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.

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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.

Damn real: chapter 6

“Namie, do you have the reports ready?” Her Director of Finance, David, popped his head into her office. “Yes. I inputted everything into PeopleSoft and I cross-referenced it all with the Savie reports. Nobody who I audited was short this month.” Namie recited her findings. Aside from getting change for people, Namie is also in charge of making sure that the physical money on-site of the hotel stays consistent and that she keeps all transactions recorded. It was a fairly challenging job, because she had to keep track of all day to day operations from a financial standpoint, and she had to also audit the allocated amounts of money, also called referred to as their banks, of every person on the operations side of things. At this point, month end was approaching, And that was the worst for everyone on the administrative side of things. Deadlines and goals needed to be met. On Namie’s side, that meant she had to make sure everyone who has a bank gets audited so that they are not embezzling money and so that the values of the transactions match those in the banks. She had audited the banks of Liam, Claire, and Peter, the In-Room Dining Supervisor, but she still needed to do the entire front office team as well as the In-Room Dining Operators by the end of the week. Pulling up the schedules of everyone she needed to audit, Namie quickly devised a plan so that by Thursday, she would have all of the banks accounted for, and from there, she could double-check everything so that she can be ready for month end.

Opening her safety vault, Namie sighed. The majority of her bills were $20’s or higher, which meant that she needed to make a change request soon. Counting off her larger bills, Namie placed almost all but one of each $100, $50, and $20 bill into a bag. Grabbing the change request form, she walked over to David’s office, and had him sign off on the bills and her specific requests for what quantities of bills she was requesting. “Wow, you need a lot of $5’s. I hope you have enough in the vault still.” He chuckled as he put his signature on the paper. “I’ll make sure to write that I put in a change request for this amount before I send in the bag to the Garda guy.” She announced before leaving. Garda was the company in charge of transporting their money to and from their actual bank account. Whenever Namie had an excess of bills, she would send the excess to Garda. Additionally, whenever she requested changed, she would need to send her bigger bills to the company, and they would send their usual pick-up representative to give her the change corresponding to her specifications. Nervously, Namie sealed the bag that contained close to $5,000 of bills, and placed it back in her vault so that she could hand this to the representative tomorrow. She was hoping that she could receive her change by month-end, but realistically, it might not be until a few days later that she would actually be handed them.

Urgently, Namie ran up to the front office and to her expectations, she found Melvin, one of the Front Desk Agents she still needed to audit. “Melvin, could I bother you for a second for a bank audit?” She asked as politely as possible. “Yeah, give me a second to grab my vault I’ll meet you in front of your office?” He said. “Sounds wonderful. See you there.” She smiled, pulling up her list. Today, she was going to audit Melvin and Hayley from the Front Office, as well as Lindsay from In-room Dining. In a perfect world, she would breeze through all of these audits, but unfortunately, there were a lot of front desk agents who worked part-time, and were only available at certain time on certain days. “Hello, I’m here from Garda for the bank pick-ups.” Namie saw a tall man wearing a bulletproof vest standing in front of her office. “Oh, perfect.” She quickly grabbed her door, and pulled out the bags she was sending to the bank for the day. “Here you go.” She handed them off to him. “Thanks, ma’am. Have a nice day!” He waved goodbye as he walked out. “Thank god I caught him in time.” She sighed to herself. The Garda representatives only stay for 15 minutes before leaving, because of how tight of a schedule they run on. “Hi, Namie. I’m here now.” Melvin walked up to her, holding a large dark blue bag. That contained all of his bank money. “Perfect. Come inside, it won’t take more than 5 minutes.” She promised as he walked in. By the end of the day, Namie managed to count not only the three banks she wanted to, but with permission from David, she was able to check some of the other banks as well. However, she also needed Heather, the Accounting Manager, there to monitor her while she is counting the banks, just to guarantee that she is counting them accurately and honestly. With Heather’s help, Namie was able to finish almost all of the banks, with the exception of the Front Office Manager, Takeru.

“Thank god!” Namie sighed in relief. It was Friday, and the Garda rep handed her a bag of bills. It was her change. “You are a lifesaver. I was so nervous about sending the change request so late into the month, but now I can count a complete bank!” She smiled. The main reason why she held off on sending the change request was because the hotel would also have to pay a fee, so Heather instructed her not to sent it unless she had at least $3,000 of bills needed to be exchanged. Granted, Namie was negligent in that, waiting for an additional $2,000 to accumulate before submitting it, but at least she was able to get the change back in time. Counting through the bills, she smiled, confirming that the change was exact per her request. At this point, all she had to do was assemble the binder for the month, with all of the bank audits, each day to day transaction, and the final vault count. From there, she needed David to sign off on it, and then she would be good to go for the month. “Month end, you weren’t as bad as I expected.” She smiled to herself as the Garda representative walked off. And now, she could enjoy her weekend.

“Alright, class! Well done!” Melissa clapped her hands to dismiss the dancers. “Good job, Namie! You’re really a natural at this!” She smiled as the accountant began walking out. “I know you’ve only started dance classes recently, but you’ve been doing really well for somebody who has never done dancing before.” “Honestly, I just follow the beat and think about the steps. Other than that, I let myself really get into the music.” Namie admitted sheepishly. “You have definitely been getting the hang of a lot of these forms faster than some students who have been with me for years. Keep up the good work, Namie.” “Thanks, Melissa.” She beamed as she walked out of the studio. Work had been very lackluster lately, but being told that she was doing well in classes, it was the lift she needed to keep going. At this rate, she might actually be selected to perform in the showcase, and that would be an incredible opportunity. It was a week from now, when the announcement will be made of who would be performing. In Melissa’s own words, she had been  showing more progress and promise than people who have been there years over her four months of being there. The more she thought about it, the more excited she was becoming. If she could pursue a career in dancing, that would be such an amazing opportunity. She could envision herself on the stage, before crowds of people, being applauded for doing something she has begun to fall in love with.

Damn real: chapter 3

“So who are you?” It was a few months ago, and a slightly younger Namie timidly walked into the dance studio with Claire. They were walking into the studio mid-session while Melissa was standing in the back of the room, teaching her class. “We’re here for dance lessons.” Claire stated. “Well, you’re either late or early. I’m in the middle of teaching these middle schoolers ballet, so I’m assuming you’re here for the next lesson, which is waacking?” The dance instructor referred to the crowd of 12 year-old girls who were clad in tutus. “Oh, shit. Well, we’re sorry. We can just watch as you finish up.” Claire shied away, dragging Namie with her so that the two could just sit in the back of the room. “Smart choice.” Melissa rolled her eyes, as she returned to tending after her class. “Geez, she’s a bit… snappy.” Claire frowned, crossing her arms unhappily. “Says the pot to the kettle?” Namie laughed. “Oh, shut the hell up. You’ve never had to work a night shift in your fucking life. You’d be just as moody if you had to work back to back shifts. It sucks.” “This isn’t about Melissa, isn’t it?” The half Japanese accountant raised an eyebrow at her friend. “No. It’s fucking Johan. Scheduling me like that repeatedly. It’s like he just wants to me to blow up at him and get fired or something.” Claire was referring to the front office supervisor at the time, who went on to be fired after the entire front office went on strike from being fed up with his inability to treat them with the decency of a human being. “I’m sure he’ll get his comeuppance. He clearly is in over his head. Liam wants him to go too.” Namie reassured the beauty guru. “Alright, thank you all for coming in this week. I expect to see you guys next week, practicing the form we went over.” Melissa shouted, startling both girls.

“Welcome to introductory tap dancing for adults. I am your instructor, Melissa, and I will try my best to make you all expert tap dancers by the end of the week.” “Ugh, I swear, Liam just wants us to suffer.” Claire whispered to Namie. Cardio was her least favorite thing to do. “So why are you guys here?” She looked at the relatively full room of young adults. “Well, we’re here because our friend and co-worker, Liam, told us about you.” Claire revealed. Liam recommended for the two to try out tap dancing as a fun way to relieve stress, and sent them to Melissa’s studio because he was friends with her. “Oh, you two work with Liam Peters?” Melissa’s eyes widened. “Yeah?” “He’s…horrible in bed. I swear to god, I can’t even believe I lost my virginity to him. Well, my butt virginity anyways. Oh. Wait. We can save that conversation for later.” The instructor realized that she horrified the entire class with her incomplete anecdote. “But anyways, next person, please!” A young man with short brown hair, a sharp nose, and high cheek bones stepped forward. “My name is Niall, and I have a passion for the performing arts. I love to play violin, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to learn tap dancing too.” He shrugged. “He’s cute.” Claire giggled, admiring his features. “He’s probably gay.” Namie crossed her arms and rolled her eyes. “Well, good sir, if you ever want to take my vag-inity, feel free to let me know.” Melissa offered, much to everyone’s disgust. “Oh, shut the fuck up! I’m going to teach you all how to be amazing dancers! You’re all in my fucking domain right now! Bear with me and all of me!” She shouted in anger. “Well, I don’t think my girlfriend would appreciate that, but I’ll definitely keep that in mind.” Niall chuckled. “So he’s not gay.” Claire laughed. “Totally a cover up.” Namie frowned.

“Now that we’ve got warm-ups out of the way, let’s start.” Melissa got up. They had finished introductions and their leg and arm warm-ups and were moving on to the actual dancing exercises. “So to start, we want you guys to just relax. I’m going to play the music, and demonstrate how to follow the rhythm with your feet and your hands.” She pulled out a remote control and turned on the stereo. “One, and two, and three, and four.” She demonstrated, tapping her feet against the ground while also buckling her knees to the beat. “This is stupid.” Claire rolled her eyes. Namie, however, was soaking everything in and mimicking Melissa perfectly. For her, there was something about counting the steps, motions, and beats, that really resonated with her as an accountant. “Everyone, look at Namie. She’s doing it perfectly. You go, girlfriend!” Melissa shouted before going back to demonstrating the exercise. The half-Japanese accountant could not help but smile as she continued to following. “Hey, don’t smile unless the routine calls for it! Breaking character like that will get you in a lot of shit if you were performing. Keep the mood of the music and artist in mind. It is fucking Drake right now. You’re supposed to be serious or indifferent at best!” Melissa frowned. Immediately, Namie replaced her grin with a look of general disinterest, much to the amusement and satisfaction of her overzealous dance instructor.

After their dance class, Claire laid sprawled on the floor, completely exhausted. Namie, on the other hand, was a little sweaty, but not nearly as fatigued. There was something about moving to the music that really resonated with her. “Hey, you.” Melissa walked up to Namie as the half-Japanese girl looked horrified. “Oh, hell no. You are not going to tell me about how you had butt sex with my co-worker. I can’t un-picture it.” Namie held up her hands as she tried to back away. “Oh, Jesus fucking christ, grow up. It’s the adult class. We’re adults who do adult things. Get over it.” Melissa rolled her eyes. “But that’s not why I’m here to talk to you. I already said most of what you guys needed to hear about Liam. Just don’t have sex with him unless you want to lie there like a plank-” “You’re doing it. You’re talking about it!” Claire groaned from the ground. “Oh, shut up. But yeah, Namie, was it?” Melissa looked at her. “Yeah?” “You’re a natural at this. I actually have been holding an exclusive class for exceptionally talented dancers, but it’s on Saturday mornings instead of Sunday afternoons. It’s for a very rare style, waacking. I would like to extend my offer to you for attending my classes.” Melissa offered. “Oh, but only if Claire can do it with me.” Namie tried to bargain. “Claire? She can’t even handle introductory tap dancing. I doubt she can handle the waacking classes.” “Namie, you should just go for it. She’s right. Dancing is so not for me…. I’m going to kill Liam for this.” The front desk worker growled angrily as she tried to get up from the floor, but to no avail. Her legs were too sore. “So what do you say? You have natural talent and I want to teach you something that I’ve learned from my experiences as a back-up dancer for singers around the world. I can open up the world of dancing to you in ways that you can’t even imagine.” Melissa looked at her. “Okay. I’ll take you up on that. Dancing with you in that lesson, it was fun. I want to continue.” Namie decided. “Teach me how to be a waack dancer.”

Damn real: chapter 1

“Hey, cashier, I need change!” A young man with brown hair and dressed in a suit shouted as a young woman with long, dark brown hair and smooth skin walked back over to him. He leaned against the counter as she approached him, impatiently tapping his fingers against the marble surface. “Alright. Give me the bills and tell me how much of each kind of bill you want.” She nodded. “Alright.” The front desk agent nodded, counting out and handing her several hundred dollar and twenty dollar bills. “I want as many tens, fives, and ones as you can give me. But give me more ones, because I’m running low on those the most.” He noted. “Got it.” She walked back through a door, and into another office room. “Hey, Namie!” The cashier found herself greeted by a girl with dark auburn hair and bright green eyes: the front desk supervisor, Claire Feltault. “Yes?” Namie looked at Claire. “Come on, don’t be such a stranger. I’m just saying hi!” The supervisor laughed. “What happened to the girl last weekend who downed three Yaeger bombs, two vodka sodas, and-” “Sh! I don’t want people to know about that!” Namie hushed her, embarrassed. “There we go. Yeah, show more personality, please!” Claire giggled. “Being a cold, shy robot doesn’t really suit you.” “I got it. Now can I please go do my job? Liam needs his change still.” The cashier frowned, referring to the front desk agent from earlier. “Alright, alright, I’ll let you go.” Claire laughed as Namie left the front office.

Going down a flight of gray stairs, Namie found herself in a dimly lit hallway in the basement. This was the administrative level of the hotel, where she did most of her work as the general cashier. Since they were operating a five diamond, five star property in a luxury brand, the stakes were always high. She was personally surprised at how lax some of her coworkers were. Claire was a very casual personality, while Liam could be a complete brat from time to time. Since they worked for one of the biggest hotel brands in the world, Namie felt as though there was a lot of pressure for her to deliver. Walking into one of the rooms, she sighed to herself. This was her office. A dingy, small room with one light that the door would often get stuck against, a small desk that barely fit in the room with a monitor, and a large safe with a device on top to count bills. This was her life as a general cashier. Opening the safe, she quickly retrieved the bills and starting counting them out. “Oh god. There’s only new bills for the ones.” She sighed, removing the paper bundle around the dollar bills. She knew that Liam was not going to be happy about this, but she could not do anything about that. “At least these new bills can become old bills over time?” She joked with herself as she put the money through the counter. “Alright, and that’s $450. He’ll be happy with the fact he gets exact change.” She chuckled, re-locking the safe, and closing the door to her office. Luckily for Namie, the door automatically closes upon her exiting. The only way she can even enter the room is with her fingerprint and eye scan, meaning that she’s the only person who can go in and out of the cashier’s office at any given time.

“Sorry about the wait. Here’s your change!” Namie smiled, presenting Liam with the bills he requested. “Thanks! Oh, man! You gave me new bills! Those are such a pain to deal with.” Liam frowned. “Oh, I’m so sorry. That’s all we had.” Namie sighed, annoyed at the attitude she was receiving for just doing her job. For the front desk agents, they preferred old bills, because they are easier to separate and count. Newer bills would often stick together and were a hassle to deal with. “Well, thanks for not leaving me with a bunch of huge bills, I guess.” Liam rolled his eyes as Namie retreated into the front office. “Hey, what’s bothering you?” Claire looked at a visibly frustrated Namie. “I just don’t like where my job is going. This is so boring. All I do is count bills. I want to do something more, you know?” She sighed. Namie was 26 years old, and while she made a decent living as a general cashier, she was hoping to be doing something a lot more exciting than just counting dollar bills and putting the data into a spreadsheet. It hardly felt like a good use of her college education.

“I’m heading out.” Namie called into the already emptied hallway. It was 6:00pm on a Friday, and she was done for the day, albeit much later than the majority of her coworkers in the administrative level. Walking downstairs, she quietly made her way into the back alley of the building; this was the employee entrance to the hotel, although it currently looked like the site for a crime or rape scene, given how secluded and bleak the concrete brick walls looked against the large dumpsters and emptied parking spaces. “Alright, here we are.” She sighed, pulling out her phone to call an Uber. Luckily for her, Washington D.C.’s Uber Pools only cost $3, regardless of distance, so she basically pays the same for a car that she would for a MetroRide, but with a lot less of the hassle. A few minutes later, a car pulled over the alley and the window rolled down. “Name-y?” A gruff looking man, named George, according to the app, looked over at her. “Yes, that’s me.” She hid her frustration at his mispronunciation of her name. “How you doing, Namey?” He laughed. “I’m exhausted. It was a long, boring day at work.” She sighed, half tuning him out as she got into the car. “I see. Well, let’s get you home. You said you live in 1150 4th St SW?” “Yup. Sky House.” She named her apartment building off to him. It was a high riser in the Southwest Waterfront, an “up and coming” neighborhood. It was a realtor’s way of up-charging rent to live in a very ghetto area. “Alright. Off we go.” George chuckled as the two took off. All Namie was thinking about was her weekend; she was looking forward to spending time away from that safety box, and practicing something that she actually loved to do: waack.

“Crap, I’m running late.” Namie frowned as she got changed. She was going home so that she could take a quick nap, change, and then head out to dinner with her cousin, Wei, at 9. It was already 8:30. She had overslept. “Wait, and the restaurant, let’s see, it was called Ripple…. and it’s far from here. Shit. Shit!” She cursed loudly as she ran out of her apartment, and down the darkly colored hallway. Ignoring all of the noise she was making, the cashier frantically starting tapping the elevator button and she called another car. “Fuck. No reception. Piece of shit phone!-” She groaned, fighting every urge to stick her cellphone into a blender. “At least the fucking elevator is here.” She sighed in relief, stepping in. She lived on the 7th floor, meaning that she was still quite a ways down from the lobby. “Well, I’ll just call the damn car when I get to the first floor.” She crossed her arms and tapping her foot impatiently, much to the discomfort of the young couple who was sharing the elevator with her. Letting out another sigh of frustration, Namie urgently tapped the black “Request Vehicle” button and waited impatiently for her car to arrive. What she hated about her building was the driveway; it blended into the sidewalk, causing almost all of the drivers to be confused as to where they can and can’t pull up to the building. Although at this point, the cashier was used to calling the drivers and instructing them that between the two metal poles next to the Safeway was indeed a paved driveway, despite being colored exactly the same as the sidewalk, that any car can drive through to go towards her building. Hearing her phone ring, she knew right away that she needed to explain yet again how to pull into Sky House.

“Wei, I’m so sorry that I’m late.” Namie panted as she finally arrived at their table. “Oh geez, did you sleep in again?” A slim Asian girl with pale skin, large brown eyes, and a round face looked up at her. “Yeah.” Namie sulked, embarrassed. This was not the first time this had happened, despite Namie wanting to believe that she is a normally punctual person. “Namie Merrimen, you’re 26 years old, graduated from a four year college with honors, have a full-time job at a 4 star hotel in the city, and you can’t even show your own cousin the common decency of being punctual? For shame.” The girl sitting across from her was none other than her cousin, Wei. Namie knew that Wei was being sarcastic, but she still felt bad about the entire situation. “Did you already order?” “I only put in an appetizer order. The fairy tale eggplant. It sounded really good and I know you like eggplant. Here, try the bread. It’s made in-house and it’s delicious.” Wei offered the petite rolls in a cast-iron skillet. “No thanks. Here, let’s order real food, or else we’re going to have dinner at 10pm at this rate.” “Yeah, let’s.” The two cousins quickly flagged their waiter. “So, any news from uncle jackass?” Wei was referring to Namie’s parents. “Oh god, don’t even get me started on him.” Namie frowned, not even trying to correct Wei’s title for her father. “Spill, girl. That’s what these dinners are for, right?” Wei chuckled.

New story series announcement: Damn real

Damn real is the story of an accountant in Washington, D.C. named Namie Merrimen. Namie used to be Mormon, but has since then been trying her best to discover herself as a young, independent woman. This story focuses on themes of independence, dating, career development, and following your dreams. Without further ado, I hope you guys love reading Damn real.

Direction: dream 36

It would be so easy to come out of the womb knowing what it is you are destined to do. The moment your mother gives birth to you, your doctor will look at the you, and tell your mother “this baby is going to grow up to be a (insert whatever occupation you want here) and you cannot do anything to change that.” And in that scenario, you will be doing this job not because a doctor said it, but because you were destined for it. And by destined, I mean you will love doing this, you will have passion for it, and you will be perfectly qualified to do it. It was not a random decision for you to do it. There was careful thought and analysis on your qualities, traits, and all of those factors summed up into the job you were designated upon birth.

Now back to reality, where clairvoyant, job-determining doctors unfortunately do not exist. As a soon-to-be college graduate, I am struggling with figuring out where I want to go with my life. I have two degrees under Hospitality, one for Food and Beverage and the other for Accounting, and I have a minor in Business Management. You would like that between that and having a decent GPA and a strong resume, people would at least find me hirable, right? Wrong. I cannot seem to land a job offer to save my life. And it makes me question my own capabilities and qualifications. Specifically, I wonder if I even want to be in this industry. The moment the doubt and second guessing kicks it, I wonder if this is the direction I really want to take, or if I should change gears while I still can.

That’s where I am struggling. I know that everyone expects me to get a decent job and to become a manager and then a director in the following years. But I do not think that is what I want to do with my life. I enjoy being free spirited, and I love expressing myself. I cannot do that for the most part in the Hospitality industry; the obvious exceptions are being a designer for restaurants or hotels, or being an executive chef, designing my own menus. But I am neither, and while I have qualifications in the restaurant industry, definitely not enough to be an executive chef at the moment. I just do not know what I am going to wind up doing with my potential. Obviously, I do not want the college degree and education to go down the toilet, but I still do not know what I want to do with my life. Finding any kind of inspiration or hint towards that is highly welcomed.

Especially while I am in this stage of job-hunting limbo, I really wish that those clairvoyant doctors existed right now. Even if I got stuck with being a garbage truck driver or a porn star for the rest of my life, no matter what level of education I completed, at least I would know what to expect, right? Just not knowing, it kills me. And that is the issue with my generation. We like to have a set plan of what we want out of our careers, and when those plans come unhinged, we typically do not know what to do. In a feather-light world of my dreams, I would want everyone to be able to find their passion at a young age, and pursue that passion so that they can help make the world a better place by making their job something they can be proud of doing.