Alan Chin interviewed me.
I had a dream about Jak last night. Jak was my dog, a Shiba Inu. The dream was so vivid I decided to write it down.
In my dream, I was just back from a biz trip. I didn’t know for how long that I was away. I paced around my apartment feeling uneasy, as if I forgot something. Suddenly, I screamed out, “Jak.”
In real life, Jak was rambunctious, if we had left him in the house alone, he would have chewed up everything within reach. So when we leave for short amount of time, like for work, we would leave him in a special play pen that was dog proof. In this dream, I thought that I had left him in a room downstairs in my apartment complex, before I left for the biz trip.
I went down stairs. For reasons that only happen in dreams, the old basement area of the apartment complex had turned into a clinic or hospital of some sort. My business trip had to be very long. The hallways stretched far and the florescent lights gave everything a green tint, similar to the hallway in the movie Matrix. The smell of peroxide permeated the air.
I was desperate now, “Oh shit, oh shit.” I tended to panic. The image of Jak dead from starvation filled me with dread.
A friend joined me in my search. I don’t remember when he arrived, his face, or who he is. He had a masculine voice and always tried to look on the bright side of things. My anonymous friend suggested, “Let’s talk to a doctor around here.”
We found a doctor wondering in the hallway, dressed appropriately in a white coat. Pointing at the door where I believed I had locked up Jak, I asked the doctor, “When did this place become a clinic? Have you guys ever seen a dog in there? A Shiba Inu, a small Japanese breed with black and tan fur?”
He said, “ur…, I don’t know, it is a bathroom now.”
We went into the room. It had gleaming marble floors, bright recessed lights, and dark wood panels, with two urinal and one toilet stall. It looked too luxurious to be a hospital bathroom.
Coming out of the bathroom, I pleaded with the doctor, “Come on, you guys don’t remember hearing a dog yelping? Or anything at all?”
My friend said, “Is that Jak?”
Through a glass pane window of the hallway, he pointed at a dog outside, squatting in a position as if it was about to take a dump. The dog had a red coat and fox like eyes. It was actually a fox. It stared back.
I was excited for one second before disappointment quickly took over. I said, “No.”
“Don’t worry,” my friend put an arm around me. “We’ll find Jak.”
A woman doctor, who resembled a combination of Sarah Jessica Parker and Joan Crusack, come up to us. “I think I remember they let out a dog.”
“Walk with me,” she said, “I think they just let him outside.”
“How can they just do that? Let a dog out in the city by himself? He is a domesticated animal.”
She said, “I actually saw him couple times, if you go out of building, go down the street couple blocks, there is a park. You can probably find him there.”
“Are you sure?”
“Pretty sure,” she pushed glasses up her nose. “In fact, I think I even saw a couple litters of puppies, your dog must be quite a stud.”
“He was neutered,” I said, gritting my teeth. Just how long was I away?
An embarrassment flashed across her face.
My friend said, “Well, it doesn’t hurt to look.”
The woman doctor asked me, “So tell me more about Jak.”
So I told her the story of how I met Jak. Matt, my boyfriend at the time, signed up for pure bred dog rescue, specifically for Shiba Inus because I like how they looked. I was superficial. A woman from the Shiba Rescue drove a dog to our Bellevue house in the Seattle Suburbs that day, because if we didn’t adopt him, he would be put down by the shelter the next day. Initially, I swear the dog was not a Shiba Inu. It had mangled wiry fur, a skinny body, and sickly eyes, like a mutt that was dipped in mud. I told the lady, are you sure it is a Shiba? She said, yes, of course. She quickly bolted into her car. If you don’t like him, let me know, she said through her car window as she stepped on the gas pedal. She left so quickly she didn’t even look back, which should be a warning sign.
We named him Jak because I was playing the video game “Jak and Daxter” at the time. Jak was indeed damaged goods. He was scared of people. Initially, he would run away when we approached, especially if one of us had a golf club in our hand. We did enjoy golfing. Jak had to be on a leash at all times, even inside the house. We figured he must be abused by his previous owners.
Eventually, after a lot of good Dog Chow with vitamin additives and a lot of tender care, mostly from Matt the responsible one, Jak’s fur become silky and shinny and he warmed up to us. He no longer needed a leash inside the house. He would jump up in my or Matt’s lap as we watched TV and be the perfect lap dog. He would jump up on the sofa, and perched high on the back of the sofa, and look out of the window. He would lie in the spot where the sun hit the floor, and just relax. He would try to wiggle under the blanket and leap up onto the bed with Matt and I, trying to sleep next to us. Although I would usually kick him off the bed, since he shed so much. Shiba Inu tends to shed a lot, something I didn’t know before adopting Jak.
However, he still had a crazy temperament and probably abandonment issues. Whenever we step out of the house without him, he would go spastic, yapping behind us, as if saying, “Please don’t leave me.” Then, as a punishment to us, he would chew up something precious before we got back. We didn’t take pleasure in locking him up when we are away, so we build a special dog proof play pen for him in the Garage.
Jak also had a tendency to escape and bolt away whenever he got a chance, apparently a Shiba trait. When tired he would return home, but running unbridled in our neighborhood was dangerous with cars and curvy streets. When Jak escaped, which he did often since he was quite an escape artist, Matt would try to fellow Jak in his Toyota Tacoma. When Matt pulled up next to Jak, Jak would jump in the truck, thinking we’d be heading to Marymoor Park, the famous dog park in Redmond.
Despite all the issues, we loved Jak and forgave his every naughty act, because he is the cutest thing ever.
I don’t remember how much of the story I told the woman doctor in the dream, but she was tearing up by the end, “That was saddest story I ever heard.”
Why she thought the stories were sad was beyond me, considering they were very happy memories. Unless she knew something I didn’t, like something bad happened to Jak.
My friend and I rode the elevator down with her, and went out of the clinic. After some navigation, we arrived at the park she described. Despite the inconsistencies in the doctor’s story about seeing Jak there, the park was my last hope.
Just as the last thread of my hope was slipping away, I saw a small black beast dashing between the bushes. I yelled out, “Jak.”
“Jak.” I yelled out again when it didn’t stop.
It stopped this time. It looked back at me. Its fur was mangled and dirty, and ironically, it is fatter than I remembered (where did he find Iams Dog Chow?), but I was sure it was Jak. The energetic eyes with hints of naughtiness and curiosity were unmistakable. He suddenly smiled, smiled in the way only a dog can. If you are a dog owner, you would know what I’m talking about: foam on the tongue that stuck out, the excitement in the eye, and the gaping mouth with lifted corners. Then he galloped towards me, like a seven year old boy skipping.
I petted him, and he bounced up and down to try to lick my face. I was so happy, and Jak was so happy. And then I woke up.
Before you forget this was just a dream and accuse me of animal abuse for locking Jak away during a long biz trip, please know that Jak is no longer mine. After Matt and I break up, five years after we adopted Jak and Daxter, we agreed that Matt will provide primary care for our two dogs while I had visitation rights. (Daxter, a black lab mix, was the other dog we also adopted from a shelter. While Daxter was the better behaved dog, I loved Jak just a bit more than I loved Daxter because Jak was cuter. I told you I can be superficial.) The reason for the arrangement was that Matt is the responsible one and I could barely take care of myself as I tried to managed an overwhelming amount of things for the first time in my life: cars, insurances, house, bank accounts, stock accounts, credits cards, dishes, laundry, etc . Besides, I travelled so much for work I couldn’t have provided the amount of attention the puppies needed. Less than two month after our break up, Matt lost his job and moved to Southern California, taking Jak and Daxter with him. That was the last time I saw Jak. Since then, a lot changed in my life also. I moved to Shanghai for an expat assignment. Matt was a much better daddy than I was or ever will be, so I was sure Jak and Daxter are both very happy. Jak is surely enjoying the always pleasant L.A. weather; he always loved basking in the sun.
I like to read. I read anything that grabs my interest. For a while, especially short after I came out, I was very interested in gay fiction, thirst for things I can relate to, like many gay guys did before they became jaded.
I started to notice one thing: very few books have minority protagonists.
Being Asian myself, I searched for gay books with Asian protagonists. I found two:”Crystal Boys” and “Confessions of a Mask.” “Crystal Boys” was about gay boys in Taiwan in the 70’s. It had me laugh and had me cry; I loved it. “Confessions of a Mask,” by Mishima, made me cringe and bored me to tears. Both settings are so remote I can’t relate to the main characters, who, while having their own challenges, don’t deal with the issues faced by a gay Asian in modern day America:
Of course, I think people’ll be bored to death if I only write about racial issues in the gay world. I had a story in mind. Everyone at least for one time had wanted their ex back. So that’s the main plot. A fantasy.
Then following the rule of “writing what you know,” I chose the setting of Boston, a city I spent almost five years in, and toss in a little of what I know in math and video games to create more realism and humor (I hope).
"You’re writing a novel? But you can barely speak English!"
People say that to me when I tell them that I’m writing a novel. Sometimes to my face, sometimes behind my back.
I’m not a good speaker of English, or of any language for that matter. (Some’d say this is an understatement.)
But a few friends liked the story after reading the early drafts of my book, terribly written ones. Their compliments—with my insecurity, sometimes I doubt the genuineness—and the fact they are avid readers thickened my skin.
I hired someone to make a pass at the story. Still it doesn’t feel good enough.
I decided to invest the time to editing the book myself, which took at least ten times longer than to write the first draft.
My major is Computer Science and Electrical Engineering. My day job is making crack, i.e. video games. Only writing course I took beyond high school was Technical Writing 101, which had recommended “The Elements of Style,” which I had long since forgotten.
I reread “The Elements of Style.” I took each of the rules, one at a time, made a pass on the book. I kept finding new mistakes that I had missed. Still doesn’t feel good enough.
I searched for other books on writing. ”On Writing” by Stephen King repeated many things in “The Elements of Style.” “Writing Fiction for Dummies” was surprisingly intelligent. “The First Five Pages” was the most helpful. Still doesn’t feel good enough.
I attended a writing workshop. Still doesn’t feel good enough.
I was a fast reader. Instead of just absorbing the story, I slowed down to analyze the writing techniques and apply whatever I liked to my book. Still doesn’t feel good enough.
But now “Slant” is getting published. It still doesn’t feel good enough, but I had to peel it away from me or else I’ll keep making changes. So be kind in your reviews.
P.S. Why did I write “Slant” in the first place? I’ll talk about it in another post.