The Fictional Vignettes of Reality

November 9, 2007
By Ani Chen, Seattle, WA

The woman’s doughy arms chop the ice with the that special scooper thing reserved for such jobs, and the ice machine she reaches into resembles icy cave from my point of view behind the counter. She’s soft in build, a bit rotund, but of the good sort, and I have a feeling she’s been doing this for a while…making bubble tea for the scores of university students and for straggling high school-ers intent upon acting cool.

Though, I’m not being cool; I just want my bubble tea. It’s been a long day, and it doesn’t seem to be getting much better. Damn the daylight savings and the darkness settling in around the exterior of buildings at five in the evening. (I would’ve said afternoon had it not been for the ominous approach of the clouds, covering the city like a downy blanket.)

What had I ordered? Stupid me had ordered a cold milk tea, traditional, but I had decided to include litchi jelly of all things, not the tapioca pearls. What sane person does that? My sanity, indeed, has been going down the drain ever since the beginning of the year. Bit by bit, it seeps through unknown and invisible crevices leading down into nowhere, like those ones you see on the Discovery Channel, the ones the ice road truckers are so afraid of hitting or else, they’ll plunge into God-knows-what in the frozen Antarctic…Arctic?

I get confused easily and am spacing by the time she says, “Black tea with litchi!”

“Black tea with litchi?”

Her hand resembles hum bao, those wonderful pillows of Asian savoury pastry, and I wish I had the time to dance over to the Mandarin restaurant, but the Metro’s approaching, and I haven’t.

“Thanks,” I say with a quick smile (marred by the zit on my chin the size of Jupiter…or Russia) and make a mad dash. Needless to say, I jaywalk, and a few cars (belonging to university students) are not pleased. My eyebrows knit into an apology, which they will never hear and is always misinterpreted for some dirty look, a curse word left unuttered.

Eyes wide with fear, I jump onto the bus, hoping the driver doesn’t shut the door on my backpack, which in conjunction with my blemish, also takes up about as much space as the former Soviet Union.

Life sucks.

And I fail miserably.

Out of breath, I slip my bus card into the slot indicated and hunt for a seat with squinted lids. As if I don’t look like enough of a freak? The old lady with the grocery bags looks mad as a hatter, and I can’t help but notice how the man with his leg in the aisle looks like a paedophile.

Oh joy.
Finding any kind of seat on something as massive as the King County transit system at five in the evening is ridiculous. Kind of like the rule about not eating or drinking…

Lots of things are ridiculous, aren’t they?

The coldness of the drink numbs my fingers, and along with the stark forty degrees outside, you could say I’m a frozen ice cube, because I’m just that melodramatic, as everyone is fond of saying.

There’s another old woman, who actually looks quite in control of her own mind, so I perch next to her, and quickly glance over her shoulder at the title of the book along the top of the page…it’s a silly romance novel. I suppose if one is no longer hormonally able…

Just because I can go off on tangents like that. Ahem.

Not that romance novels are bad, because I read them all the time…and have thus developed a kind of cynicism towards men (but you can call the ones with whom I attend school “boys”). At some point, I should read happier ones and maybe with less romance, too, but come on, there’s something incredibly addictive about stories of love and passion and all that wonderful, wonderful stuff in between.

Sighing, I set my backpack on my lap and sip quietly through the oversized, fun-coloured straw. It’s very cold, indeed, but I bite down on the jelly, and a feeling of comfort washes through me like nothing else, or at least, nothing else to which I can compare.

Yes, I’m unloved.

But not the kind of unloved which involves sectarian violence, starving children, and refugees. That’s pretty nonexistent in this city, or rather, my part of it. No, I’m unloved in a selfish way, the kind that involves frivolity and daydreams.

I sigh again. This can’t be healthy, and I continue to sip, careful not to make any embarrassing slurping noises, because that would, indeed, be embarrassing. I don’t think anyone has the full realisation of “embarrassing” and therefore find a need to reinforce it somehow…condescending almost.

The bus ambles along, my hands numb some more, and the woman fidgets enough so that I catch a glimpse at the words which provoke a blush to creep slightly into my cheeks. However, during November, when it’s cold as hell (hell being very warm does not apply, but I’m using it for reinforcement here!), my cheeks are cherry-red anyway.

Those are the best parts of romance novels, yes?

It gets darker yet, and although it is NORTH Seattle we’re talking about, I feel a bit paranoid thinking ahead to walking the three blocks from the stop homeward. Who knows what could be in the dark? My thoughts rush to an episode of Human Weapon and savat, the French style of martial arts used to do great injury through a person…Now how did that leg-sweep thingy go again?

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