Framing memories with flowers and frills.

 

Page one of my scrapbooking-weekend scrapbook would contain a cardstock minivan pasted onto a gray chalk outline of a Virginia highway. A photo of my face would be slipped into the driver’s window, and my hands would be cut out and pasted to a cardstock wheel at a sturdy 10 and two.

Renting a minivan to get to the Chantilly, Virginia, convention had been an inside joke with myself about going undercover as a scrapbooker for a story on the scrapbooking phenomenon. But the joke turned on me (as inside jokes with yourself usually do) when I ended up finding the van on the way to the convention to be a comfy and spacious drive with enough bass to make it sound like Jay-Z himself was carpooling with me to the convention. By the time I arrived at… More…

 

In Japan, most of us in the dorm honestly preferred to meet and talk in the communal shower rather than have people over to our rooms because the shower was more spacious and less intimate than our rooms. The dorms were narrow, and they took on the smell of our trash, our dirty laundry, our angst, and most of us were of the opinion that it was best not to bring too many people into that.

I let my neighbor Miyuki into my room one late fall night, though, because I was tired of holding the door open and talking to her in the hallway, which was cold and had florescent light. Miyuki was blinky, scratchy, frizzy-haired, and a little bit darker than most girls. Once she was in my room sitting on my futon —looking wide-eyed… More…

 

“I have a car,” he whispered in my ear while we danced, and for a moment I was tempted to whisper back, “Me too. It’s a Corolla. Do you know anything about how to fix window seals?”

For the last six months I danced every week at a place with a $3 cover called Andrea’s Cha Cha Cha. On voice mail messages I left for friends in Portland, meant to entice them into coming out and dancing with me, I called it Andrea’s Chach or Andrea’s Cha Cha, and my friends rarely called or even texted back to say they couldn’t make it. So I started to go alone after work. I paid my $3 cover and made my way down to the basement where I hopped onto a bar stool in my work clothes and waited to… More…

 

At one point on a bus trip in Japan, I heard two foreigners wondering aloud about how best to prepare some Japanese root vegetables they had seen in the supermarket, and it took everything in me not to interject the answer, which I knew. That’s when I realized, to my amazement, that I had somehow become an expert on Japan. I had never met one of those I liked, and had never set out to become one.

I am not sure how it happened. I guess first I learned the language, which I blame on my addiction to the Japanese women’s magazines in the back of my high school classroom. I was a sucker for their elegant craft ideas, crazy fashion photos, and dirty cartoons. But the major appeal of the language was that foreign words written in… More…

In this case, for men only.

 

The first time I traveled around Japan I came across a capsule hotel with a live video feed outside that was broadcasting the guests inside relaxing in towels in a steam room. It seemed like a weird invasion of privacy. In real time I could see the sweat puddling up in the crease between one salary-man’s breasts and gut. Other men were walking around in towels and rubbing their own shoulders seemingly oblivious to the video camera that was broadcasting their image onto the street, yet I imagined it was that very live feed that had enticed them into checking in in the first place. They knew that people outside on the street were watching them relax in the semi-nude, but they seemed too warm and clean to care.

I wanted to check in. This capsule was just… More…

Gotta get one.

At the bouldering gym my instructor was wearing a shell-and-nut necklace. A choker, really. He was ripped and humble like most climbers, with the defined veiny forearms of a heroin addict, but the good nature and good looks of someone who gets high the natural way: from climbing rocks and walls.

I hadn’t been at all sure about even moving from my futon to the floor in the morning. But when I feel that way, sometimes I make myself leave my bed, get out of my house, and pursue some activity anyway, just to make things better. I left, the morning faded, and by late afternoon I was at the bouldering gym deciding that a sport like this, something done by healthy, hip people who probably love to get out of bed in the morning, sounded promising, so I decided to take a beginner’s lesson.

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I pulled a packaged alfajor that I bought for breakfast at the bus station out of my backpack and got into my new hotel room hide-a-bed. The photo on the foil packet of two sugar cookies held together by a thick layer of dulce de leche and coated in shiny chocolate promised a good time, but what the actual snack delivered, to my amazement, was a sensation that felt like 400 calories of pure, uncritical love. I spent some time in bed smelling the package.

When I offered the wrapper to my Israeli friend Hadar for her to smell, she turned me down from her bed, where she was examining the split ends of her curly blond bangs while she smoked.

“Disgusting,” she said. “Sweets are disgusting.” She pronounced the second syllable in a throaty way, but the amount of time and spit she spent on the… More…

What both the Goonies and Rumi were looking for.

 

Rumi looks pure. Her skin is porcelain-colored from high-end, Japanese-brand foundation and a layer of bone-colored powder. Her eyelashes are curled at 90 degrees, coated with black mascara and lined heavily. Her lips are glossed clear with just a hint of pink pigment.

I have learned to negotiate the labyrinth of her weird papers without ever seriously commenting on content at the drop-in community college center where I tutor, because when I do, it makes her pout and say my name in a high pitched stretched out way. She is always very sure of what she wants to say, and sure it is merely her misunderstanding of English grammar that is getting in the way of perfect communication.

One thesis went something along the lines of no matter how far apart your eyes are, and how small your… More…

 

The boy had the kind of ears no human could possibly hope to grow into, and when he showed up at my restaurant table, just tall enough to mouth-breathe into the backside of my newspaper, I told him to eff off. I had become the anti-Mother Teresa in my first month in India. I knew from experience that if I gave a street kid food from my plate, it would lead to him asking for more food, money, and eventually, I feared, a piece of my soul. So I took to regularly telling the kids, beggars, and even the monkeys of Mysore to piss off while I was eating.

As the kid with the ears breathed on the other side of my paper, I read English-language personals to my friend Carly across the table. She was reading the… More…

"I drove a Corolla; he rode a bike."

Once I had a boyfriend, and when he got into my car for the first time he said, “Oh, it’s dirty.” I could tell he was concerned, because it was not just cluttered — it was strange messy. I looked around and tried to imagine what I would think of the owner of a car like that if it wasn’t mine. I moved things out of the passenger seat — shoes, rackets, books, orange rinds, glasses of dried smoothie — but then I thought there was no use in pretending. “It’s just like this normally,” I said. “It just is.” It was a time when I was too worn out to lead anyone on. “Hey, you know I ride a bike,” Sean said.

He said sometimes people flipped him off while he was riding, or threw drive-thru drinks at him from their car for no reason. I told him the… More…