by Benjamin Christensen
One of the Boys
Daddy, you mind I come in?
I no like interrupt when you writing, but I get one problem. I in love with my best friend.
No, Daddy, no worries, I not talking about one girl. You know I not like that⸺I like boys, no worry.
I talking about Kenny. You know, Kenny Thompson, the one my best friend since second grade? He real nice, and ho, the handsome! Even more handsome than you, Daddy. Nah, just joke. No one handsome as you. But Kenny come close. He hapa, just like you-get one haole father and one Hawaiian mother. He get the light brown eyes, and the wavy surfer blond hair; he not too light, and not too dark, but just right. Just like you, Daddy.
Lately, every time I see him, I like wrap his arms around me and stay like that forever. But no can.
Kenny no even think of me as one girl. “Faye, you good fun for hang out with, ’cause you just like one of the boys,” he tell me. Ho, I no like be one of the boys; I like be one girl! I like be his girl! But no can, Daddy. Kenny no like me like I like him.
I know what they all think of me. They think I one tita. When I was little, they call me tomboy. Now they call me tita. Different words, same difference.
I not one tita, though, Daddy. Just ’cause my best friend one boy, and I no like hang with girls. Just ’cause I good at sports, and I go beach with the boys for surf. Just ’cause I no like paint my face like one prostitute, and I no like dress like one neither, and I no giggle and act all girly-girly like, “Oh, Kenny, you can help me tie my shoes, ’cause I one girl and I too stupid to do ‘um myself?”
I one normal girl⸺I like talk story on the phone, I like read girl books, I like boys, I like all that stuff too.
Today in drama class, we was picking parts for our end-of-the-year play we going put on, and of course Kenny get picked for be the big manly hero. So then we need pick who going play the girlfriend, the damsel in distress. So I tell Miss Kawamura, “I like audition for the part.”
Then everybody laughing, and Keola Mooney yell out, “You no can be the damsel in distress, Faye. No one going believe that you never wen’ beat up the bad guy yourself!” And everyone laugh more. I so mad, I like punch him in the face, but I know Keola and Kenny friends so I hold back.
Of course, Kristal Mizoguchi wen’ get the part-the ditsy cheerleader. The only good thing is I going to be the wicked with and I going to put one spell on that little⸺
Oh, try wait, Daddy. I think I hear Tutu yelling at me. No wonder Mommy so grumpy, after that lady raise her all her life. I would be too.
Last night I wen’ the Kaiser-Kahuku game with Kenny. Good fun. Even look like we get one chance first quarter. Second quarter different story. Our guys no cam compete with those big Kahuku guys. Still good fun, though.
Except these stupid titas from Kahuku was sitting right next to us and talking stink the whole time. “Ho, Gina,” one says to the other, “why we even bother come all the way down here? Waste time. All these spoiled rich Kaiser kids…. every last one of them haole or Japanee. Act like they own island when they not even Hawaiian.”
“Yeah,” the other one says, “we know we going win the game, anyway.”
What they know? Just ’cause I go Kaiser, no mean I rich. No mean I haole or Japanee. They don’t know I live in one beat-up old house on Aipo Street. (Sorry, Daddy, I know it not your fault-I know you try for sell more books so we can have one better life. I no care we poor. I just no like people think we rich when we not.) They don’t know I Chinee-Hawaiian, not Japanee. (Okay, maybe I part haole, but mostly Chinee-Hawaiian.) And why it matter so much if you Chinee or Japanee or Portagee or Hawaiian, anyway? All the same thing.
They make me so mad! I like bust their face, but instead I turn to Kenny so he can tell them off, ’cause he look more Hawaiian than I do, so they can see we get Hawaiians at Kaiser, too. So I tap his shoulder and ask, “Eh, Kenny, try tell those two girls for shut up. I sick of them acting all high maka maka just ’cause they⸺”
But he not even paying attention to me. He never even hear those girls talking, ’cause he staring at the cheerleaders the whole time, like one zombie. I know which one he staring at⸺he staring at that bimbo, Kristal Mizoguchi.
Why he gotta look at her for?
Every time I talk about you with Kenny-guys, Daddy, afterwards they always whispering and laughing and looking at me, like I don’t know they making fun of me. I know what they think⸺they think I one daddy’s girl, like I need for ask you about every little thing I do.
I no care, though. They can think what they like; I proud of you, Daddy. I proud you one writer. I proud you still give me hugs and kiss my forehead everyday, even though I sixteen years old. I lucky for have you, and I know it. Plenty kids no can talk with their parents like I talk with you. Heck, I no can even talk with Mommy like I talk with you. You the best, Daddy.
Let them think I one daddy’s girl. I no shame.
I so shame, Daddy. I never felt so shame before.
I decide if Kenny like cheerleaders so much, I going try out for the squad for next year. How hard can be, yeah? I mean, I been on track before; I done hurdles and high jump and all that. Same thing.
First we had for put on this little costume. I look like She-Hulk in that thing, Daddy, with my arm and shoulder muscles all popping out. All the other girls, they all cute and skinny, and I get man shoulders. I so ugly.
Then we had for do splits like that. No problem⸺I know how for stretch.
The whole time, Kristal Mizoguchi acting all cool ’cause she already on the squad and keep on giving me stink eye and then looking at her little friends and giggling. She make me sick.
After that, they teach us one dance routine, you know the kind they do on drill teams, and we had for show we can do ‘um. I no can dance, Daddy. I no more rhythm. Must be the haole part of me.
And every time I take one step, Kristal and her friends go “Boom! Boom!” like I Godzilla. I so shame.
The last part the worst. We had for run across the gym and do one flip. So I running, I flip over on my hands, and then⸺Whack! Flat on my back. My okole hurt so bad! And then, like I no shame enough already, while I getting up I hear one loud rip ’cause the back of my shirt wen’ rip right in half. Like I said, my shoulders too big for that uniform.
I so shame. For sure Kristal going tell Kenny all about it. Ever since we start practicing for the play, Kenny and Kristal all buddy-buddy. Make me sick.
I was right. Kristal wen’ tell Kenny the whole story, with me landing on my okole and everything. I thought he was going laugh at me, but instead he stay all mad, like he shame of me or something.
“Ho, Faye, why you wen’ try out for cheerleading?” he wen’ ask me today during lunch. “What you trying for prove?”
“What?” I tell him. “I no trying prove nothing, stupid. Maybe I try out ’cause I like be one cheerleader, you ever think of that?”
“Yeah, right. Since when you like be one cheerleader? Stop acting, Faye. Why you cannot just be yourself?”
‘Cause you no like me when I myself, I like say, but I never. Instead, I stand up and yell at his face, “You so bakatare, Kenny! Just mind you own business!”
I so mad, I wen’ leave the table without even finishing my lunch. The whole cafeteria all staring at me, so all I like do is get out of there quick as possible.
While I was leaving, Kristal wen’ sit down next to Kenny and I hear her ask him, “Ho, what’s her problem?”
I dunno what Mommy’s problem is. Every time I come out of here after talking to you, she give me stink eye, like I doing something bad or something. She probably no like me bother you when you writing, since she know how hard you work in here. But you no care, ah, Daddy? You can spare a few minutes every day for spend some quality time with your daughter, yeah?
I cannot wait for our play to start, Daddy. Going be so good. Hilarious, Daddy. I no even care anymore that stupid Kristal stay in the lead role as Kenny’s girlfriend. No matter.
Kenny the one wrote the play for us. Get this surfer guy named Kimo (Kenny going to play him), and this witch, Broomhilda (that’s me). She no like him, so she kidnap his girlfriend, Jenny (Kristal going be her). Anyways, for rescue his girlfriend, Kimo gots to collect these five magic balls⸺get one disco ball, one beach ball, one football, one crystal ball, and one gumball. Then when he get all five balls, he can trap the witch and get his girlfriend back.
Pretty cool, yeah? Kenny so good at writing. Almost as good as you, Daddy. Almost.
Today, I wen’ with Kenny-guys to Sandy’s for surf. The waves so big, Daddy, you should have been there.
Kenny pretty good surfer, but the other guys only okay. I keep telling them one day you going come with us for show them how for surf for reals. So when you like come with us, Daddy? I know you like get away from that dusty typewriter sometime.
Today I wore my new dress for Kenny. I never wore one dress like this before, but I figure I need be more girly⸺can be one tomboy when you twelve, but not when you sixteen. So I wen’ buy this little red dress with matching sandals and purse and everything. I even put on makeup. Ho, I so shame, but I like impress Kenny, so no matter how shame I feel.
So I walk into first period and the guys is all whistling and staring, and Lonnie Williams yells out, “Ho, wow, I never knew Faye Nguyen had one hot sister!” He wen’ call me hot, Daddy! No one ever call me hot before.
Then, Keone Kaawa gets up from his chair and says to me, “Please, Ms. Nguyen, take my seat.”
“No,” says Johny Matsuo, “take mine.”
And like three other football players all stand up and offer me their seats. Yeah, they was joking around, but still…. Daddy, these the most popular guys in the whole school⸺usually, they no even notice I one girl.
Then, Kristal Mizoguchi wen’ open up her big mouth and ruin it all. “Wow, Faye, nice dress. Where you bought ‘um, the Big & Tall store?”
Everyone forget they was being nice to me just two seconds before, and now they all cracking up like that the funniest thing they ever heard. I so mad, I no can even think of what for say. I just stay there, staring at her, like one tree.
“Well,” she says, twirling her finger in her bleacher-orange hair, “now you ready for start working on Hotel Street tonight, yeah?”
Yeah, well, I no like steal your customers, so come show me which corner is yours, I should’ve said, but I never. I just stay there, smoke coming out of my ears, making fool in front of the whole class.
And the worst part is, Kenny never say one word in my defense. That ditz, Kristal, rubbing my face in the mud, and my supposed best friend⸺what he doing? He in la-la land, gazing off into space, like I no even exist. I dunno what his problem is. Lately, he act like he shame for be my friend. Jerk.
My Ex-Friend, Kenny Thompson
I no even like him no more. Today after school I wen’ talk to him about yesterday.
“I thought you was my friend, Kenny.”
He look like he going act like he don’t know what I talking about, but then he must’ve seen that I was serious. “Yeah, well I thought you was Faye Nguyen, but lately I cannot even tell who you are. Who you trying to impress, anyway?”
Him, but I not going tell him that. “You no even know what you talking about. I not trying to impress anyone. I just like try new things. You got a problem with that?”
“Yeah, right, Faye. I known you since we was kids. You never wore one dress in your life, even when your mom try put ‘um on you herself.”
“What? You no can accept that I can change? You not going to be my friend now, just ’cause I not the same tita girl you play baseball with when you was ten?”
“No, Faye, I not going to be your friend until you stop acting and be yourself.”
I no can believe him, Daddy! When I myself I not girly enough for him, and when I try be girly he tell me be myself. “Forget you, Kenny. I no going waste my time on you.”
And then I gots to walk home, ’cause he my ride. Guess I going be walking home a lot now.
I still see Kenny a couple times a day in class, but that’s it. We hardly even talk anymore.
I wearing girl-clothes now. I figure, I wen’ spend buku bucks on all them dresses and skirts and cute outfits, I better wear ‘um. It’s not as bad as I always thought it would be. Plenty guys look at me all the time now. Being little bit girly not bad at all.
Kenny was wrong⸺I still myself. I still play sports, I still go surf, all that. I just like make myself pretty every morning. Nothing wrong with that.
Only problem is now I no more friends. All my friends the guys me and Kenny hang out with, but since me and Kenny no hang out, I no hang out with them either. I try making friends with this one girl, Kalani Perez, but we no get nothing in common. I dunno how for make friends⸺Kenny the one good at that.
I wish I could talk to him, ask him what for do. I miss him, Daddy. What you think I should do?
Before the play, I feeling bad ’cause you couldn’t be there, but now I glad you never came. I glad you never see the disaster I wen’ make.
Everything good going until the end part, when Kimo traps Broomhilda with the five magic balls and rescues Jenny. I supposed to be frozen, ’cause I trapped by the magic balls, and then Kimo and Jenny kiss. Only supposed to be one fake kiss, ’cause we not allowed kiss for real in school plays, but when Kristal putting her face up close to Kenny’s, I can tell she going kiss him for real. I can’t just watch her kiss him, Daddy.
I go crazy. Right there, in front of the whole school and everyone’s parents, I wen’ charge across the stage and right into Kristal. Only she and Kenny at the front of the stage, so when I push her she wen’ fly off the stage and down into the band. She wen’ land right on top the trombone player. Lucky he chubby, ’cause he wen’ cushion her fall.
“What are you doing, you witch?!” she yell up at me. (Not exactly in those words, but I no going repeat what she really say in front of you.)
Me and Kenny, we both in shock. But for once in my life, I no freeze up. I knew I gots to cover up, for save face. I no like ruin the whole play.
“You don’t want her, Kimo,” I say, making the lines up as I go and talking loud so the audience can hear. “I’m sorry I put a spell on her and forced you to find all those magic balls, but the truth is, I love you, Kimo. Kiss me, you fool.” And then I wrap my hands around his head, pull him in close, and kiss him. For real. I know he only let me ’cause he never knew what else for do, with the whole world watching, but still, not too bad for my first kiss.
At first, the audience kind of confused. But then someone decide the whole thing one big joke and start laughing. Slowly everyone wen’ join in. Laughter and applause come from everywhere, and then they close the curtains on us.
Kenny wen’ push me away, and for a second I think he going smile, but then his eyes turn angry. “I cannot believe you, Faye. I cannot believe you.” He wen’ stare into my eyes like he looking for something, then he spin around and stomp off the stage.
And that was that. I think I screwed up⸺big time.
“I sorry, Kenny. I so sorry.” I finally got one chance for talk to him today before water polo practice.
“I not the one you need to tell that to, Faye. Try tell Kristal you sorry. She the one you wen’ shove off the stage.”
“Oh, you poor little girlfriend. She never broke anything, so⸺”
“She not my girlfriend, Faye. You know she not.”
“Yeah? Could’ve fooled me!”
Kenny takes one deep breath and looks down at his stomach like he always do when he trying to keep from saying something he going regret later. “Faye,” he says slowly, still looking down, “this isn’t about me and Kristal. This about you and me.”
“There is no you and me,” I blurt out, “I no good enough for you!”
“Where you get this crap, Faye? You watching soap operas now, or what? What you want from me?” Now he looking me straight in the eyes.
I no can handle it anymore. My eyes getting all watery and get boogers dripping out my nose. I never cry like this before. “I want you feel for me like I feel for you. I want you be my boyfriend.” I so shame. I cannot even look at him.
Kenny wen’ put one hand on my shoulder and say something I never expect. “You no even know what you want, Faye. You no want me be you boyfriend, you want me be you father.”
“Ever since since we was little, Faye, you always act like I you father⸺you like me protect you, tell you what for do, take care of you. You always trying to get my approval, whether you playing the sports I like, or dressing up like you think I like, or whatever.” He put his hand on my chin and lift my face to look at him. “I only sixteen; I cannot handle you depending on me like that. I sorry you no more one father, Faye, but I cannot be all that.”
I push his hand away from my face. “What you talking about? I no need you be my father. I get one father. You talking bubbles, Kenny.”
“Whatevers, Faye. You the one talking bubbles. You been talking bubbles ever since I knew you⸺you act like your father still alive.”
“Shut up! Just shut up!”
“And surprise, surprise, everything about this imaginary father you always talking about is just like me⸺he one writer, just like me; he one swimmer, just like me; he one surfer, just like me. He even hapa, just like me. How come you get one Vietnamese last name if your father half haole and half Hawaiian, Faye? How you explain that?”
I no can explain it. I like tell Kenny he wrong, but no can. “My daddy really was a writer” is all I can say.
“Faye, I love you. I love you since the second grade. And I no mean that like when one guy tell his girlfriend he love her one week and the next week he get new girlfriend. I mean it for real. I dunno if I even love you like one girlfriend, but I willing to talk about that, if you willing to be honest. Honest with me, and honest with yourself. Let me know when you ready for do that.”
He pulls me close to him and we hug. I like stay in his arms forever, but then he says goodbye and leave me there, alone outside the swimming pool.
I think I always knew what Kenny wen’ tell me. I always knew that I was talking to an empty chair in front of a dusty typewriter that no one even used for twelve years now. I knew you wasn’t real, Daddy, but I wanted so much for you to be real.
But I have to be honest with myself now. I no can pretend you real when I know you not. I just wanted to come talk with you one last time, Daddy, for tell you goodbye. Thanks for listening to me. I going miss you. I love you, Daddy.