Headway With The Girl With The Extraordinary Face

This is fucking crazy. You mean all I had to do was ask my dream girl if I could go visit her in Singapore and she would say yes? Why didn’t anyone tell me?

That’s the thing about life: no one told me that all of these things were possible if you just did them. I was brought up to ask permission or to wait for someone to give me the thumbs up to proceed. For the past decade, I’ve been testing this protocol – quitting jobs, traveling months to Asia, moving to Asia, not having a career, blah dee fucking blah – and I’m beginning to learn that it’s better just to do shit.

I haven’t “learned”; I’m still “beginning to learn” because it’s not completely habit yet. I mean, I’m used to people being against what I’m doing and doing it anyway (that’s habit), but I’m still shocked at the whole precept of “You Don’t Need Permission To Do Anything (And No One Will Give It To You Anyway)”. So every year I push and push and push, and I receive and receive and receive. By my calculations, when I’m 46 years old I’ll be fucking invincible.

So this girl, this absolute dream girl, but also reality girl because I met up with her last December in Bangkok – she was single and then not single and then single and then not single with her Korean-American expat boyfriend. I was also in a relationship for the better part of the year, so our communication simmered to just a food picture here or asking for advice there (I traveled to Southeast Asia with my girlfriend at the same time she traveled to California with her boyfriend).

Months later – and a month ago from now – I messaged her that I was back in Asia. “I’m unemployed and single again,” I told her. It wasn’t a flirt, it wasn’t a loaded statement. “Must be an epidemic; I just broke up with my boyfriend, too.”

What?

“Oh no, so sorry to hear. Wow, you guys are on-and-off. Are you okay?” I asked.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” she said. “The more we break up, the less I’m sad.”

I didn’t dive in headfirst. I did the right thing; I just hung out, messaged her here and there. I tossed small, tiny flirts at her just to stay out of the friendzone. They were harmless but they were obvious. If not tacky as fuck. But the Tacky Zone in better than the Friend Zone so I’ll take it.

And then:

“Hey, you in Singapore at the end of the month? I’ll be there for a few days,” I said. It was the truth, I need to kill a few days between Vietnam and Thailand for visa issues. “I don’t have many friends there, I’ll need you to be my tour guide.” This is a lie: I have a shitload of friends in Singapore. “So if you’re too busy, let me know and maybe I’ll go to Kuala Lumpur instead.” You see? Everything’s nicely loaded, right? Low pressure, but I made it clear that she’s the reason I chose that dumb island country where I’ll spend $800 in three days.

“Yeah, I’ll be here,” she said. “I have to go to Jakarta for two days during that time, though.”

“Oh no, well, hope I get to see you.”

“I’ll make time for youuuuuuuuu.” The more “u’s” the more she likes me, isn’t that the rule? Well it is now, motherfuckers.

“Why do you need a tour guide anyway? You’ve been here many times,” she said.

“Well I don’t really need a tour guide. I just want to hang out with you and see how you live.” I think she was double-checking my motives for hanging out, so I double-confirmed them.

Anyway, so that brings me back to: All I had to do was ask? This is a woman of magnificent stock, with thousands of men after her. Dream Girl status. I’m shocked that I got onto her radar on Instagram in the first place; then I was shocked that she set aside a night to eat with me in Bangkok last year; now I’m shocked that I have a fucking date with her in a country that I despise but will move there if I have to. I feel like I pulled off a scam, like she’ll see right through me. But I’m nothing but transparent so what the fuck am I afraid of?

So in a few weeks, I’ll find out. We’ll either get along and I’ll spend the holidays with her, or I’ll finally have nothing stopping me to move to South America and tackle Brazil, Argentina. She’s the last dream girl I have left in Southeast Asia. Anywhere.

Something Good Is Coming (But It’s not This So Don’t Read This Tripe)

It was a relatively easy breakup and it’s not because I cared less about her but because the reasons were so fucking concrete.

You know, I actually feel bad about how easy it is. Survivor’s guilt, you know? I wasn’t always good at getting over things – and I’ll still languish these days if I’m in the wrong environment – so I’m empathetic to her difficulty.

Then again, “difficulty” is only what she’s showing me. In my vast experience with everything in the fucking universe, I now know that everyone’s full of shit. They might not mean to be, but that’s the human condition: to be full of shit. So her expressing her “difficulty” getting through this tumultuous time (or this being a tumultuous time in the first place) is questionable. She’s smart, beautiful, bubbly and opportunistic; she’s probably been on 18 dates already, and in between will sob to me for whatever reason.

The more I think about her and her actions, the more narcissistic characteristics I … no, bad road to go down.

Anyway, it was a relatively easy breakup because the reasons were so fucking concrete. There are times that I miss her and question my rationale. I mean, we did travel for two months throughout Southeast Asia with only a couple of fights (but both that had to do with girls in the past who should pose no threat to her now). But then those thoughts are easily – effortlessly – quelled when I think of the things that we argued about.

Those being girls in the past who should pose no threat to her now.

You know, I pleaded with her to stop with the insecure shit. I begged her: “This is the one quality I can’t take, that will poison the entire well. Please stop. You have no reason to be insecure.” I knew what was going to happen and I told her what was going to happen and either she thought I was bluffing or that she’s in good or that our 6 months of dating was enough for us to bounce back.

I also told her, “We’ve only been dating for 6 months, we’re not strong enough for these fights. I’m not going to give up my friends for you.”

But she kept on kept on kept fucking on.

Okay, I’m bouncing around too much. I need to break this down and write about each reason on its own. Or else this will be a fucking shit-talking diary entry. Let’s make it good, asshole.

A Typical Night in Ho Chi Minh City

At 7:30pm, I called an Uber motorbike and he drove me to the wrong restaurant. It was my fault, they both have “Spice” in the name and I neglected to double check the address to make sure. No big deal, I walked from the wrong Spice to the right one a few blocks away and on the second floor.

The Swedishnamese was already there with her brother, Vietnamese Leonardo DiCaprio, who had just moved to Saigon when I first met him last January. He was partying every night back then, but has since cut it down to twice a week. Another familiar face was there, this banker I met a few years ago and haven’t seen since aside from Facebook, who’s now doing biz dev for a video game company. Really affable guy, we hit it off right away back then and continued to do so now.

The four of us ordered (shitty) Thai food and Chilean wine, laughing and talking like we were in a fucking movie with the camera panning around to each of our smiling faces to indicate The Good Life. Then two girls showed up, a tall, fair-skinned one who worked for liquor conglomerate and a super-chic fashionista in a red mu-mu and freshly dyed, short gray hair that looked stunning on her.

The conversation was mostly about traveling, as the 5 of them just came back from Seoul and Taipei, and I’m a vagabond. More (shitty) Thai food, more Chilean wine. Another girl showed up, originally from San Diego (?) and now working in an investment bank here. Video Game Biz Dev told me, after I was trying to squeeze insider stock tips from him, that she should be my go-to for that shit.

While we were paying the bill — $15 each, what the fuck – another expat from Seattle showed up, who I first/last met two years ago in Ho Chi Minh when he just relocated there. Like Viet Leonardo DiCaprio, back then he was partying hard so I hung out with him for just one night and then avoided him for the rest of my stay – I was there to work. Now he lives in Saigon and owns a bar and is still trying to launch the same company as he was two years ago, while I’m trying to finish the same fucking book as I was two years ago.

We took solace in each other that we were both failures at what we wanted to accomplish, but at last in the meantime we were successful at other things.

Our group split into two and cabbed to a new rooftop bar, Sohy, where we got a few bottles of vodka to secure a table. It wasn’t a rowdy night, just a few casual drinks. I made rounds talking to everyone – I was in an incredibly social mood – found out what everyone did for a living and what they did for fun. Video Game Biz Dev pointed at the San Diego Investment Banker girl who was dancing hard to the blaring techno music. “She’s single and ready to mingle. She’s probably down if you are.” I wasn’t down. Her youthful energy was a turn-off, you know? She was attractive but I just looked at her and I was exhausted. I’m not that guy anymore and I know it.

Around midnight, we left. Swedishnamese had a plane to catch so she left, along with her brother. Liquor Conglomerate, SD Investment Banker and Video Game Biz Dev also left, or went to party elsewhere. I followed Seattle Expat to another bar, Qui, where he had a friend at a table with six girls and 2 bottles of red wine. Gray Haired Fashionista came along. Thank god, because we stood to the side, bored of the scene, and chatted.

She’s from Hanoi and extolled the virtues of their cuisine compared to Saigon’s. “They put so much sugar in everything here,” she said. “Our food is more savory, more spicy.” Sold, I said. Sold on the spicy food, her red mu-mu, on that fucking short gray hair. We made plans to eat Northern Vietnamese food soon.

Around 2am we left Qui and jumped into separate cabs. I was hungry – it was leg day and I had to ingest 2000 calories and the shitty Thai food didn’t cut it – so I texted Viet Aussie Washroom Move. “Let’s go eat.” “Okay, let’s meet here.”

We met at an outdoor restaurant and I said she looked pretty and she said she was suspicious of me and I said that everyone is. I leaned over the table and kissed her on the lips. I did it three more times over the course of the meal. Then I put her into a taxi and called an Uber motorcycle to take me home.

I like it here.

Viet Aussie Washroom Move, Part 2

We met at a restaurant so close to my AirBNB that I walked there in under 20 minutes while wearing a dress shirt and jeans – without sweating. I arrived first and she came just after 8pm and we hugged in a dirty alleyway parked with motorbikes. Viet Aussie Washroom Move wanted to take me to a “local” restaurant to eat snails – which I objected the first thousand times but finally relented because she really wanted me to eat snails.

She led me down a corridor and up janky stairs and to the rooftop where it opened up to a restaurant, local but cute, with strings of light and ivy growing on the walls. The tables were small and made from reclaimed wood – not the expensive, Pottery Barn kind but like from old Pepsi billboards tossed onto the side of the road.

I realized I’d been here before, two years ago with the Swedishnamese who invited me to dinner and beer with her non-English speaking family visiting from Hue. “I’ve been here before,” I told Viet Aussie Washroom Move and she looked deflated, like she wanted to blow my mind. “I love this place and couldn’t find it again,” I said. “Thanks for bringing me. Let’s get some snails!”

The restaurant suited me fine. It’s actually the exact sort of place that I like to eat in: local but tacky and charming. Though I was surprised that she wanted to eat here.

See, Viet Aussie Washroom Move is very clean-looking. I suppose this is my type, these pale-skinned, slim-bodied career women in pencil skirts and white blouses. I think I like the juxtaposition between them and me, and like to think that strangers look at us and say, “Oh wow, those two look so opposite but they make it work.” This is stupid.

So we ate snails (okay) and clams (fine) and duck tongue (ech) and duck fetus (bleh), while I drank beer and she drank nothing. At the beginning, I’m sure she was convinced that this date would be a dud, that I was nothing but some frat-boy hippie digital nomad that ran around the world making $200/week who wore only sandals and cargo shorts. First I asked about her job, what her exact role was (again).

“We don’t have to talk about this,” she said.
“No, it’s interesting to me.”

“Finance is interesting to you?” she said, incredulous.

“Yeah, that’s why I was asking at karaoke.”

“You’re just trying to be nice. You know, do the talk.”

“Well, anyway. The markets treated me well this year,” I said. She looked at me with her eyes half closed, thinking, Here comes the bullshit.

“You’re in the market?”

“Yeah, I was day trading earlier this year, but since moving back to Asia, I had to switch to a more weekly or monthly outlook because of the time difference. I’m usually trading the NASDAQ, mostly tech, and fast food does well for me. Apple did amazing all year, obviously. I’ve been moving in and out of semi-conducters recently – by the way, what do you think about NVDA, their earnings are in two days and I might toss something in – but I got destroyed in July because I thought I was invincible and bought Under Armour and Ulta. Like I’m a tech guy, what the fuck was I doing in retail? Also bio-pharm, I got my ass kicked by Ritter by like sixty fucking percent. It’s at the point where I’d rather see it go to zero.”

She was convinced I wasn’t talking shit because I wasn’t; you can’t really rehearse and memorize a monologue like that – it’s what really happened, it’s a true story. She could ask about any of the 38 stocks that I closely watch and I’d relay the trajectory in the past 8 months.
“Whoa, you day trade,” she said, as a statement and not a question. “I thought you were a designer or writer or something.”

“I started my own design company 16 years ago. So it was important that I learn about financial statements and taxes and how to avoid taxes and it was all so fucking fun and interesting that I kept learning.”

Now that we had established we were equals – or maybe she didn’t think I was her equal but just not dumb – the conversation got good. We talked about her investment philosophy and how she’s all about the fundamentals while I’m only about investor sentiment (which is a clear humanist versus greedy capitalist distinction). How she thinks Muse is rock and I think they’re sound like some gay vampire Christian band. How she doesn’t know who the fuck Jimmy Page is.

The conversation got so good, in fact, that we went to her favorite rooftop bar in the city, one that I’d never been to. We talked for hours, way past her bedtime of 11pm when she thought she’d be home by nine.

“I thought you were just some digital nomad…”

“What, some loser that has a fucking travel blog and links product reviews to Amazon to make the 16 cent affiliate fee?”

“Yeah.”

“Nope.”

I walked Viet Aussie Washroom Move to the taxi line, hugged her goodbye and watched her drive towards the bridge to District 2.

Viet Aussie Washroom Move, Part 1

The Viet-Aussie whom I pulled The Washroom Move on thought I was stupid.

After pulling the aforementioned Move, the birthday party that we crashed moved to a Karaoke bar in downtown Ho Chi Minh city. Both of my friends went home citing exhaustion – it was 1am and we’d been drinking since 7pm. Against my usual character (I’m normally the first to bail, and especially on karaoke, and especially on karaoke where there was no other alcohol but whiskey), I went along with the group so I could talk to Vietnamese Australian Washroom Move girl and see who she is.

It was an enormous karaoke room with four couches and we sat at the end of the last one, me in the dead last seat which made sense since I knew absolutely no one until a half hour ago. We sat almost next to each other; there was a girl between us who wouldn’t take the hint as I kept trying to talk to Viet Aussie, yelling over her shoulder and behind her back, nudging her away with my elbow.

Karaoke rooms aren’t conducive to talking – all that singing from selfish people who wouldn’t let me pick up a girl in peace. That plus the amount of alcohol that I drank put me in a weird stupor: I couldn’t speak properly or finish my thoughts. I knew what I sorta kinda wanted to say and would just launch into it, without a script. No go, no fucking go, man. I’d start a sentence that was equal parts flirty, charming and self-deprecating, but then mid-way I would lose sight of the end and the alcohol would rush in and I would sputter some pathetic string of words and the whole fucking thing would end in disaster with her looking at me sideways like I was a blubbering idiot. (And I was.)

What’s even worse is that my consciousness was awake and fully aware of what was going on. I was trapped inside my own body while watching it destroy my chances with Viet Aussie Washroom Move. It was like lucid nightmare I couldn’t wake up from, or when you hear of people in surgery under anesthesia who could feel every slice of the scalpel but were unable to scream. I was helpless and could only hope that Drunk Alex wouldn’t do irreparable damage to our first impression that I couldn’t make up for during the second.

So, yeah, Viet Aussie Washroom Move thought that I was stupid, but I suppose she had good reason for it. Which makes it even more surprising that she agreed having dinner with me. “Hey, can I take you out sometime?” She looked at me and hesitated – hesitated! – and then said, “Why not.”

Never have I ever heard someone say “why not” in such a convincing way. She actually, literally meant, “Why not, why the fuck not,” like someone told her that if she’s going to meet anyone, she has to say WHY NOTTTTTT to the world and give every single guy who asks a chance.

During the week leading up to dinner, we made small talk over messenger. I asked what she did for a living. “I work for the Ho Chi Minh stock exchange.”

“You work for the stock exchange? That’s so interesting, I don’t know anyone who does that,” I replied. It’s true, out of the thousands of friends I have in finance, I don’t know a single person who works at the actual stock exchange. “What exactly do you do there? What’s your role?”

“I evaluate companies and advise clients if they should invest in them or not,” she said.

I was about to respond, What the fuck? That’s not the stock exchange, that’s just a bank. I thought you worked for the actual exchange, like handling the logistics of running a stock market in a third-world country.

But I realized that it wasn’t her who didn’t know the difference between working at a stock exchange and doing business on a stock exchange. It was her who thought that it was me who didn’t know that difference. She simply used the words “stock exchange” assuming that I would’ve heard those common words on Friends or Family Guy before and then been able to contextualize to my rudimentary brain that she works in a complex and nebulous industry that I wouldn’t understand so just drop the subject.

I couldn’t wait for dinner.

Vietnamese Kim Kardashian Teaches Me Kizomba (What?)

I went dancing last night. Not clubbing, but dancing, this foreign kind of dancing that’s close to salsa but more … sexy? I don’t dance but I was invited by Vietnamese Kim Kardashian, because she had the body of Kim Kardashian.

I met her last Sunday when I was out with the Factory Owner, Limo Company Owner and Café-Salons owner. Shit, everyone just owns things over here. I knew the three of them already and they brought along the fourth, VN Kim Kardashian, who blew my fucking mind when I walked up to that table that they were sitting at. She has huge, messy hair, voluptuous body, huge hips, big ass. I was never into this buxom look, but holy fuck, she looked like a cartoon, you know? She looked like a horny 14-year old boy’s drawing of a Vietnamese.

So we met last Sunday night which was supposed to be casual but turned into a 3am rager, first drinking cocktails at Layla (a newly opened lounge that I’ve went to six times with three different groups of friends in less than a week) and then to Qui, the only joint opened at midnight on a Sunday. It was at Qui where VN Kim Kardashian said she loved to dance, and started to dance, but not the clubby kind of dancing but the foreign kind that’s close to salsa but more … sexy.

They pushed me to her, the Various Company Owners. They pushed me and said, Go dance with her, show her your stuff, and I did. I went in and showed her my stuff which is absolutely shit, tremendously tragic dancing, but the secret, you see, is to do it with confidence and you’ll never feel stupid. You may look stupid, but you can’t help that.

So we danced and she pushed her giant breasts right up against my chest, I mean, I knew where the wires of her bra were located and everything. She shoved my hand on her back under her shoulder blade and we did the one-two-three-four thing. VN Kim Kardashian said there’s a beginner Kizomba class every Tuesday and I should attend the next one and she’d be there.

Kizomba, that’s what it is. Shit, it’s hot as hell. Never have I had an interest in Latin-type dancing. North Americans just aren’t into it, you know? We don’t give a shit. But at Kizomba night at the Cuban club we were at last night – holy shit, it’s its own universe with very committed denizens.

The incredible thing is that everyone dances with every else – strangers stand around and just approach each other and hardly anyone says no (I said, “Sorry, it’s my first night, I’m just watching!”). It’s incredible because it’s a super sexy way of dancing, with the man totally in control and the woman waiting to be led, swept to the left and right. To lead the woman, the man has one hand under her shoulder blade and another around her arm; one knee in her groin, his chest pressed onto hers. That’s like 4 or 5 touch points, enough that the man can pull off some complex, spontaneous moves and the girl will always feel them coming.

Everyone has their eyes closed – no need to see for this sort of dancing. Some women were fit, some were chubby and it didn’t matter; everyone was equal on the dance floor.

This sounds like some extreme hippie shit where I’m about to say that this sort of dancing can change people. But, you know what, it absolutely can. There was no jealously, no envy, no fights. Even more bizarre was that even though they were dancing in the sexiest way possible – groins on knees, breasts on chests – it had nothing to do with sex. Only in a non-Kizomba class would this sort of dancing be a pick-up move, a precursor to intercourse.

Because that’s all I thought: “Oh man, that guy is definitely going to sleep with that girl,” but then the song’s over and they switch partners and bring the same amount of passion. “Oh man, those guys are definitely going to sleep with those girls…” I was the only one in the room that didn’t get the point.

So VN Kim Kardashian and I danced, eyes closed, breast on chest and knees on groins, until I got the hang of it and could improvise a bit, twirling her this way, pivoting on my back leg, leading her from under her shoulder blade. I thanked her and went home.

She Broke Her Siri Into A Million Pieces And I Was Next

“Siri,” I said, holding my phone to my mouth. “What’s the weather today?”

“It’s going to be wet! Bring an umbrella!”

My Siri was warm and human and inviting. Her Siri, by contrast, was frightened and traumatized. You could hear the trembling in her robotic voice.

“Heeeey Siri,” she said, in faux-niceness, “What’s the weather today?

“It is currently 10 degress Celsius with 79% chance of precipitation and 38% humidity. Wind is coming from the northeast at 18 kilometers per hour.”

It makes perfect sense that her Siri was trained to be this way. It’s the exact same way in which she was training me. She doesn’t ask just one question of what I was doing that night; she asks 23.

“Where were you tonight?”

“Dinner.”

“With who?”

“Some coworkers.”

“How many guys? How many girls?”

“Two guys, one girl.”

“What are their names?”

“What? Why?”

“I like to put a face to names.”

“Charlie, Evan and Samantha.”

“What does Samantha do?”

“Accounts receivable.”

“What did everyone order?”

“I dunno, I had fish.”

“What did they have?”
“I didn’t look.”

“How can you not look? You didn’t see their food come out and put onto the table?”

“I guess I did, I just don’t care. Who cares.”

“I want to know what they ordered.”

“Charlie had roast chicken. Evan and Samantha split appetizers.”

“Why did they split the appetizers? Are they dating?”

“They’re coworkers, man.”

“Are they dating other people?”

“Yeah, Evan’s married. Sam has boyfriend.”

“Well that’s a little inappropriate to split appetizers.”

“I don’t even give a fuck.”

“Well why not? Would you split appetizers with a female coworker?”

“I most definitely would split appetizers with female coworkers. In fact, I would split appetizers with any females in general.”

“You mean before this conversation happened?”

“Yes, but also in the future.”

“You would split appetizers with a female coworker after this conversation, after knowing how much I don’t like it?”

“It doesn’t matter that you don’t like. You’re wrong.”

“My feelings are wrong? How can my feelings be wrong? My feelings are my feelings.”

“Your feelings are childish and stupid and immature and insecure. Also, they’re wrong.”

“This is a deal breaker to me.”

So I can see how Siri answered in a thorough, if not apathetic, manner. I could see how the next artificial intelligence that she would train was going to be me.

“Where were you tonight?” She would ask.

“I had dinner with coworkers. I had fish, Charlie had roast chicken, Evan and Samantha had their own independent appetizers because they’re not dating and so ate separate dishes. Charlie is our chief litigator and Evan does accounting and Samantha is in accounts receivable. Everyone is in happy relationships and no one is attractive, they’re all 4’s at best. We drank 2.5 beers each and left in separate cars for home.”

The Washroom Move

It’s been awhile since I pulled this one, at least years. Or maybe it’s just been awhile since it successfully worked, and my brain has discarded the memory of the failures, jettisoned them to the back of my subconsciousness where it’ll emerge in an inopportune time and place, like my own wedding or at the precipice of an orgasm or before a first date. Hey, remember that time you tried the Washroom Move and failed spectacularly and was caught red-handed and had to sit the rest of the night in mortification?

Anyway, the washroom move is this: when you’re at a bar or restaurant or social event, and you’re interested in a girl but can’t get her attention or you don’t want to chat her up in front of others, you wait for her to go to the washroom. After she leaves you count to twenty and go to the washroom yourself and stand in there trying to time it so you leave at the same time that she does. If you’re successful in timing it you’ll have her attention on the walk back to the party.

This move has worked more often than not. The timing part is the most difficult because of all the variables involved: is she peeing or pooping? Is there a lineup for the stall inside? Will she sit on the pot and take her time or rush through the process to get back to the party?

It has to look convincing: I have to be leaving the men’s room at the same time as her to reach the zenith of persuasion. I can’t just wait outside the woman’s washroom pretending to be on my phone or something. I mean, it’d probably be just as effective, but that’s just cheating. It’s a cheap win and I won’t stand for it, motherfuckers.

On the flip side, in my early days of attempting this gambit, I waited too long and missed her, although I didn’t know it. I left the men’s room, didn’t see her, went back in, counted to 5, tried again. Over and over for maybe 20 minutes. I eventually conceded defeat and assumed she was pooping and went back to the dinner table – and there she was, sitting back in her seat in mid-conversation with the people in the seats around her, none of which were mine.

But last weekend, it couldn’t have gone any smoother. I mean I. I couldn’t have gone any fucking smoother.

Last weekend we crashed a birthday party. A friend of a friend in Ho Chi Minh, this super affable, blonde-haired Asian girl from New York. The three of us crashers sat at one table, the birthday party at another – along with a really cute girl with pale skin and big eyes, who has a staggering resemblance to the psychopath that I dated in Bangkok who I thought would murder-suicide me.

She sat on the far side of the other table, and I sat on the far side of my table. We were as far from each other as physically possible in that space. My normal method would be to introduce myself to all the people between me and the girl – ask a few questions and crack a few jokes – then discard them one by one as I worked my way down the table. Then once I got to her, I would forget everyone’s names, turn off social mode and settle in with a nice long conversation with her.

That’s what I’d usually do, but instead she got up and went downstairs to go to the washroom. Score!

I counted to twenty and left my table and went downstairs. The washroom had a shared sink area and two stalls. By default she was in the right one so I took the left. I waited for an indeterminate length of time. Like I said, there’s no scientific method to this. There’s nothing to calculate. You leave it up to the gods of fate to decide if you two should meet.

I opened the door and she was at the sink, washing her hands. I took the other sink and washed my hands. She saw me – pretty fucking sure she saw me – but instead of acknowledging me, she swiftly turned and left, heading for the stairs that led to the party.

Girls always do this to me. Guys fucking do it to me, too. They think that I should be the aggressor, the one to make the first move. I suppose I look like the type to do it, like I’m used to it and that it’s easy for me. Well it’s not easy and I’ll never get used to it and I will always have butterflies and shaken nerves and be self-conscious about it.

But as much as I despise being forced to make the first move, I reluctantly do it because I learned it’ll be the only move made that night. There won’t be anything from her camp, there never is. So I went in:

“Hey, I think we’re at the same party? My name’s Alex.”

“Hi, I’m Sarah,” she said with an Australian accent. And we talked while going back upstairs and back to the party. She sat back at her table and I sat at mine, but we turned our chairs around and interrupted the flow of traffic so we could talk to each other for the rest of the night.

I Talk To Her Daily, The Ex-Girlfriend.

It’s only been 10 days since we broke up, maybe 12 or 13 since she knew it was coming. It’s my duty as the ex – the elder, the one more experienced with break ups – to give her whatever she needs to move on. Sometimes that means messaging with her so it’s not such an abrupt change, and sometimes that means cutting off all contact. Sometimes it’s both of them with the challenge being how to blend the former into the latter.

You know what, I’m sure she’s fine. She seems opportunistic, not in a bad way (well…), and she could be taking this time to finding someone else to date. She could’ve dated already; reactivated her dating app accounts and ate some “expensive food” at some “expensive restaurants”. (These are in quotes because I’m directly quoting; there are many, many things that she’s said that made me shake my head.)

So we’ll run through our day, talk about weather and stocks and how Bitcoin is doing. The hardest part is that I can’t tell her how fucking happy I am – and although it’s because I’m back in my comfort zone of Southeast Asia, it’s also because I’m no longer with her.

I mean, not in a mean way. In a sad way, yeah – but that can’t be helped.

The few days that I spent in Hong Kong were packed with friends who are family, great food and parties and strangers who became friends. The people that I get to meet – that I have the fucking privilege to meet – are interesting, spectacular. There’s the girl who runs a limousine company in Orange County, California, expanded into salons and now splits her time between there and Saigon. Her close friend who owns restaurants and cafes near Huntington Beach, who flew to Saigon for a long overdue visit and now wants to move there and is checking out opportunities, following some leads.

Those two had a third friend whose name was the same as the second, who owned a denim factory that manufactured jeans for Juicy and 7 for all Mankind. She lives in Saigon as well, but far from the center, but also far from her factory – a 1.5 hour drive each way. I asked her, Why don’t you live in the city or beside your factory? You’re getting the worst of both worlds, and she shifted seats closer to me to reply but the music was so loud that I didn’t catch any of it, though I nodded like I had.

Then there’s the model and actress who I went hiking with, whose now a filmmaker and director. We both had break ups in the recent past and bonded over that, and sweat, and the need to pee on the way back down from the peak. There’s our friend the concert pianist. My friend the watchmaker. The girl I met through another girl at my going away party in LA who’s now the host of Shark Tank Vietnam. What the fuck is that, how do I have access to people like this? How do I have friends who are friends with people like this, so I get an automatic pass? I’m automatically vetted, trusted, filtered – and all they judge me on is how I act from the moment I shake their hand (I act awesomely).

It wouldn’t be impossible to have met them if I was still with my ex, but I wouldn’t have come out with contacts, friendships. The conversations would’ve died quicker, you know? They would’ve felt my nervous energy, my awkwardness around females. I’d feel guilty and leave early and Facetime her from the nearest restroom. That’s what my life turned into.

And now I’m in Saigon hitting the gym for 3 hours every morning, eating something foreign, delicious and cheap for lunch, and then spending the rest of the afternoon writing in my modern and spacious AirBNB or at one of the intricate, hipster cafes in the city. And I get to hop between all of these places on a fucking motorbike, which I swear to god is the most natural state of my being, on two fucking wheels racing through a concrete jungle with 300 riders surrounding me.

I laughed, you know? Last night, driving from the massage joint to a BBQ restaurant to meet up with my white friend who I met in Bangkok and subsequently traveled with in Bulgaria, Greece, Croatia, Taiwan and Los Angeles, I began to laugh wildly into the air at how fucking complete I am. How in the moment I am once again.

I didn’t forget this feeling. It wasn’t lost on my while I was in LA or in Vancouver with the girlfriend. I fucking knew it was there and I knew what it felt like and when it all happened again, I was fucking spot fucking on. The danger in my life isn’t that I forget what happiness is, it’s that I remember it too well. That I’ll never forget it.

The Deal Breaker

“Well can you stop it?”

She had her hands on her hips and leaned in. I was lying on her couch with my iPad in my left and wine in my right. It was seemingly out of nowhere because that’s how she played it off. She brought up the topic casually, and I answered casually, then she responded casually, then I chuckled and went back to my book (Zero Zero Zero by Robert Saviano). That’s when she did this pose, this cartoonish pose that cartoons do on the fucking cartoon network because that’s how the cartoonists drew them because it’s the most obvious way of showing that Wilma is upset at Fred and asserting her dominion over him.

“Why would I stop it, there’s nothing wrong with it.”

“What’s wrong with it is that I don’t like it.”

“But that’s still not my problem,” I said, regretting it immediately. “The problem is that you shouldn’t find anything wrong with it.” Might as well dive it. “What if you didn’t like carrots? Does that mean I have to stop eating carrots?”

I don’t care for carrots. I wouldn’t mind giving them up. So in actuality, if she didn’t like carrots and told me to give them up for her, I’d tell her, Fine, for you I shall give up carrots.

But we weren’t talking about carrots, we were talking about the casual way in which I put my arm around peoples’ shoulders. Females, to be specific. Female friends, to be even more explicit.

“But I do it with everyone.”

“That’s the problem. You think you can just walk down the street with your arm around someone’s shoulders with no feelings? You think that’s platonic?”

“It’s just something I’ve done since I was young,” I said. This is the absolutely truth – isn’t this a learned physical response to show that you care about whatever you’re putting your arm around? Guy friends, girl friends, giant dogs, miniature dogs, horses, statues of 19th century war heroes, etc. Pretty fucking sure I’ve put my arm around a standing lamp a few times when I was drunk, and miraculously didn’t end up fucking it.

“My friends agree,” she said. “’What is he, in high school? Who puts their arm around someone’s shoulders anymore?’” This was her defense – well, offense, I guess – her cadre of friends that I don’t give a shit about. I don’t completely know what they’re about and who they are and what battles they’re facing, but from what I have gathered is that they’re a motley crew of … well, I can’t be mean, here. But she has her friends and I have my friends and if they were all mixed into a banquet hall and I didn’t know any of them, by the end of the night I would’ve made friends with the exact friends I have now.

“I don’t give a shit about your friends’ opinions. You could stack a million of them against two of mine and I’d go with mine,” I said. What was she doing, competing on this metric? Afterwards, I asked two of my friends anyway, just for some emotional backup.

“She doesn’t want me to put my arms around female friends’ shoulders.”

“Ugh,” said Friend 1. “What the fuck is this shit. I haven’t had a fight like that in 7 years.”

“Yeah,” said Friend 2. “You should be past these kinds of arguments. It must be tiring.”

“Right?” I said. “I mean, I paid my dues with this, right? With Joanna and Nana and Chris and Chris 2 and Rachel and Michelle and Chris 3, right? It’s like getting hired as an Art Director and the CEO asking me to make coffee. I wouldn’t take this shit in any other circumstance.”

“Nope,” said Friend 1.

“Nope,” saidi Friend 2.

So I told her, “Look, it’s just a thing that I do. It doesn’t mean anything. I do it with everyone so relax.”

“That’s my problem, you do it with everyone and you do it with me. So when you do it with everyone it feels less special that you do it to me.”

Shit. So that’s her point. That’s her motive. Maybe a percentage has to do with that she doesn’t want me accidentally flirting with other girls, but a larger portion is that she wants to claim Alex’s Arm Around Shoulder move. She wants to claim it as hers and wants me to grant her the right to fight over that holy territory for the rest of our lives.

“This is a dealbreaker to me,” she said with her hands on her hips, wide stance, unblinking, unflinching. “That’s right, this is a dealbreaker.”

This being a dealbreaker to her was a dealbreaker to me. You know? I wasn’t trying to reverse the tables or manipulate the situation. I just thought, If she’s fighting this hard for this small fucking thing, what’ll happen when something bigger inevitably happens?

Fine. Deal broken.