The brunch crowd at Hamburger Mary’s looks sparse. I sit with Jake, huddling in a booth, a booth far enough from the windows to hide the fact I was vaping marijuana illegally indoors but not too far from the stage, where the drag star Adore Delano is performing, singing something melancholy from another era. A gospel song, maybe. It’s melodious and makes me want a drink.
I realize by my third round of bourbons that the chemicals won’t help me now. This depression is real, deepened by Jake’s necessary but agonizing conversation about my duties as executor of his estate. I haven’t mentioned the email from Yuki yet, the one warning me that Kevin is looking for Jake for a job he has out of Washington, D.C. Here’s my chance to ease it in the conversation.
“Maybe we should speak to a lawyer about all these issues and not rely on Google to solve all our problems, as much as I’d like to think people are becoming more and more pleasantly superfluous in our world. This sounds like something that needs expertise.”
Jake’s pushing around the fruit salad on his plate like eating is too vain for his tastes. A waste of time, time he doesn’t have much left of. “Fair enough,” he concedes.
“I know somebody who I can convince to do it for free.”
“No, he’s Welsh.”
And there’s Jake’s scruffy smile, back like a…well, there aren’t any similes that come to mind at the moment. I tell myself, find a way to bring this up without mentioning the thing Yuki said about the gun. “Have you told your work yet?”
He chuckles. “I figured, what difference does it make? I haven’t seen the inside of Cenci Cyber Security since they hired me. I get done what they need. No reason to interfere with the flow of things. And besides, I have you. You can tell them after I’m,” he pauses, “not here anymore.”
“The drugs are going to be expensive. We could just steal them from a safe injection site, but I think it’s best if you find someone who can get you some diamorphine. It’s the James Richard Langham of drugs, you know. I can tell you from experience.”
“Until I become dependent on it and it stops working. Then, it’s just the Ed Woods of drugs.”
“Have you considered cannabis therapy?”
He rolls his eyes, putting his hands up over his face and let’s out a sigh that sounds like a diesel engine stuttering. “I could never. It’s too scary for me.”
“Scarier than dying?” I try and hand him my vaporizer, but he waves his arms and makes some noise about being afraid of losing control of his mind before it’s time. I’m only bothered for a moment. Only because I know how to get liquid CBD and I know how to spike a drink. “It’s medically proven to fight cancer. No bullshit.”
“Cadet, you don’t get it,” he says, looking at me like he might start crying. “I’m dying. It’s actually happening. The end. I don’t want to drag you down, but it’s time to stop lying to each other. This is it. Nightfall. Forever.”
I feel my eyes droop towards my empty glass, and I know he sees me swallowing my thoughts. I’ve had enough of this for now. We both have. Just in time to hear Adore change songs. Something more contemporary. Nina Simone, the Dutch Phillips years.
“Well, here’s a question for you,” I say to break the mood. “What’s on your bucket list?”
14 Jake Kaufmann
I’ve always thought I would’ve had the chance to invent something incredible in my lifetime. I’ve been studying these brain mapping projects in Japan called the HIRRUM project. Such a ridiculous name. I would’ve just called my AI machine something like Lewis or Toby or something easy to remember.
So these scientists and computer engineers there have developed this coding technology using an fMRI that can map human thoughts into algorithms, which means, essentially, they’ve taught computers how to read people’s minds. The problem with the Japanese experiments is that, philosophically, they’ve got it all wrong from the start. They’re using the wrong version of egoism in their way of thinking. Not to mention their modality of collecting data from the human brain is completely fucked. They’re using EEG-based technology or some variant to connect people to the computers that collect the data, and this is just wrong. In its most practical form, it would require people to get microchips implanted in their skulls if they wanted to connect it to, say, their iPhones. Bitches don’t have time for that.
Given the proper methodology, I’d like to see someone take this technology in a different direction. I mean, I should know. I’ve spent the last three years researching it as my only hobby. The direction I would take it in would be to use the collection of human brain algorithms to create an AI machine that can store an individual’s consciousness. With that, you could make something like the floating heads in Futurama, a way to live eternally inside a computer, who knows exactly how you would react and what you would say in any given situation. It would take a massive quantum computer to process these algorithms, but it’s not unfathomable. Just expensive to manufacture for mass consumption. The way the Japanese are developing it, they will be more likely use this data to make AI more like us, rather than the other way around. I mean, the possibilities of catastrophe would be endless if they are ever to succeed. Literally, the shit that the Terminator is made of.
If I only had a few years off and access to somebody with a better knowledge of neurology than me, I just know I could’ve made such a device. One always dreams of saving the world, but now I just want my dreams to shut the fuck up.
15 Yuki Ou-Yang
Saturday, November 10th, 2012.
Any night in Los Angeles, there is someone having the night of their life. But I have theory. For every person who is finding true love for the first time or catching their big break in Hollywood, there are at least a thousand more that very same night who are getting their hearts broken, being thrown out on the streets by a loved one, watching their careers burn to the ground, finding out they have a terrible illness, or just plain having their lives destroyed by the cops. The longer you live here, the more it becomes apparent that the best nights of our lives are called such for a reason.
For Parv, the premiere of his web series at the Blue Whale was something in between. While the crowd laughed in all the right places and the musical guests were truly mind-blowing, the hopes of having a second season were dashed out when his boyfriend at the time – the show’s Italian-American producer – decided to call it quits on both Parv and the project.
As we shared a volcano bowl cocktail, Ernie gave Parv a hard lesson in the softest terms possible. “I could have told you this was going to happen. The guy is a notorious starfucker.”
“If you could have told me, you should have fucking told me!” Parv yelled back over the noise, glaring at his ex, who was now enjoying the dance floor with a hot and upcoming blond actor (who still hasn’t come out of the closer) with a body most of us could only dream to have. “Especially before I invested $10,000 of my own fucking money into the production costs.”
Ernie giggled and tried to make the situation seem lighter. “I thought it was a known fact! It’s sort of his thing. He only dates men who are more famous than he is, usually right when they’re taking off. I don’t know what it is, but it’s like he has this radar that tells him exactly when and exactly what asses to be poking. And then, we he realizes that he can’t get famous by osmosis, he breaks up with them. He even took a pass at me when all I had was an audition for an Amy Sedaris movie.” Ernie proceeded to give Parv a not-so-short list of comparatively more famous directors, actors, professional athletes, and even composers with whom Parv’s ex had been known to cavort with on sets and in set trailers over the last decade.
“Jesus,” the Count gasped angrily. “With such enthusiasm, you would’ve thought that fucking loser would’ve made a bigger name for himself. If you’re gonna suck a dick or twenty for your career, at least make it shows up on your IMDB page. All that chaffing and nothing to show for it.”
“Fucking producers,” Ernie said, rolling his eyes.
“How about,” I interjected, “not fucking producers. Anyway, you should take it as a compliment, Parv. It means you’re famous enough to be starfucked”
“Here here,” Parv toasted, in good spirits. “At least he’s somebody else’s problem now, and I’m still getting paid. The gay totem pole is a spiteful, dirty, Fleet-drinking bitch.”
The Count wrinkled his nose, turning his back to the producer on the dance floor. “Looks more like your ex is about to become a gay totem pole’s bitch.”
Elmo, on the other hand, was among the lucky few about to have one of the best nights of his life. Since receiving news that he had been kicked out by his conservative Muslim parents, the roommates of the 321 House had entered a pact that they would bully Elmo into moving in with them. There weren’t any empty bedrooms, but there was an empty couch in the living room. The acceptance of a new roommate would mean, ultimately, that there would have to be less parties and less booze in the house so Elmo could get plenty of peace and quiet to study for his med school entrance exams, but that was a compromise all were willing to accept. Until the Count had his first good look at him.
When the Count saw Elmo enter the bar from across the room, he didn’t have to say anything to let the others know what he was thinking. His intentions were communicated in near animal fashion, through some sudden shift in his pheromones or hormones or whatever, and his roommates immediately sensed that the Count was about to give up his life of adding up lovers in order to subtract his total down to 1.
Without warning, Grover came sprinting across the dance floor to our table and, without waiting for us to answer, began berating us with questions. “How’s it going, guys? Are we having fun? Isn’t Ruby Ibarra the greatest? Has the Count sucked any of Yentown’s rice rocket’s yet? Is Elmo here? Why is he late? Has anyone texted him? Shouldn’t he be here by now? Have you seen Elmo?”
Ernie and I waited for the Count to answer, but he was uncharacteristically at a loss of words. “He’s here, alright,” I said finally. “He just walked in the door.”
Elmo looked at the Count and looked back at Elmo. Grover stepped in between their lines of sight and declared, for the first time, “Remember how I called dibs on Elmo? Remember that guys? Didn’t we agree we’d all leave Elmo alone until I had a chance? Remember?”
The Count looked genuinely disgusted. “What is he, a French fry? A passenger seat? You can’t call dibs on a human being.”
All of Grover’s high school insecurities came bubbling up to his ears. He didn’t have to remind us that since high school he had always been the ugly duckling of the group. And, to be honest, in spite of the plastic surgery and the contact lenses he had gotten in his early 20’s, that ugly duckling still hadn’t exactly evolved into the white swan he saw himself to be. I watched the Count glare at Grover, and I was suddenly reminded of an internet video I had seen of an elephant facing off with an unarmed poacher. Things didn’t fair so well for the poacher, from what I remember.
“I think I remember you saying that,” Ernie said softly. “Don’t you remember that, Yuki?”
“Yeah. Of course, I remember.”
“And besides,” Grover snarked, “you can’t date any housemates, right? Remember?”
Before either could say anything more, Elmo had found his way to our table and greeted us all with a round of hugs.
“I want you to take over my lease, Elmo,” the Count blurted out. “I’m officially moving out of the 321 House. In fact, I’ll be covering the first three months for you. Isn’t that right, Ernie? Remember?”
“If you say so.”
“I say so. One month. Two months. Three months. Is it a deal, Grover?”
Grover burst into tears, hugging the Count and thanking him, while the Count mouthed to Elmo, “Game on, bitch.”
The rest of us were not so lucky. The journalist who I had hired to cover the event, a writer for the WOW Report named Cadet Ward, was having one of the worst nights of his life, and he was taking me down with him. He called me from the LA County jail as Yentown took the stage.
“A mother fucking DUI,” I told Ernie. “Son of a mother fucking bitch. This is not good.”
Ernie shook his head and rubbed my back, following me outside for a quick, relaxing puff of weed. “Maybe things will get better at Facebook,” he said assuredly but not confidently.
“You mean, maybe the whole tech industry will suddenly be flooded with resumes from women just dying to be stuck with a horde of horny Mark Zuckerberg wannabees for the rest of their lives? As in, maybe those horny dickheads will magically realize that not every Asian girl wants to fuck them in the table tennis room? Or, how about this – maybe a fucking UFO will fly down right now and land on my fucking forehead? Because all of those seem about as likely as the other at this moment.”
“At least, you still have your blog,” Ernie reminded me. “I believe in Konnichiwa Kitty. Do you?”
“Bitch, I’ve always believed in the Kitty.”
Determined to not let the actions of one dunce reporter take down my high, I danced the night away with my friends, including many of you who read the blog and came out to support us. I thank you all, from the deepest pit of my cold bitchy feminist heart. You truly made that one of the best nights of my life.
By the time the bar closed, the Count had forgotten all about his conquest to win Emo. He had convinced two – as in 1, 2 – total hunks in from off the street by simply spotting them on the street and waving them in. They were both professional MMA fighters who had gone out drinking that night in Little Tokyo to celebrate a recent match when they heard the music and saw the Count luring them in with only a wagging finger. Somehow, he went home with both of them, and, as often the case in a ménage a triose, he took a much stronger interest in one of them. His affair with the MMA fighter lasted only a few weeks before the MMA fighter broke things off, and I was there to witness one of the worst days of the Count’s life.
He sniffled with puffy eyes behind dark sunglasses over seafood at the Crab Shack just before Christmas and explained the whole drama to me. “He told me that he was in love with me on the first night we made love.”
“You mean,” I had to ask, “the same night you had sex with another MMA fighter at the same time?”
“That’s got nothing to do with it. I honestly thought we were going to get married. I think I must have been teed up by the whole situation with Elmo, and I lost my head. I hadn’t felt that way about a guy in so long, and the sex – dear God the sex – I learned submission moves that replaced. It was nonstop. Six, seven, eight times a day. And so, I asked him to be my boyfriend, when we were lying in his bed the other night, thinking that’s where this was heading. And he looks and me and laughs. Then, he says, ‘Baby, you don’t understand. MMA is my life. I can’t be caught in public with another guy. They would never let me fight in a professional match again. MMA fighters just aren’t gay. Everyone knows that.’ Turns out, he had a girlfriend the whole time. Before his buddy flew back to Arizona, he said something about how girls never give rim jobs. I should’ve seen the red flag. Well, I hope that bastard enjoyed those rim jobs because that’s the last time he’ll be getting one. Ever!”
If a man is willing to give up his chance at true love for a sport, what was I giving up my chance at true love for? Was Facebook my life? Had I sabotaged my future just to make others happy, only to realize I would never escape the heteronormative hell of Silicon Valley?
16 Parvesh Cheena
FADE IN TO:
INT. BLUE WHALE BAR – NIGHT
Parv is taking selfies with a group of fans by the bar. Loud music is drowning out their conversation. After accepting their congratulations, he turns and orders a drink, keeping a smile on his face as he notices Kevin talking to a man with a camera outside. Kevin’s drunk. He takes out his phone and hands it to the Cameraman. Yuki approaches just as the Cameraman quickly hands Kevin his phone, smiles, and walks away. Parv spies on them and they appear to be in a heated argument. The camera lingers while he tries to read the conversation from their body language. He carries on smiling and greeting party guests, trying to be inconspicuous and not draw attention away from the fun inside to the scene outside.
EXT. BLUE WHALE BAR – NIGHT
Kevin – you can’t.
Are you fucking serious? Phillip Lao? Really? Phillip Lao. Do you know anything about him?
I know his phone number.
First of all, he’s working. Okay? He’s not here to get numbers. He’s here to work for me. And second of all, he’s a fucking youth pastor at a Korean church, Kevin. He could get fucking fired.
Yuki! Would you relax?
You’re fucking unbelievable.
The music inside the club changes: MIA’s “Jimmy”. A huge din of cheers roars inside the bar. Yuki and Kevin both stop and look. A painful pause. Kevin lights a cigarette.
No, that is unbelievable. Why don’t you –
Why don’t you explain to me the identity politics of what just happened? Since you and everybody else in the 321 House are sooo the victims in every situation.
I wouldn’t even know…
Yeah, you wouldn’t.
A slightly less painful pause. Kevin looks over the balcony at the street below.
EXT. STREET – CONTINUED
Two muscular men – one Latino (“Harold”, in tight jeans, a button-up shirt with rolled-up sleeves, and spiked hair) and one Caucasian (“Mike”, in a tight-fitting t-shirt, relaxed jeans, short hair, and diamond earrings) – stumble down the street roughhousing with each other.
CUT BACK TO:
EXT. BLUE WHALE – CONTINUED
Kevin whistles at them and points. Still pointing, he nods his head. He turns his pointing finger back towards himself, making a “come hither” motion.
Whatever. I’m over it.
What about Elmo?
Would you stop fucking calling him that? Your blog is not real life, Yuki. It’s a figment of your imagination. You can do whatever you want in your free time. But don’t pretend like I’m playing along with your late stage capitalist, pseudo-feminist bullshit game, okay? I just want to be left alone right now. And besides, I’m leaving anyway.
Would you at least let me call you a cab? You’re in no shape –
Dude, come on.
I’m leaving Los Angeles. I’m moving to Colorado.
The wind blows Yuki’s hair into her face. She turns her head away, wiping away the hair.
Can I ask why?
Let’s just say I need a break before law school and leave it at that. I don’t want any more feelings to get hurt tonight.
Well, if you need a cab, just let me know.
(stopping Yuki as she walks away)
Yuki! Hey. Congrats on Obama winning. I’m sure he’ll fix everything, right?
INT. BLUE WHALE – CONTINUED
Parv watches Yuki walk away. He sees her put a smile on her face before approaching him at the bar. She asks if he has met Ruby Ibarra. She waves Ruby over to the bar and Parv hugs her and compliments her performance. They continue to talk, while Parv looks over their shoulders outside. He sees Kevin chatting up the two men from the street.
INT. BLUE WHALE – LATER
The dancefloor is in full swing. Cadet interviews Parv about the web series at a table not far from the bar, where Kevin has his arm around Mike, who is also smashingly drunk. Mike doesn’t notice Kevin sticking his tongue out, as if he’s about to lick Mike’s ear. Mike turns to say something to Kevin, and he bursts out laughing, giving Kevin a soft punch in the stomach. Parv strains to make out their conversation over the sounds of the club.
No! No! Bad boy! Bad boy!
Come on. Just one.
Mike laughs hysterically.
I am. So what?
Oh my god, I love you. Seriously, man. I love you.
I know you do. I love you and I’m in love with you.
Mike bends over laughing. Kevin goes in to lick his face. Mike hold his fist up, as if to punch him in the face, still laughing.
I swear to God, I will fucking knock you out. I swear to fucking god. Try me. Go on, try me. I will fuck you up. I swear to God, man. Stop doing that gay shit.
Yes, I fucking would.
Come on. Come on, man. Just one. It comes with a free rim job.
Mike laughs, appearing very drunk.
Holy shit, I love you, man. Seriously, I fucking love you.
You keep saying that but you don’t do anything about it.
Mike finishes his drink and kisses Kevin passionately. Cadet notices Parv staring and looks over at the bar, too. Harold returns from the dance floor and interrupts the kiss.
What the fuck? Mike, man! How fucking drunk are you? You’re making out with a dude!
Mike leans over and says something into Harold’s ear that we can’t hear. Cadet looks back at Parv. Parv’s face is frozen. Cadet looks back at the bar. We still can’t hear what they’re saying. Harold nods and Kevin kisses Harold. The music in the club intensifies.