4/5 Cat’s out of the bag: The subtle art of being evil

Until last Thursday, I never had a reason for self-cannibalism.

Yes, my dearie, you read that correctly.

Essentially, that Slow-as-a-Slug Sally was walking so darn slow in front of me, I had to gnaw on my own vocal chords and digest ‘em, or else I’d have let fly a scream of irritability hibernating in my lungs, a mad howl to be heard round the world.

Reincarnated as a human, Sally (anonymous identity for the sake of her undeserved safety) was certainly a bumbling, lethargic sheep in her past life and thus incapable of brisk walking. She sported pearly white Converse — an unmarked and unblemished “shoe version” of what I wished my bloodied-by-red-pen math tests could attain — and walked ever so slowly, plodding one shoe in front of the other.

At her rate of walking, I, the poor schmuck stuck behind her, would arrive at school approximately nine years late.

It became the sole desire of my life to bungee jump on her shoes like the cannibalistic hooligan I was — I mean, I am — and dirty ‘em to a mud brown.

I did not.

Effectively, I was hyper-effective at being ineffective — on the outside, that is. I had smiled at her quite enthusiastically and happily, trotting off on my merry way.

Yet being the high-functioning sociopath I am, I lurked under the eaves of the D building, biding my time … and am still biding my time to this very day, having done absolutely nothing to her. I have not confronted her. I have not trashed her shoes. In fact, I have been a smiling, civilized and cultured lady. However, in reality, the inside of me still churns with the cannibalistic insanity and anger — a controlled, oppressed evilness which never has and will hopefully never bubble to the surface.

Still, that girl had better watch out.

To most, I am not a terribly obnoxious or vile person, although specific people on the El Estoque staff refer to me as “Spawn of the Devil” or “Loan Shark.” I do not have the slightest inkling why.

To those who knew of me in middle school, I say, with enough conviction to bash the stronghold that is the Great Wall of China, I must have been a — no, good reader, not a sheep, I have always walked at a respectable, considerate speed — cat in my past life, claws unsheathed 24/7 and tail up in indignation.

An all-around prissy ditch! Oh, my bad. Apparently, “b” has reflected itself to a “d” for a day.

I despise emotion-wrought confessions and reliving horrendous memories, which is why I’ll boil it down to the basics: As a middle schooler, I was the so-called “mean girl” of my class; I delighted in interrupting people, embracing the ideas they volunteered and promptly pushing said ideas off a cliff — you scallywag, we’re outlining the title in Sharpie, not pen, capiche? — and into Oblivion, a pithole of rejection. As I grew older, the disgustingness of my behavior grew apparent to myself, and as I’ve mentioned many a column, I morphed into a reserved, more polite girl.

Illustration by Michelle Wong

Here’s the cat-ch.

Unfortunately, I’m still half a ditch. Again, the “b” has decided to be a “d” for the time being. I say “half,” because I still have a fondness for ordering people to walk the plank. Luckily, the splishin’ and splashin’ of the victim is mental, the “evilness” confined to my imagination (although it occasionally trickles into my writing) and expressed solely through a tight-lipped smile.

Trust me, if I were still in middle school, I’d be screeching my insults like a boiling kettle if you so much as shook your head at me, instead of containing them to my consciousness. I’ve simply improved in on-the-surface anger management; under the surface, I’m evil, with a heart like a muddy ditch.

My fellow adolescents often grapple with becoming so-called “good” and responsible adults. I say “so-called,” because the adults we look up to may appear composed and polite, but they certainly aren’t wholly “good” or completely inline with their moral compasses.

They’ve just got a tad more self-control, a little more skill at hiding their emotions and a tidbit more composure in plastering on a fake smile. Yes, they may only utter a quiet, exasperated cough or simply grit their teeth when children mouth off to them or some barbaric brute cuts them off in traffic. But, my dear reader, adults are just as “bad” and “evil” as us.

They simply swear themselves hoarse and unleash their insanity or temper behind closed doors — out of our sight. Or like me, a half-adult, instead of physically swearing at someone to their face, they may quarantine their evilness and mentally curse the person to a thousand lifetimes of extreme dandruff. And then imagine flinging the person into a nearby trashcan, who is hungry for trash.

And if that’s not the case, well, consider this. Why am I, a supposed half-adult, also a secret devil child?


3/8 Cat’s out of the bag: Holiday Hatin’

Valentine’s Day has long passed.

The only leftovers we’re savoring are bags of Hershey’s Kisses slashed with “50 percent off!” in black Sharpie.

Christmas is already an impervious oil stain on a paper bag, which was previously bloated with red and green sprinkle donuts. Thanksgiving? The turkey’s spirit is at rest in heaven, all chummy with the deceased mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce.

A disclaimer before I begin upchucking my words: I do not hate Valentine’s Day, Christmas, or Thanksgiving. I-I just-don’t exactly-well, I feel like it’s rather excessive. Yesterday was Valentine’s Day.

And here’s how it went down, in my plumb-tuckered-out mind’s eye. (If the following paragraphs are rather incoherent, blame the 2:00 a.m. black coffee jitters. According to this wannabe coffee connoisseur, “caramel lattes” and “PSL’s” are wolves in sheep’s coffee-stained clothing.)  As per usual, the phone alarm was yowling its charger off at 6:00 a.m.

As a no-owl (I am productive neither during the morning, night, breaking dawn, eclipse, or any title of the “Twilight” Saga, because all I aspire to do is sleep, nap or try to sleep), I blurted permutations — or is it combinations? — of swear words, pulling out my hair until my alarm wondered if I’d developed epileptic shock and retreated into a respectful silence.


Visual by Michelle Wong 

(Anything after the pulling-out hair is purely imagination, actually. And yes, I do swear quite vibrantly and melodically, inside my head of course, because I’d never be so uncultured as to blurt “schist” aloud.) When Valentine’s Day concluded, it wasn’t any different from Christmas, Thanksgiving or a regular school day. Here goes the cat.

Just as I boycotted New Year’s Day and every single holiday with an emphasis on “loudness” and “togetherness,” I sat out on Valentine’s Day. Oh, I’m not a hater, I’ll have you know. I’ve just always impeached the necessity of Valentine’s Day. Simply stated, isn’t it a tad bit loud? And so touchy-feely and extroverted?

Every holiday, I feel claustrophobic from an overdose of “fuzzy-and-warm” emotions. The Christmas carols. Thanksgiving thankfulness and the counting of “blessings.”

It’s 2:00 p.m. on a lazy Tuesday, and I’ve huffily regressed into a rant instead of a column.  You’re reading “salty” cat out of the bag, as the hip kids on the block with their Skechers light-up shoes say. Or Adidas. I’m not quite clear myself.

Perhaps, my extreme introversion has spurned my dislike — or lack of endurance — for holidays and social gatherings in general.

I’ve always had a fondness for doing absolutely nothing “productive” and just be by myself, to simply sit and dream of the miscellaneous: the most creative metaphor possible, me as the heroine of the never-to-exist fifth season of “Sherlock,” and whether or not there is actually an afterlife or just a black hole of nothingness.

There’s something magical about sinking into the embrace of a misshapen, lumpish sofa, lulled to half-sleep by the aroma of coffee and whittling the Sunday afternoon away — with a pair of headphones for company — that so entices me.

Alone, mind you. That is my kind of holiday.

And no, I’m not spinning some haphazard argument to defend my laziness. I am not lazy. I am merely a daydreamer, and again, no, not in the sense of dreaming for a cause or an unattainable goal of being a Kpop idol.

My dear cat owners,

I’ve entrusted a total of four secrets to you. By now, you can dissect my style of writing.

I love to dream through 90 percent of the column in flowery word throw-up, and for a scant 10 percent, I “reflect” upon my secret. Unwillingly and stoically, I dissect the secret from head to toe according to the “Guidelines of Reflection.”

First, please summarize your secret. Be concise and detailed (a paradox in itself).

Second, please provide evidence and quotes by a dependable source to prove this secret.

Lastly, tie the first and second steps above with some universal, relatable aspect of human nature.

Reflection, or the “under-the-surface” thinking literature teachers so adore is … inescapable.

And for a dreamer like me, “reflecting” and dwelling upon my daydreams is pure torture. It’s an extra step, an extra two minutes that toughens the filet mignon, a succulent secret or daydream, from medium rare to well done.

As you can see, I’ve happily and unintentionally “dreamed” off the beaten path and ventured into nonsense again, much like the introduction of this column.

Where was I again? Oh, my boycotting of holidays. Holidays are a reflection, are they not? A reflection, an attempt to solidify our meant-to-be-messy-ball-of-yarn feelings of family, love and all that good stuff through tangible gifts and Valentine’s Day chocolate.

There I go again, forcing myself to analyze.

Except for the paragraph above, this column was really just an excuse for me to daydream. And if you’ll pardon me, I must leave before I’m impounded for “lack of evidence” in my daydreaming.

I’ll catch you later.

2/8 Blobbing, blobbing, 1-2-3

I have a confession to make: I’m really half-blob, half-human. Mentally, that is. I lack definition and structure. As a high schooler, my brain is gleefully mucking around in no particular direction whatsoever, sporting fuzzy slippers and a plushy bathrobe!

I lack passion: a driving force to mold my future or “life goals” into concreteness. Honestly, where am I heading? After all, nothing strikes my fancy.  Of course, I certainly have interests! I like to write, play cello and bake cookies. However, in the jargon of a flustered pre-teen, I don’t really “like like” anything. Much less love.

What does one define as love?

Traditionalists feel electrocuted, hyper-alert: Benjamin Franklin in the roaring storm, clutching an iron key and whipping a kite. Golly gee willikers! I’m in love! How outlandish. As a post-millennial, I’m attuned to the 21st century.

What does one define as love?

If I truly loved something, I’d take the pains to exit the Netflix tab for said person or thing. That being said, I am simultaneously writing this column and streaming Season 4 of “Sherlock.” Thus, this column has taken five hours to lovingly churn out.

It’s not as if I dislike writing or cello! That isn’t the scroungy cat I intend on releasing. My interests and I, well, we’re interlocked in the first stages of an arranged marriage — awkward and grudging! Which very much irritates my parents, or it certainly seems like it.

At first, my engineer father was miffed that I was interested in the humanities, something he’d assumed from my column writing.

“To be good at math is to be good at everything!” he proclaimed, hands flailing like a tipsy conductor with a chopstick batons. He paused to inhale two-thirds of his dinner. “If you know math, your writing will have another dimension! Have a touch of clean-cut STEM reasoning!”

I haughtily turned up my nose, slurping a satisfactory ratio of ramen to beef broth.

“Well, fine,” he replied, his feathers ruffled by my obnoxious slurp. As long as you’re happy and doing what you love. At least, his daughter had a calling, a direction in life. His daughter liked English, out of all things – she wasn’t constructing mobile houses for street urchins in London – but hey, her life had some grit and substance to it.

Or so he thinks, I spluttered to myself, counting the green onions pooling in the ramen.

Bloib34 Roimen

Again, it’s not as if I have no interests. Our mutual  “affection” is simply labored.The story of my arranged marriage follows: I’m a hot-blooded youth who dilly-dallied the morning with Netflix, an endless TV show provider. At 1:00 a.m., I’m abruptly wedded to a blank Word document! It is a drastic plunge in exhilaration: from TV-binging to writing an essay.

Before my fellow writers scorn me for eternity — write a novel about a girl who works hard but dies in the end, they holler — I do enjoy writing! Writing is therapeutic and meditative. I can sulk here for hours on end, pruning flower gardens of metaphors to asphyxiate the reader with my floweriness.

I rest my case.

Of course, there’s a catch. As much as I have interest in something, I’ve never loved anything (besides Netflix) enough to approach or “propose” to it first. Also, if I truly loved — with a passion — to play cello, couldn’t I happily practice for four hours? Why, then, was finishing an hour of cello practice like completing a chore?

Writing is therapeutic and meditative. I can sulk here for hours on end, pruning flower gardens of metaphors to asphyxiate the reader with my floweriness.

My lack of passion twisted my father’s head right round, his anxiety apparent in dinner conversations.

“What do you want to do when you’re older? English? I know you’re interested.”

I’d mumble two-syllable gibberish: “Uh-huh” and “Huh? Yeah.”

That’d light his fuse. He craved clear answers and a stable train of thought. After all, he’d immigrated from Taiwan when he was 25 years old, the homely engineer who chased his American Dream. 30 years later, he had four daughters and lived in affluent Cupertino. Previously, he had lived in three states and undertaken five jobs, charging forward with a mindset to succeed. Very unblobish, if I do say so myself.

And here, his blobbish daughter, goggling at him with ramen noodles dangling from her mouth. Didn’t I understand how fortunate I was? Where was the youthfulness, the heady ambition? The hunger to warp, to bulldoze the world with my radical actions? I should be establishing my passion in such a liberal community, using Cupertino’s abundance of opportunities to feed whatever the monster of a passion.

“Because you’re going into English, right?” He asked. “You must have an idea of what you want to do in life.”

I didn’t answer. And I still can’t.

12/7 Column: Sister, Sister, Sister. Sister?

THE INSTANT I MENTION MY, “three older sisters,” I am swamped with surprise, acknowledgement and at last, the listener’s envy, echoed by a “Oh, you’re sooo lucky!”

I’ll nod, reflexively, and reply with the default: “Yeah, I am lucky!”

Ensue their onslaught of assumptions.

“I bet they do everything for you. You guys must be really close. You can talk about anything with them, right?”

Well, not exactly. In my opinion, we used to be rather distant (emotionally and physically). I had harbored a peculiar grudge against my sisters. A toxic feeling, festering, as I was reminded of my position as the “part time” sister. It was unjustified, I grumped, for all three to scamper off to college or graduate school for nine months, with a melodramatic sunrise as a backdrop. They’d return to unload boatloads of gossip and stories until two o’clock in the morning, without me.

Yet in thick and unforgiving black sharpie, I read their hypocritical birthday cards that said, “Happy Birthday! Remember, you can tell me and ask me about everything.”

We were vastly apart in age and distance, considering one sister was out-of-state for college and the other two were in California colleges. While I understood age and distance were unalterable, I hid a resentful loneliness. Granted, it was a grand old time during Christmas break — yet to me, it was a reunion between the three old pals, and me, their little sister and still a measly preteen, an entertaining spectacle on the sidelines.

At 9 p.m., I sat in the midst of their whirlwind, “college girl” conversation, enthralled by this distant world of underage drinking and partying, a world laced with the stench of weed (a nickname for a friendly garden plant, I assumed?) and couches tie- dyed beer-brown. The clock flashed 11 p.m.; the conversation stopped.

“You should go to bed. It’s sorta time for you to sleep now,” all three of them said. Conversations with school friends were earnest and giggly. Yet among the sisters I’d conversed with for thir teen years, the hubbub and gossipy atmosphere slackened to one- word answers. When a sister confided in me — about serious things, too — sometimes, only to me, the conventional transaction of a secret for a secret fell short. I was still in this
ring around the rosie of gossip.

Actually, I’m talking blasphemy.

While I feigned indifference to the gossip, I did have an urge to lasso my fleece blanket, cowgirl style, and yodel away all my secrets. Am I not the crazy lady who traps all her “cats” in bags, the writer of this column? Heavens, it’d actually be a relief to pan all my secrets out, casino dealer style. Take your pick, I’d sniff at my sister and pick disinterestedly at my fingernails. I’d exhale my burdens in a nonchalant sentence.

While I feigned indifference to the gossip, I did have an urge to lasso my fleece blanket, cowgirl style, and yodel away all my secrets.

Prior to the beginning of sophomore year, my greatest talent was my facade of a happy-go-lucky girl binging on a diet of rainbows and pixie dust. Throughout eighth and ninth grade, unbeknownst to the rest of my family, I struggled religiously and thus emotionally. I became accustomed to concealing and refusing to speak of my emotions, independent in the worst way possible — if my stress was at all noted, I related it to school.

Some battles, I reproved myself, you must fight for yourself. Squeeze your gut and collect that scattered wit yourself, escort the psychiatrist to the exit before they try to sweep it up themselves. Solve your own problems and you’ll truly learn. So I kept the grumbling to myself.

As I grew older, the 11 o’clock bedtime blurred. I was acknowledged as a high schooler and offered admission to this exclusive sisters’ club.

“Come to brunch with us,” they said. “Watch a movie!” “Another brunch place!”


It was unnerving, to say the least. I was rejecting their offers for sisterly bonding, and they found themselves with a sister who refused to have fun or confide in them. It was certainly better off that way. The worries purveying me were truly personal. It’d take copious amounts of self-reflection, but I’d take on my midlife, excuse me, adolescent- life crisis myself—no sisters allowed.

I’d take on my midlife, excuse me, adolescent- life crisis myself—no sisters allowed.

My personality molded itself to my epiphany, and I became reserved and introverted.
Unfortunately, sisters are annoying. Persistent. All three latched onto me as overenthusiastic, uninformed sidekicks. Through a sisterly “sixth sense,” somehow, they recognized how stressed I was.

So what if I was unwilling to divulge my problems?

After all, my struggles didn’t matter, in the grand scheme of things — it was if my sisters could make me happier. Badgering for me to lay off the homework and go for a boba run, aiding me in their own ridiculous way. My cumulative rejections didn’t deter their Sunday brunch offers in the slightest. In a teasing way, they despaired of their little sister’s avoidance of outside sunlight — only to drag me out to face the rays and meet a teetering pancake stack, with all three sisters looking at me expectantly. I dug in.

Well, we all dug in, chatting between forkfuls of pancake.

We still do to this day.