I’ve been going through the motions. I wake up, go to work, come home, and try to recreate any semblance of the creative life I once had back in Iowa. It’s odd. Different. I’m adjusting. And that’s the thing about adjusting, I find myself compromising the life I had dreamed about for something else. I want to say that there’s not enough time in the day to do what I want but I also don’t use my time wisely. I hoard time. I get greedy and sometimes overdo what I want. I fill my time with multiple creative outlets that suck the life out of me. I feel lost in my head but feel grounded in my heart. The creative life is odd. It has its challenges but it rewards you in ways you never could’ve imagined. You feel closer to humanity. You feel connected to every fiber of your being but that connection is short lived. You come back to it wanting to recreate that feeling over and over again but it feels not as close as you want it to be. You develop taste. This creative life is dangerous. Like a drug. You become addicted to it. Sometimes it hurts you and sometimes it relieves you. This creative life is what I’ve been living for so long and it’s all I know. Always curious and always seeking answers to life’s unanswerable questions.

On stage is a can of shaving cream, razor, and a turtle aquarium with its tiny rocks and water but no turtle.
An Asian American girl enters moving to show only her back towards the audience.
She’s real shy.
She turns around with her hand over her mouth.

A scream. There is a scream.

(Super fast) This is a story about a little bunny who had no friends because she is a loner; she is a loner because she had no friends. (pause) It’s actually kind of a funny story. This little bunny, right, she was a real cute little bunny. Real soft too. The fur was so soft. Soft and silky. Like she used Pantene real nice. Anyways, this bunny was stupid too. S-T-U-P-I-D. STUPID. REAL STUPID.

She was stupid because she was naïve.

This man comes up behind her, grabs her by her ears, with a penknife, and slits her throat gently. So gently. The blood didn’t even look like blood. And she smiled. I saw that smile of hers and she was happy… that damn little bunny was happy to die.

And I just stood there watching. I didn’t do anything. What was I supposed to do? Go to her? She was already dead, man. What? You think I should’ve gone to her side, scoop up that blood of hers with my bare hands, and try to revive that lil corpse? Are you crazy? Jesus Christ.

These little bunnies.
They don’t know what the hell they are doing.

They walk into these traps, right? I think they want to be helpless. I should know, I used to know a bunny. She was my friend too.

I remember when I first met her.

She was eating alone because no one wanted to eat with her. She smelled like rotten marshmallows mixed with bad eggs. Who wants to sit with that?

I remember the lunch too. It was reheated mashed potatoes, some canned gravy, and an unknown meat. It was turkey. The lunch ladies gave us some fruit—a banana or an orange, we could only pick one—just so we can be healthy.

The cafeteria was small. Cramp. And shitty. It smelled like feet.

At this lunch period, there were only 6th to 8th graders.

I was a 7th grader. Popular too.

Boys LOVED me and girls wanted to HANG OUT with me. Real popular.

But it was hard fucking work. Just trying to please everyone, keeping up with the gossips, shaving your legs—OH MY GOD. I HAD TO SHAVE MY LEGS SO I WOULDN’T BE THE HAIRIEST ONE OF THE GIRLS AND FOR THE BOYS, SO THEY CAN TOUCH ME. WORK. A LOT OF WORK.

Anyways, I saw this little “bunny”. Eating all by herself. She looked happy. No one was bothering her. She looked free. Not an ounce of care in the world.

And her legs. Oh my god. HER LEGS. They were hairy. SO VERY FUCKING HAIRY.
At that moment, I was so fed up that I just stood up. I just stood up.

My first thought: Who does this bitch think she is? If I’m going to suffer, she’s going to suffer with me. I’m going to make this bitch suffer by being her friend.

I walked over to her and sat next to her. Just like that.

From that day on, I never shaved my legs. Not once.

(long pause)

That is until she got hit by a train.

Choo-fucking-choo.
I don’t even know how you did it.

They covered you up real good, didn’t they?
What’d you do? What’d you say?
Last thoughts? Last meal?

I’m just so mad! SO MAD.

WE made plans together!

You don’t think I hate people too?
I hate ‘em too.
I hate ‘em too.

Snobby, self-righteous assholes.

Yeah, I want to die too, you know.

When I was 16 years old, Death said to me “You are going to die at 23.”

Why 23?

It’s the right time.

Okay, so I was going to die at 23.

But he changed his mind and made it 42.

Why 42?

Jane Austen died at 42.

 

But Death didn’t change his mind with you.

No, sir, he did not.
That’s what makes me so angry!

You and I–we were supposed to die young and beautiful…

But now I’m going to die alone when I’m old and ugly.

 

Here’s a girl scout motto for ya:

“I have a hand, and you have another; put them together and we have each other.”

Oh fuck you.

FUCK YOU.

 

Thanks for leaving me hanging, friend.

What a great friend.

My dog was a better friend than you were.

 

Yeah, that’s right.

When I was 5 years old,

My super real best friend was a dog.

The best kind of dog.

The loyal kind.

But guess what?
My dad ate my best friend.

Yeah, the fucking Korean MAN ate my best friend while I was in school.
He ate my only friend.

He swallowed my dog up real good.

I could imagine it now:

Sun is shining,

Beer in one hand,

No food in the fridge—

Oh hey, is that sarah’s dog?

O.K.!

Little Korean bar-be-que in the backyard.

My mom says dog meat is the best kind of meat.

Eating your best friend, then that is the best kind of meat.

 

I killed my best friend.

 

Yeah, you killed your best friend.

No, I didn’t.

Yes, you did.

How would you know?

‘Cause I saw you.
What?
Yeah, I saw you. You killed your best friend.

You were there?
Yeah, I was there.

Why didn’t you stop me?

I did but you wouldn’t listen.

I was listening! I was listening for anyone to hear me!

Bull.shit.

Listen, I didn’t kill my best friend because my best friend killed herself!
I  KNOW!

YOU KNOW?!

WE KNOW!

 

[She takes out a beanbag from her pockets.

She plays hopscotch.

She hops for each word.]

 

I killed my Friend.

The Friend who heard me cry.

The Friend who gave me gifts.

The Friend who was always there.

Lover of my soul–

I am killer.

I am Death.

I have no soul.

If you can love, that means you have a soul, right?

 

[The girl begins to take off her shoe and her knee-high socks.]

 

I was 7 years old when I met Death for the first time.

I used to have a pet turtle. The illegal kind.

 

[She carefully folds her socks away.]

 

The one that you’re not allowed to have because of the bacteria it carried.

It was from Mexico.

But I had it.

It was my pet turtle.

I remember showing off my turtle to my friends.

Everyone loved my little turtle.

 

[She hugs the empty turtle aquarium]
One day, while I was away, my younger sister thought it would be awesome to show off the turtle as her own. She took my turtle and showed the neighborhood kids. During this little show-off and telling, she crushed my turtle by squeezing the turtle’s shell and its belly between her two fingers.

She wanted to show kids that she could control the turtle to go into its shell.

That’s a difference between a tortoise and a turtle; turtles can’t go into its shell.

My turtle extended its little arms and legs and tail then died.

All the children were scared.

My sister was scared.

I would be too if I committed murder.

She killed my fucking turtle.

Without hesitation, she buried the turtle in my friend’s backyard.

And her lie to me was that my turtle ran away because I was a terrible turtle mom.

Few weeks later, I remember few neighbor kids and I wanted to create a moat. We went to my friend’s house and started to dig a long hole. I don’t know what is with children and their obsession with holes. Digging holes, making holes, putting their hands into the holes, feeling the holes—

I don’t remember why it was fun because it wasn’t. It was hard work. After digging for 40 minutes, which felt like 3 hours, I found a piece of shell.

A turtle shell.

As I gently rubbed off the dirt, I realized that it was my turtle.

It’s little shell, decayed and deformed, broken into tiny bits— dismembered.

I screamed. I cried and screamed some more. In my hand was my little turtle.
All the neighborhood kids watched me, not knowing what to say.

They didn’t know what comfort meant.

How could they? How could they understand me? About loss? How could they possibly know?

So how could they comfort me?

 

[She scoops up the rocks in the empty aquarium and begins to rub it against her skin]

 

On my knees, I was weeping and wailing.

 

[Let’s go faster]

 

My only way to let the whole world know of my misery.

In my hands was my little turtle. I wasn’t there to see my turtle buried.

I wasn’t there to say any of my ‘last words’ to my little turtle.

I never said my good-bye.

 

[She finishes cleaning herself in her turtle’s house]

 

[She grabs a can of shaving cream and a razor]
When you see me

 

[Begins to shave]

 

I let go and move on.

I cut ties and move on.

I abandon and move on.

 

And I will know as long as I shave my legs.

As long as I shave my legs,
I will know how much I used to hurt.

As long as I shave my legs,

I will be reminded of my loss.

As long as I shave my legs,

I will know how much I killed you.

 

[The girl stops and looks up. She sees her old friend.]

 

Do you remember the story about the tortoise and the hare?

Do you remember?
It was your favorite story.

Remember when the hare lost and the tortoise won?

Yeah. A real good story. Good moral too.

 

Well, I learned something about that story.

It’s not true.

The Tortoise and the Hare?

They never made it to the finish line.

Because they didn’t know where it was.

They got lost.

In that forest they called home,

They got lost.

They got lost and died in their own home.

 

[She takes out her needle and yarn. She begins to crochet.]

 

[Let her crochet, she needs it.]

 

I went to the animal shelter.

I thought it’d be a good idea to spend some time with the cats and dogs of Santa Barbara county. Kind of like feeding the homeless but instead, walking the dogs and petting the cats.

But it made it worse.

This feeling I had in me.

It made it worse when I saw the cats and dogs in their small confined pens.

The cats meowed to me, as if they we were asking me to take them out and let them stretch their legs. Just once.

The dogs barked, yelped and whimpered, feces everywhere.

This feeling I had in me began

One night, I was driving home from my friend Delanie’s house.

On the drive home, thoughts raced through my mind about writing a play about grief:

“What’s it going to be? How am I going to end it? More death? Less death? What do I want to say? WHAT?!”

All of a sudden, a raccoon runs across me on the road.

I hit the brakes.

It’s too late.
I run over the little guy.

I pull over and I get out.
I see the raccoon jumping up and down in pain.

It’s back was oddly curved.

It was broken.

The raccoon screamed.

Have you ever heard a raccoon scream?
It’s loud and shrilling.

I met its eyes.

I started to talk to myself: “Oh my god. Oh my god. What am I supposed to do? Oh my god”
The raccoon was in extreme pain.

“What do you want me to do?! STOP SCREAMING!!! JUST STOP SCREAMING!”
The raccoon continued to jump up and down.

I wanted to hug the raccoon.

I wanted to calm the raccoon.

But I knew it would bite me.
I knew it wanted to hurt me.

So I watched the raccoon die.

I felt helpless.

I remember vowing myself that I will never want to feel this way ever again and yet—

Here I was.

This raccoon was making me feel helpless,

So fucking helpless.

After a few moments, the raccoon began to quiet.

The raccoon continued to look at me and I looked at her.

Our eyes.

Quietly, she died before my eyes.

I continued to look at her, examining her, waiting.

Waiting and thinking that she’ll just jump up and walk away.

But no, she was dead.

I slowly walked back into my car.

I drove home.

I parked, I entered the house, I went to my room.

I changed into my pjs, I brushed my teeth, I went to bed.

And from there, I picked up the needle and yarn beside me…

And I crocheted.

I ignored everything that was around me.

I acted like it never happened.

 

[She stops crocheting… a moment… she begins again]

 

When my friend died, no one wanted to talk about it.

She committed a suicide.

For my Korean friends and family,

Suicide equates to shame.

I was ashamed that I killed the raccoon and didn’t do anything about it.

(pause)

I crocheted.

[She puts down her crochet needles and yarn.]

 

No, I’m not going to pray.
I don’t need to pray.

[She’s being forced to pray.]

 

You can’t make me pray.

  1. I WON’T DO IT! NO!

I’M NOT GOING TO—!

 

[On her knees she prays.]

[She’s her 12-year-old self]

 

To Whom It May Concern:

 

I pray for the animals buried in my yard.

The dead, the neglected…. The eaten.

I pray the animals find a home that they can call their own.

[long pause]

I just want to say that it’s not fair that they have to spend an eternity in hell if you put them there.

[long pause]

I pray for the animals buried in my yard.

The dead, the neglected… the eaten.

I pray the animals find a home that they can call their own.

[long pause]

I also just want to say that it’s not fair that you would put them into my life if you’re just going to take them away.

[long pause]

I pray for the animals buried in my yard.

The dead, the neglected… the eaten.

I pray the animals find a home that they can call their own.

[long pause]

Please help me to see what you want me to see….

 

Depending on your preference,

Amen or… Awomen.

 

[The girl stands up.]

 

If there’s one thing I want you to take away from this…

It’s that…

Koreans eat dog.

It’s really true.

That’s why I’m so hairy.

My dad ate dog while he had sex with my mom.

So I’m part dog.

Woof! WOOF! WOOF! WOOF!!!!

 

[The girl laughs, barks, and runs away offstage]

[Belinda Carlisle’s “Heaven is a Place on Earth” plays]

END

 

 

Death to the Animals Buried in My Yard was first performed in 2011 as part of Solo Performance piece at UC Santa Barbara.

DICK: I forgot to turn off the light.
PAM: Should I get up?
DICK: No, no, no. I’ll do it. You’re already in bed.
PAM: I can get up.
DICK: I can turn off the light.
PAM: When?
DICK: In a minute…
PAM: I’m getting up.
DICK: No, no, no– I can do it.
PAM: Let me know when you do.
DICK: I’ll get up right now.
PAM: Any minute now–
DICK: Right… now.
PAM: Really?
DICK: I’m just going to run, turn it off, and come back to bed.
PAM: Ready? Set. Go!
DICK: I’ll do it in the morning.

wedding_giftI  have a problem with giving and accepting gifts. The reason for that is because of a little game called Secret Santa. I was 8 years old when I first participated this terrible game of “who can do it better under 10 dollars”. I was excited about the person I had to give a gift to. Her name was Jacklyn. She was the prettiest and most popular girl in the class (and I drew her name!) and it became my mission to give her the best gift of the class. I put in a lot of thought into getting the gift of her dreams  (under 10 dollars). I asked around to learn what Jacklyn liked. I even borrowed my money from my hardworking, single-parent, mother to provide the funds. She was hesitate but knew how important it was for me to do this. I wanted to be liked! (how vain, am I right?)

As much as I was looking forward to giving Jacklyn her gift, I was equally excited for the gift in return from my Secret Santa. My expectations were high especially when I remember when a student from class randomly approached me to ask “Hey… just out of curiosity, what do you like?” and I squealed “SPICE GIRLS!”. I knew that this messenger was here to ask me on behalf of my Secret Santa and I would get something cool like Spice Girls as my gift. The logic to me was, the better the gift I give, the better the gift I will receive in return!

The day arrived when we were about to exchange gifts. It was the last day before the holiday winter break. I ran up to Jacklyn, gave her her gift. It was beautiful, I thought. It was a gift bag filled with not only treats and goodies, but things an adolescent girl would like… like Smackers Lip Balm and scrunchies. I could tell Jacklyn was pleased. I anticipated for my gift. Was it a Spice Girl doll? Their latest EP album? what! What! wHaT? A tap on my shoulder. It’s Breanna. She’s my Secret Santa. She hands me her gift and says “Merry Christmas”. I look down at what’s handed to me. It’s a gift wrapped in an old newspaper. It’s not as pretty as I thought but hey! It’s not about the outside that counts. It’s the inside, right?! I slowly pull the newspaper wrapper back. It’s thick. One layer at a time, my anticipation grows. And immediately, I see what it’s front of me. A Hershey Bar. Not even a king size. It’s regular. I look up at Breanna. I’m holding back the tears. I give her my thanks. I go back to my seat. I look the students around me. Everyone has their gifts. They look  happy and and all I have is one measly Hershey chocolate bar.

After school, I rush to get home. I drop everything. I cry screaming, “It’s NOT fair!”
My grandmother looks at me. She asks whats wrong. I don’t tell her why. I just throw a tantrum. What else was an 8 year old girl supposed to do? Explain her feelings? Yeah right.
In retrospect, I could’ve handled this situation a little better but the emotions were too big for me. I was hurt.How could Breanna do this to me? HOW?!

It wasn’t until later in my adult life when I realized where Breanna was coming from. She too came from a single parent family. She had siblings. Her mother had to work hard to put food on the table. A dollar was harder to come by for Breanna and her family. Her mother didn’t have the time to take Breanna shopping. The closest store to Breanna was 7-Eleven. She couldn’t keep up with the assignments in class because her home life didn’t allow her to. She had bought the Hersheys chocolate bar right before school started. She had to wake up an 1 hour earlier to walk to the 7-Eleven so she can make it to school on time. Chocolate was all she could afford. She grabbed the newspaper from a recycling bin, wrapped the bar, and it would be her gift.

I don’t blame Breanna. Maybe in the moment I did. But looking back,  there was something larger at bay that we had no control of. The public school in an urban community is diverse. Students come from all over from different backgrounds. Students of different classes, ethnicity, and cultures are having to meet in the middle. When a teacher asks to find gifts under 10 dollars, that single dollar will mean differently to every student and every student will have different results from that single dollar. Some students will leave the district to high-achieving academia guaranteeing them to go an Ivy League school like Harvard or Yale while others will take longer to get to the school of their dreams as they resort to local community college, living at home, working several jobs, just to make that transfer happen.

I don’t know where Breanna is now. But I think about that day. I think about how selfish I was because of how little I knew. But I hope Breanna, and every little girl like Breanna knows that it’s the thought that counts and its been counted.

723077-huntington-beach-beach

I love to pretend like I know how to swim  when all I can do is float for several seconds and wade through the water. I’m also afraid of sharks. And drowning. But when it comes to pretending to swim, and acting like I’m good at it? I can do.

Going to the beach was one of my favorite things to do as a child. I loved wearing my one-piece bathing suit that was covered with flowers and included a non-functional skirt that was part of the look. I remember my dad telling me to don’t swim very far but I liked knowing that I can go out deeper into the ocean and the fear behind that idea made me want it more. That was, until the strong ocean currents took me away. I couldn’t wade back to the shore and found myself drifting further out. Fear kicked in. I didn’t know how to swim and I was losing my footing to the ocean floor. I called out my dad. He saw me and immediately jumped into the water. I saw him coming after me. Seconds later, he picked me up and brought me back to the shore. I was relieved. My dad is a useless man but when it comes to life or death situation, he knows how to save you. I thanked my dad and looked for a cold bottle of water in the cooler. Almost losing your life to the ocean can really make a person thirsty.

“Hey. You have balls.”

My dad chuckled and pointed out my bathing suit.
I looked down and saw that my bathing suit had collected sand in the crotch area.
It really did look like I had balls. I kept it that way for the rest of the day until my entire crotch area developed a rash. It was a sad day for my crotch but a good day for the beach.

Thank you for reading my blog. As you probably noticed, it’s been awhile since my last post. It’s been about a month. Inconsistent, I know. Why? Well, it’s mainly due to procrastination. Procrastination? Light bulb. I thought, what a fascinating subject procrastination is. I want to further investigate. So, I decided to interview my alter ego Jo. Jo is wild. She’s unkempt and disorganized. But her biggest problem is waking up on time. I had the opportunity to talk to Jo and her struggles. And on this particular day, she woke up on time.

This is that interview.

Recording begins.

CHO: First of all, thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview.
JO: Absolutely. No problem at all. Please have a seat.
CHO: Is this okay? (points at a chair)
JO: Yeah that chair works.

[I had been standing for about good 5 minutes because she seemed really self-conscious of where I could or couldn’t sit. ]

CHO: So, typically, I like to start the interview with a simple one word question: Why?
JO: That’s a very good question.
CHO: Please take your time.

[We sat in silence for about 7 minutes.]

JO: So, for a really long time, I struggled with something that everyone talks about but not really understanding how serious of a problem it is. Procrastination.
CHO: Procrastination?
JO: Yes, Procrastinators get associated as being lazy, wasting time, distracted… there’s just so much negativity around procrastination that… I really felt that someone needs to stand up and–

[She stops talking midsentence. She goes to her phone. I wait for about 11 minutes until she returns to answer the question]

JO: Sorry. Something I said reminded me of a video and had to check it out. It’s a really funny video of all the ASL Ice Bucket Challenge fails. It’s so funny.

[I had to check it out myself. She was right. It was really fun. Here’s the link. It’s about 10 minutes long[After spending about 20 minutes watching videos, we reconvene with the interview]

CHO: So Jo. Let’s talk about your triumphant win of not turning off 4 alarms that were set alarm-clock-iphone-list.jpgand actually waking up and arriving to work on time.
JO: Holy shit. We’re going there.
CHO: Yeah, we are.
JO: I would be lying if I said that it wasn’t hard.
CHO: I’m sure it wasn’t.
JO: You see, when that first alarm goes off, it triggers an impulse that is so undeniably out of control that you can’t help but want to be in control. So you turn it off.
CHO: The alarm?
JO: Yes. And in the past, I would set another alarm to give myself another 20 minutes of sleep. But this one time… I decided that I wouldn’t do that.
CHO: You didn’t?
JO: No. I… (voice breaks) I stood up from my bed and made sure my body was waking up.
CHO: Incredible.
JO: I ran to the bathroom and washed my face with cold water. I stayed awake for the rest of the day.
CHO: Thank you so much for sharing your story.
JO: My pleasure.

End of recording.

Now, I don’t know if I’ll actually pursue this subject. Maybe I will or maybe I won’t.Don’t pressure me. I may never know.

JO: It’s still going.
CHO: Oh. I thought I hit “stop”.
JO: You should just use the Voice memo on your iPhone.
CHO: Yeah… probably easier but I like these old recorders. Pretty cool.
JO: Yeah but you’ll have to digitize it.
CHO: Well, it’s going on a blog post.
JO: What? Why are you recording it?
CHO: So I can transcribe it.
JO: That’s dumb. Post it on Soundcloud.
CHO: It’s my art, my choice.
JO: It’s still recording.

Click.

 

 

 

Dick: Did you look at the watch your mother gave me?
Pam: I’m seeing it. What am I looking for?
Dick: Is it working?
Pam: It’s ticking.
Dick: My eyes are tricking me.
Pam: You say that every time my mother gives you a gift.
Dick: Say what?
Pam: Say that there’s a problem.
Dick: I would not.
Pam: Why would you even ask if it was working?
Dick: I just want to know if it’s working.
Pam: This marriage isn’t working.
Dick: What’d you say?
Pam: TV is on.