Sitting near Gate 7 of Mineta International Airport there is nothing better to do than to spend my time beside a hot cup of coffee, doing nothing but looking at the phone for stock quotes and taking small sips of aromatic brew as I peruse the Internet and dabble my fingers in the latest breaking news in the business world. All this would be wonderful except this is not what I’m doing, in front of me isn’t articles about the latest opinions from economists about the state of the oil market or something I would truly enjoy, but a picture of a beautiful adolescent girl wearing a smile that would light up a dark room posing for her prom photo. You might think that staring at the face of a pretty young lady is better than reading any old boring article, but soon when you learn about my tortured history with her you will come to discover why I both dread and anticipate the events that will quickly unfold in about an hour or two.
I sighed forlornly and continued to stare at that photograph, instead of a cup of coffee I am sipping a generic energy drink, but the large dose of caffeine even with taurine couldn’t replace the cozy feel of a cup of burnt coffee that had been sitting on the coffee maker for half a day.
My continued staring of the picture drew attention from the woman sitting next to me who noticed my listlessness and incessant sighing and asked me, “Are you okay?”
I turned my head to look at her, she looked back with a sympathetic face. Quickly I put away the phone into my inner coat pocket to hide the photo of the girl from her and said, “Yes, I’m all okay.”
The woman could have turned her back and that would be the end of our conversation, but instead she leans towards me and asked, “Did you just get dumped by your girlfriend?”
Suddenly my senses all began to flare and I was brought out of my stupor, I looked at the lady with a sharp eye and asked, “How did you come to that conclusion?”
“Well,” she said, slowly inching her body away, “because you looked sad and was staring at that photo of that lovely young lady.”
I said with a smirk on my face, “That lovely young lady happens to be my cousin Caroline.”
The woman’s eyes bulged in surprise, her body quickly retreated away as she said, “Sorry for the misunderstanding. But if she wasn’t your girlfriend, why are you so melancholy looking at a picture of her?”
I slumped down and said softly, “Who said she wasn’t my girlfriend?”
A look of disgust appeared on the woman’s face, but it was quickly followed by an intriguing smile as she asked inquisitively, “How did your cousin become your girlfriend?”
I buried my face in my hands for a brief moment, then said, “Perhaps I have misspoke when I said she was my girlfriend, my relationship with her is a little complicated. It will take a long time for me to explain what happened between the two of us, so unless you have nothing better to do than hearing me tell my life story for the next few hours I rather you not inquire into this matter further.”
“But I do want to hear,” the woman said with an interested smile, “Go ahead Mr. Sandman, bring me a dream.” I too began to smile in my own wily way, even though I knew the story that I was about to tell will be long and convoluted, I nonetheless enjoy the attention of complete strangers paying to details about my life, and am always ready to spin my twisted tales each time someone asks me to do so.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Eighteen years have passed since the earliest events of my story took place. I hadn’t realized how much time has passed since I was a child, it seemed like only yesterday that I was running through the front lawn of my house barefooted and jumping through the sprinklers to relieve myself of the summer heat. It’s funny how your memories becomes distorted when you grow older, you always remember things with nostalgia, certain childhood things that seemed to be of little significance becomes magnified. I remember the first time I played on a Pac Man machine, it was such an addictive experience I nearly forgot to eat dinner. But games like these are paltry compared to the ones you can play on computers nowadays, such as Halo and The Sims.
Nonetheless, I have seemed to veered off the main path of my story, this happens often because as my mind grows older it succumbs more to these distractions and diversions that the mind itself begins to generate. As I was saying, it was a long time ago, I was about the age of ten and my sister was about the age of fourteen. Something happens to girls when they turn fourteen, or thirteen, or twelve, or in some cases eleven — anyway, at whichever age girls enter puberty nowadays — which is getting younger and younger with fluorescent lights and beef hormones interfering with the endocrine system of adolescents…anyway, when my sister was entering puberty a lot of, shall we say, interesting things were happening to her.
She was getting more moody, she was an emotional creature to begin with, something she had inherited from my mother and perhaps my father. I can’t say definitively that my sister inherited anything from my father because my father separated from my mother since I was six years old and I did not get to know him well. For the most part I grew up in a den of estrogen-addled female relatives, my cousin wasn’t yet filled with estrogen but in about four years of knowing her she will turn into a stereotypical woman, gaining the attributes that all women have, talkativeness, an absolute inability to hold attention to anything that does not involve fashion or other things of vanity, and the need to conspire with other woman on what they can do to improve the men they love, attributes that I’m sure you don’t have because you’re better than any woman I’ve met.
As I was saying before, at the age of fourteen my sister began displaying all symptoms of being a teenager, she was dressing so skimpy that she could appear in a rap video, the top of her dresser was cluttered with lipsticks, eyeshadow, hairspray, lotion, and an assortment of other beauty product that made the bathroom a repository of the cheap and flimsy, and so many boys were calling her it was a shame she didn’t work at PBS, then they’d never have to worry about going through Pledge Week every couple of months because my sister would receive so many phone calls from boys who would naturally pledge for the pleasure of merely talking to her.
We went to the doctor but he told us that there’s no cure for puberty, since she is a girl castration is out of the question, so instead the doctor gave her birth control pills and discussed with her the dangers of herpes, gonorrhea, and all the other goodies that every mother will lecture to her daughter and every father will lecture to his son, if I had a father that is. My mother was not excited at the prospect that my sister might become a repository of STD’s, but becoming a teenager at any era is not easy. I’m certain even during caveman times there were pretty, teenage cavegirls that made the eyes of teenage caveboys from the cave next door pop out of their sockets, and during that time there weren’t any pamphlets warning these cavepeople the risks of teenage pregnancy or chlamydia, yet mankind somehow managed to last to today, so the fear of dangerous activities that teenagers might or might not engage in are overblown at best and the paranoia of a morally overbearing society at worst.
Leaving aside the issue of whether or not cavemen existed as something to be fought out between evolutionists and Bible-thumpers, I had difficulty understanding the new Emily (that’s my sister’s name). From my perspective she was meaner, louder and more impolite than the old Emily I had come to know and love. Before she began her transformation into a chatty, mushy-brain teenage girl we got along with one another. At school she defended me against the bullies and other of my schoolmates who were aggressive towards me, and at home acted as a buffer between me and my mother’s stern discipline.
But ever since she left elementary school and entered into the tawdry melodramatic world of junior high something fundamental within her changed. Suddenly I became a burden to her, I was always her nerdy younger brother who disrupted her cordial meetings with her schoolgirl friends, embarrassing her in front of her closest confidants. When I was around her she often tried to shoo me away like a buzzing mosquito bent on sticking my proboscis into her supple flesh and drinking her precious iron-rich blood which she needed for menstruation.
At first I did not understand her behavior, I thought it strange that a close relative that I once loved had grown thorns to prick me whenever I try to approach her even in a friendly fashion. I could get an angry reply when I try to do as much as talk with her. Of course, at that time I hadn’t developed an ability to effectively talk with girls. The truth is though that no man probably has ever had full capability to communicate with women but since it was my first attempt to do so I was especially in the dark. I guess I was an annoying little bastard when I was ten years old. I hunger for attention and would do anything to get it.
One tactic I used multiple times which absolutely drove the people who I used it on crazy was to ask the same question repeatedly, such as when my sister was lounging on her bed and reading a girly magazine I asked her, “Do you want to see me put my entire hand in my mouth?”
With a disgusted expression on her face she turned her head in my direction and answered, “No you little fucker, now fuck off!”
I knew how vehemently my mother felt when her children used language like this, but I was pleasant enough not to note this fact to Emily. “How about now?”
The look of annoyance began to settle over her face and she said, “Fuck no.”
“How about now?” I asked with a grin on my face.
Further exasperated by my intransigence, she began to have a look in her eyes like she was ready to kill me, then said with an added groan, “Fuck no.”
“How about now?” I asked with the same level of enthusiasm as the previous two times.
I paused to lull her into a false sense of security, then asked, “How about now?”
This time she threw a pillow at me, I dodged and avoided it. With hands on her head as though she was suffering from a disabling headache, she asked me in an agonized voice, “What part of ‘Fuck no’ don’t you understand?”
Secretly I smiled and thought to myself, “Apparently I know what ‘fuck’ means, and I also know what ‘no’ means, but where do I put my penis?” Yes, when I was a little kid I loved to annoy people, it was my raison d’être.
That was what I was like as a little kid. I was also fascinated by science as a child, when I went to the library I borrowed anything remotely related to space travel and astronomy, including science fiction. I also read more practical guides to astronautics. I memorized more names of space probes and satellites than anybody I have met so far. Everybody has heard of Sputnik, but did you know that the first satellite launched by the Chinese played “The East is Red” on its small FM radio transmitter?
When I was a small child the entire world was a fascinating place. When I asked an adult the question, “Do you know how a microwave works?” the most likely response I would get was, “You set the power level of the microwave to defrost, warm, or cook, then you enter the amount of time you want to nuke your food, then you press ‘Start.'” Seldom would anybody say, “A powerful electric field inside an evacuated cavity drives electrons from a heated cathode to circle inside a strongly magnetized chamber, causing oscillating electric currents which create microwaves at a frequency that vibrate the electric dipoles in water molecules, converting electromagnetic radiation into heat.”
While most people will find the previous sentence incomprehensible, I learned enough science to understand it by the age of ten because my curiosity about the world drove me to read myriads of books on science and technology. My thirst for this type of knowledge was insatiable but neither my mother nor my sister understood it. Like all women they don’t care much for technology, unless it helps them to beautify or chat with their friends they have no care for anything remotely technological.
I’m not being chauvinistic and suggest that women lack the innate aptitude for the field of science and technology, I’m merely saying that females differ from males in what they consider most important in life. Males prefer to sit in front of a plasma TV with a can of beer by their side (American brand only, men of our country don’t want to drink beer brewed by emasculated, unpatriotic Canadians), while women prefer to stare at themselves vainly in the mirror and lament the minor imperfections in their faces.
Stereotypes aside, my mother understood how important it was to foster an attitude in children of appreciating science and did not comment on how much time I read books on the subject, or any other subject for which my interest was roused. But my sister often laughed at the fact that I spent more time staring at books than she spent staring idolatrously at young, gorgeous, virile men (although I doubt the masculinity of the Backstreet Boys).
I was a bookworm when I was younger, but it was by far better than being the type of ditzy teenage girl my sister had grown to become. At the age of fourteen my sister was already experiencing ‘boy troubles,’ not that she had a boyfriend but that she was involved in a friendly competition between her and a friend over whether or not one of the most popular boys at her school was interested in her. Of course, competitions between females are never completely friendly, and it became the first time that she was introduced to the wonderful world of backstabbing between close friends.
In order to achieve dominance over the chicksphere and therefore win the heart of the most popular boy in school, she took to ruthlessly slandering the opposition, i.e. my sister (instead of bolstering her status by doing good deeds), a tactic which she had picked up doubtlessly from our politicians. She did so by breaking a vow of secrecy between her and my sister and showed her other schoolmates a videotape of my sister wetting her pants during the teacup ride at Disneyland. Her friends told more friends, and well, you know how words spread around in a place like junior high. Soon the video of my sister wetting her pants became the talk of the school, which was an embarrassment for Emily. Not only did the video show her with a large wet stain on the front of her pants, but also showed her crying and wailing like a baby before she knelt down and threw up on Goofy.
She was so devastated by her friend making this video public that she ran home from school, threw herself onto the bed, buried her head on the pillow and cried for about half an hour. I tried consoling her but to no avail, she took my suggestion that ten years from now we’ll all laugh at this video not as an attempt to deprecate the defamatory nature of this video but interpreted that I too found the video to be funny and was laughing at her expense.
She was never appreciative of my attempts to help her in times of emotional stress. Even though siblings are usually natural enemies of one another, I did realize that she is a human being and like all Homo sapiens she experiences emotional distress that could be quite disheartening especially when there’s no one to turn to for solace and support. I tried my best to support my sister whenever her emotional anguish became so great that she began to cry, but I had never been able to successfully communicate my sympathy for her. She often interpreted my attempts at lending a helping hand as overtures to insulting her during her times of emotional pain.
Communication has always been a problem for me, even though I studied information science in college I found that it provided absolutely no information for how to effectively communicate with other human beings. I’ve learned how to mediate communication between computers but what holds true for silicon-based logic doesn’t hold for carbon-based logic. Even though I’ve always wanted a cordial relationship with my sister, somehow my attempts to communicate this idea to her have always failed; you could say that the communication channel between my sister and me suffers from a poor signal-to-noise ratio. Sometimes it felt as though my sister and I spoke different languages, it was as though we were mutually unintelligible dialects of C++, and our personalities are not compatible with one another; it was like she was operating on 5.0V with parity bit whereas I operated on 3.3V non-parity. Therefore never in the TWAIN did we meet, I was like an IBM formatted floppy disc in her Apple computer, and any attempt to have a serious conversation with her was like using a driver for an HP DeskJet 697c to run an Epson ActionPrinter 4000; all I get is gibberish. Excuse me for discussing the personal problems between my sister and me in terms of computer analogies, but that’s the best way that I understand our relationship.
Continued on Part 2: The Phone Call