This piece is written by Joyce Keokham, a storyteller based on earth.
Do you know about Thuy’s suspicions?
Do you remember the last thing you ate?
Thuy remembers everything.
She remembers the ingredients of the soaps that lather her head just as she remembers the restrictions on the parking signs that contour her car. She remembers everything but forgets to remember that she is not a computer. Alarmingly, Thuy’s recollections are so vivid she could print them if only she had decent handwriting or the ability to draw. A neural lace would send the nearest inkjet printer into a frenzy.
She sees a red sign towering menacingly over her sedan from the inside of her house. Inside her sleep. They warn of street cleanings on Tuesdays 12:00 PM to 3:00 PM.
In fact, it’s 1:45 pm when she rubs her eyes open and crosses the street to her Honda Accord.
She apologizes because it looks lonely. Then she moves her car to humor the chore. She suspects that the street cleaners never come. She can tell by the litter that remains at 3:01 PM.
Thuy’s block looks the same Monday to Wednesday yet she still moves her car every Tuesday. It’s a very shallow surfacing secret but she hopes for a ticket every week. She never gets one.
Her suspicions are right but she longs to be wrong.
Thuy returns home and washes her face before the bathroom mirror. Peeking at her reflection she demonstrates an ability for error by assuming an unprepossessing presence when in truth she is attractive. She has no idea she is wrong because she has no idea she is attractive.
She is deaf to compliments because they leave her wondering which part of her genome produces the fancied features and which parent she owes credit to.
Thuy steps out of her apartment as the mail person zig-zags through. She suspects her mail will arrive at a later day but still approaches to ask “Any packages?”
Thuy treks over to her car packageless. Before crossing the street she spots the gardener. Noticing the canvas bags of grass shreds placed along the sidewalk she pauses to ask “Where do you take these?”
Avoiding compliments, conversations with Thuy are easy to start because she’s interested in everything. Only getting to know her is difficult because getting to know her means you have to know everything.
Her interest in what others can tell her catalyzes all of her relationships. In this way, she falls in love every day. In a platonic-but-you-still-feed-me-something-special sort of way. Though there are plenty of instances that are impasse.
The gardener looks up from the lawn revealing her face underneath the 360 brim of her hat. “I’m not sure,” she answers, “I load the truck and someone else takes it.”
Thuy treks on unsatisfied by the answer, nearly Googling it but she decides the information will be of little use to her. Instead, she allows herself to be averted by her notifications. She’s late for an OkCupid date.
She takes her ticket free pollen kissed car and drives the neighborhood over to meet an Aleeza at a donut shop.
Aleeza is attractive but it never occurs to Thuy. Thuy doesn’t bother musing over Aleeza’s genetic sequence nor does she wonder what her parents might look like.
They exchange pleasantries sitting in each other’s company. Aleeza doesn’t feed new information to Thuy nor does she bother to.
In fact, Thuy suspects Aleeza of keeping little phrases to recycle back, her favorite being obviously. Thuy decides Aleeza is special because she has no interest in having special interests.
Leaving the date, Thuy learned little. With Aleeza the platonic-but-you-still-feed-me-something-special sort of way emotion is missing. In its place, Thuy feels nothing. The date ends with no kiss.
Driving home, Thuy replays the event. She remembers all the names of the donuts that sat in the glass case just as she remembers all the words Aleeza had said sitting across from her.
Do you know what makes romance?
Do you remember the last time you felt romance?
Thuy suspects it’s uncertainty. No, she’s certain it’s uncertainty.
To Thuy, In the Mood for Love is a revered love story because Maggie Cheung doesn’t end up with Tony Leung and proposals are only romantic because they are unexpected otherwise it’s an arrangement. If it’s predictable, it’s an algorithm and it’s not romantic.
Thuy decides she likes Aleeza because she never knows when Aleeza will respond originally or strike with another obviously. Thuy asks Aleeza for a second date and Aleeza answers not so obviously.
IS THIS CODE? Thuy wonders to herself as she scans her memory for a similar instance to compare this to.