The first thing he did
When we first met was
Apologize. He’s sorry
Because he wasn’t

And he wasn’t lying.

Every time I take a picture of him,
He looks like he’s sick.
His face, lopsided. His grin, toothy.
Why does it look like his bones break
Every time I snap a photo?

Here I am, trying to show
This beautiful creature to the world
Frame at a time.
But, of course, no dice.

And yes, I did record him.
Videos won’t cut it, either.
It shows him in flux but
The camera skips the pixels
Of nuance and subtlety.

Shame. In the flesh,
My eyes see what cameras
Fail to catch.
No photograph can capture his charm.
No video can copy is grace.

All to myself?
Maybe it’s possible to have
Too much of a
Good thing.
It’s intoxicating.


Bread Crumbs

I’ve been writing more drafts. I’ve been drawing more. I’ve been dancing more too. I’ve been uploading more videos on my YouTube channel (it’s just me playing video games, but still). I’ve been singing even more and recording it and posting it on Facebook. I’m cracking more jokes than ever, commenting and speaking out more online and in real life.

Now that I deleted my dating apps, I’ve had a lot of extra time somehow. Less time talking to dudes I’ll never meet or never date. More time developing my artistic side.

Also I kinda got tired of chasing after people. That got old. Maybe if I just put myself out there, someone will find me interesting enough to date.

Wow, it’s like I’m leaving little bread crumb trails everywhere.

Father’s Day

I slice through the New York Strip like butter, revealing a glorious pink medium-rare center. I inhale the aroma wafting from the steak and almost drool just from the combination of garlic and thyme.

Dad lets out a chuckle from across the table. “So what did they say after your thesis defense?” He asks just loud enough for me to hear over the energetic chatter of other customers here in the steakhouse. “They didn’t enjoy all the puns, did they?”

“Oh, they loved the puns.” I say after swallowing a piece of the steak. “Okay, maybe they complained after the third Terminator reference, but it worked out in the end.”

Dad smiles through his thick black mustache. Creases and folds form on his face, which is something that I’ve never noticed before. I guess he’s getting older now. Or maybe it’s because I barely see him anymore, and any changes, big or small, will immediately look foreign to me. He struggles to slice a small piece of his rib-eye, incredibly well-done as usual, and chews meticulously so his dentures wouldn’t fall out of his mouth. He sighs and stares at me, making me stop right before I eat another piece of the steak.

“Thank you.” Dad exhales deeply as if saying those two words managed to take the wind out of him. “Not just for buying me dinner for the first time… Thank you… for still coming to dinner with me.”

I chomp on the next piece of my steak and chew slowly. This is the fifth Father’s Day dinner we’ve had where it was only me and Dad in attendance. Maybe I’m just more forgiving than my other siblings and Mom.

“It’s nothing, really.” I shrug. “I can’t really say no to good food…” I raise my glass of water in the air. “Happy Father’s Day!” I exclaim before placing the glass down a little too quickly.

We both go back to our steaks. Every so often, Dad would break the silence between us with small talk, but I offer short replies in between rounds of chewing my food. All around us were happy diners, smiling and laughing warmly at one another. Each table, like ours, has a father-figure sitting down on it that attracts all the beaming grins and chuckles from their respective families. Seeing Dad just sitting there making polite small talk, however, seems incredibly surreal.

“Is something wrong?” I finally ask. Dad jumps in his seat, taken aback by my question. “Normally you’d be complaining about Auntie Cynthia or doing something embarrassing by now, this is really concerning—–”

“I know you’re gay.”

I freeze mid-sentence. I haven’t heard my dad say that word in decades. His face looks more determined now. This is what he wanted to talk about all along.

“Dad, this isn’t the time—-”

“Your Auntie Cynthia called me on the phone and told me all about it.” He snarls, a chunk of steak flying from his mouth and lands on the edge of my plate. “Do you know how embarrassing that is? Apparently all your aunts and uncles and cousins already knew about it. And it seems like I’m the last to find out… When did you come out?”

I don’t know where to start. I never expected him to bring this up.

“What’s wrong?” He asks. He scans my face for any answers but I continue to stay stoic. “Son, I’m doing the best that I can to be a father here. I’m here if you need to talk about it.”

“Dad,” I start to speak, my voice quivering just a little bit. “There’s nothing to talk about. Now come on, you’re making a scene—-”

Dad drops his cutlery on the table. The clanging of the metal causes dissonance with the vibrant energy around us. His breathing becomes erratic. The façade he had earlier is now gone, revealing the frustration he’s been hiding all along. This is the father that I remember.

“I have every right to know this as your father!” Dad half-screams, slamming his fist near his plate. I could feel the gaze of a few people around us. “I’ve done everything that I could to make sure none of you went hungry. The least you can do is treat me like your –”

Something inside me snaps.

“WHY DO YOU THINK I’M STILL HERE?” I bellow. More diners turn their heads but they eventually return to their tables. Dad tries to speak again but I quickly cut in. “Don’t you think I know that? I get it. You’ve sacrificed so much for us. No matter how much I hate to admit it, I can never say that I’m not your son!”

“Then what’s with all the secrecy?” Dad interrogates. His nostrils flare and his eyes grow wide. I feel inclined to be intimidated, but I’m not a teenager anymore. His hands flail wildly, making him appear larger and threatening. I know his game. As he realizes that I’m not flinching, he switches tactics.“What, do you think I hate gays? You’re my son, I would never reject you for being–”

“Our Florida Vacation, 2007.” I reply with confidence, crossing my arms. A few shades of color drain from Dad’s face. “After we saw Cousin Dylan propose to his boyfriend in Jacksonville, you told me that if you ever find out that I was gay,” All the air vanishes from my lungs, forcing me to inhale sharply. I clear my throat. “… you would break legs, chain me up by my ankles and hang me from the ceiling.” Dad tries to speak but nothing comes out. “Well?” I throw my hands up gesturing for him to say something. “Was I supposed to think you liked gay people after that?”

“I…” Dad stutters, averting eye contact. “I was drunk. That was just a joke—”

I roll my eyes. “You were sober! You spat on Dylan when he tried to hug you. You kept calling them ‘faggots’ as we drove away—” An exasperated sigh manages to sneak its way out of my mouth as I place my hand over my face. “‘I was drunk…’ what kind of fucking sorry excuse is that?”

Dad looks like he just ran out of steam. He sits on his chair with slump shoulders. I have never seen him look so defeated. “I…” he starts softly. “I just want you to tell me. In person. Not through text or on the phone. Not through someone else. I shouldn’t have to hear this from your relatives. This is something that you should be telling me face to face. I’m just… Just trying to be a good father–”

For a moment I feel like I should believe him. His face reverts back to its old, wrinkled self. His furrowed brows soften, and a small frown develops on his lips. I feel the need to forgive him, but something holds me back. I’ve heard him apologize before. I seen him apologize to Mom countless times. I’ve forgiven him so many times myself, and I always end up disappointed in both of us.

“And I’m trying to be a good son.” I add. “This is the least I can do. I can spare an hour or two with you for dinner. I tell you things about my life.”

I can see our waiter walking closer to us. A concerned expression forms on his face for the first time this evening.

“But I’ll choose what I want to tell you.” I declare. “On my own terms… When I’m ready, not when you ask me.” I point at him as he dares to even open his mouth to talk. “This isn’t about you… and it never will be.”

I can’t even tell if I forgave him or not. I don’t feel like I did, and I feel like it was a lukewarm answer. But it seems like Dad’s shoulders relax a bit. He sits back on his chair once again, staring up at the ceiling. I do the same. The ceiling itself isn’t interesting. The long light fixtures that hang from the ceiling and drop to about 4 feet above each tables are nothing to cry home about. I don’t know what Dad is doing, but I just need to make sure the tears welling up from my eyes don’t fall and flow down my face.

Before the waiter could even speak, I hold up a hand to him. “I’m sorry about all that noise, we were just having a moment.” I try my best to fake the happiest grin I could plaster on my face. “Can I also get one of your drink menus? I think my dad just needs something to drink.” I wink at the waiter, who winces immediately. Once he walks away from us, I sigh heavily before returning to my plate.

Dad raises an eyebrow. “You don’t know how to wink. You’re just like your Auntie Cynthia.”

I smile. “There we go. That’s the dad I know and love.”

Straight Crush

Nooooo no no!
We’re not doing this again!
I’m not signing up for weeks
(WEEKS, may I remind you?)
Of half-assed Shakespearean-esque soliloquies
While you look at yourself in the mirror
And cry.

I don’t care if he’s tall
And has a goatee
And talks with a Southern twang in his accent.
(Damn, he’s really cute though.)

ARE YOU SLOW? (Sometimes, I wonder.)

And no, don’t say that “Oh but he seems like
He could be in the closet” nonsense.
Your GAYDAR can’t detect horseshit
Even if you’re BATHING
In it.

I mean,
I get it.
(Duh, I’m you.)
Your type of guy just happens to like
A lot of things that straight guys like.
Like video games.
And cargo shorts.
And flip flops (That’s a straight guy thing, right?)

Except girls. You don’t like girls.
But they do.
See how that’s a big problem?

So don’t put your heart and dick in your sleeves.
You know you’re gonna hurt yourself again if you do.
Just forget about him.
Find a new hobby
Move to a new state.
That way, no one gets hurt.
No one gets…
No one…

You already fell for him,
didn’t you?


My official label as a gay man
is a lot like a Starbucks drink order.
I can already see the barista
yelling over the counter.
“Cis gay Asian bear,
a shot of geekiness,
extra vanilla,
no kinks.”
It’s excessive, I know, but I’m happy with it.
Then the Barista squints
at the name on the cup.
“For… Pablo?”
It’s Paulo.

For Free

We’re not too far from each other.
Need some—
Ah, gotcha.
Should have known you’d be prepared.
Just ten minutes away by car.
No biggie.

You know, this always
Makes me think.
It’s almost hilarious,
Isn’t it?
Inside I feel empty.
And in just a few minutes,
For a few minutes,
I won’t be.

But I never get any closer to becoming a
Complete Person.

Eh, who gives a shit?
We both know what we want.
How we want it.
How much
We need it.

I shouldn’t expect a miracle
when I’m getting this for free.

White Hair

I sat down on the chair closest to the door, staring into the endless illusion of the mirrors inside Lee’s Hair Salon. Chau gracefully draped the black nylon cape over my body. While I’ve been a loyal customer ever since I was 10 years old, it’s rare that Chau would cut my hair on her own. Normally one of the other barbers would do it as she took care of the female customers. At 9:30 in the morning, however, the salon was quiet save for the inane chatter of a small CRT TV attached to the ceiling. The bright white tile floors gleamed free of hair trimmings. The thought of destroying its temporary purity with my black hair made me grin.
We made eye contact through the mirror as she grabbed the hair clippers and a long brown comb. Chau’s black hair fell to her shoulders in large glossy curls. Her bright red lips popped from her fair skin, yet her overbite and large front teeth commanded to be seen. “What you want today?” She asked with a heavy Vietnamese accent. I told her to give me “the Usual,” causing creases to form on her face as she smiled widely. “Short on sides, spike up top.” She recited as she flipped the switch of the clippers and shaved the entire right side of my head in just three strokes.
“You have many white hair! Too young for white hair!” She exclaimed, raising her voice above the buzz of the clippers. We looked at each other in the mirror once again, and I saw her holding on to a long wispy white strand of hair still attached to the top of my head. From where I sat, I saw one more strand of white hair close to my forehead. “How many now? You had two long ago?” She turned off the clippers, looked at my shoulder and picked up the two white strands in the pile of freshly cut hair. I was amazed and horrified that she remembered where she first saw them.
I indulged her curiosity. I told her that I stopped counting. I was convinced that a few strands of white hair appear whenever a traumatic or life-changing event happens to me. The first two, I explained as she stared at the strands she held between her fingers, was from the time I drowned when I was 7 and from immigrating here when I was 9.
She returned the two strands carefully on my right shoulder, like they were bombs that could explode at any minute. I gave out a hearty laugh and said I didn’t mind divulging those two things. I asked her if she would like to count the rest that’s on my head; I was curious myself. With a small nod, she used the comb to probe through my thick black hair.
“Here. Three.” Chau proclaimed as she spotted the strand near my forehead.
From when that girl I didn’t even like in 7th grade shouted that I was ugly in front of the entire class.
Further up my head, Chau poked at two more strands of white in a sea of jet black. “Five!”
From when I finally accepted that I was gay.
At the top of my head, Chau gently pulled at the first strand she saw earlier. After a few seconds, she spotted two more, raising them up to meet the first strand. “Eight! That’s lots!”
From a car accident where I could have been crushed by an upside down flying car, and from dropping out of college twice. I’m sure two of the three strands were for that accident.
She moved on to the back of my head, where I felt her pull on two more strands. She just laughed, seemingly amazed at what she’s discovering in her expedition.
From when one of the first friends I made here in the US told me that he never wanted to see me again… From my first ever break-up.
Chau resumed shaving off my hair with the clippers. Just before she swiped at the left side of my head, she pulled on another strand of white hair and showed it to me in the mirror. She left it alone and shaved the hair off.
Chau brushed off the small clippings of hair on my face with a brush before pulling the nylon cape off and scattering my hair all on the floor. I opted out of adding hair gel on my head, since I was gonna head home and shower anyway. I stared at myself for a few more seconds as she went up to the cash register near the door. “Hope no more bad things happen.” She chanted cheerfully. “But it’s okay. White hair means mature and smart. You’re already good, not like other people.”
I couldn’t help but grin. The screen on the cash register flashed “$13.00,” I grabbed a $20 bill in my wallet and handed it to her. I told her to keep the change, thanked her for the haircut and walked towards the door.
She sang “Thank you, come again!” behind me as I felt the wind on my scalp for the first time in months. Both black and white short hair strands on top of my head danced in the breeze.