“I see balls. Lots of brown balls.”
Chen was at the psychic. Psychic’s office was in a two-story house off Lombard St shared with a pot dispensary.
“Your chakras are misaligned,” confirmed the psychic.
His crystal ball glimmered in the dim light. It was made out of cheap plastic and covered with hairline scratches.
“Keep your eyes closed,” chimed in the psychic.
Chen didn’t, and saw his high school teacher next to him. He had a major crush on her back in high school, except now he was an adult, and she seemed like she hadn’t aged a bit. She was holding two tubs of boba milk tea to her bare bosom. Chunky cubes of pudding floated in the milk tea. Squishy pearls tumbled at the bottom of both tubs.
By her side he noticed his elderly Grandmother with her polished Sengoku cane. She had passed away about a year ago.
What the f…
He woke up.
Chunky cubes of pudding floated in the milk tea.
Squishy tapioca balls tumbled at the bottom of the tub.
Chen was at the bubble tea café in the Financial District.
He waited for his lavender flavored milk tea.
College kids occupied every table. Chubby straws stuck out of the tubs of their milk tea. Transparent pieces of rainbow jello caught the overhead light. Tender lychees, shaped like lampshades, gyrated between the other toppings.** **Warm incandescent light lit up the cafe. It was a *bubble tea paradise*.
One of the girls turned a page of her study book. She wrapped her pouty lips around the straw. He took note of her flawless skin, high cheekbones, and saucy eyes. She had cheek dimples, too. She looked like the kind of girl who would try every topping in her milk tea. His imagination quickly yet unintentionally came up with an image of her on her knees looking up at him, whispering:
Red bean, custard pudding, rainbow jello, and pearls. Thank you.
She could probably be his daughter, though. She was having matcha green milk tea. The guy in glasses next to her, apparently, boyfriend, balanced the MacBook on his lap. He was enjoying a pink milk tea. Chen couldn’t make out which flavor that was. Peach. Maybe, grapefruit.
The scene brought back many memories of his college years and study groups at the MIT library. It looked like the study groups had moved to the milk tea cafès since then.
The notice was stuck to the glass doors when he’d walked in. Chen scratched his unshaven 5’clock shadow chin, flashing his Rolex.
Elton was the English version of his Cantonese name that he went by ever since he had arrived to US as a kid.
He accepted the chill plastic container of delicious liquid from the girl behind the counter. She had a pudgy teen face. The pimples made it look like the moon’s surface. She tucked an unruly strand of hair behind her ear. Her long soft curls fell down her neck on her soft, supple shoulders. He grabbed a neon yellow straw and poked a hole in the top of his drink:
Hey, sweetheart, meet me for drinks tonight?
*“Fuck off, perv,” *replied the teen.
He woke up.
Two months later.
After he accepted the position at the milk tea spot he had moved to a smaller place. He couldn’t afford his ultra chic loft in a prime location anymore. He had to let go of most of his prized possessions, too, such as his Art Nouveau collection of prints and Marie Antoinette antiques. Also gone: many of his rich and successful CEO friends. Without the happy hours with his mates, obligatory brunches with investors, and expensive dinner reservations with powerful women at popular city spots (most of the times he only pretended he cared about any of them), he got some much needed space for reflection.
In his new life he scooped amber pieces of jello from a large bin surrounded by college students, and joked about Logan Paul with his teen-aged colleagues. As he mixed bouncy balls of tapioca into the milk tea on chilly sunny weekday mornings he learned a lot about himself.
He came to conclusion that it wasn’t him but his wife who was abusive in their failed marriage. He remembered how strangely left out he felt the entire time.* *How he managed to completely suppress his own needs by having been always conditioned to only care about hers.
When he realized that he stopped sending text messages to the old extended family group chat where she stayed too. In those pathetic group texts he assumed sole responsibility for the demise of their marriage. He apologized for her decision to end their relationship. It was his fault* *that *she *had cut him out of her life. His efforts had never received any replies.
Over time, his messages had grown shorter, but he had not planned to give up:
miss you guys
myself is doing ok. hope everything is fine with you guys!
miss you guys, and Luna too
Luna was the name of their dog. He haven’t seen the puppy since the breakup. He mostly came to terms with it.
When he succumbed to a sudden impulse and started working at the boba shop he found unexpected yet much needed closure. It wasn’t his fault. Nothing could’ve been done differently. Breaking free was good for him. And it was good that he’d realized it.
He’d be better off getting another puppy.
*“Have you ever been in a situation that had no way out. Until it did by a mere change of mindset?” *The next customer’s voice was a little too familiar. “*It is the only way to change the world I know,” *said the psychic from Lombard street in a slightly patronizing tone.
He proceeded to order a Himalayan Edelweiss flavored milk tea.
We don’t have Himalayan Edelweiss. What the f…
The annoying alarm kept going off. Chen stuck his hand from under the Egyptian cotton duvet and searched for a snooze button.
A petite Asian-Irish redhead slept next to him. Her lingerie was all over the plush carpet. The half-empty glass of whiskey was left out on the deck. He soaked in the breathtaking view of the Bay for a second. The ocean and tiny boats. He looked away and — surprise, surprise — there was an unfinished tub of milk tea on her bedside table. The container top was torn through with a tablespoon to scoop the last balls of tapioca. Dried droplets of milk tea stained the expensive cedar wood surface. He didn’t remember leaving it there, or even getting one last night. “She’s such a mess. Dump her tomorrow,” he immediately decided, annoyed. A jab in the heart, like every morning. He remembered the abandoned chat thread. And the puppy.
He attempted to recall his dream. There were multiple levels to it. “Inception,” he thought, amused. He felt that some very important revelations had been made in his Inception-like sleep. Whatever had happened in the dream had finally brought him peace.
Something about the psychic. Weed dispensary. Teenage girls. As the last bits of the dream faded the burden laid on his shoulders again. When he got in his car, he looked older. A wrinkle formed between his eye brows. Occasionally, he felt a painful jab in the heart. That was when he thought about the happy bouncy fur ball Luna. He thought how she had always been so excited to see him. And that especially raw memory of her galloping toward him whenever he’d walked in the door.
He picked up the phone and opened the abandoned group chat:
Happy Monday! Miss you, guys. And Luna.
In the board room he opened his laptop and tried to focus on what CEO was saying. Something about quarter reports. *Jello. Wobbly jello, *whispered the soft voice. The voice didn’t belong to anyone in the room, rather it was coming from his own subconscious. It wobbles, insisted the voice, Tapioca balls.
“Fuck,” he screamed inside, but remained perfectly silent and focused outside. In a short second he remembered everything. Every detail of the elusive morning dream. And the spin-off dream inside the first dream. And the nested dream inside that secondary dream. Everything, all the way up to the strange visit to a psychic and his own reincarnated Grandma with Sengoku cane. In a scoop of a second. Just like that. The senior executive stopped talking and looked at him with a sour face. So did the others. Perhaps, he didn’t scream silently after all. Their eyes spoke volumes, “He’s nuts,*” *they thought. “He’s different”, corporate matter in their mere beings intensely felt the presence of hostile foreign substance in the room. “It will change your life,” softly asserted the familiar voice that ordered Himalayan Edelweiss earlier.
Minutes later, Chen was browsing the boba shop website. He was sort of half listening to the senior executive half focusing on the job application in front of him. Strangely, the application began with the words “Portal to another world” typed in Comic Sans in all caps.
He scrutinized the talking face of his buddy CEO attentively and proceeded to list his own company name for his previous employment. A major financial startup and a huge player in Bay Area, the product of his many efforts and all-nighters for the past 2 years. He had arrived on board as a top level manager and rebuilt it from the ground up, having been promoted to CTO along the way. He had rebranded and restructured it. He had made hard decisions, and made it bigger and more successful than ever before, and now he was going to dump it all down the drain.
With a great deal of zeal he specified his seven figure salary in the “previous income” field. This was getting ridiculous but he enjoyed being silly in the middle of a work day and his entire life. Silliness had evaporated from it at an early age. The last smiling photo known of him was at his 5th birthday party. A cute Asian kid near the oversized birthday cream abomination. He hadn’t smiled in photos ever since. He looked out of the window. It was the end of February. Trees were starting to get little purple flowers on them. “It’s really not true that there are no seasons in Nor Cal”, he thought. “I know it even more intensely because I have spent my entire life in a cave.” Nature instilled the overwhelming sense of change in him.
He felt compelled to continue.
Before the meeting was over he was done and hit the ‘Submit’ button.
He closed his laptop and smashed it into the head of his buddy Senior VP, missing the latter by mere inches (thanks, God!). Then he got up and left the room, despite some people trying to stop him.
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XOXO, Marina ❤