That fall in New York, most of my thoughts had to do with pain or grief. I was not suicidal. Rather, my grandmother had died a few months earlier and I was slowly recovering from the loss. I did not know how to talk about my pain, so I often drank until I could no longer feel my hands or feet. Insomnia took hold of me. I lay in bed and watched movies until five or six a.m., taking careful notes for the screenplay I was supposed to complete to attain my Master’s degree. Though four months had passed since the end of coursework, I was still working on the first act. No matter how many hours I sat in front of my computer, I could not advance the plot of the film. My characters were flat. Each line of dialogue I wrote felt like an affront to the English language.
Everyone I attracted during this time was equally preoccupied with various miseries. A PhD history student who lived in my building, Kenichi Kingsley, considered me his only friend in the city. I am not sure what qualified me for this honour. I had not sought out his friendship, nor had I been particularly kind to him when we first met. To be honest, I had been wary of him because he was attractive in a movie star sort of way. My mother had often warned me that beautiful men lacked a conscience.
Kenichi was on anti-depressants, which made him an undesirable drinking companion—he was incomprehensibly drunk after only two beers. Yet, he insisted upon drinking with me on Thursday nights, after his course on the modern history of Japan. It was one of the few fixed appointments on my calendar. We always went to the same restaurant, and we always sat at the bar. Our friendship was a habit, like smoking or biting one’s nails to the quick.
“I hate the guys in my class,” Kenichi said, after a large gulp of beer. “Most of them have or want Japanese wives or girlfriends.”
Doretta Lau’s short story “Days of Being Wild,” now collected in her book How Does A Single Blade of Grass Thank the Sun?, was published in issue 18.3 (Winter 2013) of Ricepaper magazine. Buy a copy.