Sunset would be too obvious

21 01 2016

Waking up and trying to fall asleep again at around 5 AM this morning, I realized that everything is the same, except I’ve lost some inner refuge that lets me go to sleep easily.

It’s not inner peace, it’s more like the ability to lull myself, to settle in.

It’s kind of like putting weight on a sprained ankle. I don’t notice usually because my muscles are all tensed around it, but at night, when things relax. I can’t get away.


26 10 2015

in part, how I feel about you

is a gradual slowing, a low melting, a pooling and a warming.

A pitched focus on the infinitesimal details of you,

cleft of your chin, split of your tongue, rift between your teeth – a trinity of dichotomies,

then a premonition of significance about these noted details, this one three of twos.

What I am saying is that you

give me a sensation that precedes realization,

like the left side of an epiphany,

or sehnsucht on the brink of, at last, sufficiency.

So what I am saying is

I’d like to know, so push me over.

Another One

21 09 2015

I know I have remembered much of this year, but when I try to savor specific memories, I think about things that are merely tangential, like catching glimpses of myself out the corner of my eyes.

I can never decide if I am beautiful or ugly, pretentious or original, depressed or happy. I can hardly recall a time when I did not reside in this O-shaped zone of ambiguity. It covers me like a fuzzy shadow. I do not have a passport out, and I would not want to move further in.

When did my mind become a jagged, sharp-edged thing? Always evaluating, defining, criticizing.

I miss the simplicity of childhood, of first love, but wasn’t it, wasn’t I, still full of doubt and self-awareness, even then?

The ambiguity is why I am having such a hard time. Within this haze, my sorrow is something wholly unambiguous, and I cannot keep off it. I am aware. This awareness does not help.

A sentient being is a life form that is aware of itself.

I could do with a bit less sentience these days. When you are wounded and bleeding out dark, hot arterial blood, observing and critiquing the shape of the wound, and surmising about its cause is less than useful. Forensics is not what you do straight away. I am not sure what you should do straight away, however.

Currently I am trying to feel the pain, study the pain, feel the pain, distract from pain, speculate about the nature of pain, trying to enjoy the pain, writing about the cause of pain in oblique references. I am also at times overwhelmed by the pain, which is when I know it was stupid to try and enjoy the pain.

With somewhat less sentience I wouldn’t be hating these words as soon as I type them, or hating myself for falling in love despite having the sense to know better, or do I hate myself for having that sense at all? It’s further condemnation, isn’t it? An error committed knowingly. I should have run.

Knowing the aliveness of it. I will miss the obliteration of physical pain.

Knowing I can be muted. I will miss that blessed silence of the brain.

I will miss. I will miss. That pulverant voice in my ear telling me I am good, so good, so fucking good.

It isn’t easy, being this stupid.


I would do it again. I would I would I would.

If you

17 09 2015

If you lose 20 pounds. If you stop picking at those mosquito bites. If you cut out fried foods. If you buy the expensive shampoo. If you stop eating carbs. If you remember to moisturize. If you shave your legs. If you get a nose job. If you get your tits fixed. If you wax. If you get your jaw shrunk. If you get your skin tightened. If you let me put it in your ass. If you work out five days a week. If you don’t talk too much. If you sleep eight hours a night. If you get really fucking good at blow jobs. If you drink lots of water. If you get your teeth cleaned. If you start doing squats. If you grew two inches taller. If you read all the books that I find important and talk to me about them, but not too much, just enough for me to feel like I’m teaching you something. If you have your own interests, and are genuinely invested in them, but don’t let them take up your time when I want you around. If you give me space, but also don’t fade into the background, come on, have some confidence, find that balance of being a presence in my life without taking over my life. If you are kind to me, but not too kind because I am not ready to commit, and don’t ask me what I mean by commitment because I am using it as a catch-all term for things you do that make me feel threatened or uncomfortable or pressured so the definition will change depending on your actions and your actions alone.




I will love you.


I will finally look into your eyes like looking into the vast mysteries of space and want to know, thirst to know, need to know you, need to touch and taste you need to hear your laughter and your thoughts on love and true connection, need those stories about your first moment of conscious memory, or those nights you spent abandoned listening to them scream in the next room wondering at the new weight of despair on an 8 year old mind comprehending the ugliness of existence and wishing for an end, or the first time you read the Perks of Being a Wallflower and felt like you could be infinite if you just let yourself be infinite so obviously the fault lay with you and your inability to let go, and how you’ve been brokenhearted over that flaw all your life because it meant that you would never fly in that way, that infinite way.


I will see the miraculous beauty the alignment of chance and passion that points like an arrow from past generations of men and women who had something of you, some mannerism or gesture written in their genome passed down to you (the way you brush your hair back,  the way strong emotions always hit you like an internal sneeze with your eyes watering involuntarily), but those generations they were yet pale impressions of the masterpiece that is you.


I will feel that the word “masterpiece” is both an apt and flawed word for describing you, because though I will feel for you that curious joy I sometimes feel for beautiful things that seem to be made just for me (the fascination of your ulna, the brevity of your upper lip) the word is troubled and flawed, oh, so flawed, because I will see that you are no static masterpiece, no mere work of art. You are dynamic, rushing as the waves of the sea and the wind of the air. I will watch the light hit you in a different way in the afternoon, and realize you smell different in the evening as compared to the day, but even these words, these ludicrous amalgamations of letters could never approach how vast and wholly singular you are – so singular that I begin to sonder at the idea that every other person might be similarly brimful with difference and thought as you or me, and this is when I will get this awestruck realization, this feeling of exaltation, knowing what it means that such a you exists in the circle of my arms in this lonely, broken world.


My heart will ring out like a golden bell struck hard, and you will be the one who does the striking.

but only if you lose 20 pounds.

Diary of Tarantula Lau – March 5th

15 09 2015

I thought I saw my mother today. My real mother. I saw her in the park. An old woman walking at sunset. The low slope of her shoulders, her side to side shuffling walk. She even held a bag at her side which swung the same they used to when we were walking back from the market. I sped up to overtake her and turned my bike around to look. The face staring back at me was so suddenly wrong it gave me a sharp jolt, and I almost fell off.

The woman opened her mouth, and I hoped for a mad moment that she’d say my name despite her incorrect countenance, but she only dismissed me and brushed past.

I watched her leave, and began sifting through the faces again. I lost track of time and the number of faces I sifted through. I kept riding until the snow began to fall. I watched it settle on my bare fingers and waited for it to melt, but it didn’t. Then I felt the cold stretching down into my bones; so I turned my bike around and came home.

When I opened the door to my building, the security guard nodded awake, and went back to watching his program. It was one of the singing programs, and a girl was singing Silent Night. Hearing the song made my stomach hurt. I know it’s cliché to be affected by a song like Silent Night because all the people in stories are moved by a song like that when they are cold and lonely and alone, but the reason things like that happen in books is that they happen in real life.

I went up to my flat, stripped naked and just looked at myself in the mirror. I looked sort of small and dark and insignificant. I wonder if she would recognize me if we happened to pass each other. I wonder if she had to break herself of the habit of looking for my face in the crowds. I tried to break myself of that habit because it did not make any logical sense to be looking for her in American shopping malls when I knew very well she was all the way back in China. I thought I’d forgotten, nevertheless, I’m here.

I turned on the faucet and let it fill up the sink for few minutes before soaking my still-frozen hands in near-scalding water. The tingle that went through me was sister to what I felt when I heard that girl sing Silent Night.

Diary of Tarantula Lau – February 8th

25 08 2015

I’ve been in Shanghai for a month now. The winter’s not as cold here as it is up north, but the chill goes deeper. I’ve noticed more people on the street with southern faces – pale, delicate, girlish. I found a small place in the city center and paid for it with some of the money she gave me. After a day of wandering the streets, I stand on my balcony and look at the city settling into night.

Yesterday, Shanghai was covered in a thick mist. Not pollution for once, but rain – hesitating to fall. The tops of buildings were suddenly truncated by the fog. Towers rose from the clouds like ghosts.

I like to sit on the ledge of the balcony with my feet hooked under the handrail and lean backwards. I like to hang 20 storeys above the ground. I like it so much. No one sees me. A ghost dangling above a ghost city. I feel at home. It’s my time to laugh.

Tonight is different. The air is fresh from the day’s precipitation. The buildings are clear this magic hour. Angular. Their lines are sharp and sure. Confident of their shape and heft, they look like blueprints, clean out of the printer. The clouds are high, and have been blocking out the sun all day, but a hint of pink sifts through. Faint. It might be the sun, or my imagination, or the reflection of neon lights off some building I can’t quite see.

Later, before I sleep, I will look at the city again when all the cars and people have gone home. Almost every light will be out. Only the red ones they use to caution airplanes will be blinking. They will blink, and I will blink with them.

They remind me of the lights up on South Mountain. Those lonely, sinister lights flickering red in the thirsty night. And I will be reminded of that one summer, ’96 or ’97 when it rained so much that the brown desert mountains turned a tender green for some brief weeks, and I turned green right along with them, in the anticipation of change.

It stopped raining eventually, as it always does, and the mountains browned back down. But I stayed green. Something took root in me that summer. A longing. A longing to sit atop a stack of recycled boxes, bottles, and newspapers. A longing for the back of my father’s brown neck. A longing for green hills, and if not green hills, then at least the rain.

Tomorrow I will ride my bicycle up and down the city streets. The rain will feel like sleet on my skin, and my knees will not warm for hours afterwards, but I will go, because I have a hankering for home, and because Liang Ayi told me at Taoranting Park last month. She told me they came south to Shanghai three years ago, and she hadn’t heard from them since. So I will go, I will find them, and when I do, the rain will turn the three of us verdant.

Z.O. fiction

19 08 2015

I could have spent the rest of my days walking home from school with you in those twilit summer hours when the earth kept us warm with its radiant heat, fitting my fingers into your wide-knuckled hands.

Tall and whipthin, you cast a shadow over me as we walked. East of you, I would pull the mantle of your shadow around my bare, freckled shoulders. Happy. Happy beyond the realm of reason or rhyme.

But time slinks and expands – an algal bloom blighting the surface of a clear wide pond. Our planet forces us along as it makes its circuit around the sun, shrinking shadows or angling them another direction leading onward and away.