Book Excerpt: A Week in the Life – Chapter 7

Photo Credit: 'Nino" Eugene La Pia

Photo Credit: ‘Nino” Eugene La Pia

SEVEN

What the hell was that? This day is like 50 percent typical, 50 percent weird as all hell. Or maybe that means it’s 100 percent typical.

Actually, when we started this day together, there’s something I failed to mention: I don’t know what I’m doing.

At all.

I’m certainly doing things, but I’m not entirely sure why I’m doing them. I have no clue if I’m even doing them right. I usually reserve these thoughts for random, insomnia-fueled nights, but Jun seems to have brought them to the forefront of my slightly drunken mind. Maybe I’ll happen to have insomnia later too. Can’t hurt, right?

No, wait, people can die without sleep.

I stand corrected.

The night air is warm and still. Makes for a pleasant walk, I suppose. I’ll just hoof it back home. Cabs are overrated anyway.

Want to hear something else random about me? I used to dream about dedicating my life to charity work.

Look at me being altruistic!

Instead I got an office job. A mind-numbing one at that. Whoop-dee-doo.

And, oh yeah, I’m middle management.

Who dreams of being a director in a company? Sociopaths, I imagine. Or perhaps people who have been fooled into believing it’s a lofty goal. And for some, it may actually be a dream job, but that’s not the case for me. But I can’t disappoint my parents or Diane or even that old goat, Mr. Pringle. I have to play my role, right?

Right?

Someone please tell me I’m right so I can stop thinking about this.

Life shouldn’t require so much thought. Where’s a squirrel to take my focus away when I need one? Hell, I wonder if my dog has these internal struggles about life and his place in it. Imagine that. Knowing the world in which we live, I wouldn’t be shocked if I saw commercials for doggie depression pills.

Make it all go away with federally approved drugs, dog.

Damn it, I feel like I could use another drink. I hate thinking this much. Luckily, Jun gave me that bottle of soju for the road.

Good old Jin.

Good old, soju slinging, slightly creepy Jin.

Okay, I recognize this area; I should be about 20 minutes away from my apartment. And then I can finally end this anomaly of a day.

I wonder if people think about me at all – people other than friends and family. I just walked past three people chatting about whatever nonsense they deem conversation-worthy. One of them definitely made eye contact with me for the briefest of moments, but let’s be honest: I don’t exist to her. She’ll never remember me.

O woe is me.

I don’t mean that in a depressing way. I guess it’s just another way of saying I’m not as important as I think I am. Maybe none of this is. What does it even mean to be important? Why am I thinking about this instead of drinking?

Alcohol, you need to start doing a much better job of dulling this introspectiveness.

I would actually like nothing more than to be totally numb to these thoughts and ideas. It’d be awesome to move through this world and be oblivious to these nonsense thoughts. The problem is this stupid brain of mine just doesn’t want to shut up. Kind of like right now.

Exactly like right now.

Another deep thought, another swig of soju.

I immediately react to that familiar ding of someone sending me a new text message. Pavlov’s dog would be proud.

Yo John! You still out and about??? Feel like grabbin a drink?

It’s my buddy, Isaiah. How could I possibly turn him or another drink down? I need both after a day like this.

A Week in the Life
Chapters 1 and 2
Chapter 3
Chapters 4 and 5
Chapter 6

Book Excerpt: A Week in the Life – Chapter 6

soju

SIX

This restaurant is a dump. Why did it get such good reviews online? This is what I get for trusting a phone to make my decisions for me. But if this is the worst thing I complain about tonight, life isn’t so bad.

Oh wait, Diane and Mr. Pringle.

Never mind; my life sucks.

Okay, I suppose I should see if the inside of this restaurant is as sketchy as the outside.

“Good evening, monsieur.”

Did a Korean maitre d’ just greet me with a French accent?

“Uh, hi… sir? Table for one… uh, por favor?”

God, I suck.

The maitre d’ chuckles and says, “We will prep a table for you. Because it will take about ten minutes, please enjoy a complimentary drink at our bar.”

Score.

The interior of this place is, dare I say, gorgeous. No, seriously. I was prepping myself to defend myself from a good, old-fashioned, Rikers Island-style shanking, but there wasn’t a single sharpened plastic toothbrush to be found. The bar is super sleek also. I can’t help but be somewhat awestruck by everything from the leather barstools to the navy velvet backdrop behind the liquor shelf.

“Have a seat. The bartender will be with you in a second.”

Now that I think about it, this place is a ghost town. In fact, I’m the only one here. I wonder why they need ten minutes just to prep a table.

Probably so they can sharpen their shanks.

“Hey, how’s it going, buddy?” It was like the bartender appeared out of thin air. Thin, hipster air, in fact. No man should have such well-coifed hair and an expertly waxed mustache unless he somehow traveled from the 1930’s.

He also has a bowtie.

“I’m good. It’s been a long day, dude. You mind if get a small bottle of soju?”

“Sure thing. Doug told me it’s on the house.”

“Doug?”

“The maitre d’.”

“Doug. The Korean dude with a French accent is named Doug. Of course.”

The bartender places a glass in front of me and asks, “What’s your name?”

“John. How about you?”

“Jun-seo. Jun for short,” he says while filling the shot glass and then placing the bottle on a coaster in front of me.

“Nice meeting you, Jun. Slow night for you guys, huh?”

“Ah, it’s been worse I suppose. Not a lot of people venture in here.”

“Well, maybe the owner should spend some time making the exterior look less like crap. No offense.”

Jun laughs and says, “Yeah, I should probably get to that.”

“Oh man, I’m sorry. I totally didn’t mean to insult your place.”

Although I’m only sorry because I was caught talking trash.

“Don’t sweat it; you’re right. So what made you come in?”

“I wanted a drink and my phone told me you could make that happen for me. Everything’s coming up John.”

“Is it now?”

I can see right through his game. “Wait a sec. Are you doing that whole psychiatrist-bartender thing?”

“Not at all. It just sounded like you were being sarcastic.”

H-he understands my sarcasm! I shall call this man ‘friend.’

“I was, yeah,” I say after downing my shot, “It’s my girlfriend. And her shitty father. I don’t know, man; I just needed to get a drink or twelve.”

“That bad, eh. Why do you stay together?”

Shit. I’ve never had someone ask me something like that so directly. I’m also not this easily thrown off. Quite the night of firsts.

“Boundaries, Jun. I just met you.”

“I just like conversation. How about I pour you another?”

“Sure. And, uh, whatever. I mean, Diane and I have been together for a little over six years. She’s a good woman, but, y’know, she has her issues. Everyone does, I suppose.”

“I see.”

“She can be kind of cool sometimes. She’s super caring. Great cook too. She’s the kind of woman you marry.”

“Alright. If she’s so great, why are you here getting drunk instead of marrying her?”

“Touché.”

“Want my honest opinion?”

“No,” I say before swigging shot number two, “lie to me and continue getting me drunk.”

“Your relationship will eventually fail if you’re not in a place where you can just talk to her. Get out of it while you can instead of letting it die a slow death. Otherwise, stop drinking and work it out.”

“You son of a bitch… you might be right. But I can’t do that.”

“Why?”

“What do you mean, ‘why’? Because I can’t.”

“Are you physically unable to leave her?”

“Well, leaving is tough. We’ve been together six years; I can’t just give up on something like that. Then again, speaking to her is tough too.”

“You can do anything you want. Who’s stopping you?”

“Right.” This time I pour my own shot.

“Look, I don’t blame you for resisting this idea; you’re trapped in the illusion.”

“The illusion of what?”

“The illusion that any of this really matters, friend. And if none of it matters, why cling to something that hinders your happiness or your girlfriend’s happiness? I’m not trying to convince you one way or another. I’m just curious why you and other people like you do this to yourselves.”

Who is this guy?

These are the worst kind of questions – the kind to which I have no answer. Not a logical answer, anyway.

“Alright, you got me, prosecutor. I am guilty of being in a soon-to-be loveless relationship. It may even be there already. So what do you propose I do? Also, I’ll order another bottle.”

“Consider it on the house too.”

“Thanks.”

“Now, for your question: I’m not proposing you do anything. Simply live the life you want to lead and not the one you think you want to lead. Does that make sense?”

“No.”

“It will. You’re a smart guy, John Doe.”

What?

“I never told you my last name.”

“I just had a feeling. I get those sometimes.”

“Creepy. I should probably get going. Mostly because you just freaked me out. All the same, it was nice meeting you, I suppose. Please don’t kill me while my back is turned.”

“John, before you go, I just want to leave you with something.”

“And that is?”

“First, here’s that bottle of soju. Just take it with you. Secondly, be who you are. This world can shape your perception to a point where society’s expectations become the person you think you are. You’re not that person. You can do anything you want. It was great meeting you, John Doe.”

“It was… interesting meeting you, Jun.”

 

A Week in the Life
Chapters 1 and 2
Chapter 3
Chapters 4 and 5

Book Excerpt: A Week in the Life – Chapters 4 and 5

Photo Credit: Ahmet Kaya

Photo Credit: Ahmet Kaya

FOUR

“What’s with you, John?”

Now this is the other side of Diane – the one that only her boyfriend gets to see.

Lucky me.

“Damn it, Diane; are you able to see my side of this at all?”

She isn’t.

“My dad is a sensitive guy! You can’t just expect him to be cool with you not paying attention to him. Especially with that whole texting incident.”

Told you.

“Jesus, how long do I have to bear the shame of saying your dad has coffee breath? I point out things I happen to notice! You have gorgeous eyes; what if you saw me accidentally text that to someone?”

There’s no way she’s buying that logic, but let’s hope that compliment I snuck in will calm her down some.

“That’s not the same thing and you know it.”

No such luck.

“Diane, you and I both know your dad doesn’t like me. He never has. He just doesn’t care about hiding it anymore. Why let it affect us?”

“Because my family is important to me. My dad is important to me. He’s only tough on you because he wants the best for me. Living up to his expectations wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.”

Fuck that.

“Fuck that.”

“What?”

“Your dad’s standards can blow me. I’ve tried… for… years. What else do you want me to do?”

“Be more understanding.”

“Well, okay then. I’m glad you were able to see my point of view.”

“I don’t see it. I was just saying-“

“Goddamn it, Diane, that was sarcasm. Y’know what? Goodnight. I’m done.”

 

FIVE

I hate it when she doesn’t get my sarcasm. We’ve been dating for six years now; how the hell can she still not catch that? She doesn’t know me any better than you do.

An aimless walk should hopefully help me to calm down. Vodka would help more. Where the hell can I get a drink in this area of Queens?

Why in the holy hell am I continuing a relationship with a daddy’s girl who feels compelled to change her sheets before and after sex? She has some issues she should probably work on before seriously dating someone. And yet I stay with her. It’s like we’re both waiting to see who’s willing to pull the bandage off first.

The most tedious game of Chicken ever.

Wait, why am I just wandering around? I live in the age of technology, baby! Let’s see what my phone says is in the area.

Hmm… seems to be a lot of Korean restaurants in the area. Seeing as how I didn’t get to finish my meal, I’m more than fine having some bibimbap with the mass amount of soju I plan on consuming. Luckily there’s a place a few blocks away.

 

A Week in the Life
Chapters 1 and 2
Chapter 3

Book Excerpt: A Week in the Life – Chapter 3

Steak Dinner

THREE

Don’t feel bad if you don’t know much about me so far. Not many people do. But really, how many people really know you? And I don’t mean knowing things about you; I mean someone, anyone, who knows YOU. In and out.

I’ll wait.

Or I won’t because I have a bad attention span.

Oh, look! A squirrel!

Diane doesn’t know me. She thinks she does, but it’s not her fault. We all wear masks, pretending who we are as we pass each other. She doesn’t know I once sold my sister’s bra to Billy Culpepper back in 6th grade. She’s practically sleeping with a stranger.

What a hussy!

Diane’s parents definitely don’t know me. They barely tolerate me. Tolerate is actually a strong word. They slightly less than care about me. I’m like a fly in a room with no swatter; they’d rather not have me around, but they’re willing to wait me out until I fly back out an open window. The feeling is more than mutual.

Funny, I say her parents when I really mean her dad. Mrs. Pringle is more the type to be entranced by pretty lights.

Hmm, 5:22. Right on time.

“Damn it, John, you’re late.”

“Yeah, but I brought my shining personality.”

I give her a kiss because it’s what normal couples do, right?

Everything in Diane’s apartment is perfect. She’s one of the most premeditated people I’ve ever met and I’m absolutely pleased she’s not a super villain because she’d always be one step ahead of me. Always. You don’t understand; this woman has sex sheets. And by that I mean we change the sheets before we have sex (yes, she forced this ridiculous practice on me in my own home and, no, my balls are no longer mine) and we change them back after we’re done.

Fun times. Fun times.

Almost as fun as having dinner with Mr. and Mrs. Pringle.

And doilies. Ladies and gentlemen, we have doilies.

I feel Mr. Pringle’s impatient gaze before I even set foot into the dining room. Maybe I can win him over with my boyish charm.

“Hey M-“

“Glad you could finally make it, John. The food shouldn’t be too cold.”

Damn it. How was he able to resist? He’s good. Real good.

Quick, fake a mournful look. Then an apology. Then a smile. Try the boyish charm thing again.

“Yeah, I’m really sorry, Mr. Pringle. Work had me ki-“

“I’m pretty hungry. Is anyone else hungry? I’m sure you are, John, with all your work and such.”

Tough crowd.

“Now, Dad,” Diane says while placing a dish of flank steak and crispy onions on the dinner table. She’s a weirdo about what we have sex on, but the woman can cook her narrow little ass off.

Mrs. Pringle chimes in with, “Who wants to say grace?”

Useless, useless woman.

A rare twinkle emerges in Mr. Pringle’s eye as he suggests, “John.”

What a shock.

These people have no clue that I don’t believe in god. Their food is about to be blessed by the words of a heathen. I hope you find it delicious, Mr. Pringle.

“God, thank you for blessing us with this food and good company.”

“That was really creative, John,” Mr. Pringle states flatly.

Good company, indeed.

I wonder how long I have to wait until I can make an excuse to leave. Mr. Pringle will hate me either way, so why not make an exit as quickly as possible? Because Diane makes damn good flank steak and I like eating. Sometimes a little too much. Don’t judge me or my waistline.

“Babe, your cooking is great as always.” Who doesn’t like a compliment?

Mr. Pringle barely glances up from his plate and says, “Yes ‘babe’, it’s delicious.”

Assholes don’t like compliments.

Screw the flank steak; I need to think of an exit strategy. I already used work as an excuse for being late so maybe it can be my way out as well.  If I can subtly send my buddy Chase a text message saying to call me, I can pretend it’s a call from my boss and-

“So, John, you and Diane have been dating for a few years now. Have you given any thought to your future together?”

God damn it.

Mrs. Pringle, why would you do this to me? After all those times I pretended to be interested in your opinions on kitty litter and applesauce. Mind you, those two things were being discussed in the same conversation.

“Mom, do we really have to discuss this now?” Diane with the save! Way to come through!

“Yes,” Mr. Pringle said with a renewed vigor, “I’m curious as well.”

God. Damn it.

Engage bullshit mode.

“Well, I think right now Diane and I both have professional goals we want to achieve before we take our next step in life. Once we decide we’re ready to make that next step, you’ll be the first to know.”

“Very detailed plan you have there, John,” Mr. Pringle says while diverting his attention back to his food.

And another failure. I’m seriously going to tell this guy to go to hell if he keeps this up.

Whatever. Maybe if I keep my head down and continue shoveling food into my gullet, I can avoid any future interrogation sessions. And don’t make eye contact; that’s a sure-fire way to provoke the cold-blooded Mr. Pringle.

As much as I hate to admit it, there may be a teeny tiny, somewhat legitimate reason as to why he seems to have it in for me. You see, I first met Diane’s dad over four years ago, and while he was still a passive aggressive old goat, in retrospect, I could see how he was doing his best to at least play along with his daughter’s significant other.

The key phrase is “in retrospect.”

At the time, I thought he was simply emotionless, but at least he could maintain some semblance of semi-confrontational small talk. But of course, being the occasional idiot I am, one afternoon after brunch with her parents, I texted Diane…

u kno the best thing about small talk with ur dad is that teh conversations arent long enuff for his coffee breath to knock me out lmao =P

I then received a text saying…

You should watch what you text when your girlfriend is showing her father pictures on her phone.

And here we are today.

I’ve tried apologizing; trust me I-

“John! Have some respect when someone is addressing you.”

Damn it.

“Sorry, Mr. Pringle. I was just thinking about, um…”

“Right. Diane, I believe your mother and I will take our leave.”

“Dad, no! We’re trying to have a nice dinner!”

Nice is a strong word.

Mr. Pringle promptly removes his napkin from his lap and begins walking toward the front door while Mrs. Pringle shovels a couple spoons of garlic mashed potatoes before following suit. Makes me wonder if that type of behavior is trained because of the number of dinners Mr. Pringle left while in a huff. She must be famished.

“Goodbye, hun. I’ll call you later once the rest of your company has left.”

I suppose he’s referring to me.

A Week in the Life
Chapters 1 and 2

Book Excerpt: A Week in the Life – Chapters 1 and 2

manequinn

I’m going to try something new here and post chapters from a book I was writing. If folks enjoy it, I’ll definitely post more and maybe finally finish this thing. Enjoy!

PS – I’m fully aware my chapters range from super short to long. My writing is just like my train of thought: random.

SATURDAY

ONE

Every once in a while I think about the biggest influences in my life. There’s Ronald McHypertension who sold me on the idea that crappy burgers are a staple in every American’s diet along with barely-chicken nuggets.

What a jerk. A clown-faced jerk.

There’s also my dad who is decidedly much less of a jerk; he told me if I worked hard, I could be and achieve anything in life. Now, riddle me this: is a person still a liar if they weren’t aware they were feeding you bull shit most of your life? Maybe it’s just a matter of perspective.

Then again, so is everything.

My name is John Doe. How tragic; I suppose I’m a nobody in more ways than the name I was force fed.

Maybe I’ll name myself John Dough and become a famous rapper.

Or a baker with a fetish for occupation-based puns.

Was there a point to this? Ah, yes, the influences in my life! Sure, I already noted my father and a burger-slinging clown, but I suppose, in some way, everything in life has shaped me one way or another, whether I choose to give credit where credit is due or not. Which is why I…

“John! Are you there?”

Ugh.

“Hey, babe. Yeah, I’m listening.”

I’m totally not listening.

My girlfriend and I have been together for the last seven years and it has been mostly… What’s the word I’m looking for?

Mediocre.

Don’t get me wrong; the beginning was awesome. Or at least I think it was. Sometimes I can’t distinguish between loving her and loving the things we’ve done together. Is there’s a difference?

“John?”

“Yeah? Sorry, Diane. I’m just sending out some emails for work.”

I’m totally not sending out any emails for work.

“Fine. Do what you have to do, but just remember to be at my place by 5pm. My parents are coming over for dinner.”

“Awesome!”

This totally isn’t… never mind.

Another night, another dinner with people I can tolerate, but don’t necessarily want to see.

Dance, monkey, dance.

But isn’t that the way life always goes? Aren’t we all dancing someone else’s dance to some extent? Or am I the only one? There’s no way I’m the only one.

 

TWO

I was born to a couple of people who were, and still are, just as unremarkable as my own name. This isn’t really their fault; America breeds banality. Ready for a grim analogy? We’re a nation of fat, force-fed pigs who are used until we’re no longer needed. Except we have reality television and celebrity gossip to keep us unaware of the shitty system in which we exist.

Let’s just all slit our wrists, shall we?

Okay, so maybe it’s not that bad. It definitely isn’t. Bad is just a matter of perspective. For whom is it bad?

I just thought in a grammatically correct sentence. Yay, me!

Anyway, my parents are great people and I know they love me, but loving someone doesn’t always necessitate understanding. In fact, I think this is why love can be one-sided.

If Diane ever masters the art of mind-reading, I’m screwed.

Actually, before I continue, I should mention that I may kind of, sort of have a possible miniscule touch of ADHD. Maybe. Please don’t judge me. Not aloud, anyway.

Yes, so my parents are good people. Hard-working and god-fearing. Everything I strive not to be. But because we have this happy little thing called guilt, I have this nagging need to fit into their box of expectations. And I may have the attention span of a goldfish, but if you have an expectation, I can damn sure meet it.

And so I became mediocre.

A Week in the Life
Chapter 3