John Tang

Books and their Faces and Bodies

Posted in Sketchbook by Jt's Item Roster on May 31, 2010

Books and their Faces and Bodies

Sometimes I would walk into a book store and pull a book off the shelf, grow interested with the dents on the cover, in the pages, more than tale itself. Tonight I was in midst of listening to John Krasinski’s monologue. All my books were cluttered on the side of the laptop, while also on my lap was Chekhov’s plays. Strangely I was attached to theater, and I saw on the shelf over my head was A Playwright’s Guidebook by Stuart Spencer. I opened to a list of playwrights Stuart suggested. Conveniently I sought for Chekhov at the same instant, as I put the book back on the shelf blindly, searching and understanding place through touch.

As so, I had the guidebook on the top of more books, but it felt unbalanced. I pushed it more inside until the flat face settled. Without knowing, the book slipped off a small lyric book and fell behind the shelf and desk, where, as the pages were open, the book was caught on the X-metal frame.  Inside the mouth of the book, the bar had dented the page as well as the spine, leaving both misaligned and irreparable. This reminded me of one time I opened a book and the head of every page was sliced—a jagged slice—two-hundred pages deep. I wondered what had occurred at the printing press.

Perhaps every product came out perfect like nature, its birth. Only in time would the Thing itself change. When intrigued by a story, I would crease the corner of the page and draw star beside the passage. Sometimes I might annotate, seldom though, if it impeded the readership. How the marks revealed the time in ownership. Before, during my undergraduate years, I struggled in keeping my novel in neat conditions, as if they might gain monetary value over time—and these were contemporary novels and their translations. As of now, none has survived. Somehow a page had a crease on the bottom, as I shoved it in my backpack. Or as I exhumed them from a cardboard box, the wings of the page—if not bound tightly—would crease against the wall and fold somewhere, either the edge or the corner, brushing off another book or the brown walls of card.  Since I often cannot afford hardback books, nor can I afford an e-book, I guess there is nowhere my face and presence can ever hide in my library.



People and Things in a Bagel Shop

Posted in Sketchbook by Jt's Item Roster on May 21, 2010

People and Things in a Bagel Shop


Only round at the gut, his face was square as well as the brown hair, as well as the legs in a pair of leather boots. He was an older gentleman, had trimmed mustache that was gray as his shirt. Waiting for the bagel. Leaning on the hard spine of his seat. The table where the other elbow rested on was cold.



Elbows crossed, anchored on the table, she leaned over reading the newspaper. A rush of black characters on gray streaming today’s whereabouts. If it wasn’t for the stone and density call of the title, she wouldn’t have known the kidnapping of a Vietnamese woman, whose body was later found in Napa in the ditch full of dry shrubs.



After renovation, the room was painted in a solid rouge all around. A dark red which had left the bagel shop dimmer  from the inside looking out. There were a few white walls here and there, but usually were covered in a fire extinguisher, a trash can, oak cabinets for displays, and then the rest entire cooking and coffee-brewing and purchasing. On the end of both counters were plastic orchids, white at the petal and pink at the pouch, forever-appearing as fresh until someone’s was close enough, when he or she went to the bathroom at the end of the place.


The Conversationalist

Some white guy, a private business owner of some sort, overheard the police officer speaking to the owner of the bagel shop. Soon as he input his idea on politics, the owner—a small, bald Asian man—moved seamlessly away from the police officer, allowing the conversation to ensue. The police officer, held his dark fist tightly together. Only when he stood up did he the hands were open.

“I’ve been here for sixty-three years. All my children graduated went four-year university here in San Jose. You know, lobbyist, congress”

“You think we’re out of the woods.”

“I think we’re out of the woods”

“Are they passing that bill?”

“The house got to converge or not.”

“People don’t like change, whether you like it or not. Who used changed first, Obama. Change? Change? Whether you’re Republican or Democrate, change came from Obama.”

“I’m worried about jobs. I’m worried about California. Thirty-seven job-killing props were passed.”

“He is a guy, highly intelligent.”

“I’m not worried about it. He is. He comes off an anti-capitalist.”


Posted in Sketchbook by Jt's Item Roster on May 19, 2010

Ms. Hall Spoke to Me at Work

Turned around, Ms. Hall leaned over the spine of the seat with her elbows under the chin: “I have a friend who spoke Tagalog, and now she’s learning Punjabi, so she could preach out there. So are you Ta…” I knew she meant Tagalog, but that was the language, so I helped shift the stutter in her voice: “Filipino? Yeah, I am. Raised in the Pacific side of the world: Okinawa, nine years, Guam, four years, then I would visit Philippines every summer, when it was cheaper compared to the states—it’s expensive out here.” She teased out of me a military background. We moved and visited many different countries, including mainland Japan and Korea; in fact, I wanted to move back to Okinawa as if Japan was home.

“Your dad was Filipino, and your mom was?” She, as well, peripherally touched on the common notion military families grew up more diverse because military personel found lovers in different countries.

“No,” I said. “I’m half Chinese, but my parents found each other in Philippines. I grew up, though, with friends of diverse backgrounds: White and Chommarro—from Guam— (That’s common); a friend of mine here was in the military household, she’s half black and Japanese—very cute—I thought she was coming in today.”

“Japanese and black,” She said. “That’s a good mix. So is the mom…”

“Was  Japanese?” I finished her sentence. “Got her skin, too. Soft-skinned, light.”

Because Ms. Hall was black, I was perhaps as nervous as Ms. Hall now because the term “black,” felt at first natural, then the political spell came about, “African American”; although it did not deflate the conversation, as we changed the subject of finally purchasing eye-glasses, semi-rimmed and plastic.


OT on the Laptop

Tonight she worked overtime in the room next door, since she had close ties to her uncle and aunts. Under a single lamp, shedding a white light wide enough circumference for both laptops, her personal and the one the job issued out to their staff in human resources and logistics. Her night was made up between the two to computers; some redundant piece of work, some casual pleasures; filling a requisition forms, catching her brother online, who was overseas in Philippines.

Her hair was unnaturally dyed into a roasted chestnut, and tonight was tied into a pony tail.


Some Readings: Hass, Michals, Carroll, and Melville

Posted in Sketchbook by Jt's Item Roster on May 18, 2010

Some Readings

I read two poets today at my desk while writing my story. First, Robert Hass, then Nils Michals. My language has more similarities with Hass than Michals. A few descriptions of mine sound detached, almost, the way images stood alone; very similar to Lewis Carroll in Alice in Wonderland. The problem with Michal’s work is that some phrasing sound awkward, yet in the sacrifice, there are some wonderful and refreshing usages of images coexisting with one another.

Robert Hass: “A house of old, soft, gray salt-lustered wood,/ Windows onto dune grass and a beach.

–From the poem “Domestic Interiors”

Nils Michals: “They snow the shop floor blind, anklefuls,/ silencing footfalls, corkscrewing blocks of sun-”

–From the poem “Stradivari, 1736”

Lewis Carroll: “The Caterpillar and Alice looked at each other for some time in silence: at last the Caterpillar took the hookah out of its mouth, and addressed her in a languid, sleepy voice.”

–From Alice in Wonderland


Melville Fun

Melville’s Moby Dick definitely was refreshing read. I do not understand the force yet; to simply put it, he has energy. It is blend of life, of everything: Voice, setting and circumstance. Four chapters deep into the novel, Ishmael was trying to make sense of Queequeg according to the room, which he shared for the night. Concluding Queequeg was a cannibal, of a different culture, Ishmael grew afraid under the bed sheets. Until Queequeg arrived, amidst his midnight rituals before falling asleep, did Ishmael have a tough time in finding any logic and any comfort in those queer gestures. Slipping under the cover, Ishmael was caught, as he yelled for the owner of the inn to save his life.

–End (What excellent reads today)

Gardner’s Psychic Distance

Posted in Sketchbook by Jt's Item Roster on May 17, 2010

Gardner’s Psychic Distance

(Inspiring Advice)

There is an eternal battle between writing in pen and typing on the computer with me. There is an organic-touch when writing in pen, but remarks and phrases are clearer when typed on the computer. Today in Starbucks I discovered Gardner’s Psychic Distance. While looking over Jeans’ sketches, I wondered how authors emulated those expressions.  A patient face. A stern lip. Worried eyelids closed on sun-down. I wanted those gestures in my notebook, and Gardner suggested you could alter the connection through distance in the psychic, the home of language. Here are Gardner’s gradations from away to beside:

  1. It was winter of the year 1853. A large man stepped out of a doorway.
  2. Henry J. Warburton had never much cared for snowstorms.
  3. Henry hated snowstorms.
  4. God how he hated these damn snowstorms.
  5. Snow. Under your collar, down inside your shoes, freezing and plugging up your miserable soul.

I practiced a few in my notebook on a group of students, which I didn’t believe were studying but socializing and enjoying their Sunday evening.  One student noticed Lebron’s performance hinged on a rumor that a friend of his had an affair with his mother: “Compared to the elbow, this was fucked up.”

  1. 50’s music played over the speakers of this coffee shop. One employee finished lunch and stepped behind the counter, while the other had left the milk on the counter for thirty minutes, until now, smelling the rigid lip of the bottle. Both ignoring the line John led, the elder woman behind him asked, “I ordered whip on my hot chocolate.”
  2. Lazy, her replied had said, as he read the message off the lime phone. “Can’t take out trash. Backyard.” He whispered, as if for a second, he read something different.

These are not good examples, but I am excited to practice. At first Gardner’s technique reminded me of Chekhov’s setting (where setting reflects the character’s current mood), except Gardner shows the treatment of language has distance as well. So there is distance in voice as well as in space.



Posted in Sketchbook by Jt's Item Roster on May 14, 2010

Raley’s Chad

Chad, his name tag read after James asked about his day. What ensued as well was a conversation, a life he worked towards as a medical transcriptionist. Chad was a paunchy fellow, had rolls of chins that was slightly shaded, and around the eyes were black rings, scaled from the cracks in the eyelids and cheeks. But his attitude in slicing sandwiches did not vex him: “My week has been good. Next week is finals, then I graduate the next semester.” He attended Western college, a vocational school, for medical transcriptionist. He was excited for the money, saying the market was “wide these days.” James knew the market for medical transcriptions, as he currently was employed at an optometry office, and he warned simply called it “busy work” when the office was slow. What Chad was more interested in was coding—creating bill codes for insurance companies—saying that paid thirty-five dollars an hour!

He made a Sierra’s Peak, a Cibatta sandwich with a stratosphere of flavor, yet by the size you would believe the there was none:  Thick slices roasted ham and turkey, lettuce, tomato, rings of sweet onions, mayo, and a spread honey mustard. He opened an entire pack of ham for the sandwich, and James thought only half was enough for seven dollars. His white apron was stained in brown colors, perhaps from the ribs, as James matched it with the ribs in the steel bowl. After wrapping the sandwich in paper, he removed both gloves, weighed the sandwich and taped the lip, saying: “Only a few more months.” He passed the sandwich over the counter, “This is yours. You have a good day, now, sir.”


Old Cowboy Outside of Starbucks on N. Texas St.

“Decided to come back in,” the old man said with a southern accent, holding the door for a young man in a black hoodie and sharp sunglasses. Dressed In cowboy ensemble—leather vest, striped short sleeve shirt, and a wicker gallon hat—he greeted everyone entering the coffee shop.


Warm Up

Posted in Sketchbook by Jt's Item Roster on May 13, 2010

Warm Up

The gears are slow tonight. Indifferent to write, tonight plays as if it was a relaxing time of absorbing, listening to music and reading a chapter or two. I just microwaved a cup of coffee, which I usually would exhaust on writing. But if I had a story tonight it would be called “At the Tennis Court.”

At the Tennis Court

After work I drove to Ruby st., where I played a game of tennis with freshmen students from Vanden High school. Nick, Stephen, and James, were their names. To simply remember their presence, aside from their humor of aids, abortions and foster parenting, to characterize their physical and tangible aspects were blond, bones and chubby. I asked if the school was still in shape, as I was a graduate in 2004: “Is sexual conduct still an issue there?”

“What?” Nick asked. “Sexual conduct?”

“Sorry, sexual affairs.”

They spoke amongst themselves. Stephen remembered there was a “hot” teacher who taught math class. At first I didn’t recall the name, as they focused the conversation on her full chest, the way she bit her lips amidst a tough question, and many students who flirted with her, except for her son, apparently. She was recently, this year, in trouble again for a sexual affair.

“Ms. Boul?”

“Yes, that it, Ms. Boul. Hurray, hurray. She’s hot.”

They celebrated and one of them threw their tennis racket on the fence (I believe it was James).

“Back in 2004,” I said. “She was had a sexual an affair with Mr. Woods—you don’t know him, but he was the P.E. teacher there, before your time. Or I think she was sexually harassed—either, she was always involved with sexual cases. A whore, I think.”



Her Vacaville

Posted in Sketchbook by Jt's Item Roster on May 12, 2010

Her Vacaville

“Before you came here, Vacaville was also known as Onion City.” The elderly woman said. Her breath smelled of thick tobacco. She wore a purple dress, silk, with a golden bracelets jingling every time she switched hands on the knees. She spoke to John, an employee at the optometry, who was leaning against the counter, listening closely, it seemed, as you saw his boss a bit irate from the conversation. She said, “I want to stop here.”

“I live in Vacaville.” He said, as if he never heard the last remark. “Why Onion city?”

“I lived here since ’46. My father owned a farm where what is now the ice rink.”

“That’s downtown, by Brendon Theater.” He tried to paint the city. “The tattoo parlor. Bank of America. The library, Town Square is in that area. The bus stop to Davis is there.”

“That’s before Vacaville modernized. Before the outlets, before the highway 80 towered over fields and hills, this was a farm land nothing of onion. My father owned a farm exactly underneath that ice rink. He closed it a couple years after World War II. On the field the dust always got caught in his eyes (You know California’s dry heat—the same as before). That’s why he always took the air-eye, or what is it called now, the air-puff test. He had his eyes checked every year.”

“Was Travis Air Force Base there?”

“It was.” She adjusted how she sat. “Did you know Vacaville never wanted to connect with Fairfield. Even with that sliver we call Peabody, they always made sure it was separated from the each other. Not like Suisun and Fairfield, they are also known as Twin City. That must have been past your time, too. But Travis was there—I don’t know if it was used for the wars.

I met my husband in Vacaville when he was in the military–before he passed away—that’s before both of our divorces. Five kids, he had and only one with me. He was on Travis, supplier for the airplanes that stopped before wherever, usually, I know in Oklahoma because he always visited. I was a couple years out of high school, and we were friends for two years—more so, I never let him date me. He was persistent, I’d say. I remember he said ‘if you didn’t play too hard-to-get, do you know how much time we could have spent together?’ That’s two months before he passed away in March. You should go now, John. This was pleasant for me.”

The conversation carried so fluently, she was unsure how she found herself in the examining room, surrounded by large equipment in the dark and a slice of light from a creak in the door. She was casting a smile downward, before the conversation broke, before her head rose and saw John’s boss made the fifth look over the shoulders. He was a short Chinese man, who wore a faded sweater, once a navy blue. John held the door open, hanging onto the silver handle.

“The doctor will be with you shortly.”


Hamlet Complex this Morning

Posted in Sketchbook by Jt's Item Roster on May 11, 2010

Hamlet Complex this Morning

“I am the truth unequivocal, no motive to lie,

I am the answer without even proposing the why.”

Soul Khan, “Soulstice”

Raining in the end of Spring as if it was Winter’s second wind. My lower back was still recovering from the hip-hop event Massacre of the Bay. Eight hours I stood around the octagon where the MCs battled, but it was well-worth the wait for every event. Including last night, I was suffering from the Hamlet complex: If I have this correct, the spell came when information paralyzed your movements, and ultimately, your goals. Alluding William Shakespeare’s Hamlet: Prince of Denmark, Hamlet failed to murder Claudius, at time where his guard was down, praying, because Hamlet did not want Claudius to ascend into heaven. Perhaps the complex could be developed more, as Hamlet constantly struggled to control information over the course of the play, but I wanted to end with the simple fact Hamlet did not want Claudius in heaven. Here, Hamlet allowed Christian doctrine to obstruct his goal.

Either Christian doctrine or hearsay, information has power in making sense of the present. I fell into the pit this morning. First there was last night: Arian visited to drop off a few books written by San Francisco State faculty, knowing well I transferred to SF state in September. We spoke in the foyer, as he explained each book one at a time. He had a high nasal voice, yet never had pockets of air in between remarks—a sustained tone which shifted here and there accordingly to topics and gestures. He wore skinny jeans tight at the calves, with a black and white checkered jacket, tiny, if you stood this close. There were a few books I recognized during Arain’s enrollment at the university and how he disliked the readings, called the peach-colored book specifically “creative crap,” which also failed  to call itself “creative journalism” and turning to me, said: “Why do they lie? Why don’t they call it journalism, non-fiction. And shit, it’s about the creative process.”

“I don’t know.” I said tonight.

“I don’t know if you’re going to like any of these? Maybe Borges—Orner assigns those to his students. You always strike me as a traditionalist: write every morning, on a schedule. At SFSU, they’re experimental.”

“I warm up writing the blogs before I work on a piece.” I said. “Haven’t lately. I’ve been spending too much time on the blogs. By the time I get to the piece, I finished my coffee. And as of late…I don’t know if read the blog: Did you know I saw Sasha last week at work.”

“She’s fun.”

“I think I’m going to ask her out—be straight with her.”

“You should. I’m cool with it.” He said. “I know she’s a Jap-o-phile. I know that for sure.”

“I heard.”

“She was teaching me how to write the characters, Katakana and Kanji. It’s stupid. Some aren’t drawn efficiently. For example a square, you do the sides.” With his index finger in the air, he swiped first two lines on the sides, then two lines for the top and bottom.

“I think the characters are designed so you don’t lift your hand.”

“Because they write from left to right, top, down.” He understood. “It’s inefficient.”

“What do you think?”

“She’s cool. She’ll let you be playful with her.” He said. “I could’ve sworn she liked me at one point. We were on the bleachers doing our homework, the bench between our legs, across from another. Our knees touched for a long time. Or I would stand very close to her.” In example, Arian put his face next to the wall. “I do this with Melissa. You know, how they’re short. The cool thing is Sasha did that but nothing ensued—you know, she never betrayed Chris.”

In humor, I put Arian’s books underneath my nose as if that was the girl’s head. “’You’re hair smell nice.’” I said as if I were Arian in that situation.

“Girl’s hair smells nice, yes.”

“’Oh, is that Pantene Pro-v.’” Still in character. “’Mmm, I love the Lime Green. ’”

“Melissa’s smells good.” He said. “We use the same shampoo.”

“I’ll make sure to try at work when Sasha comes over.”

“You worked with her?” He asked. “You even knew her in high school before work, right? You could have done something before Chris.”

“Yep, I was stubborn. I’d say snobbish. I was snob to her in our Health class. Because I just moved to California, and I was close-minded to everyone here. I came here Junior year, and I just wanted to graduate with everyone back home. Sasha was cool, nice to me, and I didn’t recognize it at the time. I was stupid. In Health, do you remember, Richard—rocker, worked at the commissary, gay, was in a band—anyways, it was him, me and Sasha, at the back of the class. I was so quiet, and those two would always say something to me—usually about why I was so quiet. ‘Could you shut up,’ I used to think. ‘I just want to go home. I want to see my friends, again.’ I was stubborn and missed out something nice. Now at work it feels the tables have turned: she’s quieter and I’m making an effort to get her attention. Strange. And with Chris, I had respect for him and their relationship.”

“I thought we established Chris was a douche.”

“Before, I never knew him well.” I said. “I always thought he was a solid guy: Popular, had the eyebrow pierced, drove an Infinity, worked so he can be an optometrist and now is going to school to be an optometrist. He had a good head on his shoulders, I thought. Now, I know, he is douche at the core. When the stakes are high, he won’t pull through. I don’t depend on him for anything.” While I said this, I also remembered the time when Dr. Huey moved to the new office, it was difficult asking for Chris’ help. And that was only a slice of Chris’ character.

“She’s cool.” I said.

“She’s cool.” Arian said. “During government they were playing music and her and Kiesha—is that her name? I don’t know—were dancing in class (that’s her black side). I don’t know why there was music, but I didn’t participate. The game is when you do a dance and the other one copy it and adds another move. The cool part is she started it—and that’s her black side.”

“Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind.”

“On Facebook she has a picture with this huge Japanese guy, probably famous—I’m not sure how she keeps up with that. I know you got rid of your Facebook—but she seems to be updated with Japanese culture.”

“Nice.” I had to ask with all the shame. “Did she have a boyfriend?”

“I heard the guy was actually from Japan.” He said. “He’ll come here once a month, I guess.”

I leaned against the wall, holding my knees.

“Maybe in that case, I’ll back off.”

“You might want to.” Arian suggested. “I can imagine military wives have to go through this. I feel sorry for them: Their husbands overseas for months. I’d guess that’s what Sasha’s going through.”

“Plus, I heard she developed a prejudice against Filipino.” I laughed, “since Chris. That’s what my boss told me: ‘Why do you choose to like her now, man? Bad timing.’”

“She always liked Filipinos.”

“Remember Musico’s party.” I said. “It was refreshing seeing her. We hugged and all, caught up on work and life. The guy she came with was Filipino, but he was square—slightly tall, wore plastic frames.” I imitated the young man’s high voice, trying to use slang. “’What’s up, mayne. It’s going down tonight.” It was a poor imitation. “She left to say what’s-up to a bunch of people, and I drank with Kalay and them in the kitchen. We were trying to get a cipher going. When she came back, she said: You’re drunk. Then disappeared for the rest of the night. The worst part is this is all delusional: All these memories, I select them because of these feelings—puppy-love. I bet she doesn’t remember any of them.”

“Maybe the party. She probably remembers everything before in high school.” Arian said. “When you see drunk people, usually you remember that they were only drunk.”

–End (I spent too much time on this)

Carlo at Raley’s

Posted in Sketchbook by Jt's Item Roster on May 7, 2010

Carlo at Raley’s

Carlo, a coworker of mine, and I drove to Raley’s across the parking lot. Inside the place was, as usual, clean and in order. The fake wooden flooring had a glare off the white fluorescent lights. Carlo sought for energy drinks, using the term loosely, one has to be a sweet and the other carbonated. The freezer hummed over his face, as he reached behind for coffee in a soda can, saying to himself, “Ooo, I didn’t think they invented these.” He shared, again, his tiring schedule ahead of him today, before he regretted not seeing Sasha at her appointment last Saturday. “And it’s not like I can do anything about it because I’m not scheduled.” Carlo laughed. Until now, I avoided the conversation because the emotions would build an unnecessary pressure on my day, something that kept my mind occupied when time was still (not how I prefer thinking of someone, almost unconsciously; if I dream while awake, I enjoy the sensations).

In an attempt to shift the topic, I asked about his other job tutoring at Kumon. Side note, when I look back at the experience now: Perhaps I really wanted to know more about Sasha.

“Did she still work at Kumon?” I asked for the sake of relevance, knowing well she currently has an administrative position in Sacramento.

“We quit at the same time?”

I didn’t ask if he referred to a different tutoring center, derailing the conversation.

“I wished I got to see her.”

“You should’ve.” I looked down. “She was really pretty.”

“You know, she had a crush on me in high school. We were in band together.”


“I know.” He said. “How long have you known her?”

“High school, work.” I said. “But when I saw her at work, it was as if she didn’t remember me.” I held my heart in humor. “A little heart-broken.” I remembered the word. “Disheartened.” Not knowing if that was what I truly meant. “I was disheartened.”

“Yeah, she was dating Chris.”

I accepted the fact before working with Sasha. That was the complete foundation to why I never made a move at work; I had respect for their two-year relationship (I believe it was two years at the time). With that in mind, it was easier to joke with her, no human anchorage, simply sitting behind this enormous desk (white at the time) talking about every patient who came in—Medicares and their attitudes, teenagers quick to learn how to wear contact lenses but the haste only hinged their performances. Plus, she would usually begin the conversations, once asking me why I was so quiet. I regretted not opening even a little.

Carlo and I were walking down aisles five and six for cracker snacks. By now I was able to shift about Carlo’s girlfriend, which calmed me down, not focused too hard on the future, staring as if I had telekinesis to move solid objects. It gave me enough time slow my emotions down. For some strange reason Carlo was excited or “wired,” surprised at himself when he only had a few hours of sleep: “When I get home, I’m a go straight to sleep. Woke up at six o’clock this morning, reading physique books for four hours. Do you know I learned reading four hours of physique books might give you energy later on?” At the end of the aisle, there were the cracker snacks of baked golden fish.

“Pick one, John. Anyone.”

“Sorry, I normally don’t eat this.” I said and suggested. “Cinnamon?”

“Nothing sweet this time.” He said. “Look, I have cookies. Why did I buy them? I’m not going to eat them.”

He ditched the soft-baked cookies behind a row of fish crackers. Out of air, almost, he asked when I worked with Sasha, “Just to get the timeline straight.”

“Tuesdays, I believe, we worked together.”

“So you know Chris and her when they were working at the same time?”

“Yep.” I said because the question sounded as if he wanted to know more about their relationship, which I wasn’t unsure of, so I corrected myself. “She came before me. I’m not sure with Chris—we might have just had different schedules.”

“How was working with her?”

“She was always easy to talk to, even as quiet as she knew me.” I said. “I don’t know now. People change, and usually for the best.”

“What can you do with people?”

I looked at the clock on my cell phone. Thirty minutes from now, a flood of patients were scheduled at two-thirty. Carlo was shorter, had a bulky built, especially caught in a fitted v-neck, gray, which emphasized the bulb and firmness of his stomach. Outside Carlo opened the passenger’s door for me. The shirt was gray as his Scion TC, “Stick shift,” he always made sure to mention. While driving through the parking lot, he must have felt pity for me, as he apologized for a matter months ago: “Sorry about Aireen. She always has a suitor. Even my friends say she is the total package: Smart, cute. I used to have a crush on her, I knew her in Catechism.”

“You don’t have to apologize.” I said. “She told me she had boyfriend.”

“That’s why I’m so happy just sticking to be her friend.”

Quiet, so Carlo could focus looking both ways at the stop. Crossing, there was a large truck that seemed to take up both lanes. Carlo slowed down, shifted gears, to pass him, then turned into the street in front of the optometry.

“May I ask a favor?” I opened the door. “You said, sometimes you see Sasha around. Please, don’t tell her what I said.”

We shook hands, and I closed the heavy door. Afternoon was bright on the eyes, you even saw on the streets. Spring air was cool, crisp, not the usual grain of pollen pricking the face. I knew, though, allergies were around the corner, as I saw the realtor, where our shop sat besides, was on her third smoke break and scratching her eyes, coughing. I hurried into our shop.


Performance Review

Disappointed in my work habits, I missed familiar hours of writing. Or maybe this was what Rilke meant in “unfamiliar hours”; do not write undisciplined, disingenuous to the craft. No work, no school, an interesting piece at hand, I avoided writing all day. This morning I woke masturbating under the comforters. Warm, with pace, I finished myself an hour later at nine o’clock. I fell asleep again for a good hour.

I noticed I haven’t eaten since last night and remembered Gabe’s plan to eat at a pizza buffet. I texted him and James, while opening my day to its usual routine: Turn on the computer and play music or an episode of The Office. I’ve seen every episode posted on,, and and could recall each story in detail, so I listened to Gabriela Montero’s improvisation on her Myspace because the site played every song in rotation. She was known for impromptu riffs of C.J. Bach’s piano concertos. The improvisation left a jazz scent in every performance.

To Montero’s piano riffs, for myself, I worked on “Carlo at Raley’s,” adding a few more details.  Essentially, I heard a little bit more, though useless information, about Sasha. If anything productive came out, I discovered an interesting character in myself and the “I.” What I wanted to capture, too, was Carlo’s character. The innocence he portrayed has a hint of vainglory. He would talk how he thought of topics; whether agreeing or disagreeing, he invented topics based on the last conversation. From there he had more cushion to speak about himself without forcing the issue, himself.