Condo Chronicles: Tell Me If You’ve Heard This One

“So, you like to party, right?”

Why do I suddenly have the sense of déjà vu?

Though battling exasperation, I suddenly found myself in need of a change in conversation, considering that the last hour had been spent bearing witness to a sisyphean effort at diplomacy. “How so? Haven’t we already talked about this subject?”

“No,” Huiwen responding, waving me off. “Not like last time. This time, it different. Drugs? You like to do them? Errr…how is that?”

I felt an immediate pang of guilt over any mental transgressions made in the past towards him. Have I misjudged this poor lad? Am I such a bigot that I couldn’t imagine a Chinese mainlander would have the same thirst of most youth, to desire a taste of all the experiences that the wide world can offer? Be ashamed, Peter, for having a jaded heart that would automatically dismiss this traveler from lands of jaded statues.

In a respectful tone, I offered some advice to my pupil, though I was but a novice myself. “Well, that depends…Which ones are we talking about? Much like food, it depends on the occasion. There are ones for just hanging out on a Wednesday night, and there are ones that mark an occasion. Some are meant for relaxation, while others can give you the wildest night of your life. Sometimes they can even help you to learn something about yourself…”

“What about…errr…mef…errr…meth?” He said the ‘th’ part with a heavy emphasis. “Done that before?”

I frowned at the mention. “No…I can’t say that I have. It didn’t look like fun, and I wasn’t a big fan of the smell or the people who did it. I wasn’t around it that much, since it didn’t become big until well past my teenage years. I wouldn’t recommend that one, if you’re looking to try anything for the first time…”

“You know how to make it?” interrupted Huiwen, stopping my train of thought.

I shook my head. “Nope…can’t say that I do. But like I said, you should probably start somewhere else. Ever smoked pot before?”

Again, Huiwen waved me off with one of his chubby paws. “But if I make it, it would be easy for me to sell it, right?”

“Wait…I thought that you wanted to try drugs. You want to make them?”

“Yes,” he affirmed, smiling at the prospects of his future fame and glory. “Do you watch TV? Ever watch show called Breaking Bad?”

During my teenage years, when I had made the mistake of thinking myself in the house alone, both my mother and I were surprised when she caught me playing with my joystick one evening. As all mothers do, she implored my father to say something to me, to impart some form of paternal wisdom regarding the art of ‘jerking it’. It would be much to expect any father to expound on such a subject with his son, and considering that mine wasn’t suited to the role in general, he was even less inclined. However, he decided to appease his nagging wife, and awkwardly, he joined me in the kitchen several days later, taking a seat beside me. He then looked into my eyes and opened his soul when he spoke: Boy, you’re gonna want to keep that door closed when you’re getting down to business. And in that moment, I realized that there are moments when no words befit the occasion. Sometimes there’s really nothing to say, since the subject doesn’t require discussion : it just is what it is. And sometimes, that subject is a person. Similarly to that awkward moment at the kitchen table decades ago, I realized that there was nothing to be said here. If a naive opportunist wanted to model his life after a fictional character and become a tragically flawed drug lord, so be it. My cynical side, which had been grumbling in defeat only a few minutes ago, now rejoiced in victory as it danced about with a witch’s cackle.

“Yep,” I said with pursed lips and a furrowed brow. I always wondered if certain facial expressions crossed cultural divides, but I had my doubts in this context. “Yep…one of the best shows out there. And that Walter White…he did make a lot of money, didn’t he?”

Huiwen nodded eagerly. “Yes! You and me, we think the same!”

“Yes, we do, my friend. Yes, we do…”

The toilet in Donna’s bathroom shattered the relative quiet as its flush roared with hydraulic implosion, and Joe emerged from the bathroom with his phone in his hand. “Wait until I show you this one about her. My buddy just texted some dirt that you’re not gonna believe!”

When I had planned on making introductions between Donna and Joe, I had known that seeds of distrust had already been planted in the ground between them, and I had no doubts that blooms of accusation would surely follow in their initial conversations. In fact, it had taken a great deal of convincing on my part to get both of them to agree on a rendezvous. However, I had no idea of the clash of personalities that would erupt upon their meeting. Almost immediately upon his arrival to her apartment, the fighting had begun and had only increased in veracity with every subsequent minute. When Donna had decided to go downstairs and outside in order to smoke a cigarette, it had given all three of us a chance at respite after nearly an hour of heated debate (though Huiwen had gotten in the way of my chance of peace and quiet, despite being entertaining). Even now, I was still confused why Huiwen was present for our meeting. (At times, I wondered if Huiwen needed to be present on our very planet and how we’d all be better if his amino acids were best used elsewhere, perhaps in a steak sandwich.) Maybe she had felt safer with him around? Or perhaps she thought of him as decorative, like a borrowed piece from MoMa that represents the absurdity and pointlessness of life? Or maybe she had forgotten that he was there, since he had the personality and presence of a chair? Any were possible.

“Joe,” I said, using the same voice of frustrated parents who try to counsel heart-broken teenagers, “Can’t you just let this animosity go? The both of you are acting like children. I don’t know what the hell is wrong with the both of you, but it’s amazing how you two can get under each other’s skins. Let’s just focus on the task at hand. Okay?”

“No way! Seriously, you’ve got to read this one…”

The front door opened, and Donna walked into the room, wearing the same cross expression with which she had left only minutes ago. Upon entry, Joe pounced upon his prey.

“Hold it there, Wei! Wait until I tell Peter what you’ve been hiding from us all along!”

Peter Bolton is the author of Blowing the Bridge: A Software Story and has also been known to be a grumpy bastard on occasion.

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