Damn real: chapter 16

“So she moved out?” Claire and Wei looked at Namie in shock. “Yup. She moved to Fremont, so basically Silicon Valley, and she’s an engineer right now.” Namie summarized. It had been two months since Emiri had left Kenta and Namie had rejected Layton. “But what about her kids?” “Apparently my parents are raising them. And they had to fight so hard with that fucking idiot’s parents just to keep custody of them. One of their neighbors, Ms. Keans kept on telling me on Facebook that they could not stop hearing all of the yelling and arguing from next door.” Namie laughed. “And speaking of the fucking idiot, how is he taking it all?” “Badly. But he did not even try to stop her, which is the funny thing. He chose to let her go, and now he’s all pissy because nobody there’s to financially support him?” “Wow, he’s… just a piece of shit.” Claire snorted. “Cheers to that.” They all raised their glasses in unison. The three were at Le Diplomat for brunch, while Namie was just telling them about her experiences with boys and the recent development in her younger sister’s life. “But get this. He told Emiri when she went to grab her things that she was going to fail, come back to him, and beg for his hand in marriage again.” She laughed. “And now she’s an electrical engineer, while he’s an unemployed bum. So I guess who’s probably begging for who now?” Wei giggled. “I… may have also told my parents somewhere in the confusion of everything that I left the church too, since Emiri upright told them that she denounced her ways first.” Namie smirked. “How did they take that?” Wei’s eyes widened in fear. “Eh, I hung up the phone and blocked their numbers. Last I checked, Ms. Keans told me that they apparently are going around claiming they have no daughters or children, just granD.C.hildren.” She rolled her eyes. “Whatever. You’re better off without them.” Claire assured her. “They were morons from the get go.” “Moronic Mormons. The alliteration in that saying speaks the truth.” Wei agreed.

“But speaking of better off without, how about your baes? How is that going?” “Well, I sort of just stopped doing dates entirely.” Namie shrugged. “Well, from what I’ve heard, maybe you should think about going out with Peter again? He seemed to the be the least offensive out of the four of them.” Claire did make a slight point there. Out of the four, Layton and Peter were the two Namie spent the most time with. “You could be dating somebody who is cute, capable, and smart. And in our industry, somebody who can pay the bills in the household is nice to have.” Claire pointed out. “Hey, not everyone can be famous Instagram beauty gurus like you, Claire.” Wei rolled her eyes. Despite her suggestion, Claire was actually more than capable of paying and supporting herself on her side career; she was only working in the front desk for fun, not because she has to. Granted, all three of them were in that similar situation. Wei’s two jobs put her well above upper middle class, while Namie can afford to live in one of the nicer buildings in the city on just her own stock money. “Well, I guess money aside, since that really doesn’t seem to matter to any of us, he did seem to make you the happiest out of the four? I remember how excited you were for each and every date with Peter.” “That was because he was the first boy I ever went out with. And there were other boys after him too, all of whom I rejected, so don’t forget that. Peter, he was such a prick.” Namie growled. There was a reason why she had no spoken to Peter in almost four months now. “He almost let me die during a date, and all he did was laugh at me. I’m sorry, but that screams ‘grade-A asshole’ to me. In bright, neon letters.” The accountant shook her head in frustration. That was the last time she was going to let her ex-father dictate her life. That man now meant nothing to her.

“Honestly, I don’t think that any of them are good for you.” Wei stated, much to Claire’s surprise. “I might be biased because we’re related, but you are too good for any of them. One is a jackass, one is an egomaniac, one is too horny for his own good, and one is a geezer. I’d say either keep looking, and this time, without your ex-father’s guidance, since he no longer has any pull or influence on your life anyways, or you could just focus on yourself. Forget about trying to win over these boys, and focus on winning over yourself.” Wei made a really good point there. In chasing after a boyfriend or a man, and seeking that validation from somebody who was both attractive and qualified, Namie had lost sight of who she was. She allowed herself to be defined by who she was dating and their accomplishments, and not her own. It echoed what she last told Layton, about trying to learn more about who she was and what she really wanted. She had not figured that out for herself, and it had been two months already. Granted, she could have been an accomplished individual, but she knows that with her potential, she can go on to achieve greater things. Perhaps, now is the time to focus on being better than a Harvard student or an accountant for Deloitte. If she could turn her back on those offers, as well as all four of those incredibly accomplished men, then she could become thing greater than the sum of them. Looking at Emiri, and seeing how far she can come in two months, turning her life around entirely, it was inspirational. But this was a message to her as well. She could do that, if she honed in on a single passion, and pursued it with all of her determination and focus. The big question that still needed to be answered was, what would that be?

“Here’s your check. And for you, here is something else.” Their waiter placed the receipt on the table before handing a piece of paper to Namie. “Huh?” She raised an eyebrow as he walked off. Unfolding it, she frowned. It was him name, ‘Niall’, written next to a phone number. “Oh my God, he gave you his phone number?” Wei gasped. “Girl, you need to lock that down. He is a cutie.” Claire giggled. “A cutie working as a waiter? Uh.. that sounds like a lack of life ambition.” The idol scoffed. “Oh, and I forgot. You’re Wei Ishigo, right?” Startled, Wei turned to see Niall standing besides her. Luckily, he had not heard what she said, judging from the large smile on his face, though it could just have been how good he was at putting on a friendly front. “Oh, yeah, I am.” She nodded, trying to shake off the fear. “Sorry about scaring you like that. I’m not a stalker or anything, I swear. But my little sister, Kimmy, she is a huge fan of you. Could I get your autograph for her?” He looked at her excitedly. “Oh, why of course.” She agreed as he handed her a pen and paper. “Thank you. It will mean the world for her.” “So her name is Kimmy with a ‘y’?” “Yes.” “Alright, here you go. Thanks for recognizing me. I’m honestly not used to having a huge fan base outside of Asia.” She smiled. “No, thank you. Your music is a huge inspiration to her. She’ll love this.” He beamed, walking off. “Oh, and before I forget. If you don’t want to call me or anything, that’s cool with me. Meeting Wei Ishigo, I think that makes up for getting a rejection, right?” He chuckled, turning away from Namie and embarrassingly walking away. “Okay, waiter or not, he is cute as hell. Four words for you, girl. Lock that shit down.” Wei laughed and she high-fived Claire in agreement.

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Damn real: chapter 15

“Hi, are you Namie?” A tall, tanned Asian American male with gelled spiky hair approached her. It was Layton, otherwise known as the 35 year-old Namie was talking to on her dating app. “Yeah, that’s me.” Getting off from the stone bench she was sitting on, she stood up to get a better look at him. He was definitely handsome, but he also looked considerably older than her, which he obviously was, given the nine year age gap. “So, we’re just going on a casual stroll through the FDR Memorial?” He looked around, taking note of their location. “Yeah. Let’s just take it slow and get to know each other.” She smiled as they began walking and talking. There was something about Layton that was definitely attractive to her. While he was handsome, it was not necessarily his appearance. It was that sense of security, knowing that he was so much older than her, that made his appear like this grounded, mature, and almost charismatic person. It definitely helped that he was a senior financial analyst for one of the biggest banks in the country, making his work struggles identical to her own. “Yeah, every piece of back-up to our transactions, which were supporting my claims, just ruined because of the rain. And it was month-end, so you could just imagine-” “Oh, trust me, I know. With all of these cash policies in place, you need documents to support everything or else you’ll get written up or fired.” She added in, amused. “It’s like these companies just want us to hate working, I swear to god.” He sighed, as they made their way towards their fifth loop around the Tidal Basin. A couple hours had passed, but it felt like a manner of minutes to both of them. “Hey, I like where this is going, but I don’t want to rush into anything, is that okay with you?” She looked at him, hesitantly. Given his stature and age, Layton could very easily be the kind of guy who would try to coerce her into not entirely consensual acts. “Yeah, that’s fine.” “Thank god.” She sighed in relief, much to his amusement. “Can we maybe meet up again for another walk and talk?” “Sure. Same time, same day?” “Sounds like a plan.” She beamed, as they said their goodbyes.

“I had fun today.” Layton smiled at Namie as they stopped in front of the Washington Monument. They had continued meeting up for strolls and conversations since their first encounter, taking things very casually. “I hope we can keep doing this, you know? I want to know as much about you as possible.” It was that sentence that made something click with Namie’s conscious. With each conversation, Namie was starting to realize that the age gap between the two of them, it made committing to Layton feel very final. He was approaching 40, and assuming that he does get into a relationship with her, she felt almost obligated to marry him. And she was nowhere near ready for that kind of commitment. “I mean, I think you’re a kind, genuine, and good-natured person, but can I be honest with you, Layton?” “Yeah, what’s up?” “I think that I am not the person for you. Well, romantically anyways. I think you will find that special somebody, but she is not me.” There was an awkward silence at that point. “Look, you’re a great guy, attractive, smart, and most importantly, nice. But I am not looking to settle down yet. I still have a few years left where I can be free, roam the world, and really understand myself before I settle down and get comfortable in my own skin. I’m sorry it took going on these dates to realize that, but I wanted to be upfront about it.” She paused, worried that she might have hurt him badly. “Look, it actually makes more sense, the way you are putting it. And honestly, the age gap, it bothered me too. I felt like I was looking for something more long-term, but you’re still in the youth of your life. It would not be fair of me to take that away. I still remember my 20’s fondly, and I would not want you to wound up having to settle when you’re not ready. I understand that, and I respect that.” He smiled, patting her head gently before walking away. And with that, the accountant decided it was time to close the book to her love life for now. Especially when the month was closing soon.

“Alright, and that’s the last bank audit. I finished counting off the house banks, the duebacks are all given out, and that leaves…. the report!” She gasped, in slight shock. Namie had to generate and send out a report to the executive committee, essentially a board of directors, in the hotel, detailing every time somebody in the hotel was either holding too much money or was short of money. “Alright, and printed, scanned, and sent.” She sighed to herself, finishing up the last of her month-end adjustments. “Well, now that that’s over, I should have maybe five hours to nap, and then it’s off to dance class.” She sighed to herself. She had worked until 12am on Saturday, finalizing her reports, since the month was over on Friday this year. And she was going to be meeting up with Emiri and Wei for drinks later that night. Although it was more likely going to be her and Wei getting hammered while Emiri watches and sips a small carton of orange juice. Bloody Mormon. But she was her sister, and on top of that, not a complete spoiled, self-entitled brat like how Namie initially thought Emiri was. “Well, at least I can sleep.” She yawned, stretching her arms out. Life was going to be the same, with or without a man in her life. Even if she was dating somebody, she would still have to close the month. She could still have dance classes every Saturday morning. None of that would change just because she was somebody else’s girlfriend. At the end of the day, she loved that she was a hardworking accountant, first and foremost. Being able to prove that she can work for her money, on top of the money she already made in stocks, it was a serious feeling of validation for the young woman. “Business as usual.” She smiled to herself, finally arriving at her apartment, and passing out in her bed.

“You all did a wonderful job! You’re all clearly going to be on Glee as back-up dancers… oh wait, Glee was cancelled! Nevermind, you’re all going to be waiters and waitresses for the rest of your lives, except the lucky few of you who actually hit it out big and open your own dance studios, because Broadway is full of a bunch of self-entitled cunts who will push you off a stage, and then get you blacklisted from every production when you angrily break their legs with your Krav Maga skills to stand up to those bitches and let them know that you ain’t no bitch!” Melissa growled angrily, reciting a very dark chapter of her failed Broadway dance career, coupled with a hint of her dashed adolescent dreams of appearing on a now-concluded television show. The entire class awkwardly clapped to her backhanded compliment of sorts, or at least, that was how the majority of them chose to interpret it, before filing out one by one. “Namie, I mean it. You have the potential to go on cancelled-Glee. Keep trying and you won’t continue to have a shitty job as a janitor-” “I’m an accountant.” “Accountant, janitor, the only difference is that you clean up shit with numbers rather than people’s actual shit. But is that really any different?” Melissa eyed her, much to the accountant’s confusion. “Are you…drunk?” “Bitch, I wish. I took seven shots of vodka, but I’m nowhere near that stage yet. I can still feel my face. And my other parts.” She laughed heartily, walking away. That… was certainly an unusual class, even given how strange Melissa normally was. Nonetheless, it kept Namie awake and alert for the rest of her day. She needed that weird outburst of energy, since she was going to drink later that night, since her little sister was finally in town, and for once, she was looking forward to it.

“I’ll have a vodka soda. Two shots.” Wei started. “I’ll just have a gin and tonic.” Namie added. “One Irish cream for me.” Emiri told the waiter as the other two girls’ eyes widened in disbelief. “Wait, that has coffee…and alcohol in it!” Wei frowned. “So?” Emiri raised an eyebrow at her. “We’re out for drinks. What are you expecting me to have? A fucking hot chocolate?” Immediately, Wei and Namie exchanged bewildered glances. Mormons do not drink coffee or alcohol, a fact that they thought about before the two girls slowly came to the same conclusion. “So, besides some more obvious changes in your lifestyle, what else has happened since the last time I saw you?” Namie looked at her little sister, feeling proud of her for cutting ties with the church. “Well, I am thinking about divorcing that jackass, Kenta. He won’t let me pursue a career in engineering, and he’s expecting me to make ends meet as a receptionist, because he thinks that ‘women can’t handle managerial or higher responsibilities.’” She rolled her eyes, as their waiter returned to their table with their drinks. “Thank god, I needed this.” Emiri downed the entire glass in a manner of seconds. “Holy shit, Emi, pace yourself.” Namie gasped. “Don’t worry, if I am related to you, I must be a tank. One more!” She shouted at the waiter. “You know, I have been giving it a lot of thought. I got dual degrees in Applied Mathematics and Engineering. What did my idiot husband do? He went to BYU for Philosophy. And he’s not an aspiring musician who has literally booked zero gigs since he started. And the only reason why I can’t pursue any bigger careers is because he won’t let me not take care of the fucking kids. Piece of fucking crap.” She growled angrily.

It was a while later, and Emiri had somehow made her way back into her hotel room; thanks to Claire and Wei, she was able to stay at the Ritz with a ridiculously cheap rate. “That’s it. The bastard needs to understand that if I’m going to be paying the bills, I need to pay them my own way.” She grumbled angrily, pulling out her phone. “Hello?” It was Kenta on the other side of the call. “Hey, we need to talk.” “Dear, what’s wrong? You sound…like you’re under the influence.” “I’m quitting my job. I am so sick and tired of dealing with all of this shit-” “Well, honey, there’s a nicer way to put that. Poop. And of course you would be. But as a mother, you have to put up with it, because it is your duty as a female to bear and raise children-” “Shut the fuck up, you idiot. I’m not referring to their crap, which thank you by the way, for helping me clean up. I’m talking about you being useless in the household. Who pays the bills? Me, and on minimum wage on top of that. Who is raising the kids? Me. Who handles all of the chores? I do. What do you do, other than waste my electricity on your band, waste my gas because you decided to give your car up, again for your band, and most importantly, drive me crazy and depriving me of any obligation or right to live as a human being, because of your fucking band. So either you need to do more work in the house, or you need to let me pursue my dream of being an engineer. Because right now, I want to live in much bigger house so that I can get away from all of the shit you bring into it.” “And if I say no to either?” “Then I’m fucking leaving you. So make up your decision right now. My patience has run thin, and honestly, I would have no regrets just taking off.”

Damn real: chapter 14

“You know, mom and dad, they forced me to get married. At first, I thought it was because of you, being older and not getting married, which spooked them, but it really is not your fault. You’re a human being and you’re allowed to get married or date or whatever at your own pace. But for me, I was so dumb. I believed that I needed to get a husband so that I have a gateway into heaven, so I just up and married Kenta!” Emiri was still ranting about her life regrets, although Namie was enjoying every second of it. “Namie, I am only 22 years old. But I have two kids. When I had Yuzu, I did not even know how to change a freaking diaper! And now I have a second child, and I don’t think that Makoto or Yuzu are going to be raised in a great environment if their main role models are a receptionist and a failing musician!” She growled. Despite studying in mathematics and engineering, Emiri had to take a receptionist job on top of taking care of the rest of her family, because Kenta felt threatened by Emiri’s male colleagues and peers in the engineering industry. He feared that one of them would snag her away from him, or so Namie heavily theorized when she first saw how he reacted whenever she spoke about her interests in pursuing an engineering career. “It is exhausting! Every single day. I bust my butt off, working 14 hour days, on top of dropping off the kids at school, and then having to pick them up from Kenta’s parents house, and then picking up Kenta from band practice, and from there, having to make breakfast, lunch, and dinner for everyone. And I do the groceries, dishes, take out the trash, clean the house, and Kenta never even offers to help me. He’s always ‘too tired’ from practicing. I am only 22 years old, but I feel like I have the pressure of the world on my shoulders. It sucks so much!” “Look, Emiri, you are a tough person for even going through that. Honestly, there’s a reason why mom and dad love you so much. It’s because you roll with the punches. Even though we might not see eye to eye on a lot of things, I have to give you props for making anything work in such a bad environment. I’m proud to call somebody like you my sister, and knowing that you feel this way, I am even more proud. But you should focus on yourself first. You’re still young. It’s not too late to pursue your dreams.” She reassured the younger female. “Thanks, sis.” Emiri sounded a lot calmer at this point. “I’ll talk to you later.” “Alright, can’t wait.” Namie smiled as the sisters hung up their phones.

“Alright, suitor number three. Let’s go.” Namie groaned to herself as she stood over in front of the H&M in Georgetown, the meeting place with her third and penultimate suitor. So far, the first two dates have been major disappointments. They showed so much promise, only to destroy any hope of being in a relationship for one or two glaringly offensive reasons. Namie questioned if she was being too picky, but she shook off the thought. It was her love life. She has every right to want a specific type of personality. The next guy, unlike Peter and Steven, was actually younger than her. His name is Eddie, he is a 25 year programmer in a large IT firm, based in New York, although he worked in D.C., and he graduated from Georgetown University. Apparently Eddie is half Korean, half Cantonese. Namie was starting to notice a pattern with all of these young men. While they were smart, attractive, and accomplished, she also felt as if her father was trying to force her into a position where should she marry any of them and have children, due to her not being as far advanced in her career as any of them, she would be forced to take the back seat. “Hi, are you Namie?” She turned around to see an Asian male with a relatively youthful, but rectangular face, approach her. “I’m Eddie. Nice to meet you.” He smiled bashfully. Although she wore a smile while shaking his hand, Namie could not feel like this date was not going to go well already. There was something off, almost awkward about the way Eddie was presenting himself. She could already tell that this date, it could end very badly. Shaking off her initial feeling, the accountant decided to just approach this day with an open mind. Who knows? Maybe he might actually be the one for her?

“Hey, are you okay with doing this?” The two of them were going to watch a special screening of  The revenge of the centipede Woman, a vintage Korean horror film, at the IMAX theatre. “Hey, I am not afraid of a scary movie.” Namie reassured him. “I’m 26, I can handle it.” “Alright then…” Eddie trailed off meekly. “What’s wrong?” She felt as if she had offended him, but was not quite sure how to gauge his reaction. “I am just not used to talking to women, just being honest with you.” He sighed. “Oh?” “Yeah, I focused on my studies the whole time throughout college. I had no time to think about women or dating. Because of that, I just never thought about being in a relationship. Well, until now.” He admitted, his face furiously blushing. Taken slightly aback, Namie decided to just remain calm. “Look, just be yourself, okay? Be honest with who you are, and I’m sure that if this date brings out a relationship, it will. And if it does not, it does not.” She smiled, as they stepped into the movie theatre. This was a first in her dates. Typically, the guy would lead the date and take charge. But here, it was an opportunity for her to really lead the way. Maybe that was the sort of dynamic she was looking for? With Peter, he was a condescending jerk. With Steven, he was just completely uninvested in learning about her, and was more interested in spewing praises about his own accomplishments. With Eddie, he seemed quiet and meek. She could work with that. She could help meld their dynamic into a relationship more towards her liking. More with her input, unlike with the other two. “How did you like the movie?” He looked at her as they finally stepped out of the room. “It was fun. I hope you enjoyed it too.” She smiled at him. “It was terrifying, but I was impressed by how un-scared you were.” “Look, Eddie, I enjoyed myself, and I was wondering if you’d like to go on a second date with me?” She looked at him, expectantly. “Yeah, sure!” He gasped, surprisingly. “Perfect.”

It was a week later, and Namie was waiting just outside of the Fairmont Georgetown for Eddie. She was sporting a white sleeveless cardigan and light gray pumps, while wearing her hair down, which draped just above her shoulders. They were going to have brunch together at a nearby restaurant, the renowned Blue Duck Tavern, so she chose to dress up a little nicer than she normally would. “Hey.” She looked up and saw Eddie approaching her. “Hi.” She flashed a smile before turning around. The two of them started walking over to the restaurant, which was just across the street. “So, what did you want to do after brunch?” Eddie looked at her, eagerly. “Uh, after? I mean, we could go for a walk or something.” “I had some other things in mind.” His hand started to trail along her bare arm. “Uh…” She paused, as his fingers found their way inside of her elbow. “Okay, no. Fuck this. You’re a creep.” She stopped, before stepping away from him. “What?” “I’m not some cheap whore who’s looking to just have sex. If you think that you can just force me into having sex with you just because you made it past date number one, you’re dumb. Okay? Goodbye.” She turned and started walking away from him, furiously. “Hey, wait! I’m sorry!” He tried chasing after her. “I don’t want to hear it. You’ve made it clear what you want, and it’s disgusting. I have had hardly any real interactions with you, and you think that this is okay?” She glared at him. “I’ve never been in a relationship before! Plus, I’m still a virgin. You have to understand-” “Being a virgin does not excuse being a pig or being a creep. Check your fucking privilege, you perv.” She spat at him, before getting into a cab. “And I never want to see your perverted ass face again, sicko.” With that, the car took off. She was upset. How could he think it was okay to even suggest something like that? It showed her his true intentions behind interacting with her, and it made her extremely angry.

Unable to bring herself to leave her apartment, Namie sat on her couch, reflecting back on all three of these experiences. With Peter, he seemed charming at first, but he turned out to be a patronizing asshole. In Steven’s case, he was extremely good-looking, but only cared about himself. And then in Eddie’s case, he seemed meek and mild-mannered, but was really just awkward and thirsty. None of them turned out to be anything like how she perceived them to be. All young, ambitious, and accomplished, in every right, except on how to treat a girl properly. Why even try to go out with somebody, when you are either just trying to lose your virginity, or be in a relationship for the sake of being with somebody? She was starting to lose a lot of hope that she could be in a relationship. Hope? She thought to herself. Since when did she actually want to be with somebody? Was this entire experience just not to shut her dad up? Maybe somewhere down the line, she was feeling hopeful that she could check off that milestone from her life, and actually have somebody she could call her own. Shaking off all of these emotions, she reminded herself that she still had one last date. No matter how that date goes, be it in heartbreak or a relationship, Namie could not help but appreciate that this experience was still an eye-opening one, to say the least. “I guess I should give Layton a call.” She sighed to herself, pulling out her phone to contact her last suitor.

Damn real: chapter 13

“Alright, here we are at the National Mall. He said to meet over here.” Namie sighed to herself, standing outside of the National Museum of African American History of Culture. It was a very distinct building from the rest of the surrounding structures, being this modern glass complex, with multiple stories that staggered, covered in a webbed copper pattern. But the building’s unusual, and inoffensive appearance was not what had the accountant in such a nonchalant mood. She was meeting her second suitor. His name was Steven, a tall-looking Chinese American who was a 27 year old architect in D.C., and he graduated from Harvard Design School. Namie was actually surprised that her father had high standard in the men he paired her up with. Well, at least on paper. She reminded herself, thinking about Peter. Cornell and Harvard degrees could not even salvage his personality. He seemed to be snagging all of the Ivy League graduates, anyways. “Hi, are you Namie?” She turned to see none other than her date for the day. He was wearing khaki shorts and a purple short sleeve button-up. “Hi. You must be Steven, right?” She smiled at him. He grinned at her. For some reason, Steven looked more attractive to him when he had a straight face on. His smile, it had this childlike glee to it that bordered on looking cartoonish or goofy. “So where are we going today?” She was curious. He made her meet up with him at 8am on a Sunday, so it seems like they had a long day ahead of them, whether it was going to be tolling mentally, she would have to wait and see. At the very least, he did not seem like the kind of guy who would leave her at the mercy of a galloping horse.

“But yeah, going to the gym was exhausting.” Steven laughed, recalling the first time he had ever done a proper workout. “So many rotations. I could not feel my arms the next morning.” “Well, at least it shows that you’ve been working out.” Namie giggled. Steven was in peak physical shape. His arms and shoulders were toned, you could easily see the definition in his calves, and he seemed to have a toned stomach, though she could not completely tell due to the loose-fitting button-up covering him. In short, he was a very attractive Asian male. “So, why did you take me to the Smithsonian?” She looked at him as they waited in line to enter the museum. “Well, there was this display for the Hope Diamond that I definitely wanted to check out. And I figured that somebody like you would be really into that.” He explained. Somebody like me? She thought to herself. What sort of preconceived image did Steven have of her? They had only ever interacted on the app before this first date. “Yeah, don’t all beautiful girls like jewelry? That’s what my dad told me.” He chuckled. “Uh…. is your dad Mormon?” She nervously asked. That might be where this almost blatantly sexist conclusion may have come from. “No. We’re from China, so we don’t really know much about Mormonism there.” “Wait, so how long have you been in the States?” “Since college, so for about a third of my life. But I’ve been going to school at Harvard this whole time, studying architecture with a fine arts minor.” “Oh, cool.” Namie smiled, half expecting Steven to ask her about her educational background. But he never did. “Yeah, Harvard was definitely an interesting place. A lot of people who were very competitive. I never really got to date in college, because I was too busy studying for grad school. And then, of course, I get into Harvard for that as well.” He beamed proudly, although his boasting was met with a well hidden eye-roll from the accountant, who was finding Steven to be more and more narcissistic with each passing moment.

“Did you like the movie?” She looked up at Steven as they exited the IMAX Theatre in the museum. They had just spent a good hour walking through exhibits before ending the first part of their date watching one of the features, this specific one being about living in the wilderness. “The different landscapes definitely caught my eye. I could easily envision creating an entire utopia amongst the trees and caves.” Steven started. “I really thought it was pretty, the different sights-” Namie tried to interject, but to no avail. “I think with a basic irrigation system, they could easily start a self-sustaining community in that forest area right by the mountain range, and they could do it using the fresh spring water too. It’s a win-win!” The architect continued, ignoring the fact that the brunette had spoken at all. Either that or he was completely obvious to her trying to speak. “But yeah, it was definitely a thought-provoking piece. I loved it.” He finally finished. At this point, Namie was unsure of how to feel. Disrespected, on one part. But unlike with Peter, she wanted to try being a little more patient and tolerant, and communicate her frustrations, rather than just storm off angrily. “Look, I love the way you think, but I was trying to talk just a second ago, and you cut me off and kept talking. It was kind of rude, and I don’t really know if you meant to do that or not, but that was how it came off to me.” She explained, trying to sound as inoffensive as possible. “Oh. I’m so sorry. You see, sometimes, I just get so into these hypotheticals, and then I just go off on these tangents, thinking constantly about what I can do to make these hypothetical situations realistic and practical.” “It’s honestly impressive, the way you think. And I think it’s interesting. But please just be a little more mindful of those around you. We want to join in on the fun of discussing these kinds of ideas too, not get pushed away from it.” She laughed, deciding to see how the rest of the date plays out.

“So have you been to Rockville before?” Steven looked at Namie. The two were in his car, taking a drive to here for their dinner. “Actually, no. I heard there’s a decent sized Chinese-Taiwanese population there, but my cousin, who is half Taiwanese, she never really took me there.” She confessed. “Well, it has some of the best Chinese food in the area. And you can trust me on that. I’m from Beijing. I know good Chinese food.” He reassured her. “Oh, so when did you come over to America?” “Well, I was originally raised in Beijing until college. Went to an international school, then got into Harvard for undergrad and grad school.” “Oh, wow.” For Namie, she had been raised in the states all of her life. She could not imagine what it must have felt like to move to a different country and live the rest of your life there. Granted, her mother could probably relate, though she refused to bring up the details of her Japanese upbringing. “So what’s your favorite Chinese dish?” She pondered, trying to keep the conversation going. “I… like noodles a lot. They’re actually my favorite.” He admitted. “The chewy texture, you know? Plus the history behind them. I think it’s fascinating how the Chinese hand pull their own noodles. It’s incredible.” Slowly, the accountant was starting to pick up on something. Not once during this entire date had Steven asked her a question about herself. Even though she was attracted to him physically, she just felt like he was not even trying to know her. A part of her felt like he was patronizing her. As if he viewed her as less intelligent because she did not go to an Ivy League university, pursue further education, or had a job that paid six figures. The rest of their date, she continued to feel that same sense of distance and disinterest. But there was one thing confirmed from this for Namie; she needed to prove to herself and to those around her that despite going to BYU and working in a hotel, she had a brain.

“Hello?” “Hey, it’s your older sister.” Namie said after an awkward pause. “Oh, hey!” Emiri sounded awkward and taken aback, as if she did not really know what else to say in this sort of situation. But then again, their last encounter ended up with Namie scorning her for trying to impose her views on Mormonism on her, so that was to be expected. “I just wanted to call to ask how you were doing.” “Oh.” It was Emiri’s turn to take a pause. “Well, I’m honestly exhausted. Having to work full time, take care of the kids, it is draining. Trying to put on this perfect image too, I really freaking hate it.” She began, much to Namie’s surprise. She was not expecting Emiri to basically open the floodgates and drown her older sister in her life details just from that one question. “Kenta is useless in every way imaginable. He won’t pick up after himself or clean up whenever I need him to. He won’t even make meals for the children. I have to clean, cook, work, drive, because Kenta lent his car to his bandmates, and I have to pay the bills, because Kenta doesn’t know how to do that either. But if I need his permission to go to heaven, then I need to please him, in any way that I can. But can I tell you something?” At this point, the younger female’s voice softened to a faint, hushed tone. “Yes?” “I don’t think that I can take another second of this. I almost want to accept going to hell if it means that I can divorce him right now, take the kids with me, and leave.” Hearing that both delighted and horrified Namie. Perhaps the two were closer in personality than she had initially realized. “Well, as your older sister who is probably already going to hell since she doesn’t have a husband yet, I am all ears.” “I like doing this with you, sis. Can we please make this a regular thing? Like every Sunday?” “Every Sunday sounds great. Now back to the details. Come on, keep talking.” “Thank god.” Emiri sighed in relief as she continued her justified rant on being a full-time working mother and housewife.

Damn real: chapter 12

Arriving at U street, Namie looked around, nervously. Her first meet-up was with a young man named Peter. From his profile, she gathered that he graduated from Cornell and Harvard Law, was 26, currently a lawyer in Virginia, and from the looks of it, Caucasian, with short light-colored hair and bright blue eyes. In a lot of ways, he resembled a Siberian husky. “Hi, Namie, right?” She was approached by none other than Peter himself, who was standing at the corner, waiting for her by their meeting place, a cafe called ThreeFifty Bakery and Coffee Bar. “Yeah, that’s me! Nice to meet you, Peter.” She smiled at him. She was relieved to see that he was at least taller than her. Up close, he was rather handsome, having smooth skin, a chiseled jaw line, broad shoulders, and muscular arms, which were slightly hidden by a long sleeve white button-up shirt. Namie quietly cursed to herself that she was letting her father win by being attracted to him. “So you just wanted to go and talk in this cafe, right?” He was referring to the cafe behind them. “Yeah, let’s go in.” Namie walked over to grab the door. “Hold on, let me get that for you. What kind of gentleman would I be to make a lady open a door for herself?” He chuckled, grabbing and pulled open the door. Unsure of how to respond to this, Namie just paused quietly before quickly thanking Peter and walking inside.

Upon grabbing a table and sitting down, the accountant did not know what to say at first. “So, from what I gather, you’re Mormon, right? Birmingham Young University.” Peter smiled. “Oh, no. I’m not anymore. I gave up on that religion the moment I realized it was sexist, anti-progressive, and preposterous in its claims.” Namie rolled her eyes. “Oh, okay. Perfect, actually. I’m in the same boat as you.” The lawyer admitted. The moment he said that, their date felt a lot less awkward and forced. “What made you quit the church?” She looked over at him, her interest piqued. “I just did not ever really get anything that the LDS Church was preaching. I thought it was ludicrous nonsense. We only ever went because my senile grandpa insisted, but the moment he croaked, nobody in the family really ever gave a shit anymore.” He laughed. “How about you?” “Oh, trust me, that’s a long story. Basically, I had the opportunity to go to Harvard and work for Deloitte, and in both cases, I got screwed because my dad said that I can’t become a successful accountant because I have to be married off to some man, and men don’t want an extremely intelligent woman.” She scowled. “Heh, it sounds like your dad is a really open-minded guy. Much feminist, he is.” Peter chimed in, much to Namie’s amusement. “Yeah, he’s a real peach. I graduated valedictorian, and even though I went to fucking BYU against my will and got a job at Deloitte, he still told me that I have to give all of that up and land myself a man. Just pisses me off beyond belief.” “Well, you’re still a very educated individual, and it’s great to see a talented young woman such as yourself changing society’s view on women in general. So good for you.” It was a very rare moment in Namie’s life when a young man actually understood her struggles and valued her efforts.

“Oh, my god, you’re right! She looks so dumb!” Namie giggled, trying not to fall out of her chair. It was their second date, with Peter taking her to an ice cream store in the Waterfront, Ice Cream Jubilee. The store was covered in large glass panels, which was perfect for people watching, a hobby the pair shared. Peter was making fun of a girl passing by the store, who had her hair tied in a large bun directly above her head, with a cone-shaped birthday hat placed perfectly on top of the bun. As Peter had pointed out, she looked ridiculous. “I know, right? What’s the point of even wearing the hat? Just wear your hair down or don’t put that hat on at all.” Peter chuckled. “So, if you’re not doing anything next weekend, would you like to come with me to go horseback riding? I know the owner of a horse ranch in Virginia Beach, so I can get us in for free.” He smiled. “That sounds amazing. I am so down.” She beamed, although fear slowly crept over her as the accountant realized that she has never ridden a horse before, and has no reference on how to do that. “You look nervous. What’s wrong?” “I’ve never gone horseback riding before.” She admitted. “I can teach you. Don’t worry, it will be like riding a bicycle. A living, breathing bicycle with four legs, a tail, and beneath that tail, a giant gaping pink anus that looks like a portal to another dimension.” “I’m eating still.” The brunette rolled her eyes at Peter’s last remark, referring to the cone of Thai Iced Tea ice cream still in her hands. “Whoops. Sorry about that.” He sniggered, clearly unsympathetic of her predicament. While they were the same age, Namie felt that Peter did have a childishness to him that she could not quite grasp.

“Have you never done this before?!” Peter chuckled as a stammering Namie nervously mounted her horse. “Well, no! You said we were going to Virginia Beach! Not that we were going horseback riding in Virginia Beach!” She frowned. They decided for their third date to enjoy the beach together, due to the weather forecast outright stating that it would be a very hot weekend. The accountant was wearing a long sun dress and flip flops, which was the right type of outfit for this unusually warm day in the fall, but not necessarily suited for riding a vehicle, or in this case, an animal. “Ha! Well, too bad!” He laughed as he took off on his horse. “Just learn to work with it. You graduated as a valedictorian, didn’t you?” The Southern male snorted. “Hey! That’s not fair!” She growled angrily. “Hmm, what was it to make the horse move again? ‘Woah’ was to stop. Giddiup?” She looked down on her chestnut colored steed, who brayed impatiently before taking off. “AHHH!” She could not help but let out a glass-shattering shriek as the horse stood off, darting past a cackling Peter. “THIS ISN’T FUNNY!” Namie screamed, genuinely fearful for her life. “Woah!” She shouted, finally remembering the purpose for that word. The horse immediately stopped, giving her a moment to catch her breath. “Not bad, not bad at all. Up top, champion horse-rider.” Peter stopped next to her, smirking as he held up his hand, expecting a high-five. Despite how impressed he was, the young man failed to realize how genuinely betrayed Namie had felt. It was humiliating, terrifying, and to the accountant, she started to see a truly immature and inconsiderate side of him that she did not appreciate in the slightest. “I just want to go home.” She frowned, getting off her horse. “Hey, wait!” “Save it, asshole. You could have killed me.” “It was a joke!” “If that’s your idea of funny, here’s a joke for you.” She turned around, glaring daggers at him. “Eat a fat fucking turd and drown in your mother’s menstrual blood. Goodbye.” She looked away and continued storming off, reaching for her phone to firstly block Peter’s number, and secondly, call an Uber. What a waste of a potentially wonderful weekend. She thought to herself.

Face-planting in her mattress, Namie frowned to herself. As fun as her initial dates with Peter were, she started to feel less and less attracted to him the more they interacted. Perhaps there was a reason for that? Was she being too picky? Shaking off that doubt, the accountant reminded herself of how inconsiderate he was. He took her horseback riding, and expected her to know how to ride a horse without knowing if she had any experience, and never even tried to teach her. In short, he basically risked her life, and was laughing at her the whole time. Maybe it was a misunderstanding? Maybe he did not realize how scared she was? Either way, her reaction, regardless of how anyone saw it, conveyed fear. But he still chose to take amusement in it and not help her. That was not somebody she wanted to spend even five more minutes, let alone the rest of her life with. The rest of her life? Currently, she is an accountant, entry level on top of that, not even working as a certified public accountant for a CPA firm, just a hotel. She was mostly paying her bills using inheritance money, and while she could theoretically live off of her fortune for the rest of her life, that would contradict her personality. The challenge is what makes life worth living. That was why she chose to pursue accounting. To prove that a young woman can handle finance. So maybe the next step was to become an accounting supervisor-type position? But then there was waacking. Was that going to become a priority or genuine obligation in the future? Or would it stay as a hobby? And what is the point of pursuing a hobby if it does not financially provide her with anything? And deep down, Namie knew that she loved waacking more than accounting. But was there a point in becoming a full-time waack dancer? Frustrating, feeling like she has to choose, Namie groaned to herself before turning on her laptop. Maybe some Netflix would help distract her from these thoughts plaguing her dreams, even but for a moment.

Waking up the next day, the feeling of dumping Peter was still fresh. Even though she was the one who dumped him, Namie could not help but feel drained and saddened, for she invested so much emotionally and mentally into developing a relationship with him, only to realize that he was an ass. In a relationship, she wanted to be with somebody who is ambitious, which Peter was, but also willing to help her become a better version of herself, consistently and continuously, something Peter obviously could not do, due to his own immature and sadistic sense of humor. In short, perhaps she was looking for somebody with at least the same level of maturity as herself? It was at that moment that it dawned on the accountant: why was she thinking so much about being in a relationship? Was she not against it this whole time? And looking at her own younger sister, and seeing Emiri quickly get into a relationship, followed by marriage, and then pregnancy, it was unsettling. While she is currently older than Emiri was, Namie could not help but feel put off whenever she thinks about her sister making such hasty decisions. And seeing that only made the accountant a bit more hesitant to take any of these dates seriously. “It’s only to shut up that asshole who married your mother, don’t forget that.” She reminded herself, getting out of bed. While Emiri was okay with conforming to those backwoods Mormon stereotypes, Namie was completely against fueling any of that nonsense. It did not matter if she shared the same DNA as somebody that ignorant, because she knew better than to fall into the same mistakes. “Natural selection. Survival of the fittest.” She smirked to herself, sarcastically. The dumb make blunders, while the smart learn from them. And the smartest learn while not even having to make the mistakes themselves. In this case, that was having a shotgun Mormon marriage and pregnancy. Oh, how she dodged a cannonball there.

Damn real: chapter 11

“Ugh, let’s see here. So it’s Coffee Meets Bagel. And I just need to log into my account from FaceBook, and… here we go!” Namie narrated her first experience ever using a dating application. “Alright, so in chats, we’ve got these four guys.” She pulled up four small pictures with names. “Peter, Steven, Layton, and Eddie. Got it.” She listed, looking at their individual profiles. Much to her surprise, none of them listed their religions as Christian or Mormon! “Wait, what?” She raised an eyebrow. Why would her father not pair her with people who were not already Mormon? Was his whole point not to stick her with somebody from the church to guarantee that she would conform? Thinking about it, the accountant was frustrated. She regretted ever giving her father her social media passwords. However, being the spineless, obedient adolescent she was, she did not know better. Even moving to D.C., she never really used social media, so the brunette never really felt the need to change any of her login information. Regardless, it still did not warrant her father essentially cat-fishing four young men the way he did. This was a demented ploy of his, and she shuddered at the thought of what he could have said to them. However, she shook off any doubts she had as she read through the messages her father sent the boys. To her surprise, her father only said things to the effect of “hello” and “when can we go on a date?” The responses she had received were all just available dates. Deciding to take a chance, she started messaging each person back, and started to schedule meet-ups with each of them. According to her schedule, she would be meeting with Peter, then Steven, then Eddie, and finally, Layton. Sighing to herself, she wondered if she did the right thing as she went to bed.

“I can’t believe you actually went through with it! Four dudes?! Jesus hell, you’re the reserve Mormon!” Claire laughed. “I know, right? She doesn’t have sister wives, she’s got brother boyfriends! Dating around with all four of them?” Wei teased her cousin. “Oh, shut up.” Namie rolled her eyes, downing another glass of red wine as the three were supposed to be watching The Bachelor, but instead, their interest quickly turned to Namie’s potentially budding romantic life. “So, who are you thinking? Any of them catch your fancy?” The Japanese-Taiwanese performer laughed. “Well, they’re all equally qualified. All of them went to decent schools, they have solid careers, and for the most part, none of them are particularly unattractive-” She started, only for a tipsy Claire to snag her cellphone and look through their profiles. “Oh, hells yeah, they’re cute. But oh my God! 35?! That one, too old. I don’t care if he’s Asian therefore looks like he’s 22, he’s old.” The front desk supervisor was referring to Layton. “Oh, shut up, Claire.” Namie shook her head, yanking back her phone, causing the auburn haired girl to fall off of the sofa. “OUCH!” She groaned, landing on the floor. “It’s okay, I’m good. The alcohol broke my fall!” She shouted, getting back up. “You good?” Namie rolled her eyes. Despite how irritable drunk or tipsy Claire was, Namie still cared for her as a friend, because at the end of the day, the sober Claire was the one she loved like a sister. “Shut up. Let’s go back to watching The Bachelor. Clearly Namie doesn’t want to share her men with us. Selfish Namie, keeping four dudes to yourself.” She jeered, but the half Japanese accountant just ignored her comments. “Oh my god, he she really trying to seduce him? Dumb whore.” Wei laughed, throwing popcorn at the television screen. “Oh, before I forget! I’m going to be at some Asian celebrity event tomorrow, and you’re both coming with me. I don’t give a shit what you guys say, you’re coming.” “Huh?”

“Wait, you never told us you were FAMOUS in Japan!” Claire frowned at Wei. “Yeah, I knew you did idol work, but you were on multiple magazine covers in Tokyo?!” Namie was in disbelief. “Oh, yeah, I was! My single, Better than you, it topped the Oricon charts back in 2014.” Wei laughed. “You’re not even like bragging about this. Like what the actual hell?!” “I mean, haven’t you ever wondered why I have like six million followers on Instagram?” Wei chuckled. “I just assumed that it was because you’re a pretty Asian girl! Look at me! I’m a decent looking white beauty guru, and that’s why I have three million! But you managed to get a whopping six million?!” Claire was stunned. “Nah, they’re my fans. I have quite a few from Japan, China, Taiwan, and a couple in Los Angeles and New York, but mostly within Asia” She explained. Namie never even realized that Wei had that many, because she was prohibited from having an Instagram by her mother, who felt like the application was too indecent for her to download. The aspect of uploading photos of oneself for complete strangers to see, Mrs. Merrimen felt like it was too promiscuous in nature. Therefore, this was still news to her. “Wow, I didn’t even know. Why didn’t you feel the need to tell us?” She wondered aloud. “Well, bragging isn’t exactly my forte. I really don’t care about how many fans I have. At the end of the day, it’s how I perform that matters to me.” She smiled. “But what are you doing career wise?” Claire pried, curious. “Oh, thanks for reminding me, actually! I have to go to the Japan during the spring, because I’m going on tour again.” Even though Wei had mentioned going on tour in the past, Namie assumed it was just small gigs in Japan. “I’m performing in the New National Stadium. Also, I’ve got to do a lot of 3D modeling for Square Enix. They want to capture my face for one of their upcoming video games.” “Holy shit.” Claire gasped. Both girls were stunned that they were in the company of essentially Japanese pop culture royalty. “How did your parents take you becoming an idol?” “They’re happy that I’m doing something that I genuinely love, but it took some convincing.”

“Are you sure you want to be an idol in Japan?” Xiaohua looked at the then 18 year old idol. “Yeah, I’m sure.” She assured her parents. They were sitting in the living room of their house in Maryland, discussing Wei’s futures. Juntaro had reservations about letting his daughter work in Asia, because of their disdain for Asian politics and society. “Well, how about this? Let’s see how this record deal works. If I can transition to live performances in Japan and Asia instead of just doing covers on the Internet, I’m sure my career as a performer can take off. Besides, financially, I should be fine. I’ve got quite the following on YouTube, and I’m pulling in easily $100k a year.” She reasoned out. When she was in high school, Wei went to to the Baltimore School For the Arts so that she could one day become a singer. At this point, she had amassed a following of close to one million subscribers on YouTube for her singing covers of JPop and Asian music, before branching out into writing her own music. However, she had been scouted by an agent who wanted her to come to Japan for her first live concert. It was an opportunity of a lifetime. “You know what, dear? We should let her do this.” Xiaohua looked at Juntaro, confident in her resolve. “Wei, you go chase your dreams. Don’t lock yourself into a cage, like my sister did.” He smiled. “Alright. I promise, even if I’m working in Japan, I’ll get a house nearby. Maybe in like D.C., so that way, I can visit you guys often.”

Damn real: chapter 10

Ultimately, sending Emiri and her family was a failed effort. Seeing her younger sister and her family did not make Namie want to have a family of her own any more than she already did not. However, her parents did not stop there. The day after Emiri left, Namie received a Facetime call from them. “Young lady, I have already taken the liberty of making you an account on this dating app!” Mr. Merrimen angrily announced through her phone screen. “Wait, what?!” The brunette was furious. “Yeah, and I actually have gotten quite a few matches. Of these young men, I have selected four for you who I think you could be a good housewife for.” All Namie could think of right now was drowning her father in a bathtub. However, she quickly recalled that murder was illegal, and him dying would not necessarily make her life any better, so she tried to gather her thoughts and calm down. “Dad, I appreciate that you are supportive of my dating life, and thank you for finding potential husbands for me.” She gritted her teeth at that word. Oh, to say she hated it was a massive understatement. “I’ll take you up on your proposition, and I will even meet with them. If I find Mr. Perfect, great, but if I do not, can you please promise me that you will never do this again?” She sighed. “Fine. And I’m confident that you will find a perfect man. I have chosen four of the best bachelors in the greater D.C. area. I guarantee you will find a husband, or I’ll be a monkey’s uncle.” He reassured his frustrated daughter. Finding a husband was not even on her list of priorities. She just wanted to shut her father up.

October was wrapping up, and again, that meant another episode of Namie’s favorite drama series, month end at the Ritz Carlton. People would turn to glue during month end, and as stressful as the experience is in the moment of, looking back on it in retrospect is always hilarious. The Director of Revenue Management, Melinda, would often be so exhausted that she would talk to her stuffed turtle on her desk and have it talk back to her. Heather would actually start doing Pilates exercises in the middle of the accounting office, While the front office was not typically affected by month-end as much, they would still be pulled in by the accounting and revenue management departments to discuss certain expenses and why they should not be giving out certain things for free. While they were the Ritz Carlton, and were therefore “Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen”, they were a business first and foremost, and businesses need to be profitable, not charities. Needless to say, Namie would always find herself amused by the antics of her coworkers, while she would typically be the most mentally prepared for month end. However, this was the first time she had actually made a mistake. A mistake large enough to have David pull her aside for questioning.

“Namie, so why did you send this purchase order for $80,000?” “Wait, $80,000? Wasn’t it supposed to be $800? Yeah, for the new furnishings, right?” “Yeah, it was supposed to be $800. Why did you pay 100 times the amount?” He frowned. “Oh SHIT!” The accountant realized her mistake. When she was inputting the invoice, she accidentally put two more zero’s as a result of forgetting to use a period to denote that it was actually $800.00, not $80,000. “Yeah, I’m going to call the company and have them credit us back $79,200. Look, I know you’re probably freaking out, but it’s okay. We make mistakes and learn from them. That’s what working in accounting is like. Don’t get too stressed about it. Month end makes us all turn to jelly.” He chuckled, walking off. But for her, all she could think about was making a mistake. She could have costed the hotel a lot of unnecessary money. $79,200 to be exact. That would be almost twice of her own yearly paycheck. No matter how much David reassured her, she hated the fact that she made the oversight in the first place. It is the little errors that snowball into titanic disasters, which is why she prides herself on being so meticulous.

“It was so embarrassing.” Namie sighed. She was in the cafeteria with Claire. “Look, I know you’re upset that you made a mistake, but David said it himself. It’s no big deal. The company will give you guys back the money anyways. Besides, you know your mistake and you have learned your lesson.” She patted her friend on the back. “But congrats on getting so many matches on Coffee Meets Bagel!” She teased the accountant on the app her father used to lure in so many men. “Thanks. I’m surprised that these guys would even want to talk to me.” She rolled her eyes. “ I mean, dating is fun. And you actually have men to date now, unlike me.” The beauty guru frowned. “But I just heard that Takeru might be leaving the company soon. Which means that there is a vacancy for the Front Office Manager position.” She began. “Oh snap. Do you think you’re going to get the promotion?!” Namie looked at her excitedly. “Most likely, yes. Jeanne already asked me if I am interested and I said yes, so they might be promoting me to a manager soon. Oh, trust me, I can’t wait. This is going to be so badass! Claire Feltault, Front Office Manager. At your service.” She giggled. However, she was admittedly stressed about the notion. While she wanted a promotion, Claire was worried that her lack of maturity and openness about her dating life would cost her the respect of her staff. “I’m pretty sure that Takeru would recommend you if you ask him to. You’ve got this.” Namie beamed, feeling happy for her work friend. “You would deserve the promotion too!”

It was finally Saturday morning, and Namie was wrapping up her practice for the day. “Good job, everyone! So our next showcase will be coming up next year actually! But then again, that’s in a couple months from now, if you really think about it. But anyways, I will be announcing who will be invited to perform soon, so keep your eyes peeled for that. Class dismissed!” Melissa shouted as the dancers dispersed. “Namie, you have been showing forms that I haven’t even taught you guys yet. What’s your secret?” The instructor eyed the accountant curiously, suspicious that Namie had been going to another studio in secret. “Oh, I have been practicing a lot and watching Koda Kumi’s music videos for references. She’s such a great dancer and uses a lot of waacking in her choreography, so it just clicked with me.” Melissa clapped her hands slowly. “Good choice in artist, first off. Mad respect for that woman. She’s a skinny Asian girl, but she knows how to twerk. Second off, keep up the good work. I can tell you now that you are definitely on the list for the next showcase. I’m impressed.” Melissa congratulated the brunette. “Thank you!” Namie beamed. “Wait, this isn’t just you trolling me, right?” “No. You actually made the list. Every class since the last showcase, you have been showing considerable growth. I would be dumb not to put you on the showcase. Also, have you heard about Caitlin and Georgia?” “No, what about them?” Thinking it over, Namie realized that she had not seen either of them for a while. “Both of them got scouted to become dancers for a very popular singer in America. I can’t disclose the name, but her last name is the size of a drink in Starbucks. And with that, I bid you adieu. Like seriously. I need to take a shit, and talking to you means that I can’t. Get out.” Melissa shooed away the stunned and somewhat disgusted aspiring dancer.

Damn real: chapter 9

It was the next morning, and Namie woke up grumpily to the smell of bacon and eggs wafting through her apartment. However, there was a noticeable absence of coffee, the aroma of another item that would normally accompany her breakfast. “Fuck.” She cursed to herself. Emiri must have been in her apartment this whole time. Walking into the living room, she almost hissed at the sight before her. Emiri, her husband, and two children were there. Her son and daughter, both still infants, were playing on her living room rug while her husband, Kenta, was on the sofa. Emiri was cooking breakfast, working furiously in the kitchen. “Morning, sleepy-head. Or should I say afternoon? You slept in a lot!” Emiri smiled. “Liar. It’s fucking 7am.” Namie growled. “Hey, language. Especially in front of the kids.” Her younger sister glared at her. “Says the group of robbers who broke into my house, used my ingredients, and are just planning to inhabit my living room without my consent?” She rolled her eyes. “Look, we don’t have a whole lot of time to salvage you. Plus, Kenta, the kids, and I, we all need to go to church soon. It’s almost 8.” She frowned. Namie could not tell if it was the skull-splitting hangover or the ringing in her head or just the fact that her little sister, the embodiment of her idiot parents, was trying to lecture her on how to live her life, but the accountant really wanted 8am to roll around so that she could eject them from her apartment. “Alright, breakfast is ready, Makoto, Yuzu!” The two children, no older than the ages of one and two respectively, eagerly waddled over to the table while Kenta helped hoist them into his lap. “You’re more than welcome to join us, Namie.” Emiri offered. “Well, it’s my ingredients. But I think I’ll pass.” “As you can see, my family and I, we are the picture perfect lifestyle. You should really reconsider how you are living your life. Being married and raising a family and a home, it is the most fulfilling job I could ever have had.” She smirked. “Oh wait, kids, eat up. We have to go to church soon. And we have to fly back to Utah in the night!” Namie was in disbelief. Her parents flew out Emiri and her family just for a day to try and make a point to her.

“Oh my gosh! Jerry proposed to me!” An 18 year old Namie looked up to see her roommate at the time, Jenny, showing off her ring. Like Namie, Jenny was 18 and  college freshman at Birmingham Young University. “I’m so jealous. I still need to find myself a man first.” Their other roommate, Debra, frowned. “You’ll find a man eventually. You’re so good at cleaning up after yourself. It almost feels like we don’t even have a third roommate half the times because of how little of a mess you make.” Jenny pointed out. “Well, I’m sorry that I create a noticeable mess?” Namie frowned. “Oh, no, don’t worry, Namie. You might not be a good housekeeper, but I’m sure you have other qualities about you that make you a good homemaker. Besides, you are really pretty. I’m sure you’ll find a man in no time.” Jenny reassured her, although Namie was not in need of her reassurance. “Thanks, I guess?” She did not even mention anything about dating or finding a man. Yet, Jenny forced their conversation to feature that topic. Seeing Jenny, a young 18 year old, barely legal, getting married, it started to dawn on Namie how odd it was to marry at such an early age. Jenny was still naive and did not know a lot of basic things, such as how to use a calculator, pay her own taxes, or how to use Microsoft Powerpoint. Yet, this whole time, Namie was so used to young people being married, and with children. Her own mother, she was pregnant with her by the age of 20. The same with her grandmother. At the time, it sounded perfectly fine. But seeing somebody like Jenny, who was a complete airhead, passing that huge cornerstone in life, it was unsettling. It was at that point that Namie started to see the concept of dating and marriage differently. She decided that she was in no rush to get a boyfriend or get married. She wanted to focus on herself.

“Yeah, your mother was not in the best relationship with my parents.” Uncle Juntaro sighed. “Wait, because she converted to Mormonism?” Namie looked at him. This was back when she first met her uncle, and he was telling her about his relationship with her mother. “Exactly. Our family, the Ishigos, we were a heavily Buddhist bunch. Some of my uncles, aunts, and cousins are even monks in temples. So when your mother, my sister, Yuko, denounced her Buddhist ways, it really upset my mother. And when she announced that she was going to become a Mormon while she was studying abroad in America, that was when our family cut ties off from her. They view Mormons as really backwards people, and we were confused why she fell in love with a Mormon man and would so quickly convert, despite knowing how we all felt about it.” He explained. “We kept in touch at first and when you were born, I would used to get all of these photos in the mail of you. Our parents did not know about it. For me, she was my older sister. Yeah, she did something bad, but she was my sibling, and I still saw her as my family. But then the photos and letters stopped, mostly because I had moved from Hokkaido to Taipei, and eventually, I moved again to D.C., so she probably just did not know where to send the photos and letters to anymore.” He sighed. “I think she must have moved too, because when I tried to send letters to her address, I could not find her.” He frowned. “But we both have our own families and we are both happy. It was such a shame that she kept your entire Japanese side of your family a secret from you, but I’m glad that you found out eventually.” He grinned.

Finally overcoming her hangover, Namie was getting brunch with Wei, who was shocked to hear that her other cousin was in town. “Well, you know how I feel about Mormons. Granted, mom and dad would always tell me about what kinds of 18th century values people in that religion have, but even without him imposing his opinion on me, I still believe that myself.” She shook her head. “How old is your sister again?” “She turned 22 this year.” “Holy fuck. And she has two children and is married?” “Yeah, that’s her.” Namie sighed. “Oh shit, she said she was going to grab lunch with me soon.” She frowned, looking at her texts. “Make her come here. I want to meet this girl.” Funnily enough, Emiri had no idea who Wei was, despite them being related. A lot of it had to do with the fact that Wei’s side of the family was obviously not in contact with Emiri, but the performer did not care. It took about half an hour more, but eventually, Emiri, Kenta, Makoto, and Yuzu all made their way over to Blue Duck Tavern, where the two young women were. “Good afternoon. I am Kenta, Namie’s brother-in-law. This is my wife, Emiri, who is also Namie’s sister, and our two lovely children, Yuzu and Makoto.” Wei tried her best not to recoil at the sight of them. Kenta himself was around the same age as Wei and Namie. “Nice to meet you. My name is Wei Ishigo, and I am Namie’s friend.” She intentionally omitted the part about being related to the sister, as she did not want to draw any additional attention from the young family. “Nice to meet you. Can we join you guys at the table for lunch?” “Well, isn’t that why you’re here?” Namie frowned as the four took their seats. Needless to say, it was an awkward, but in Wei’s eyes, hilarious meal.

Damn real: chapter 8

Phones were ringing and everyone in the hotel office was tense. It was the worst time of the month for the administrative level, and that was month-end. For Namie, that meant making sure she counted all of the front office and food and beverage employees’ banks and keeping the money in her vault even. “Alright, so counting all of the paid outs that I have already done, with the quotes, that makes me have $80,000 exactly.” She smiled to herself, locking up the large vault behind her. She was able to finalize her bank for the end of the month and it felt incredible. Stretching as she left her office, she smiled to herself. “Good luck, everyone! I’m taking off for the day!” She smiled, waving to her still-stressed coworkers. Her favorite part about leaving work was that she was so close to the Georgetown Waterfront. Before Uber-ing back home, she could take a moment to relax and admire the view of Virginia from across the river. “So many ducks.” She frowned to herself, taking note of the large crowds of brown and green birds polluting the water. “Time to call an Uber, I guess-” Before Namie could click on her app, her phone started ringing. It was her dad. “Ugh.” The accountant fought the temptation to answer the call before deciding to be a decent person. “Hello?” She tried her best to not sound angry, despite the fact that even the mention of her father made her blood boil. “Hi, Namie. So your mother and I have been talking about your marital status, and we both believe-” “I don’t want to get a husband right now, okay? I’m happy with my life and I don’t need to define myself as a person based on who I am dating. Bye.” She hung up the phone, unable to hear another second of her father’s chauvinistic nonsense.

Even though the month itself had ended in terms of the calendar timeline, month-end itself was still a multi-day process. Namie did finish all of her month-end work, but she still needed to follow up with every step that she submitted, making absolutely sure that every report was sent out so that she could put the nightmare that was the month of September. “Another month end, another day.” Namie had sighed to herself. An entire month had passed since the showcase, and she had been practicing every single weekend. One artist in particular really appealed to her, Koda Kumi. She was a J Pop singer and dancer, and Namie had been practicing the choreography from her songs in her free time, since there were a lot of waacking elements in her music videos and live performances. However, the phone calls from her parents, they did not stop. Ranging from her mother crying about Namie potentially not going to heaven to her father yelling at her for making her mother cry, or for adamantly defying his male authority, she could hardly be bothered to care. While yes, the accountant did harbor guilt for making her mother cry, she did not understand what they rationale was behind her needing to get a husband, especially given that she had already relinquished her Mormon beliefs and therefore, did not feel the need to go to heaven or anywhere after she dies. However, her parents did not give up on their convincing. “Did you buy the tickets yet, honey?” Mrs. Merrimen looked at her husband. “Yes, dear. The flight leaves tomorrow afternoon and arrives at night in D.C.” He confirmed.

“Alright, thank you all for coming down to our month-end celebration!” The Human Resources coordinator, Jeanne, smiled as all of the employees made their way down to the staff cafeteria. “So for our Associate of the Month for September, we wanted to award somebody who had been on our team for a little while now, and she had really stepped up in the finance department, being able to close the month effectively and with little to no real trouble. And that person is… drum roll please!” She called as some of the workers began hanging on the lunch room table to effect a drum. “Namie Merrimen, our general cashier! Congratulations, Namie!” The brunette was shocked as Claire sniggered. “Wow! Thank you!” She smiled. In the four years she had been working with The Ritz Carlton, she had never won Associate of the Month, so this was a huge honor for her. “You really captured the Ritz and Marriott spirit.” Jeanne congratulated her, handing her a glass statue with her name carved into it, along with the phrase “Associate of the Month.” It felt surreal. “Well, thank you all so much for nominating me for this. It is a pleasure to work with all of you and I look forward to continuing with that.” She took a bow. “You earned it, Namie!” David smiled at her. “Easily one of the best cashiers we have had in a while. You should be proud of yourself!”

“Cheers!” The three clinked glasses and downed the vodka. Wei, Claire, and Namie were at a club on U street, taking shots to celebrate being done with month-end. This occasion was cheekily dubbed by Claire to be their month-end after party. “Another round, on me.” Wei told the waiter, who walked over to the bar. “This bitch, she’s the real deal. Associate of the Month at the Ritz Carlton? Hells yeah, she deserved it. She earned it!” Claire sluggishly shouted. Despite her showering Namie with praises, because of how loudly she was speaking, it almost sounded as if the front office supervisor was yelling at her. “Thanks!” Namie laughed, taking another shot. After all of the idiocy her parents were putting her through about her dating life, she could really use a lot more alcohol. She did not want to go home sober, that was for certain. “More shots! On me!” Claire squealed as they finished another round of vodka. “Let’s go with some tequila this time!” She told the waiter, who was amused by the three’s semi-drunken antics. “Alright, coming right up.” He walked away again. “Oh, he’s cute. But he definitely looks gay. That’s not the face of a straight man. Why are all of the good men in this world gay or taken?!” Claire cried loudly as the waiter returned with their drinks. “Uh, I don’t think I feel comfortable answering that, ma’am.” He frowned, inching away. “Whatever. Have a good life!” She shouted after him before taking another shot.

The drive home was a blur for Namie. She did not remember anything other than being told that she should Uber home, and telling her Uber driver how to turn into her building because it was a confusing thing to do given that the pavement of the driveway and the sidewalk were painted the exact same color, though she was used to having to explain that, time and time again. Stumbling out of the car, she fumbled around with her purse. She was not seeing double, but rather, quadruple at this point. Definitely way too many shots, but it was a Saturday night, and Namie was proud of herself for taking ownership of her youth. “Namie?!” The half intoxicated brunette looked up to see a girl in her early twenties standing outside of her apartment, disgusted at her behavior. “Emiri?” She blinked, at first thinking she was still seeing things. “Holy shit, I must be so drunk right now, if I am imagining you here.” “You’re not imagining. You are drunk, but I’m real. Our parents told me about what happened and they got me tickets so that I can come over to talk with you. I think you have a problem. Well, other than being a blatant alcoholic.” She fanned the air in front of Namie and pinched her nose. The accountant was too drunk to roll her eyes, but she was definitely annoyed to see Emiri here.

Damn real: chapter 7

“This is it!” Namie squealed to herself at work. “What are you all excited about?” Claire crossed her arms in amusement at the skittish cashier standing in her office. “Melissa’s going to announce who will be in the line-up for the showcase tomorrow. I feel like I’m going to be in it!” She was already thinking ahead to what kinds of routines she could do for this. Melissa had only started doing showcases for the waacking classes, and prior to that, Namie never bothered to actually attend one before, so she only could imagine what the experience must be like to perform in one. “Jesus, if you were this excited about cashiering and accounting, you would already be a Director of Finance, Associate of the Year already.” The front office supervisor rolled her eyes. It was true, though. As good of a job as Namie did being a cashier and accountant, it was not her passion. Numbers were always a strength, but doing the job did not necessarily fulfill the hopeful dancer in the way waacking had. “Either way, congrats on making the showcase. I’m sure you’re going to kill it. What date was it going to be again?” “I think it will be August 31st?” “Oh, so like in a month from now.” Claire noted on the calendar. “Yeah, I just can’t wait, though! I’ve already been putting thought into what kind of song I would perform to, the routine, everything.” She was extremely excited.

“Alright, so I will keep this announcement short and quick, because we have already had such a long practice today anyways.” Melissa called as everyone gathered around her. “So here’s the five performers I’m going to enlist for my end-of-summer showcase.” She placed the list on the wall behind her. “Now go check it out while I step off to the side. I’m too lazy to read it off.” The Chinese girl yawned, walking off. “Congratulations to you all. Blah, blah, blah, there’s no real losers here, only winners. You get that shit.” Almost immediately, everyone ran up to the list to see if they qualified. Scanning through the five names, Namie’s heart dropped. She was not one of the five. “Yeah, I got it!” A girl, Caitlin, smiled. “Same here, girl!” Another girl, Georgia, laughed as the two walked off. “Hey, Melissa, can we talk for a second?” Namie went over to her fatigued instructor. “Yeah, what’s up?” “So last week, you seemed to make it sound like I was going to be in the showcase, but why wasn’t I selected?” The air filled with a queer silence at Namie’s question. “Well, besides you just putting yourself in one of the most awkward positions ever by asking me this, I had to go with seniority. Look, you can dance really well, but you started at my studio a lot later than some of these other guys. Look at Richard. Richard had been dancing under my tutelage for over 5 years. Is he a better dancer than you? Hell to the fucking no. But I need to respect that he’s been putting in the effort.” Despite hearing this explanation, all Namie could comprehend was that she was not chosen and that people who were less qualified than her were. Hearing that, the accountant angrily stormed off. “Next showcase? We’ll see if that’s even a thing for me.” She shouted at Melissa as she slammed the door shut. “Jesus. I need a fucking drink right now.” Melissa sighed, walking to the nearest store to procure some alcohol, despite it only being 11 in the morning.

“Fucking Melissa, not giving me a spot. And letting people like Richard, Caitlin, and Georgia in over me?!” Namie growled, tackling open her apartment door. It was preposterous to her. “What the hell did they do right to deserve being in the showcase over me?!” She shouted into an empty apartment. “I worked so much harder, I put in so much more work, I am so much more talented, and even Melissa said that! Just because of fucking seniority? That’s some serious bullshit!” She jumped into her bed, ignoring the fact that she was still sweaty from dance class and running. “I can’t even deal with this right now.” She rolled around in her sheets. Generally, she was a lot better at being passed up with these kinds of opportunities. She gave up Harvard and Deloitte before. But in those two instances, she was at least given the offer and therefore, the ability to reject them and step away from these possibilities herself. In this case, Melissa outright rejected her. That feeling of being rejected as opposed to doing the rejecting, it genuinely hurt. Especially knowing that she did nothing wrong, except join the studio later than all five of the people who were allowed to showcase over her.

“This is so dumb.” Namie growled, taking a swig straight out of the pinot noir she was supposed to be sharing with Claire and Wei. “Hey! That’s everyone’s wine! Great, now I have to grab a new bottle.” Wei rolled her eyes, rolling off of Claire’s sofa to retrieve another one. The three were having a wine Wednesday because Claire and Namie were both having horrible weeks so far. While Namie was rejected from the showcase, Claire’s issue was that her love life was looking barren, per usual. “He was so intimidated by the fact that I have three million followers on Instagram! Fucking shit, not my problem that he got super scared.” Claire wailed angrily. “You tell him, girl. If he can’t handle being judged by that many people, then that is his problem, not yours. He’s a major pussy. You don’t need that in your life. You’re not even a lesbian!” Wei shouted, clearly having three or four more glasses than she should have had. “I might as well go for women at this rate. All of the men I have been on dates with are either pigs or cowards.” The auburn-haired girl crossed her arms angrily. “Like why the hell did I not get it? She said that I’m more talented.” Namie was still trying to wrap her head around Melissa’s decision to not cast her. “Okay, look, if you feel like you deserved to be there, the best way to go about that, do what I do in the front office. Kill them with kindness. Even when somebody is being a huge DILDO to you, and trust me, there are some huge dildo people out there, just be super nice and they will feel like complete SHIIIIT!” Claire burped as she finished that sentence. “You both have clearly had too much to drink.” Namie shook her head, pulling the alcohol away from Wei and Claire. But what the intoxicated Claire said made perfect sense. Namie needed to be the bigger person, and be supportive of her classmates, no matter how unhappy about the situation she was. Being this brooding and negative, it was not healthy for her in the long run.

It was an admittedly awkward feeling at first. Namie had not seen Melissa since she stormed out of the studio angrily. And now she was going to attend the showcase with Claire and Wei. Sitting in the back of the crowd, the accountant sat nervously, unsure of how to feel about the entire experience. “Don’t worry. You’re here to cheer on your classmates and let them know you have the capacity to admire all of their hard work.” Wei reminded her. “Sh! Guys, the showcase is going to start!” Claire pointed out the dimming lights. The three girls quietly turned to the stage and saw the first act, Caitlin, approach the stage with a couple other dancers. The music started, and she started to move. Namie had never really paid attention to anyone else in her class. But seeing Caitlin’s arms and legs dancing to the beat of the electronic dance music in the background, while she started to come alive on the stage, it was breathtaking. Caitlin was like a bolt of lightning, her movements electrifying as she continued to dance along the stage with her backup dancers. At the end of the performance, she ended doing a flip with the help of the other dancers, and they were met with an immediate applause from the audience. It was incredible.

Georgia was the next performance, as she got onto the stage with two backup dancers. The song that Georgia chose was more reminiscent of an 80’s R&B track, but nonetheless, she was able to capture that funk with her arm movements in particular. Her dancers were mirroring her every motion as she began gliding along the stage, her legs seemingly standing still. Georgia was using just her feet while her arms were drawing the audience’s attention. It was a clever trick, Namie had to admit. The three suddenly started to increase the speed of their movements, as the song quickly changed into an upbeat remix of the same tune. The three started to incorporate leg movements and jumps, as they started to bounce along the stage sporadically, before finishing with, surprisingly enough, a mini pyramid, with Georgia leaning across her backup dancers, who were in mid-pushup position. “Wow, she was this good and I never even noticed.” Namie sighed. This entire experience, sitting through the showcase and watching her classmates, it was eye-opening for her. She never realized how talented these other dancers were until tonight.

The showcase ended with the crowd applauding the dancers, and on their way out, Namie, Wei, and Claire bumped into Melissa, who was seeing everyone off. “Oh, look who’s here. Are you going to tell me how shitty the people I chose over you were?” She raised an eyebrow at her. “On the contrary, I wanted to tell you how amazed I was by all of their performances. I never really noticed how good everyone was until I got to see them perform the way that they did.” Namie admitted. “Look, I know that I was immature and the way I stormed off, it was not professional. But if you are willing to still have me as a student, I promise not to have any more hissy fits, okay? I’m sorry for the way that I acted.” “Apology accepted, Namie. And another thing, for the next showcase, I would love to have you in it. And no, you are not being awarded for throwing a bitch fit and making a scene in the classroom. But rather, you are good and if you do keep up the work, then I will have every reason to justify putting you in there. So do we have a deal? Keep coming to class and working hard, and I will promise you a spot.” “Honestly, I don’t know if I deserve it, given how talented they all were, but I will work hard so that I can one day match their level of talent.” “Sounds perfect. Then I shall see you next week.” Melissa smiled as the three left. Namie was beaming from ear to ear at the notion.