You sit down at a desk, coffee in hand, and you try writing a joke for a humor magazine.
“Yesterday, my roommate Angie suggested that I should try being a male role model. And I totally would, but that would conflict with my dream of being a male fashion model. I have all the qualifications of being a model: I’m pretty tall, about 6 foot 3, I enjoy walking around with a constipated expression on my face, and since I’m Asian, I’ll look twenty-two years old for years to come. So ***** a 401 k and medical insurance, when my genetics will give me reliable job security.”
The sunlight hurts your eyes, the pencil point has dulled, and in the next room it reeks of boiled eggs and spoiled cream cheese. You won’t eat brunch for a month.
Angie watches TV on the couch in the living room, pours ***** into her glass of orange juice, spills a little bit of it on her jeans. Her sunglasses are black and make her look like John Lennon. Of course, she’s wearing a stone’s Tee, so you don’t bother to tell her what you think. Telecommuting has been her life for the past six months. She works as a consultant for Accenture and has traveled to Austin, San Diego, Brooklyn, even Miami. You’ve never been outside of Virginia.
Upstairs in your bedroom, you dress in a button-up: pretend you’re a 20’s something professional, instead of a 25-year-old going through a pseudo-quarter life crisis. Getting fired from the dealership wasn’t as big of a deal as losing out on seeing your coworker’s smile when you give them a donut from Krispy Kreme. When you’re in the bathroom, taking a number two, sometimes, you catch a glimpse of your old manager’s enthusiastic smile, and you feel like you’ve let him down.
Go out to the coffee shop on Main Street, sit by the window, scribble hearts on the margins of your notebook. Try writing another joke.
“Honestly any job is fine with me, but I'm a little afraid of going back into the workforce. The last couple of jobs I worked, happened to be with co-workers who ended up becoming my sister's boyfriends. My sister is in a pretty serious relationship now with a guy I used to work with at a tennis camp. So if I get hired and start working again, there's a very good chance that my sister could end up dating a guy who walks around in his underwear for a living,”
Google: starving artist. Consider the picture for the starving artist: straight, white, male. Ask yourself: why are the envelopes in the mail box, also always: straight, white mail. Golf-clap for the correlation created by your inner poet. Contemplate drinking wine during the day; red. Look for jobs on Indeed.com to pass the time.
“And if modeling doesn't work out and he ends up in a deep and dark depression. No worries, just make sure he eats excessively, and he'll be ready new career path as a sumo wrestler.”
Ask for a job application from the barista with the puppy-dog eyes. When you finish the app, intentionally smudge your handwriting to prevent employers from seeing your professional references. Your last six jobs ended in you getting kicked out; a world class record right? No one inside gives the impression that they want to talk to you. Crack your knuckles. Crack your back. As you casually take a drag from your cigarette next to the “NO-SMOKING” sign, wonder if it life would be different if you were Korean; Japanese; Chinese. Puppy-dog eyed barista bangs on the storefront window, mouths: put the cig out dude. Follow the instruction and feel guilt momentarily.
While you wait for the Wi-Fi homepage to load up, resist the urge to text Angie: how’s your day? Or: “Wanna read a joke I wrote?” Cold beads of water drip down the contour of your thumb; incidentally, nobody gives a **** about mundane detail like the one you just mentioned.
Ask the blue-scarf wearing girl if you can keep an eye out on your computer. She asks: sure, how long will you be gone? Don’t tell her you’re going to the bathroom to throw up last night’s combination of supreme pizza and several shots of Johnny Walker. Tell her: I need to wash my face. She nods and noticeably grins, as though she’s caught you doing something incredibly embarrassing.
Once in the bathroom, look into the mirror. Breathe: once, twice. Your hand starts shaking like saltshakers in a Ying-Yang twin’s music video. Stand over the toilet. Close your eyes before you dip your finger into your mouth. Refrain from thinking about her.
“The worst thing about driving in DC is having people call you out on slow driving. And then they see my face and they're like it’s an Asian thing. And I'm like no it's a speed camera thing. I tell my friends I don't think I'm a bad driver. And they tell me Mario kart doesn't count. I tell them I've never gotten a speeding ticket. And they say but you've been in four accidents. I say yeah but I'm golden in Mario Kart.”
You park your car in the driveway. Angie is sitting on a rocking chair and smoking a cigar. Radiohead plays from laptop speakers. Her eyes are puffy red and you wonder how long has she been sobbing for. Would laughter dry up her tears better than a box of Kleenex? The grass sways. Cars pass by. And Angie pulls up a chair for you. Sit, ask her what’s wrong, and listen to her story. Wait for her to explain the situation, detail by detail, then tell her your best joke, and watch her face break out into a smile, as the smoke from her cigar vanishes into the air, a space opening up now between you and her.