Tag Archives: love

Burger Queen

They sat in a booth in a fifties diner after a long drive from Sacramento. It was a locally owned joint with charming black and white checkered linoleum floors and red leather bar stools and framed photographs of the Rat Pack and James Dean on the walls.

“How do you like the food?” the cook asked.

She stared at her hamburger. “It’s not what I thought I ordered,” she said, feeling ashamed.

The cook checked her tab and confirmed she had ordered the hamburger with barbecue sauce and onion rings. “I can make you another one,” the cook said.

“I only need a half,” she said, pointing to her half eaten burger.

“I’ll make you another one,” the cook insisted.

When the cook returned to the kitchen, she sat up straighter. “Mikey would be proud of me,” she said. “I stood up for myself when I usually don’t say anything.”

Her boyfriend frowned. “What’s going on with you and Mikey?”

She sat back, as if pressed against a wall. Her eyes widened with fear and confusion. “He’s coaching me on how to be more confident,” she said.

Her boyfriend stared at her, his frown deepening.

She continued. “He could tell I was unhappy. He had a heart-to-heart with me. He said I was worth being someone’s wife and that if that’s not what you wanted it was okay but that I needed to leave you because I’m not getting any younger.”

His face darkened.

“He was just trying to build up my confidence.”

He glanced away.

“I shouldn’t have told you,” she said.

He turned back to her, his eyes flashing. “No, I asked you to tell me,” he said.

“But you’re angry.”

“I’m not angry.”

The cook returned with her hamburger. She took a bite and smiled. “It’s perfect,” she said. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” the cook said.

It felt good to be heard. It felt even better to have received exactly what she had asked for, even if it was only a hamburger.

Sacrifice for Success

Sacrifice

The other day, my husband asked, “What more do I have to sacrifice for your success?”

I had just announced I would be missing another family function in order to audition for a radio spot that would air in October to promote my memoir, Red Eggs and Good Luck. Since January, I had been pitching articles, essays, videos, appearances, and speaking engagements in anticipation of snagging prime spots to showcase the book in the hopes of increasing the number of pre-orders and garnering more sales.

Of course, my husband didn’t understand. I hadn’t publicized my other books outside of social media and local appearances. But after discussing my goals with my publisher, I decided to hire a publicist and expand my marketing efforts beyond anything I had ever anticipated doing. My family cringed when I announced how much time and money I planned to devote to this book. My husband said, “We need a new car!” My daughter asked, “How am I going to afford college?” My son, who can’t talk, didn’t say anything. But if he could, I’m sure he would have protested too.

No one knows the magic formula that causes one book to rise to the best seller list and another book to remain unknown. Publishing experts offer advice, but the truth remains a mystery. Otherwise, the formula would be replicated without fail.

My family knew I was gambling, placing a bet on something that may or may not pay off. But a lot of the risks we take in life are gambles, including the biggest risk of all: falling in love. Exposing yourself to another human being with the chance of being hurt and disappointed doesn’t stop most people from taking the first step to connect.

So when my husband asked, “What more do I have to sacrifice for your success?” I responded, “Whatever it takes for however long it takes.”

Success doesn’t have a deadline. Neither does love. Or anything else that’s worth the sacrifice.

When the Dream Becomes a Nightmare

My husband had a dream we divorced because I am married to writing.

Sure, the majority of my social events center on writing and literature and book promotions. Sure, I spend a good portion of my day writing and a good portion of my nights editing. And the weekends, well, they fall into the dark side of creativity.

My family constantly makes sacrifices to support my writing habit. My husband assumes all responsibility for childcare and housework, letting me have the space and time to concentrate at home instead of renting an office downtown. He postpones intimacy so I can meet deadlines. My children wait and wonder when I will have time for them. Sometimes they understand. Other times my son will shut the notebook I am writing in and shout, “The End!” before grabbing my hand and demanding, “Eat!” My daughter fluctuates from pride in promoting my work to frustration in wanting to eat breakfast with me without the clutter of notes on the kitchen table and a pen nearby in case inspiration strikes.

I have been writing since I was ten. That means long before I met my husband and gave birth to my children I had logged in hundreds of hours at the desk, typing away on an electric typewriter, writing draft after draft. I had my first poem published when I was 15. By the time I was 17, I was writing for the local paper. Two months before my twenty-fifth birthday, I received a check for my first piece of fiction.

But to dream that all of that came before him and displaced him, left me feeling bereft and helpless to convince him otherwise.

How can you tell your spouse the written word means less to you than he does when the only vehicle you have to use is words?

Showing him didn’t help. That meant canceling speaking engagements, book launches, signing parties, and other literary events. It meant pulling back instead of reaching out, but if I didn’t do something, my marriage, my family, the foundation I stood on, would crumble.

Sure, he says the dream was just a dream. He doesn’t feel that way. Not really.

But still…I have to be wary…how much do I push the envelope before the whole contents spill out?

I’ve been told I’m ambitious. I have enjoyed moderate success as a writer, enough to pay some bills, obtain some local recognition, and open a few doors to big-time opportunities, but not enough to replace the income from my other jobs, gain national recognition, or capitalize on any of those big-time opportunities. I’m what the industry calls a mid-list writer, one who falls between the cracks of oblivion and fame. But the potential exists to break out of that rut, to possibly become more, with each new poem, essay, article, screenplay or book.

That’s the real threat to the marriage—the breakout novel that will catapult me from where I am to where I want to be—that’s what will cause all the rest of my world to tumble down. And that’s the tension I live with every day: not whether to write or not to write, but whether to write better and reach further, to stop doing what I’ve already done and reach for something more.

That “more” tips the scales between the best wife and the best mother and the well-paid, well-recognized and well-respected writer.

I cannot predict the future, but I can tread lightly on the present. And that means declining some opportunities for more time to devote to those who have come into my life either by choice or circumstance to form what I call my family. To sacrifice one for the other isn’t ideal, but it is reality.

That’s why I chose to help my husband with much needed home repairs instead of attending another book festival. That’s why I refused to travel out of the country on a three month writing retreat to be with my family—correcting my daughter’s homework, discussing behavioral strategies with specialists for my son, supporting my husband emotionally as he reorganizes and expands his business. For in the end, it does not matter whether or not future generations study my novel in their junior high English class, but whether or not I showed the ones I love I care more about them than anything else…and that they feel it and believe it and know it to be true.

Christmas Angels

I am surrounded by images of angels: praying angels, guardian angels, love angels, wedding angels, and Christmas angels. They remind me of my life’s purpose: to be a messenger of God.

But in the wake of global unrest, political conflicts, and the potential Fiscal Cliff, it is difficult to see the angels in our lives, even during the Christmas season where images of angels abound.
When I drive around the city, I see fewer holiday lights. When I stop at the store, I see fewer lines at the checkout registers. When I stand at the post office, I see fewer boxes being shipped. When I go online, I see fewer messages of holiday cheer.

But if I look closer, past the glitter and glamor of shopping, entertainment, music and lights, I notice there is no room for me to place my unwrapped new toy in the Toys for Tots receptacle because there are too many donations for the receptacle to hold. I overhear more requests for the gift of one’s time rather than a laundry list of retail items from people’s “What I want for Christmas” lists. I taste more sweetness in the lunch with a friend I haven’t seen in years. I feel the firmness of a handshake for the appreciation of one’s company. I smell the pine from the Christmas trees even as I sneeze.

Angels are all around us, not just at Christmas. We may pay more attention to them during the giving season than we do the rest of the year, but they are with us every day. From the bus driver willing to let a late passenger board to the child willing to unload the dishwasher for an overworked parent, angels surround us. It is only our job to listen and hear the messages of love, kindness, joy, comfort, and hope they bring to our lives.

Tell us about the angels in your life:

The Gift of Reading

Although my short story collection, The Human Act and Other Stories, will not be released from All Things That Matter Press in time for the 2012 holiday shopping season, three new short stories are available for purchase, either as gifts for your favorite reader or as a treat for yourself.

An all-time reader favorite with over 800 buys during its initial release, “Sex and Four Sisters,” chronicles the unexpected twists and turns our sexuality influences our lives.

“Your Eyes” is a romantic short story about first loves, midlife crises, and the surprising discoveries we make once we face the mistakes of our past.

Want a taste of what’s coming in my short story collection? “All We Need Is a Little Magic” is the follow up story to “Hope in the Laundry Room,” which is featured in The Human Act and Other Stories.

Jia Blossoms

Jia plugged her iPod into the auxiliary jack of her Toyota Prius and listened to John Lennon sing, “Imagine,” as she drove up the hill to the back parking lot of Namaste Cafe where she worked as a waitress. Stepping outside into the blazing heat of another summer afternoon, she grabbed her thermal lunch bag and crumpled issue of Mother Jones and locked her car door.

“Excuse me.”

Jia glanced up into the dark brown eyes of a young man with disheveled blond hair. He was dressed in a frayed gray top and loose khaki shorts. A broken bicycle inner tube hung over one of his shoulders; a lumpy backpack against the other. Don’t look at homeless people, her father had warned her. They only want something for nothing. Just look away, pretend they don’t exist.

When the stranger stepped closer, Jia could smell grease and dumpster trash emanating from his bronze skin. She wasn’t sure if he was homeless or drunk or just in need of help. But she could not look away. She could not pretend he did not exist.

“Can I get a ride to the Pedaler Shop?” he asked. “It’s down Mendocino on College, about a mile or two from here. I need to fix my bike.” He lifted the broken inner tube for emphasis.

Jia’s gaze wandered from the man to the bike leaning against the willow tree next to the dumpster in the parking lot. The man followed her gaze, saying, “Yep, that’s my bike. I popped a tire going through a construction site.”

In a world of Jerry Springer, date rape, and online sexual predators, it was no wonder Jia heard her father’s voice: Don’t talk to strangers. They are dangerous. You could end up dead. But Jia suspected this man was as harmless as the bird with a broken wing she nursed back to health several months ago. Twirling her keys between her fingers, she said, “I have to start work in fifteen minutes.”

“If we leave now, you’ll be back in ten.”

Jia popped the trunk, and the stranger quickly dismantled his bike. It fit perfectly.

“My name is PAL.” The stranger extended his hand. “That’s short for Paul Alexander Loreau.”

“Jia,” she said, accepting his hand. “It means beautiful in Chinese.”

PAL studied her for a moment. “Your parents named you appropriately.”

Jia felt the blood rush to her cheeks.

Without hesitating, Jia unlocked the doors. She tried to keep her eyes in front of her as she drove, not on PAL who sat beside her with his elbow leaning out the window. A warm breeze ruffled her hair. She welcomed the distraction. Pausing at a stop light, she could feel PAL’s curious gaze traveling the curves of her body before resting on the blue river of veins on the back of her yellow hand where her mother’s wedding ring circled her third finger. “You’re married,” PAL said.

Jia felt no need to correct him. She didn’t open up to anyone, not even strangers. But she struggled to focus on the road. Her thoughts kept returning to the stranger sitting beside her. She had an odd desire to tug him into her arms and kiss his tight mouth until his lips blossomed. She had been alone for so long, she could not remember the last time someone had noticed her. In her head, she heard her father say, He could be tricking you. You could get mugged. Then what would you do? No money, no car. You’d be lucky if he left you alive.

Pulling into the parking lot of the Pedaler Shop, Jia pointed to her watch. “I can’t stay.” But what she wanted to say was, I can’t go.

“I don’t expect you to be late for work on my behalf.” PAL reached into his backpack and pulled out a wadded ten dollar bill. “For gas,” he said.

Jia lifted her hand and shook her head, but PAL unzipped her purse and tucked the ten dollar bill inside.

“It’s my gift.” He waved good-bye before carrying his bike into the air-conditioned store.

My father’s wrong, she thought. He didn’t hurt me. She reached into her purse with a trembling hand and retrieved the crumpled ten dollar bill. For a moment, she stared at the rip in the center of the bill just below Hamilton’s face. She smiled with conviction. He did not want something for nothing.

The clock on the dash changed to 2:57 pm. Three minutes before her shift started.

Jia zipped up her purse and backed out of the parking lot and merged with traffic. Although PAL was gone, she could still smell him sitting beside her. She rolled down her window, hoping the warm breeze would erase the smell. But the wind acted like a whisk in a bowl, beating up and blending the mixture of grease and perspiration and desire. Jia turned around at the nearest intersection and headed back to the Pedaler Shop. She parked her car and stepped into the air-conditioned store. PAL was standing between aisles of bikes waiting for the technician to fit his tire with a new inner tube.

He glanced up, startled to see her.

“I’m not married,” Jia said. “The ring was my mother’s. I wear it to feel safe.”

A slow smile spread across PAL’s face. “What are you doing for dinner?” he asked.

“Having it with you,” she said.

If you enjoyed this short story, you will love my upcoming short story collection, The Human Act and Other Stories from All Things That Matter Press. To be notified of the release date, visit my Fan Page or post a comment below.

Book Trailer for The Human Act and Other Stories

Below is the book trailer for my upcoming short story collection from All Things That Matter Press:

Official Book Trailer for The Human Act and Other Stories

Visit my Fan Page for daily updates at Angela Lam Turpin on Facebook.

For more information on the background of the collection, visit my blog on Goodreads.com.