Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Music is my favorite mistress.

Music notes

"The smell of your skin lingers on me now..."
In fact, the smell of his skin was lacing its way through my car too. Driving home in the XL Betty Paige shirt he'd slept in the night before, made the smell all the more pungent. I rolled down my windows to let the overpowering smell out, and just as quickly I rolled them back up, fearing that I'd lose the scent altogether. When I got home I promptly proceeded to strip and throw the offensive shirt on the floor of my room. How dare he follow me home! As I walked into my bathroom to take a shower and wash away the rest of him, I realized that the smell was embedded in my skin. Fifty physical miles away, a thousand emotional miles away, and yet there he was-- right next to me, on me, all over me. As the bathroom filled with steam and the windows turned misty I took one last guilty whiff of my own skin, knowing that he was lingering there. Then I stepped into the shower and commenced mercilessly scrubbing him off.

I came home that night, wanting nothing more than to collapse into bed. I remember feeling irritated by the accumulation of the day's small annoyances. As I dropped my backpack on the floor next to my bed, the smell of him filled my nose. Furtively, I glanced around as I hurriedly picked up that XL Betty Paige shirt and shed the shirt I was wearing. Pulling the shirt over my head I breathed in his natural eau de cologne without hesitation. Snuggling under the covers and into his shirt; his skin; his essence I realized that I had started and ended the day smelling of him, despite all of my efforts to get rid of that very aroma.


"I still don't have a reason, and you don't have the time--"
"And it really makes me wonder if I ever gave a fuck about you..."

I found myself seething with rage as I drove home on the 605. Not only had he spent the majority of the night playing an absolutely insipid and inane computer game, I was stuck in seemingly stationary traffic on the drive home. My acerbic mood made the air smell acrid; the air was as dry and cynical as my current temperament. With disgust I rolled up my car windows, feeling angry without really knowing the reason why. The warm summer sun blazing down into my car in the early morning caused me to doze off at least half a dozen times. Half a dozen near accidents. As I stalked to class, after driving an hour in traffic, my phone beeped three times.
Text message.
"Hey. Did you get back okay?"
And with those six words, six hours of anger dissolved in to the breezy summer wind.


"If you just realize, what I just realized,"
"That we'd be perfect for each other and we'll never find another..."
As I moved away from him to find a more comfortable spot to fall asleep, I felt him pulling me closer. I felt my entire body tense up, and either he had already fallen asleep or he chose to ignore my discomfort because he just kept holding me. I finally relaxed into his arms, letting my body mold against his and letting my hands fall in a haphazard way onto the bed. As my eyelids became cumbersome with sleep, I felt his left hand close perfectly around mine. In that moment I remember thinking, tonight I want to leave the lingering smell of my skin on him. I turned to face him and nestled into the hollow between his shoulder and his neck. Without shame I fell asleep breathing him in, with the familiar smell of his skin enveloping me.

Driving home that winter morning, the air smelled as winsome and sweet as Colbie Caillat's silky voice. As the biting winter air blew in through my window the smell of our skin; not just his, hit me. I felt an unfamiliar fluttering in the pit of my stomach. Was it possible that the impression of his hand holding mine and his face buried in my neck was giving me butterflies?
I laughed in spite of myself and vigorously shook my head; never, not me.

"When did my heart first feel this way?"
"Being alone used to be just fine."
"Now life without you is just passing time."
Feeling the weight of the day on my body, I tried to shake off the lethargy. The speedometer read 80mph and I knew I shouldn't push it anymore than that, regardless of how tired I was. I opened all four windows to let in the night air. I inhaled the smell of the late night fog and the familiar fragrance of LA pollution. I'd gained a sense of appreciation and an unhealthy love for these late night drives-- driving fast, the night air, the shuffle feature on my iPod.

I parked my car and rested my head on my steering wheel, Damn. I'm tired. Pushing away the clinging sluggishness I stepped out of my car and walked towards my olfactory addiction.


"Fairy tales don't always have a happy ending do they?"
After a year, I don't doubt that I could distinguish the scent of his skin from amongst a thousand other people. Over the past year the late night drives and early morning drives back have become innumerable. Hundreds of songs played on my iPod; and more than once the songs have become the unofficial soundtrack of our unofficial relationship. How many more late night drives? How many more songs? I feel like I've already come full circle.

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Monday, June 9, 2008

Even if your hands are shaking, and your faith is broken.

"How long have we known each other Jenn? Come on, don't lie to yourself. But more importantly, don't lie to me!" His coin-slot eyes crinkled at the corners as he casually draped his arm across the top of my head. Reveling in the comforting weight of that sturdy and dependable arm that I'd known my whole life, I let myself lean into him until his arm dropped down to my shoulders.


I remember nestling in the nook of his arm on a friend's bed. I must have been venting about a petty boy situation, because I remember him teasing me about my lengthy and impressive list of embarrassing past crushes. I stopped mid-story to catch my breath and as I breathed in deeply, I remember smelling comfort. The smell of fluffy white towels and mismatched socks. The smell of clean laundry. The smell of home. I closed my eyes and snuggled closer, my story stopping all together. As he continued to tease me his arm pulled me closer and held me just a bit tighter; after spending our whole lives together he thought he could still protect me. Oh, I sighed, this is comfort.


"Are you seriously asking that question right now Jenn?" His angry eyes accusing me of a thousand things, his gravelly voice dripping with scorn. I looked down at the lined paper in front of me blinking furiously to prevent further humiliation. I picked up my pen and retraced the star I'd doodled in the left hand corner of my notes, probably pressing down harder than necessary. Refusing to open my mouth for the rest of the meeting, I sat there feeling disconsolate and reprimanded.

I closed my eyes and pinched the bridge of my nose-- the room was starting to stifle me. I opened my eyes and looked up to see his eyes burning into me again. Those beautiful eyes that crinkled at the corners and disappeared completely in moments of laughter, replaced by a pair of hard unforgiving eyes that were foreign to me. My eyes, constantly betraying my inner emotional turmoil apologized: I'm sorry. You mean the world to me. I love you. I'm in love with you.


That same night I newly discovered the unconditional comfort in my childhood friend's arms, he became annoyed with me. Panicking, even more so due to the fact that I'd realized how vital he was to my existence, I pleaded for his forgiveness. Oppa. Oppa-ya. Bee-juh-suh? Me-ahn-hae. Nae-ga jahl-mot-hae-suh. Are you mad at me? I'm sorry. It's my fault.

I laid my head next to his on the floor facing his back, and waited for him to shift because I knew he wasn't asleep yet. I knew that eventually, he'd turn around and his arm would find it's way under my neck, and that that would mean he had forgiven me. I felt my eyelids getting heavier after each time I snapped them open. I couldn't fall asleep yet though, I had to make sure we were okay. That he wasn't mad anymore. That he was still going to be my unconditional comfort. My eyes closed after waiting for what felt like an eternity.

He turned to face me and as his arm slid under my head, I remember opening my eyes and looking up into a face that I'd known as "friend" my entire life. Gazing on that familiar face, silhouetted in the slivers of moonlight coming in through the window, I felt myself shiver. Suddenly, I noticed the defined curvature of his bicep that was currently my pillow and I felt the hairs on the nape of my neck stand. Unexpectedly, the smell of clean laundry was giving me goosebumps.
Throwing away all reason and logic, I leaned over and kissed him.
He kissed back.


Eventually, I lost count of how many times I apologized in the course of six months. Verbally, I'd apologize for a stupid mistake, something I'd failed to do, something I refused to do; all the while my eyes would apologize for changing a lifelong friendship.
For months, my eyes said,
I'm sorry.
I love you.
I'm in love with you.

I'm sorry I'm in love with you.

He either chose not to see it, or he saw it, and still continued to punish and torment me.

There's nothing I miss more than those gorgeously crinkled eyes, that infectious laughter, that comforting arm draped across the top of my head.

He once wryly said to me, "It's hard isn't it?". Just like he never realized that that phrase applied to the essence of life; I never realized just how hard it would be to live without the smell of comfort.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

And you came to me on a summer breeze.

Interior view showing pulpit, ceiling and pews

It was my own self-proclaimed "last day" of SCKY, and as I sat in the pew feeling weighted down by a lugubrious heart, I remember thinking, "Damn. I've never realized how musty it smells in here." Fifteen years after attending mass in the same church, with the same people, the smell wafted into my nose. I closed my eyes and let myself breathe in the must; that same scent that I had smelled (almost) every Sunday for fifteen years.

For that fifty minute duration I let my greedy eyes drink in the details I'd never noticed before. The unbelievably, resiliently shiny pews, the cracks in plastic of the kneelers, the dust collecting in the holes of the envelope holder.

"Peace be with you. And also with you." I waited, just for a small millisecond before turning around. I had to mentally prepare myself for the last time I would shake hands and wish peace to these people that I had spent fifteen years of my life with. I felt my tiny eyes smiling almost as hard as my mouth, momentarily distorting and blurring the faces around me. I felt my thoroughly Asian, almond shaped eyes turn into the half moons that trick 99% of people into believing I'm incredibly happy; when ironically those half moons mean that I'm trying my hardest not to wail in despair.

"In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit." And just like that, my last mass. At St. Christopher anyways. As the final strains of the organ and choir wafted down, amidst the impatient shuffling that indicated everyone's restlessness--I remember feeling incredibly lonely. After seeing and knowing these people for fifteen years of my life, I remember feeling lost and terribly alone. How could I possibly feel so alone amongst over a hundred other Korean Catholics? After all, aren't those two things that I always use to define who I am? How could I possibly not feel attached to any of these people?

In the short walk across the street to get from the main church to the hwe-gan I realized exactly how melancholy I was making myself. It was my own choice to leave, why the ridiculously heavy heart? Why the dramatic "this is the last time I'll ever..." thoughts?


The small handful of kids that come out every week-- the ones that I had come back for every weekend (and then some) for a year and a half; stood around on the newly renovated wood floors laughing, teasing, in some cases, dancing. Doing exactly what they had been doing, being exactly who they were for the past year and a half. I'd made the decision to leave without announcing it to the kids because selfishly, I wanted to remember the kids exactly as they were. No trumpets and fanfare, no confused questions, no guilt trips. I wanted to remember them smiling and dancing, teasing and wrestling; on those new wood floors, in the room still carrying the pronounced smell of new paint, being those same high school kids that changed my life.

The whole two hours that I had with them, I made sure to be exactly who I was to them for the past two years. I made sure to tell them one more joke, tease them one more time; I let them make fun of me like they always did. Even if they didn't realize it, I was giving them 110% of me that last day. When the kids started leaving, I made it a personal mission to hug them a little tighter, tell them to study a little harder; and to every single kid I said goodbye to I made sure to say, "I miss you already" (in singular inconspicuous ways of course).


Going 80mph on the freeway, with the windows rolled down, and my iPod blasting full volume; I cried all the way home. Fat droplets that turned into unforgiving rivers that turned into an angry ocean between the hollow of my breasts. Silently dripping tears that transformed into wracking sobs. I'm still not sure how I got home in one piece that day.


The ups and downs I went through during that year and a half are beyond comprehension. During that time though I indubitably learned things about myself that I would never even have fathomed. For one thing, I really tested the lengths of my patience. For another thing, I realized that I literally would do anything to protect some of these kids from the ugly consequences of life. It was almost like a sick obsession that kept me coming back week after week.

For the first three weeks after I quit, every Sunday at 7:30am, I would wake up and feel this inconceivable sense of hollowness. In those first three weeks, I went into post-partum depression (or, what I imagine is something like it); because as much as the kids were my babies, the entity of SCKY itself was my baby as well. For two years I'd willingly sacrificed every weekend for this position that was thankless and difficult as hell; for these people who treated me as less than a human being; for this thing that made me feel miserable 90% of the time I was doing it.

I remember jokingly fighting over "my boyfriend SCKY" with Regina two years ago. Considering the way that it affected me (and how!) and influenced so many aspects of my life, I really do feel like it turned into a boyfriend. I spent every weekend with it; I cried way more tears over it then it deserved; I gave it my heart, only to have it stomped on repeatedly; I gave it my soul, only to have it wrung and squeezed and exhausted.

After everything though, it saved my life.
For a long time before that I remember how detached I was.
The emotional detachment I feel now, is only a defense mechanism that I've consciously been using to deny my real feelings.

Two years ago though, I truly was detached from life.
I wanted nothing.
I had no ambition, no hope, no emotion.
I was dead inside and I didn't know how to bring myself back to life.

Deciding to do SCKY that summer before my first year didn't seem like a big deal.
Just another way to pass the time, I thought.

Who knew, that two years later I would be this person?

Perverse, twisted and sick as it is, if I could save it, I would go back.
SCKY saved my life.
I want to save SCKY.
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Thursday, June 5, 2008

Because I'm way more coherent when I write.

What I want, and what's good for me are two completely different things.
90% of the time, 90% of my life, I pick what's good for me.
As much as I want something, I'll usually deny myself of it because I already know; it's not good, it's not healthy, it'll mess things up, it'll screw me over.
So I guess that makes me into someone who plays it safe.
I'm the type of person who is open to trying new things (and discovering new things is love), but for the most part I like to stick to the things I know, the things I like, the things that have made me happy before. (Again, with the whole issue of me not being able to let things go.)
I usually have a pretty good handle on what makes me happy.
And 90% of the time I know that what's good for me will make me happy (even though choosing to write a paper over going out sucks in the immediate sense; the end product of seeing an A, or A- on my paper is a lot more gratifying than waking up with a hangover and clothes drenched with the smell of cigarette smoke) in the long run...
Sometimes though, I want to have what makes me happy, right now.

I'm old enough, and jaded enough to know that any relationship comes with the guaranteed promise of getting hurt and disappointed.
I don't fool myself into thinking that someone will be able to make me happy all day, every day.
In fact, I know that the only person that can do that is myself.
However, I also know that, because I'm human I do expect things; I do want things; I do want you to make me happy, at least every once in a while.

I knew (even if I talked myself into ignoring it), going into this that I was probably going to come out of this done.
Broken and messed up and dysfunctional.
But I'm doing it.
I'm still doing it, because somewhere down the line, I fell in love with you and if I leave now; if this ends now I'll never be able to fall out of love with you.
It'll always feel so unfinished and anticlimactic.
More than anything else, I hate that.
The writer in me won't let me abandon writing this story.
I have to finish it.
Even if the ending is doomed, even if it is a guaranteed tragedy, I have to finish it.

You can understand that can't you?
Just because I told you how I feel doesn't mean I expect more from you.
What I want from you is exactly what you've already been giving me.
I want what you give me, until I want more.
Once I start wanting more, I'll know that it's time to kill it.
I know that it's the end.
I see the end of this.
I just don't know when the end is.
But it's not now E.

We need each other.
Just until later.