The Day That I Fell For Her, Part 2

My girlfriend is a delicate flower. Although she was born in the culinary heaven that is Taipei, she had an overprotective mother that wouldn’t allow her to eat any foods there – especially from the outdoor street markets that Taiwan is fucking renown the entire world over for. It’s the biggest tragedy of her life, to be born into such gastronomical wealth and not know it.

The second tragedy is that she grew up eating organic foods.

These two tragedies combine to form one of the weakest, most fragile digestive systems ever known to mankind – that of my girlfriend’s. So thanks to a perfect storm of … well, no, I suppose it was singularly her mother’s fault.

Girlfriend also gets motion sickness and can’t do long car rides, choppy boats or air travel on planes with propellers. She basically throws up more than any normal human being should throw up, and although she credits her abdominal muscles to genetics and hours spent in the gym, I’m pretty fucking sure that barfing after walking down a hill too fast is a contributing factor.

So as I was planning to get us out of Bali for a week before we had to return, I kept these criteria in mind (in fact, for the entire trip): no long car rides, no choppy boats, no small planes, and always near non-street-stall-non-delicious restaurants. Also, a nice beach and clean water would be nice, as in Bali we went to the ocean exactly once because of the large waves, cold temperature and generally murkiness that that coast is known for (it’s no wonder pools are popular on the island).

I settled on the Gili Islands off the island of Lombok next door. I was on Lombok last year, and it proved to be too uncivilized – even for me. A Taiwanese princess who packed a fucking clothes steamer in her luggage from Canada would have less patience for it. Gili Trawangan was a slice of South Thailand in East Indonesia, a bit overrun with downmarket tourists but at least that meant restaurants with schnitzel and Eggs Benedict. It also has that calm, blue water and white sand beaches pock-marked with palm trees and hammocks – postcard shit.

Normally, the route from Seminyak, Bali, to Gili Islands, Lombok, would require a two-to-three hour drive across the island of Bali to the ferries on the east coast, followed by another couple of hours on a high-speed catamaran through the Lombok Strait and to the Gilis.

But because the girlfriends is the fragile flower that she is – to whom mere fast movement is life-threatening – I was already stumped at just the first leg of the journey, the two-to-three hour drive from our hotel on the west coast of Bali to the ferries on the east. So that’s how we came to spend two nights in Ubud – smack in the middle of the two coasts, up in the hills.

“But I thought you said Ubud is just a day trip,” she said, remembering correctly. After Eat Pray Love, Ubud turned into an enclave for rich white women to practice yoga, eat organic foods and to try to find their Javier Bardem. I don’t mind any of these things, but I hate the by-product: expensive hippie bullshit.

(Actually, the entire island of Bali is like this, and I can’t say that I mind. That’s the reason why there are so many cafes serving organic this and fresh that, and although expensive for the region, the prices are a third of Los Angeles.)

So we went to Ubud.

The Day That I Fell For Her, Part 1

I know the day that I fell for her, or the day that I told myself to try.

We were in Seminyak, Bali, comfortable in our modern, minimalist concrete-and-wood villa. We had our rhythm of going to the gym every other morning, a new joint that opened up on Sunset Road. We drove by on scooter one day and I pulled in to check it out for the usual metrics that I need in a gym: squat racks, barbells and a good price. It checked off all the boxes, in addition to being clean with new machines – one thing that the girlfriend didn’t like about the previous gym, Hammerhead Fitness, my usual place in Bali.

We made fast friends with the owner, also Alex, who was an Indonesian local from Jakarta who spent most of his life in Singapore. Worked in finance or something like that, something clean and sparkly and that put money into his bank so he could eventually do what he was passionate about, which was to open this gym in Bali.

A few days a week, we would workout with Also Alex, and afterwards grab post-workout food with him and his girlfriend, a Singaporean native who did marketing for P&G and more recently, Google. A few months ago, the two of them came to Bali to open the gym, and it was now creeping to the end of her leave of absence when she would have to go back. They were madly in love and were counting down the days when they would be separated.

Also Alex’s gym was more of a cross-fit gym: less weights, more props, zero machines and treadmills. The thing is, I like treadmills, and not because I prefer to run on them indoors but because I like reading, but I like reading so much that I’ll lie on a couch for hours, switching between the eight books and a dozen magazines that I like to read simultaneously. I’ll spend four fucking hours on a couch and in a bathtub, and then my day disappears and I’m not much better from it.

So I made a deal with myself: whenever I want to read, I have to walk on a treadmill. Not too fast, just briskly if I feel like it, or sauntering if I don’t. Now, after workouts – weights, HIT – I’ll hit the treadmill, pull out my iPad and read and walk for an hour. Problem solved.

At Also Alex’s Gym, I was flipping tires and pulling ropes; skipping rope and box jumping. All the crossfit shit that I despised, though never given a chance, because it’s gay. It was still gay. I mean, it was okay, and my heart-rate spiked and I was short-breathed – but I’m old and don’t like new things. I wanted to deadlift and read on a treadmill for an hour.

Anyway, so every other day we went to Also Alex’s gym on Sunset. The days in-between were rest days, so we’d walk and hour from our concrete-wood villa to a popular café close to the epicenter of the city, Seminyak Square. This was our routine and it was comfortable and relaxing and heavenly. It never got old for her, walking and window shopping down the main thoroughfare while trying to find new shortcuts through the random alleyways of Seminyak.

But it got old for me, because I hate routine and comfortable and relaxing and heavenly. We were stuck in Bali for another 10 days – she had a friend coming in – so I began to look for a few days that we could spend elsewhere and then come back. The choices are sparse in this side of the world; Bali’s just plopped in the middle of the pacific, the stepping stone between Asia and Australia.

We could go to Jakarta, see my friends who just had a baby, the girl I dated who’s most recently engaged. But the last time I was there, I spent four fucking hours in the taxi from the airport to the city, and I’m forever traumatized by it.

We could go to Yogyakarta where likes Borobudur, a large Buddhist temple that travel agents love to splash onto brochures for locations nowhere near Yogyakarta, which is how my girlfriend saw it, while perusing a flyer for Bali. But I went a few years ago, and the problem with Yogyakarta is that Borobudur is the only thing to see in Yogyakarta, other than what I enjoyed when I was there: motorcycling to the shitty coast, eating amazing Wendy’s and catching Avengers 2 in the VIP movie theater there (and almost getting killed afterwards).

So I chose Ubud.

I Am Going To Die And I Do Not Like It (Meh, Don’t Read)

I read somewhere – no, let me restart.

I talked to somebody who read somewhere that at this age in our lives, everything is easily measureable because we’re that much closer to death. We can literally count how many more times we’ll see our loved ones before we die. This is more apropos to people who live far from their friends and family, like I do.

Basically, I know that I visit Toronto once a year. That probably won’t change, aside from the odd wedding or death or another large event that necessitates a trip back (and even then, I’ll try my hardest to plan my yearly trip around that event).

Consequently, I see my parents exactly once a year (or, I suppose in one “batch” every year, as in I’ll see them 5 times in the two weeks that I visit). I see my sister and brother-in-law and nephew and newly born niece and old friends and new friends, all just once a year.

We can calculate that since I probably have a good 30 or 40 years left before I die (probably sooner due to the reckless way I travel, ie: motorbikes and shitty, gasoline-leaking boats), I’ll only see these people another 30 or 40 times – and it’ll probably be less than that as the frequency in which I travel back there reduces as I get older.

Thirty or 40 times isn’t much. I think about my mom, who I used to see 365 times a year. Now it’s a handful. A handful of a handful.

So that’s why I came back to Toronto this summer. Los Angeles destroyed me, and two months in Asia wasn’t enough to recuperate (partially because I was traveling with a girlfriend). One-way flights were an exorbitant $1,500 from Taipei to Toronto, and I gleefully paid it. I was paying $1,500 to see my parents for the 39th last time in my entire life.

Maybe that’s why Toronto was so sad, and maybe that’s why I have this unbreakable streak of what I can only describe as acknowledgement of mortality, that I never had before. I finally know that I’m going to die, that the people around me are going to die, and I’m in a funk because I can’t get it out of my head.

I mean, it’s almost a good thing that I’m finally like this. Before, relatives would die and I wouldn’t blink an eye: my aunt of cancer, who I didn’t really know; my paternal grandmother who was a fixture of my childhood, who was always around but not so much raising me but just there, existing, waiting to call my parents if I needed any help; my maternal grandfather who was a handsome Japanese sushi chef in his day, who was always a calm presence at family events.

The three of them died and I didn’t feel anything.

My aunt died when I was around 12. We went to the hospital and she lay in the hospital bed with tubes in her nose, awake, smiling but silent. I stood there holding her hand, thinking, “I don’t know anything about you and I wish that I did,” in dead silence, nothing but the intermittent beep of her heart rate monitor. She looked at me with so much love, like she loved me so much, and I felt guilty that I never talked to her. She died very shortly after that visit, and then I felt guilty for not feeling bad.

I’m probably just repressing it, I thought. I was a smart 12 year old. I’m sure it’ll hit me in a few weeks or months or years.

It never did. Her death never hit me until perhaps now, because I’m thinking about it in detail for the first time since it happened. But I’m not thinking about it emotionally, am I? This is more analytical, more trying to figure out how her death made me who I am today. Jesus fucking Christ, that’s selfish.

My grandmother – did I even go to her funeral? We were close in that we had a good 5 years of living together. She would walk around topless, her sagging breasts swinging, even in the company of my white school friends. I didn’t know it was weird and inappropriate until I saw the awe in their eyes, the enormous smiles on their faces. No 8-year old smiles like that unless it’s about something not to be seen by 8-year old eyes, y’know?

So she was alive and then she died and it just didn’t hit me. I understood that she was gone forever and I’d never see her again, I just wasn’t sad about it.

And now, since learning that We can literally count how many more times we’ll see our loved ones before we die, I’m in touch with my mortality and the fragility of life, and find myself extremely stressed watching war movies like Dunkirk and worried about every single fucking life up on the screen. What.

Best Sex Ever; Somehow Lots Of Masturbation Talk, Too

It was the most sex that I ever had: once a day – at least – every day for seven weeks straight.

Boo hoo hoo! Look at all the sex that I’m having with this super hot girl with her super tight vagina! Boo hoo hoo!

I’m 38 years old. I’m fucking 38 years old, a month away from 39 and then a year away from 40. I have no business having sex this much. Who the fuck do I think I am? She’s 30, just turned. She wants – needs? – sex at this pace, with this sort of frequency: once a day – at least – every day for seven weeks straight.

In the beginning, it was a chore. Before embarking on the long flight over the Pacific, I crashed at her place for a few nights while she tied up loose ends at work, with family. That’s where the sex started, in her living room while I was reading a book and sipping my wine, ready to slip into drunkenness and then to sleep because that’s what I was used to at 11pm on a Wednesday night.

I didn’t know that that routine was about to be shattered, forever. She would lie beside me, her head in my lap, her finger tracing the outside of my knee. It was clear what she wanted. If I’d known we were fucking tonight, I wouldn’t have begun to drink, because the slightest drop of alcohol prevents me from performing at my highest level.
It was too late to not drink alcohol, so the next best thing to do was to dilute the alcohol that’s already in my digestive tract with water. So I drank glass after glass of water, hoping to stop the wine from doing what it does – hold it off at the pass – and inhaled and exhaled sharply, attempting to get my heart rate up in order for it to pump a massive amount of blood into my dick.

The sex went well, I think. I wouldn’t know if it didn’t because she’s a nice person and wouldn’t tell me otherwise.

(On that note, there exists an ex-girlfriend – my first love, in fact – who actually told me after I fingered her to orgasm on my bed, “I faked it.” She said it so immediately and looked directly into my fucking eyes, studying them for a response, that it was absolutely clear that she was the devil. Consequently, this ex-girlfriend was instrumental in shaping my psyche in the brash and sometimes insensitive way that I deal with women. Something for another day.)

So the sex went well, and the day after the same thing would happen: I would begin to drink because it’s 11pm and that’s what I did at 11pm; she would shake her goddamn body in front of me until I gulped six gallons of water and willed my erection into existence.

The first two or three weeks, the sex was almost like punishment. “Why do we have to fuck again?” I asked myself, or anyone else but her. “Why is this so important, this inserting of my penis into her vagina until she comes and then I come? Why must we do this daily?” If you’re 38 years old or older, you get this and you’re nodding. Yes, why must we?

But somewhere around Week 3, things change. Physiological changes, not shit like, I feel so much closer to her because of all the intercourse, I feel my love is that much more powerful. My penis began to meld to her vagina. Our genitals became one, and every second of intercourse became the best second of intercourse I’d ever had – only to be supplanted by the next second.

You see, I’ve never had this much sex before. The closest was a girlfriend who spent five nights at my place and two at home. We’d have sex all of those five days (in the beginning), but during those two days that she was gone, I would masturbate approximately 87 times. So during those five days of good sex, my penis would begin to mold to her vagina, but then I’d reset the process with the 87 times of jacking off, after which my penis would be once again inextricably linked with my right hand. The tightness of my fingers, the placement of my thumb, the small details of how I masturbated. If my cock was ever severed, the authorities could easily identify me by lifting the fingerprints firmly embedded into the flesh.

So the most sex turned into the best sex, and the love I have for this woman may have little to do with it. But would this work in reverse? If I repeatedly had sex with a woman (or man, small farm animal, inanimate couch cushion), would my cock betray my mind, transmute into the shape of her vagina, and turn into great sex? Is that all it takes?

This could be true. Like I’m sure not every guy is good at jacking off in a technical sense, but I’ve never met a guy was unable to jack off. And this could be simply because of duration, right? Of the years and years that we put into jacking off. There’s no guy who ever said, “I don’t know, I just can’t jack myself off. I just grab at my penis so ferociously when I prefer a softer touch. It’s so sad.”

Yes, so sad.

Don’t Read This Shit.

This is the third or fourth morning that I woke up depressed, panicked, like I’m missing out or catching up or just not quite whole. I wake up like this after doing coke, normally, at a 60’s styled apartment in Los Angeles with a pool and fake palm trees on the rooftop.

I didn’t do a lot of coke – although this is relative to the shit ton of drugs that the average Los Angelino does. Damn, that was also a sad city, despondent and desperate, everyone hungry and clawing for money, regardless of the millions they already had in the bank.

I was happier than the average person there (until I wasn’t). But that’s obvious: it was novelty. The novelty of moving to a city I visited a thousand times, that was already home. The novelty of moving to Southern California, to the Pacific Coast where the TV shows I grew up on were based.

There was novelty in everything: finding an apartment, wearing work clothes, buying shit like shower curtain rods and toilet plungers and pots and pans and rearrange my closet and couch and TV. My friend even said, “You’re only happy because the mundane is novelty to you,” and one those words left his lips he sealed my fucking fate, that motherfucker, because he was right as fucking fuck.

In mid-February I had a housewarming, a successful bash incorporating both my dear old LA friends and my new coworkers. It was as mundane/novelty as you could get. That was the height of it all. That party marked the moment that I was all moved in, papers were signed, earthquake insurance purchased. The day after the party I was severely hungover; the day after that, I was sad, depressed and panicked, the same way I was today and yesterday and the day before that.

So is that my life? Is that what I need in my life to be happy: novelty? It’s nice to discover shit like that, what makes yourself tick, but this one’s a tough one. How do I maintain novelty every day of my life?

I completely fucked myself with a life of daily – if not, weekly – stimulation. And not just any stimulation, not just a subtle tweak where I pick up a hobby, pruning bonsai trees or yoga or running the Scotiabank half-marathon (I abhor half-marathons, you’re paying for someone to tell you when you can run). No, I need the kind of stimulation that comes from moving to a new country and starting the fuck over.

I mean, even if I had the financial means and – even more scarce – the energy to do that for the rest of my life, logistically I’d run out of countries, wouldn’t I? Already in 3 years I’ve exhausted Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and Taiwan.

(I still love those countries but for a different reason now: I can work there. I’m bored of them and I don’t need to tour around so I can simply land at the airport, throw my shit into a hotel, jump onto my motorbike and head straight for whatever coworking office I’m accustomed to.)I’m just writing sad bullshit every day. And the problem with writing sad bullshit is that it makes me even more sad. Sadness begets sadness. But what am I going to do, write about fucking butterflies? Fuck the butterflies.

I’m hoping that it’s Toronto that’s making me sad. That once I land in NYC tomorrow evening, this depression will leave me as swiftly as it arrived. It’s viable that it’s this city that pops me right back into the ball of stress I was when I lived here.

Yeah, I was stressed, wasn’t I? Always looking for a new angle, a new business, a new girlfriend. Asia calmed me. Asia made me chill out, stop to smell the flowers. So that’s probably it, then – I’m traumatized in this godforsaken city. The allergies, the cold-weather clothes, the shitty infrastructure to get around – all contribute to this, my third or fourth morning of waking up and wanting to kill myself.

 

Hangovers Brings Depression (Or Depression Brings Depression?)

Hangovers bring depression now. Is this a fucking age thing? I hope it’s an age thing, I need it to be an age thing. If it’s not an age thing, that means it’s something more real, and the more real that I discover it to be, the more depressed I am.

Actually, on that note, I hope it’s the hangover that’s bringing the depression in the first place. Rather than, like, the depression bringing the depression.

When I have a hangover – like now – and especially when I have a cocaine hangover – not like now – all of my optimism goes out the window. And I’m an optimistic, hopeful motherfucker. If I’m anything at all, if there’s any trait that I have, it’s that I’ll keep trying to do whatever I’m doing out of sheer fucking stupidity that that thing will become mine if I keep at it.

But that’s gone today.

I woke up late, around 9am. Instead of the usual quick jack-off and meditation, I’d quickly get into my workout clothes and pedal like a demon to the gym, before my brain knows what’s up, before my brain says, “Look, you fuck; we keep working out in the morning and then eating pizza at night, we’re just breaking even, just quit doing both and we’ll be in the same place….”

Today I languished on the couch, hurting emotionally from nothing. Well, not from nothing, I’m having existential-girlfriend problems, which means there’s no problem I can pinpoint aside from the general existence of a girlfriend (ha ha ha).

And then the hangover seeped into my brain and pulled out all my insecurities. All the insecurities that didn’t exist yesterday, and in an even more bizarre twist, I was actually arrogant and haughty yesterday, thinking about the writing jobs that are falling into my lap, advertisements for Telus and fucking Tourism Australia. Thinking about the design jobs, the opportunities, the thought of actually completing books, of my soaring stocks, my new investments — all of that filling my head, giving me hope for the future.

All of that disappeared and I found myself messaging the girlfriend about marriage and babies and moving to Bangkok while thinking, “I cannot provide for her and give her the life that she wants, I should break up with her and let her live.”

I told her, “I feel terrible about our future. I keep quitting high-paying, safe and secure jobs with good health insurance.” It’s true. Why do I keep doing that? Who do I think I am? I actually think I’m better than this, that I deserve more of a fulfilled life.

But I don’t. No one does. Everybody has to work, everybody has to suffer.

See, right there. Right there, I wrote that sentence while shaking my head. Not me, I’m a special snowflake, I don’t have to work, I don’t deserve that mundane life.I don’t want a mundane life. I don’t want a life that I can predict. And I think the depression isn’t stemming from the fact that I’m stuck in a dead-end job (I’m not) or that I can’t gallivant off to Thailand or Brazil tomorrow (I can). I think the depression comes from being torn in two; half of me wants to leave this world and blaze new trails; the other wants a baby and a wife and someone’s life in my hands.

You can’t have both. You can’t have both at fucking all. And rarely can you take one path, fulfill it, then take the other. I mean, a fuckload of people have kids and get divorced and then embark on quests and travels and adventures – but I don’t want that. Or rather, I can’t purposely aim for divorce and a failed marriage just so I could travel afterwards.

Is any of this even making sense? I’m wasting space on the Internet. Fuck off, the point is to write 750 words and sift for the gold after.

So I’m depressed today. Mainly because I can’t provide for this girlfriend and the life that she wants. Well, no, it’s not that I can’t, it’s that I don’t want to. I don’t want to work a job I hate; I don’t want to stay put in a single city.
And then I keep thinking that maybe I can win it all. Maybe I can sign contracts and write books and get revenue soaring and live this same life with the addition of a wife and kids. But who the fuck deserves that? Who do I think I am to even dare think that I deserve everything?

Tippy Top Girl Thinks She’s So Goddamn Smart

She’s the best I’ve found. The top, the tippy-fucking-top.

She has this sing-songy voice, both in pitch and cadence. Almost Christopher-Walken-esque, like that level of uniqueness. It’s a remnant of her past, of first learning Taiwanese and then Mandarin and then English way later on, when her age hit the double-digits, when her and her mother and sister flew to Canada and enrolled into high school where they promptly placed her into ESL class.

“I got out in only six months!” She said to me, proudly, “Out of all the kids, I was the fastest to learning English!”

“Fasting at learning English,” I replied.

So her sing-songy voice that I love – real, true fucking love, like if she lost her voicebox in a horrible bowling accident or learned how to speak with an ordinary cadence, it’d be over, I’d drop her and scram – is a specific byproduct of her distinctive history, and I’m so fascinated that someone can carry their biography in their voice like that.

She thinks she’s so smart. She is in fact so smart, but the significance is that she thinks she’s so smart. She reads difficult books and dissects them; looks up every word she doesn’t know and repeats them to herself with her eyes closed until they’re committed to memory. “Absquatulate, absquatulate, absquatulate…”

“You don’t have to know every word, you know,” I told her. “I mean, don’t you kinda get what it means because of the context? Seems like a chore to look up every single one.”

“That’s why I’m smarter than you,” she said. She’s not wrong.

This need to comprehend, this need to be smart in the third language she learned, it’s probably from her experience as a teenage immigrant to Canada. She was at the age when she wanted to belong, then thrust into a foreign environment where kids had blond hair and white skin and moved their mouths to produce words that she didn’t know the meaning of.

Any younger or older, it wouldn’t matter so much, no one would give a shit. But fate dictated that this be her life, this never-ending quest for absolutely mastery over the English language, and fate also dictated that it’s me who has to hear her fucking shit on a regular basis.

Me! Me, who used to write flowery, show-offy prose with a thesaurus at my side, who then read the greats – Bukowski and Fante and Murakami and Eggers – and then fell into deep mortification for having the gall to write that cringe-inducing flowery bullshit in the first place. I’m only happy that in my youth, it was done in paper notebooks lost or discarded between moving cities, and not permanently online somewhere, where it could be retrieved and used against my run for President.

(Though I’m certain that this is the sort of thing that comes with age. That goes with age. Who wasn’t like this in their youth? Who didn’t pepper and embellish and decorate and barf all over their essays in high school? Who didn’t assume that bigger words meant bigger brains? It’s not our fault; in high school, they teach you, “Write a 2000 word essay,” while in the real world my editor would say, “You need to cut this 2000 word story to 300 words and have it make sense and be funny.” )

Books. Books, too. Before our trip, I asked her, “Do you want my spare Amazon Fire tablet? You can read books…”

“I like real books.”

“I know, I do too, but for this trip –”

“No, I like the way paper smells and …”

“I get it, but you can’t bring–”

“…I love how paper feels…”

“Me too, but we’re gone for two months and–”

“No thanks, I’ll be fine without your fancy tablet.”

She ended up purchasing a book, then becoming bored of it halfway (it happens). Rather than to buy another book – which she realized was now a risky, $20 proposition – she chose another alternative that granted her access to a library of 400 books of various genres and lengths and heaviness: my fucking iPad Mini, which from that point on became her iPad Mini.

But I love it. I love that she’s smart and that she thinks that she’s smart and that she has this whopping vocabulary stuffed with 6-syllable words that haven’t been uttered aloud since the 14th century. She’s the tippy-fucking-top, and I don’t know if I like everything she does because she’s the tippy-top, or because she’s the tippy-top because of everything that she does. Doesn’t matter, I don’t think about these things.

 

Holy Shit, It’s Hard To Write Daily Again, Don’t Read This Shit

The struggle I have with girlfriends – or, to be more accurate, keeping girlfriends – is that I don’t know what an average amount of pain and suffering is. I don’t think that this matters to most people, but it’s somehow crucial to me to know what the average fail rate is.

If my girlfriend was jealous about, say, 10 of my ex-girlfriends, I’d want to know the over/under on that. If I discovered that the majority of girlfriends in the world were jealous of only four of their boyfriends’ exes, then I would know to ditch this girl and scram; if the number was 16, then I’d know to stick it out, bite my tongue, take the pain.

I realize how tremendously subjective this is and how a slight breeze could wildly skew the numbers in any of the variable subjects involved – but it really would allow me to make better choices. Well, they wouldn’t be “better” choices, but they’d be choices that I could commit to and sleep at night, having put a reasonable amount of rationale into it.

I mean, I have absolutely nothing else to go on.

But right now, it’s unknown, and I hate making the wrong decisions about girlfriends. They will come to haunt me, they always do. I might have terrible judgment in these things. I always undermine how much a girl likes me and how much like them. It’s not until years later when I’m sitting on the handlebars of my shitty motorcycle rental in a corner of Saigon that it hits me: Oh fuck, we were really in love with each other.

Fuck, more cryptic writing. This bullshit cryptic writing that I’ll read years later and think, Jesus fucking Christ, I really wrote some cryptic emo bullshit. But what can I do, people will get hurt.

Is that it? That’s probably it. Finish it off, you fuck.

I’m sitting inside of a Tim Horton’s in Toronto, something I never did even when I lived here. I had a coffee shop phase, but they were mostly Coffee Time’s and Country Styles because they had smoking sections. Each plastic table would have one of those flimsy foil ashtrays that filled up after exactly two cigarettes were smoked and butted out into them.

It’s bizarre that smoking was once legal indoors, and that non-smokers rarely complained about it (in the beginning). It was just an accepted pollutant in life, like a 16-wheeler truck that rolls by spewing fumes into the air but carrying milk and medicine for the orphans in the children’s ward at the hospital. You look at the greater good and you suck it up, all of that tar and second-hand smoke and other miscellaneous chemicals. That was once normal, so normal that my dad smoked in the car and I thought he was sooooo cool.

Back in those days, mid-highschool to my early-twenties, I could be found at coffee shops on weekends, usually with my friend Jane whom I’d sit and shoot the shit with. She’d be studying or writing short stories or rap or slam poetry (she was very good) and I would read or draw or do whatever I did before I discovered Imgur and Instagram, the dual blackhole of productivity.

We’d meet up at 10pm, maybe 11pm. The day was settled, that’s for sure. Anyone with plans would be executing them, so at that time if I wasn’t out, I wasn’t going out, and so I would call Jane and say, “Usual place?” and we’d go to one of the handful of usual places that we had.

We’d do our own thing, then chat, then do our own thing, then chat, up until 3am, 4am sometimes.

That’s how I spent the bulk of my late-highschool and early-college years — sober, in coffee shops, smoking and trying to help my slam poetry friend find words that rhyme with fabrication.

Right. So I didn’t drink coffee back then, I drank tea. I would drink Orange Pekoe tea. I’d say, “Large double-double please,” and they would get me a giant red cup, fill it with hot water, drop in two creams and two sugars and pass it to me with a bag of Red Rose. Some of my friends would ask for it “steeped” which involved the minimum-wage cashier to stand at the back, stirring the tea bag, dipping it up and down, counting to 3o seconds or however long it takes to “steep” a cup of tea.

I thought it was demeaning.

My Cool As Fuck Uncle Is Sick Of This Shit

I’m always sad in this godforsaken city. The reasons aren’t so obvious: it’s not because it represents full time jobs and marriage and babies and shoveling snow and hayfever season.

Wait, those are exactly the reasons.

But it’s not just that, it’s because I’m beholden to those metrics. Marriage, kids, home ownership. The conversations are stuck there, forever, and so you find people who you can talk to about these things, or you catch up in order to be able to talk about these things.

But that’s not entirely it, either.

I was talking to my uncle at my cousin’s wedding last weekend. He’s the youngest sibling, the only child born to my grandfather and his new wife, after my mom’s mother passed (before I was born). He was a teenager when I was born, and in college when I was a boy. He was the “cool” uncle, the one who wore 16-hole Doc Martens (which I stole), wore a black motorcycle jacket, gelled his hair into a Flock of Seagulls quaff.

Once, he tried to get me into kendo. Bought me a wooden sword and everything. He went through all this trouble and I told him, “I don’t really like this, it’s not my thing,” and it was the first time that I was honest with an adult and they let me off the hook. He also got me into comic books, art and journaling. (I found his stash of journals and devoured them; his insights into women and clubbing and the life of a young Korean immigrant in 1990’s Scarborough was fascinating to me).

So I was talking to this uncle last weekend, who’s turning 50 years old in a few weeks, who has a 19-year old daughter and 16-year old son. We were talking about how my grandfather – his father – had passed away last year. I was somewhere in Saigon or perhaps Bali and couldn’t come back for the funeral.

I remember I was messaging with my aunt and she said, “He finally went last night. The chaplain was giving him his last rites and the moment he said ‘Amen’, he passed. It was perfect timing.”

“At least he had all of you surrounding him when he went,” I said. There’s four of them; my mother and her three younger siblings.

“No, fuck that,” my uncle spat. “He was out of his mind for the last year. He didn’t know who he was, who we were. It was a shame. No one should go out like that. I’m not going out like that.”

He was so angry that I was stunned. I’ve never seen him like that, but if anything turns a man, it’ll be the death of his father.“I just want to retire early,” he continued. “I’m so tired of working. I’m so tired of this.”

My uncle was a phenomenal artist and writer, living in a vibrant city. He dropped art and writing, found a wife, moved three hours away, worked at a car manufacturer headquarters, had kids, and is now turning 50 and is so tired of this.

And just like that, I realized why I left Toronto. No, why I left this life. Even as a child, I found it terrible, almost rude, that we all had to work. I’m not sure where I go this idea from at such a young age, I’m definitely not a hippie. But I just thought, “Who made up these rules? Who can I complain about life to?” and the answer is nobody.

I grew up with this tiny seed in the back of my head, and went through the motions of grade school then high school then OAC year then college then fulltime employment. By that time, I was crushed. I sat in my cubicle at work and thought, “This is it. If I don’t change anything, I’ll be here for the rest of my life.”

Two years later, I quit my job for a magazine start-up and never looked back. I made countless risky moves and heard “You can’t do that, who do you think you are?” at every step.

So maybe that’s why I’m sad in Toronto. Maybe I was traumatized for 28 years (at 28 years old, I began to work and travel, living in Toronto but living a great life). Just seeing Canadian currency or the Shoppers Drug Mart logo triggers something in the back of my head, this need to fight. You know? I land at Pearson airport and ball my hands into fists and I’m just ready to fucking fight anyone who tries to take this life from me.

Some friends here ask, “What’s next?” and I don’t tell them the truth. “Oh, just freelancing, back to the same old.” I don’t want to hear No, you know? I don’t want to say, “I’m taking November off to write a book,” and be met with averted eyes, with them feeling sorry for me. I mean, it’s not their, it sounds stupid even to me. My brain’s still Toronto Made and so the thought of anyone risking revenue and income to write a novel sounds stupid as fuck.

Maybe it’s stupid as fuck. I’ve done stupider.

Don’t Even Read This. I Can’t Even Write Bullshit For 750 Words Anymore. Is More Bullshit Even Better?

And suddenly, I’ve forgotten all of the stresses I had as a single man, gallivanting around the world, sleeping with girls who learned English from pirated DVDs and dubbed cartoons from an illegal satellite hook-up.

What was I, lonely? Afraid? Desperate? Did I really reach those depths where I wanted to so badly have a girlfriend again, to so badly have a person to message throughout the day and once at night, right before going to bed, to fulfill that cliché of being the first and last thing done before and after falling asleep?

I’ve forgotten all of those stresses because they’ve been abruptly – abruptly – replaced by the stresses of not being fucking single.

God, it’s almost hourly, isn’t it, that something needs tending to. The something that is the sensitive, fragile psyche of a woman. “You’re beautiful, you’re perfect, you’re exactly for me,” repeated over and over – and while I mean every word, every syllable, I don’t exactly mean the instances or the high frequency in which I say them.

Fuck, I’m being cautious. Cryptic. Writing half-hidden, just in case she reads this or is reading this or someone else does and tells her and I can say, “I didn’t mean what you think, what makes you think that, oh but everything’s so cautious and cryptic, I actually meant the exact opposite of what you think that that sentence means.”

I need to breathe, I need to give things time to calm down. We just came off of a majestic 2-month trip where we argued only twice. It’s the best relationship that I could ask for, from a practical point of view. We make sense. We are sensible. Add to that a thick layer of irrational, sped up love and there we are.

But right now, Jesus fucking Christ, we’re both in withdrawal, languishing on opposite coasts of Canada, missing each other. I drown myself in friend and wine and beer and lots of working; she drowns herself in blaming me for shit.

That same banal shit, you know? That same fucking shit that every ex-girlfriend has blamed me for in my life. “You don’t care, you don’t do enough, you don’t sacrifice,” which she can’t surely mean?

Ah, stop. Stop. I’ll breathe and then she’ll breathe and then we’ll breathe together. Or we won’t, we’ll break up and breathe apart and that’s okay, too. Breathing, that’s the important part.

What is this bullshit that I’m writing? What is this, a fucking 16-year old Catholic school girl’s fucking diary? What is this putrid fuckery. I should be writing dialogue, describing scenes, advancing The Book. The Fucking Book that I thought I could write in one and then three months and now it’s been twenty-two. Twenty two fucking months of languishing on this fucking laptop.

Fuck this.