(Written 07/11/2008, I was 18 and hopeless)

Gary fumbled with his chopsticks as he attempted for what seemed to be the billionth time to grasp a hold of his tofu dumplings. The lacquered surface of the chopsticks greased up from the oil of the dumplings resulted in repeated failures and a resonating “click-clack” each time the dumpling slipped from his grasp. Although the various patrons of the restaurant heeded him no mind he began to flush red and slowly placed the chopsticks down on the table to give off the illusion that his hunger satiated and provided a legitimate excuse of some sorts to stop bastardizing a Chinese dining technique. He even tried to fake a small belch but even that couldn’t be accomplished as all he was able to muster up was a few grains of rice which in turn lodged themselves in his throat. He began to gag and quickly reached for his tea cup. In times of excitement we tend to forget a few significant details of our surroundings as our only focus tends to be on the approaching “danger”. He was quickly reminded of this little fact as the quite liberal amount of tea he sipped proceeded to execute a scalding blitzkrieg over his entire tongue and lips. He hurriedly spat out the tea in a flurry of saliva and tears and as he ashamedly dabbed at his swelling lips with his napkin. He recognized for the first time the recipient of his shower of spit and dandelion lentils.

“Aww, did my big baby drool all over himself again?” Grace said in a one of those cutesy-mocking tones that are normally reserved for “mother-to-son” moments, or “auntie-to-nephew” moments, or “creepy-cat-lady-to-kitty-who-just-soiled-the-carpet” moments you get the drift. But Grace, goddamn she was a whole ‘nother current to begin with. A petite girl with all the right curves in all the right places, she had the type of body that made both anorexics and fat chicks keel over in jealousy. Her jet black hair was pulled back in a bun save for a stray strand which she listlessly fingered whenever she busied herself in concentration over her studies which she did behind the cashier or dealing with indecisive tourists. On most nights he would spend in the restaurant finding himself lost in thought as he gazed dopedly at Grace bustling about her tables; oftentimes with glazed eyes, chin on palm, and a tiny eensy-weensy bead of drool making its way down his jaw.

Oh mighty Aphrodite, have you no mercy?

Gary had flunked out of Columbia University and was currently a proud student of New York City College: Queens Campus. He was majoring in Zoology. Grace on the other hand was an aspiring junior a few streets over at New York University, she was an aspiring dance whom Gary had actually seen at every one of her school venues. She actually came from quite an affluent family and really had no reason why she even held down her job at the “Lucky Wok” except for the opportunity to interact with the “community”. Community like Gary. Gary had stumbled into the “Lucky Wok” the day of his expelling from Columbia and had decided to down his sorrows with cheap imported Chinese liquor, lo mein, and a .16 mm pistol whom he nicknamed Hans. And from there he met Grace who in effect helped put his life in perspective and forced him to enroll into City College for a chance at redemption. From that night Grace had “adopted” Gary as her little brother, Gary didn’t say anything then he was both too afraid and intimidated by this angel that had appeared before him to save his life. Their relationship grew, with Gary and Grace soon divulging to each other their secrets, history, and even prom photos (Gary had to photoshop his!) Some nights their hands may have accidentally drifted into each others, some nights a conversation turned into something more intimate, and some nights when the jukebox was working a dance that may have started out with laughter and painful toe stepping changed into a slow dedicated rhythmic movement between man and woman. But every single time Gary… our poor Gary, still did nothing—said nothing. And every single one of those kinds of nights Grace left work seeming a bit… disappointed. Don’t get Gary wrong though, it’s not as if he didn’t like Grace, hell he never really understood love before Grace. He didn’t understand chick flicks or the reason for romance before Grace. He was just too afraid, of what we really don’t know. Fear of rejection, fear of losing Grace, fear of expression his emotion? Who knows, Gary never really spoke much.

But today though, today was going to be different. Today was the day that Gary Chan was going to profess his true feelings to the love of his life, Grace Park. Today was the day, yessiree roses beneath the table, tickets for Grace’s favorite Broadway musical in his wallet (Wicked for 8:30) and a heart on the brink of bursting apart with emotion. He figured now would be a good moment, the two of them alone in the restaurant, save for a hot tea kettle and Grace’s saliva stained smock. “Uhm, Grace I uh-… ahem, well I just uh…” Grace stopped dabbing at her smock with a napkin, eyes opened focused on Gary. He closed his eyes and breathed in deep through his nose she smelled softly of vanilla. “Grace I lo-… W’SUP BABE!” He opened his eyes in time to see Grace leap into the arms of some stranger. She responded with a squeal as he peppered her across the neck with kisses. They began to exchange words but Gary couldn’t hear them, his gaze drifted back down to under the table, the tickets in his left hand. He felt a hand on his shoulder—it was Grace. “That’s Julius we’re in the same German class together and he came up to me last week to tell me that he had like the longest crush on me! What do you think of him?” Gary smiled weakly but said nothing. “I know it’s been a short while we’ve been together but I think he might be the one huh-huh?” She giggled again and went back to Julius, their backs turned to him they again began to partake in their puppy love. Gary saying nothing left the restaurant neither of the pair heeding him any notice. As he walked along the discolored pavement a guest of wind billowed by, tearing through the roses until finally a petal came loose and floated down onto the road gracefully.