her wanting more. So I decided to call it quits when she gets back. Soon after, as she stepped behind the counter waiting for more interesting conversation to fill her lonely night, I told her I have to go.

“I really should get going; I still have to work tomorrow.” I said.
“Alright,” she said with a tap despair, knowing that she kept me a bit longer than she should, “nice to meet you, and goodbye Tony!”
“Goodbye Whitney!”

As I utter those last words, I wondered whether I should’ve gotten her number. I do have her new address for the bar that she written on a piece of paper, but wanting nothing more than a friendship at the moment, I said the goodbye that ended our conversation. After all, I’ll probably run into her whenever.

I walked out of the bar, but felt a presence of something was missing, or perhaps something I forgot to do. I could sense it in her eyes that wondered why I had just left. I continued to walk, with the smile and anxiety that triggered my thoughts. She was tall, beautiful, with a well-built figure attracted every guy from the bar. I should’ve gotten her number, but that wasn’t what I was looking for.

Back to Jersey

Every so often, I would go back to Jersey to pick up or drop off some stuff. Sometimes, I would go back to get away from the busy city. Living in the city is what I always wanted, diverse, artistic, and unique. I felt like I could be myself and do things my way. I thought I had forgotten everything that was left behind, but one trip made me realize my heart never left...

It was Friday night, as I met up with some friends in the city to do the usual happy hour bar thing. I was getting jaded from the whole bar scene, but that seems to be what everyone else is doing, meeting people, finding someone or plural, and getting away from the stressful work. I didn’t really want to go, but thinking its better than nothing, I dragged myself to meet up with them.

It was what I expected, girls dancing like fools and guys staring. People talked about all kinds of things and everyone seemed to have a good time. I, myself, was trying to enjoy the moment away from work, and to be honest, was trying to hitch a ride from my friend D’ to go back to Jersey for a weekend of St. Patty’s good times at my friend Marvin's newly allocated place, Philly. So I sucked it up.

We had dinner at some Italian restaurant, and I was trying my hardest not to seem zoned out. When is this whole thing going to be over, I thought to myself. It was, actually, better than I expected. We had good chats while some entertained us with riddles. We ended the night with handshakes and hugs, then parted our ways.

Two of my friends sat in the front, one of them drove. I sat in the back to have some alone time and relax. They started ranting about work and salary. I sat there quietly having some random thoughts. Are we boring you there Tony? John jokingly asked. No... well, I’m just tired from work, I replied.

NJ turnpike

After the long ride, D’ dropped me off and drove home. I went in the front door to surprise my parents, and saw they had bought a new flat screen TV. My mom looked vaguely excited, perhaps to hide her joy of seeing me. My dad, as usual, was too busy watching TV down stairs to notice my presence. After playing around few minutes with the new TV, I went to my room to prepare for a long train ride the next day.

I woke up the next morning noticing my mom had knitted the ripped sweater that I stopped wearing. I saw my dad and asked him to drop me off at the train station. Where are you going? he asked. To Philly visiting my friends, I told him. I could sense the despair in his voice, as he was hoping I would stick around longer. He never says too much, and I never know what to say in front of him. Somehow words could never come out between us.

"How could anyone like living in Jersey?"

It was a tedious train ride as I sat at the window seat. The view was unsurprisingly horrid, filled with warehouses and disfigured roads and trees. How could anyone like living in Jersey? Then I started thinking about my relationship with my dad, and how I could amend the differences between us. I thought about my teenage years in Jersey. They say people tend to remember the good memories, but I thought hard and all I could think of was the abominable times.

I arrived at the Trenton station, the slum of all train stations, as I called it. It is small, dirty, and debilitated. I waited for about forty-five minutes and hopped on the Septa train to 30th street, as the scenery and vibe became more pleasant, along with my mood. I thought about the people and situations I had left behind. I do not miss anything about Jersey, I thought.

Marvin was waiting for me at the platform. The same old Marvin the Martian, his nickname, was still positive and garrulous. He had moved out of his parent’s house after some argument and quit his job, but he was still able to keep his optimism. Yo! He shouted, sounding a bit disappointed for others flaking out on him. We started off at the train station bar and walked our way around. It was packed everywhere and filled with college drunks who were having a good time. I miss those college days, I said to Marvin, but deep down, I wouldn’t go back. It’s just not the same anymore.

We continued to walk, but avoided most bars due to crowdedness. We grabbed some quick bite and found places to sit and just talk about things. Marvin recalled the old memories and people we met during our partying days. We then talked about the managers at the retail store we used to work at part-time. You called a customer a bitch! Marvin laughed. Yup, it was good times, I smirked. I missed those days, Marvin said. Yea but it’s different now, I noted.

"It’s not the decor that makes a place memorable, it’s the people that brings out the best of the surroundings, making it spectacle."

Last exit in Jersey We met up with Jane, Marvin’s girlfriend who went to the same high school as me and also worked at the retail store, for dinner at this fusion restaurant in Downtown Philly. The food wasn’t that great. It was different and came with small portions that resembled all the stereotypical expensive hip restaurants. Jane started talking, didn’t you think Edison was the best place to live in? No... well, I guess it’s the best place in Jersey... but Jersey sucks, I said.

She then started asking me all the questions, about the mutual friends we know, and who I thought was attractive. Somehow she started digging and all the dirt that I had in high school came out. Wow! Marvin laughed. Shit Jane, you better make it up to me somehow... and make sure none of this gets out, I told her.

I started reminiscing, and recalled the good times that I had in Jersey. I lived in many parts of the States before Jersey, although Jersey is certainly not the most gracious place as an understatement, it resembled the best times I had throughout my life. I realized, it’s not the decor that makes a place memorable, it’s the people that brings out the best of the surroundings, making it spectacle.

"People change, in a way that they’ve moved on with their lives. But they are still the same, in a sense that they are still who they were."

We paid our bills and left the restaurant. Marvin and Jane walked me to the station. You better make it up to me next time for digging those dirt out of me, I said to Jane jokingly. We said our goodbyes and I hopped on the train back to New York. Philly is a nice city, but nothing can compare to New York.

It was another long ride back, going by Trenton and passing through Jersey. This time, I left with good memories and a smile. I wish I can go back, to the same Jersey that I once remembered, but it doesn’t feel the same anymore. People change, in a way that they’ve moved on with their lives. But they are still the same, in a sense that they are still who they were.

I do wish things are like the way they used to be, but more so that I will be able to have similar feelings in the wonderful NYC. It takes time, I thought to myself, and slept on the rest of the way back home.

Love and the City- A Young Man's Adventures in Manhattan

Like a bird that flies, when you sit still, it comes to you. When you try to catch it, it flies away.

There are many pigeons in New York, with different shapes and sizes. Every one of them is hungry, fighting for food, pecking on the ground. They stay here because the food is most abundant, and comparably they say New York pigeons are the fattest.

I always wanted to live in the city. The idealistic dream loft and the artistic vibe that fits my personality. What really drove me here was perhaps the plethora of women. When I met a girl at a bar on the Lower East one night, I said to my naive self I am going to move here.

She was a stripper. A very fun, playful, and down-to-earth girl. I went home with her that night and ditched my friends. She had a boyfriend and I didn’t care. We went on a road trip to Foxwood and she broke up with him.

I never loved her. I liked her and her careless personality, but most of all, I liked her just to be there when I needed. She did everything for me: cooking, laundry, and helping me take my stuff home when I had to work. I had a place to stay for free and everything was great, until one Sunday morning when I realized what I wanted most is love.

She soon found out what I was doing, cursed me off and became distant. When suddenly that comfort from her was gone, I decided to leave her. Inside my heart I missed her, more for her companionship, because I never loved her.

I moved to the city soon after that. I said to myself maybe I don’t need love. I first picked up a cute tourist girl who spoke only few words of English. I kicked her out of my apartment after two days. I met a disheveled woman who was in her 40s. She stalked me for few months.

I went in to a local bar one night, living in Chinatown at the time. There was a beautiful bartender I chatted with. We got along quite well. But that night as I left the bar, I begin to understand the value of friendship. She wasn’t exactly my type I would go out with, but her vibrant personality was great to be a friend. I never kept in contact with her for some reason. Maybe I was just too excited to meet all these other people in the City.

Flying PigeonsAs I continued to venture, I met a girl that stayed in my mind 'till this day. Her name was Kay, she moved here about the same time I did. At first I didn’t think of anything, until we really get to talk and know each other. She has a unique personality that I adore, and we both have same taste for music, writing, and art. It was a summer of fun. I thought of her as great friend that I connected with. We hung out here and there, discovering bits and parts of the city, until she left the city without saying anything.

I couldn’t find myself to date after Kay left, and every time when some girl talked to me at the bar I would blow them off. I couldn’t understand myself at the time, and I would get frustrated for doing so. Something drawn upon me. What I kept thinking was how someone you connected so well all the sudden disappears. I left her a message, but didn’t get a response.

I moved to SOHO soon after, and met great roommates after bunch of tedious apartment hunting. I learned that although there are so many people in the city that you will meet, only few you will stay connected with. We stayed friends, and it is something I will always remember.

Kay contacted me after five months, saying she had to renew her visa. When we met up again she had a look on her eyes. It was a look from the soul but filled with ambivalence. We hung out a few times. I began to realize my feelings for her. She still hadn’t found a part of her, perhaps moving back to the city was like starting everything fresh. She needed someone close, but I wasn’t able to be there just as friends. Feeling distraught, I started my ventures again.

I picked up a divorcee one night. She was probably ten years older than me. I remembered the look on people’s face when they saw us making out, and I took her home. I had to work the next day so I kicked her out of my apartment. She left as a strong woman, but the look on her face stayed with me.

During one of my friend’s birthday, I took two girls home. I had no intention of having sex or dating any of them, I mostly brought them home because I can, to fulfill a sense of pride. One of them started kissing and we ended up in my bedroom, while the other cleaned my dishes. To this day I still couldn’t understand why. I know they actually wanted to date.

I stopped after that. The meaningless one night stands just really not what I sought for, and I did not want to date a person for the sake of dating. At the same time I felt like that was all there was in the city. After few months, I quite my job.

I met up with Kay again, not thinking of anything. She planned an elaborate brunch that was unexpected. Her eyes sparkled, we looked at each other, but I wasn’t sure what to make of it after all these times. We walked around and chatted. She said she wanted to go to all these places with me and we planned to go to a Jazz club one day.

Kay started her life all over again in the city. While her heart says one thing, her mind knows she’s not ready for anything. Perhaps my encounters made me realize what I wanted. I wish I can be her friend and be by her side to comfort her, but I couldn’t. There are so many things I wanted to say to her, but perhaps some things are better left unsaid.

We never really talked after that. She always has something on her mind, which she always kept to herself. She and I were lost souls in this city, I just hope she will eventually find herself. Until this day I always told people the stripper left me, perhaps to make my heart feel better. She too was a lost soul, always talked about marriage with me.

Flying BirdThese pigeons fight against each other, you don’t see that too often anywhere else. Whereas you usually see them travel in harmony, side by side in an elegant form. New York pigeons stay hungry, fighting against each other.

Perhaps I was trying to catch it too soon, and like a bird, it flew away. I can only sit still hoping that a bird will come again, but I can only sit for so long, because my heart wants to fly.

This city has a lot to offer me, but I feel like I am not yet ready for this city. I am going somewhere, maybe come back when I’m ready. After all, like a bird that flies, you sit still, but if you don’t pay attention, it might just fly away.

Up Close and Personal- The Then and Now

These days I walk extensively in the city, in solitary. From one place to another, I continuously walked, until I couldn’t walk anymore. I was hoping to see the naive tourists who would fulfill my experience, but as the season falls forward to autumn, they all left. I bought new soles to embellish my gait, and new corduroy pants to match them, the European fit, as I called them. I could never pull this off in the suburbs. They would stare and stereotype me as “metro,” such an unsolicited word, even though I would look sharp. But here’s my chance, a chance to express myself. I am an individual.

When I was young, every time I had acquainted myself to a new environment, my family would end up moving. It became frustrating, and at times I would feel aloof and lost. On the upside, however, I became an individual and always found myself eventually adapting to my new surroundings. But at the same time, I developed a shield and often enclosed myself, afraid of getting too close to others. The outcome is that when I do open myself up, I open it extensively, in a way tha
t I can be loquacious of my feelings. Thus, when I fall, I fall hard. So I never expose myself to too many people, afraid of getting burned.

I was able to shift focus. Instead of changing myself to someone that I’m not and fit into the stereotypical “popular” socialites of the new surroundings, I was my genuine self, an individual, and concentrated on my goals. I would spend hours upon hours of practicing, everyday, hoping to be a concert violinist. I had no time. Knowing time is of essence, I would go home after school and spent the rest of my day practicing. Even during school I was thinking how I would spend my hours at home on the scales, etudes, concertos, and other repertoires. I practically breathed music. I read music. I dreamed music. The old saying of “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice,” I took it to heart. I knew that the only way I would be able to achieve my dream was to live it, until my dream was crushed.

It was my sophomore year of high school going into junior, the crucial moment of preparing for SATs and getting into a good university. My father was anxious, and realizing how exclusively I wanted to make music my life, he did whatever he could to stop it. He cut off my lessons and screamed at me for practicing. I remembered I would get so scared, at the same time
I wanted it so bad, that I would go to the basement to practice.

“If you really want to be a violinist, show your dad there is no other way for you.” My friend at that time who shared the same passion suggested.

I took his words and rebelled. I started doing horribly in school to make apparent that the only way I would be able to get in to a college was to audition for music school. I would mention Curtis, the reputable music school in Philadelphia, and brought home brochures of Julliard. Unfortunately, I was fighting a losing battle. Soon I realized the man does wear the pants in the house, and unless I was willing to live on the streets and start from being a street musician, there was no other way (Now I have to clarify that in the world of classical music, due to its eminent history and prestige, without proper training, it’s like finding needle in a haystack. You have to search the entire bookshelf and recordings on classical music to learn how to play a note appropriately on Bach, for example. There is also a cut off age).

“Is it really worth it?” My friend with the same passion asked me. For some reason I can’t recall his name. Perhaps subconsciously I had erased that part of me, to forget the dreadful memories I had.

Fortunately, I was adaptable. I soon find a group of friends that lasted until now (although we no longer see each other, we still keep in touch once in awhile). We weren’t exactly the “popular” crowd until senior year, where all the underclassmen looked up to us, especially the girls (what does it really mean to be popular anyways). We were the off-beat individuals who were atypical, in a good way i.e.

Things change. The friends that I made have their own dreams to pursue, and so do I. After series of relationships and heartbreaks, I decided to move. I always wanted to live in New York: the idealistic loft apartment, the endless nights, the chance for me to be an individual. I packed my bags and decided not to look back. Perhaps I was running away, but that’s how it has always been since my childhood. I never kept in contact with most of my friends, especially the girls I had relationships with. I always thought I could just start fresh in a new surrounding. After all, I am adaptable. I am an individual.

Living in the city is much more than the fairy tale you seen in movies and read in novels. It is rough if you don’t know anyone. Quite frankly, I am sociable, just afraid of getting too close. I had met many people here in the city. Some are great. Some are eccentric. But I never kept in contact with any of them.

This city is cold. I stray myself from getting too close to others, afraid of getting hurt. But one thing I acquired from my experiences is hope. I am adaptable. Aren’t I? Right now I am trying to shift focus. I am still able to shift focus. I write excessively hoping one day I would become a writer. One day. It is the only way I know how to express my emotions wholly. I mean, how am I going to connect with those strangers in New York? When people started talking about the shows they used to watch and the games they used to play when they were kids, I just nod silently. What am I going to say? That I did not do those things because I spent my entire childhood practicing to reach a dream that had failed? I’ll find ways. I am adaptable. After all, this Apple is a gregarious social melting pot filled with diverse people from all over the world. I did meet some great people didn’t I? But they all left.

Saturday, October 25, 2008