Fiction · Life

When life gives you lemon, blah blah blah

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When life gives you lemon, makes lemonade.

Mom used to tell him that all the times. Every time something shitty happened to his family, she said that. And the fact that she said it often means shit happened to his family all the times. Oh, and he wondered why that was the case? Perhaps because his single mom was a gambling addict. No no no. According to his mom, it wasn’t that. It was because they were unlucky and life wanted to test the tough ones.

Her idea of lemon/lemonade was when she lost money, she should place even more the next time around. Because life gave you lemon in the form of losing, and in the true blind American optimistic spirit, you might as well betting more to make more lemonade money. It kind of made sense how the gambling addicts were normally quite optimistic. He meant, how else?

He remembered her stealing his hard earned money that he was saving for a summer camp when he was 8. That was strangely one of the days she won, not millions won, but she did win something. And she came home, not returning his money, while making a speech about lemon and lemonade again, about how that was what positive attitude in life would give him. And at that moment, he knew. He would get the fuck out of there as soon as he could.

At 18, he joined the army. It was a poor boy cliché, joining the army. But that was his fastest ticket out and he couldn’t wait to jump on it. He remembered sitting in the back of his neighbor’s truck leaving town thinking about how his mother’s lemon/lemonade days were over.

Fuck lemonade, never liked it anyway.








This short story was a response to Go Dog Go’s Tuesday Prompt https://godoggocafe.com/2021/06/22/tuesday-writing-prompt-challenge-june-22-2021/. The prompt is to use the term “lemonade days”

Fiction · Life

Autocorrect

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You told me, you like misprints
I squinted and asked,
Did you say you like mistakes?
You nodded, yeah

You turned off autocorrect
because you were fine leaving things unchecked
Tennessee missing a S is still the birthplace of your father
Pennsylvania without a L is still where your life gathered

You’re and your are not the same
One is you, one is something you claim
Some days it’s incredibly hard to tell which is which
So how dare a computer tells you to switch
As if you don’t already know which one needs the twitch

And the i, sometimes you leave them un-capitalized
On days you feel like i
you don’t want to write I
It isn’t something you forget,
it’s a choice

Fiction

The town where nothing ever happened

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“As soon as I’m old enough, I’ll leave this town. I’ll leave it so fast, people wouldn’t even know I’m already left.”

I remembered you told me so when you were 14. I remembered you saying that while cleaning your dad’s truck. He was so strong, so healthy back then. He was the typical ranch dad that you both loved and hated. He was tought but he loved you. You knew that. But him loving you wasn’t enough to keep you from wanting to leave. Because living with him was a pain. Trust me, I knew! I was your neighbor anyway.

I remembered you were so excited for your 18th birthday. It was in June right? School just ended. You had your high school diploma in your hand. You waved it at me while riding on the back of you buddy’s truck. You told me you were leaving this town next week. You were going to a big city. I forgot which one now, but I guessed it didn’t matter anymore. You never got to go.

That day when that tree branch dropped on your dad and hit his head, it killed both your dreams and lives. A man who used to be tough, strong was then paralyzed from the waist down. What were you going to do? Leave him alone in this goddamn town while you left to go somewhere for yourself? You couldn’t do that.

He loved you. You were everything he had. And you knew you were everything he had. All the money you saved up to get away was then used to pay for his hospital bills in the city. Thanks to that, he was only paralyzed from the waist down. Our local “hospital” said he wouldn’t make it. But you were there and made sure he would make it. You always loved him more than you gave yourself credit for.

You never got a chance to go to college in the big city like you wanted. You never lived the life you deserved and I wondered how that felt. Every time I visited home, seeing you smoking your good old Camel alone next to the fence, my heart always ached a little. Knowing you could have so much more but life was hard on you.

You were good at what you do. You made good money. Your dad taught you well. Everyone in town was jealous. But they didn’t know the dream you left behind. What’s money for if you never could leave this town? Not until you still have your dad anyway.

But when you dad passed, will you still able to go? Are you still brave enough to leave everything behind and leave? When you were 18 and had nothing to your name, things weren’t so scary then wasn’t it? But you had a daughter now, you would stay for her as well wouldn’t you?

My oh my, I will never forget you that day on your 18th birthday. Young, brave with your blond hair shinning under the sunset waving your diploma at me, telling me you were leaving for forever. That was the happiest I have ever seen you.

Life

I only have me

I used to date guys that are ashamed of me. Each of them did for a different reason.

One was ashamed of me because I didn’t speak flawless English. Sometimes, when I didn’t know the right words, I substituted or tried to explain or just simply waved my hands around. And he was ashamed of me for that, for the lack of knowledge when speaking in a non-mother tongue language. Nobody found that was a big problem but my then-boyfriend thought it was.

There was a time one of his friends from his hometown visited. We were walking and talking about TV shows. His friend was talking about the show called Scrubs. I said I never watched it before but I was wondering out loud why would a show about doctors called Scrubs? I thought Scrubs was as in scrubbing the floor. I still remembered my then boyfriend’s face of “how could you not know this?” disgust and confusion. Meanwhile, his friend just simply said “Ah, the uniform thingy that doctors and nurses wear, they were called Scrubs.” My then boyfriend asked me if I could go home first so he could hang out with his friend alone.

There was another one that thought I was too fat for an Asian girl. I wasn’t even 130 lbs. He was ashamed of me for not being skinny enough.

There was a time I was jokingly asked whether or not I was pretty, and he said “no.” Just a straight up no with nothing else following up. That was the first time ever in my life, someone I cared about told me I wasn’t pretty. And I always remembered that deeply because I believed I was pretty, then and now.

I broke up with all of the exes that was ashamed of me. Because the whole time, I always liked myself. My little tweaks of language here and there was the proof of me being fluent in two languages, enough to even have a college degree in a language that wasn’t even my mother tongue.

My little ‘chubby’ body was not at all unhealthy since my BMI was completely normal. I made all my meals. I worked out. I took good care of myself.

Despite all the strange point of views my then boyfriends had of me, I had never not loved myself. I had never not believed in myself. I was comfortable with who I was and I’m enjoying who I am. I hated the moments they made me wondered whether or not I was enough. It wasn’t like me to doubt myself, and I hated that somebody made me do that to me. I only have myself to carry with me through the rest of my life so I wanted to treat myself the best that I can.

Life

Best year of my life

Back when I was 12, people told me 17 would be the best year of my life. Not people exactly, a movie told me 17 would be the best year of my life. It has been so long I don’t remember the title of the movie anymore. All I remember was that it was a movie about the soldiers that were sent to war. They left home at 17, the best year of their life, and many never made it back. The scene of them waving goodbye to their mothers still haunt me till today.

Then when I was 17, people told me 18 would be the best year of my life. I would be starting college and my life would change. I remembered at 18, standing in front of the gate of my new college in a foreign country. I toughed myself up and walked in, carrying with me my parents’ hope and expectations. I was so young then and so brave.

Then people told me I should celebrate my 21 hard, because that would be the best year of my life. I finally got to do everything. I had my first 21-year-old drink at my home country where I was legal since 18. I took that sip of beer in the presence of my whole family and that was enough for me. Throughout the rest of my college days, I got so much cash from all the people that asked me to buy alcohol for them and they paid me back in cash.

And then I graduated from college. I got multiple different jobs. I got a graduate degree. I got a boyfriend, then a husband. I got a promotion. I got a raise. I did many things ever since I was 21, but nobody told me about an age that should be the best year of my life anymore. And I do yearn for that some time. I wanted back the days that I didn’t mind getting older, that a birthday meant more than just a number, that people told me something about my own future and I believed immediately.

Fiction

If you loved me most

She told me if I had met her during a different time in our lives, we could have been together. I told her I didn’t want to be an asshole but I had to call bullshit on that. We were not Romeo and Juliet. We were not criminals. And even if we were Romeo and Juliet, there were still Romeo and Juliet. And if we were criminals, there were Bonnie and Clyde.

I wasn’t a naive boy who believed love could trump everything. I was a guy who believed in himself. We didn’t live in the ancient times where people got killed over things like this. I made enough money so wherever she was I could always afford a trip. Or even moved there for her. If her parents hated me, I could get us a place for our own. If I met her when I already had a girlfriend but she was the one I loved most, I would choose her. It would be hard but nothing complicated. If I loved her most, I’d do it for her. I expected the same from her.

When we met, she had a boyfriend. It was days of going behind his back for us. I kept it casual until it didn’t feel casual anymore. I asked her what she would like to do now. I told her I would do it for her. She told me if we have met during a different time in our life, then we could have easily been together. But now things were too complicated for her. She didn’t know who to choose. I left. If she did love me most, she would have chosen me. Things were ultimately just that simple. I’d carry the storms of life for her if she loved me. But she didn’t love me enough to choose me so I left.

Then I met you. I waited for you to finish med school in the South. I flew to visit you often. You also came to see me. After school, you moved here to be closer to me. Your parents didn’t like me. They wanted a Southern boy. But we didn’t have to stay with them in the South, I took care of us just fine right here. Loving you was easy. Being with you was not at all complicated. I had to wait for you. I had to fight for you. But that was all the things I was willing to do.

I was a greedy man. I didn’t just want to be loved. I wanted to be loved the most. I wanted every time you thought about me, you didn’t just love me but you also chose me. Between giving up on me and walking the easier path, you chose me. Despite everything in life, you chose me. As long as you still chose me, I’d be there for you. I’d shoulder the burden of life for you. I’d give you my heart to break if you wanted to. Because you were my ultimate choice.

Life

Hey Dave

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Dave came to the bar late. He said he was busy doing something till 10 pm on a Friday. Right! He was probably fooling around with that girl again. I already told him she was notorious for being kind of a slut. She wasn’t there to stay. But well, Dave was a sweet guy to begin with. It wasn’t really a surprised that he would get tricked.

“Hey Dave, over here!”

“Hey sorry! I’m late!”

“Dude, you’re late to your own Dbirthday party.”

“You can’t say it’s a party when it’s only me and you!”

“Hey hey, it’s because I’m all here for you! I’m the nicest!”

Dave just smiled before pulling a chair out to sit next to me by the bar. It was the Friday before break and the bar in a college town would normally be empty. So at 11:30pm there were still seats at the bar.

“Dave, ok ok. Choose your poison!”

Dave laughed. He shook his head a little.

“You can choose. Choose for both of us too.”

I turned around to grab my wallet from my purse. I took out my credit card and pushed it towards the bartender.

“Two shots of Grey Goose please and keep the tab open.”

“You don’t have to get me Grey Goose.”

The bartender brought out two shots of Grey Goose and he took my credit card. I gave one of the shots to Dave and lift my own shot up in the air.

“Nah. I said I’m buying you your first legal shot. I’m not being cheap”

Dave smiled and lift his shot in the air too. We clinked our glasses loudly.

“Dave, happy 21!”

“Happy 21!”

Life

Reread the Awakening

I was never into the idea of re-reading and re-watching. I knew many of my literature folks love re-reading their favorite books, and many of my movie folks like re-watching movies. They do that in their good days, and even more so on their bad days. When you read something or watch something the first time and they gave you a good feeling, you would love to re-watch and re-read that wonderful thing, looking for that good feeling again. Especially, on bad days, since you know exactly what feeling that old book or movie delivered, you looked for it to soothe yourself. I don’t do that often. And I’m not that pretentious to say things like I don’t feel sad or doing those things are for the weaks. I’m saying, when I’m sad, I would rather just sit there and cry. I don’t read books to soothe myself. That’s just me.

I read when I’m relaxed and I have time. And just like everyone else in this world right now, nobody has enough time. So I want to spend those few spare moments to read more and read something new. Same with movies. I rarely ever have an urge to re-read or re-watch anything much. But, I’m here to talk about an exception. And I don’t re-read that book for sadness or happiness either. I re-read that book because I grew.

When I was 17, I read the Awakening by Kate Chopin. To simplify, the book is about a woman who supposedly had everything well and right: she came from a good family and then married into a good family. She had a kind husband, but he was often occupied with work. She was friend with a more modern and open woman who taught her things that she couldn’t imagine a woman could do. She then drew and played piano, exploring her own self interest. She had an intense affair with a young playboy guy, who eventually left her. In the end, the book was had an open ended ending with her jumping into the water and contemplating suicide.

I came from a very happy family with a loving mother and father. We were not perfect, but my parents were there. I also left home for school when I was 16. All I could think of was if there was anyway I could go to school without having to leave my home I would definitely do that. And this woman, this woman in The Awakening chose to leave home for herself and for an affair. She was willing to leave her two small children behind. When I was 17, I remembered writing a full on essay disagreeing with what she chose.
I’m 27 now. It has been 10 years. And I sometimes thought about the book. Life had changed me. It changed the way I looked at the book. It changed the way I looked at her. I still don’t agree with all the choices she made but I understand much more about why she does what she does. And I appreciate that as a process of growing, of being less naive and knowing life isn’t as black and white as I used to think it is. And I would sometimes reread things to see how far I’ve come.

Life

I wish you were happy

He drew a long puff from his cigarette, the old school one, not his usual vape. I thought he didn’t smoke old school cigarettes anymore. He switched a while ago to vaping for a healthier option. But he pulled one out today and explained to me the old school cigarettes made him feel different, and he was in that mood. We had quite a few beers before this. We both held our alcohol well but I knew we were more than tipsy at this point. He struggled to light his cigarette.
For some reasons, his Russian features stood out so much under the shady street lights. The way he held his cigarette, his slight wrinkles on the forehead, the puffy worker style jacket, all screaming Russian. How could someone pass by and not tell that this guy ran away from Russia?


Tomorrow is my wife’s birthday, he said.
Oh, that’s nice. Are you guys doing anything special? I asked.
She has Type 2 Diabetes. He ignored my question. Not from being fat though. It’s strange. He drew another smoke.

She is technically Ukrainian. She went to an elementary school right next to Chernobyl. It was a few years after Chernobyl. The Ukrainians didn’t know shit back then. They thought after a few years, everything was fine. They re-used the trashed out materials from Pripyat to build her school. And she got Type II diabetes. You know why is that a problem?

Oh man, that’s some crazy shit. I was trying to process the strange information he just said. Why?

Because when she carried my first child, it was a shit show. So many complications. And I couldn’t leave her because of that. He said it with no sight of emotions, stating it as straight as if he was discussing a play in football. Because of this so that.

I just sat there, in the cold, not knowing how to reply to that.

I don’t love her An. Don’t tell anyone, but I don’t love her. His hand shook a little when he pulled the cigarette out of his mouth for a breath. His breath formed a small fuzzy foggy cloud under the street light.

I hugged him tight. His beer belly made it difficult to wrap my arms all the way around but I tried.
I told him. Denny, let’s smoke one more. I signaled him to pass me a cigarette.
He lighted it up for me. The fire flickered in the winter wind. It was weak but it got the cigarette lit.

I wish you were happy Denny. I drew a puff from my cigarette. Could you still be happy? Or is it too late?

Fiction · Life

World Wide Web

We are children of the World Wide Web

We smiled, we cried, we put it on the net

We weave nothing into relationships

We like the people we never met

We share ideas faster than we ever could

We spread good cause cause we know we should

We shorten distance into bandwidths

We create brilliance through a few clicks

We can change the world in a flick

Oh, the power we now have

The poem is a response for the prompt on Go Dog Go Cafe.