Mission burrito

Ed and I grew up eating Gordo’s burritos here in the Richmond District of San Francisco. Whenever my mom didn’t want to cook because she was too tired, or she just wanted to give us a treat, she’d get both of us burritos from Gordo’s just down the block. They’d almost always be the grilled chicken burritos stuffed with pinto beans, their delicious reddish-orange rice, pico de gallo, a little hot sauce, and some cheese.

When I got to high school and became a little more mobile, I started exploring the Mission district and realized how good the burritos were there. Obviously now, these burritos are famous in this part of town, so famous that people actually refer to them as “Mission burritos.” At some point, I told Ed about the burritos and how good they were and that we should go together, and he exclaimed, “You want me to go all the way to the Mission to get a burrito?! But I can just go to Gordo’s, and it’s just fine!”

It would have been easier if we were allowed to drive together, as driving to the Mission is far easier than taking the dreaded MUNI from the Richmond, but I think he would have really liked the burritos we had at Taqueria San Jose tonight. This just another one of the million things we never did and will never do together.

Full house

Chris’s brother came down from Toronto to spend the long holiday weekend with us tonight. We picked him up at the airport this evening, and on our way back from SFO to the Richmond District, I thought about what it would’ve been like if Ed were still here. We’d have a packed house with six of us in total, and we wouldn’t even have enough space for everyone in the Camry. Ed and I would be sleeping in our own beds while Chris and Ben would sleep on the two sofas in the living room, one more comfortable than the other since one is far bigger than the other. Ed would ask Ben random questions about living in Canada and Australia and make an exclamation here and there about how brave Ben was for moving all the way from Australia to Canada to live. He’d also ask slightly annoying stereotypical questions about what “Australians” are probably like to see Ben’s take on it, especially since Ben’s accent is stronger than Chris’s. I would probably snap at Ed for asking such dumb questions so much… Because I guess that’s just what I used to do to him sometimes. I am his sister, after all. You can’t be a sibling and be nice all the time. Whether it would be at In N Out or some Mission burrito spot, I’m pretty sure Ed would win the award for the fastest eater. He’d also be the first one done with any activity, whether it was walking through Alcatraz’s prison cells or climbing up Lombard Street. I’m sure it would have been a bit awkward, but then again, everything that involves my family is at least a little awkward.

It would have been a happy day to have my brother meet my future brother-in-law. My brother knows he’d never be replaced, but he’d have someone else that he knew I could rely on. It’s a painful thing to think about what could have been, but unfortunately what will never be.

1989 earthquake: remembering

My uncle took me out for dinner tonight, and over Japanese food, we talked about the recent earthquake in the Bay Area this past week and the last big earthquake that hit us in 1989. I was just three, and somehow, I’m still able to remember it. I was at home with Ed, who was 10 then, and suddenly the entire house starts shaking wildly. I didn’t realize it was an earthquake, nor was I probably aware at the time what an “earthquake” actually was. When my dad used to come home from work in the evenings in those days, he’d always pick me up and place me on his shoulders, so it was like a fun, bumpy ride to me as he’d run through the house with me hanging on. When the shaking started, I naively thought it was just my dad shaking the house, so I ran to the window to see if he was down at the street moving the house. Ed yelled at me to get away from the windows as the shaking and rolling continued. He ran over, grabbed me, and pulled me underneath the dining room table and had me cover my head with my hands and crouch down.

It’s a vivid memory in my mind even 25 years later. It’s one of those very first memories I have of my brother being protective over me and trying to ensure my safety. I told this story to my uncle tonight and felt my stomach turning as the words came out of my mouth. I can share this memory now with him or a friend or even a stranger, but I’ll never be able to relive this memory with Ed ever again. It’s always the little things that make me feel the worst.

Digital search directory

I came back home to San Francisco today, and after having lunch at home with my parents, we went to visit Ed at the Columbarium. I found out that my dad had picked a fight with my mom yesterday because he wanted to visit Ed on his birthday, but she refused and insisted that they should wait until today so I could join them. He didn’t think it was right and said Ed should be able to see them on his birthday. It’s the little things my dad does now that make me really sad; it’s like he is trying in his own small ways to try to make things right to make up for all the time when Ed was alive… when things were all wrong.

The Columbarium finally added Ed’s name to the search directory. When I had visited last February, his name still hadn’t been put into the system, and my parents told the director that it should have been added ages ago. Last month, they added in his name.. but instead of reading “Wong, Edward,” it read “Wong, Edwin.” My parents had to fill out a form to get this corrected (apparently because having his death certificate on record with his actual name was not enough).

The prompt says, “Type in the first three letters of the LAST name.” I typed in “WON” and hit “Search.” The results listed many Wongs… and there he was:

Wong, Edward

Born: 8/26/1979 — Died: 7/22/2013

Below this information, the screen shows what hall and floor he is on, as well as the section and niche number. I didn’t realize that there were numbers on each niche.

I stared at this screen for a long time and felt numb. The screen became a bit of a blur as my eyes watered. I couldn’t take my eyes off the Born/Died line. Why does it look so terrible? He was born in 1979 and died in 2013? Why can’t it say…Born: 8/26/1979 — Died: ________. Some of the directories are like this because of the reserved niche spaces. His unfortunately is not reserved; it’s occupied. This is real. His death is real. Even when I don’t want to admit it, he’s really dead and out of my reach. One year and five weeks later, it’s still not completely real to me.

 

Happy 35th

Happy 35th birthday, Ed! Today, you are turning 35… Or you would have turned 35 if you were still here. It’s been a year since we celebrated your 34th… and a year and four weeks since you jumped off that damn bridge. I am always in disbelief when I think of how much time has passed since I’ve managed to live my life knowing that you are physically dead.

I’ve realized that as the day gets closer to the anniversary of your birth or death, a part of me just feels numb. I seem to care a little bit less about what’s going on around me, and I just feel like there’s a lot of noise surrounding me that is not that important. I don’t know if anyone else remembers your birthday. I’m sure our JW mother does, even though she doesn’t want to admit it. I know our dad does, even though he never acknowledged it to your face all those years you lived with him even after I left home. I think our cousin here in Brooklyn thinks about it, but he’s probably too emotionally screwed up and dysfunctional to mention it out loud to anyone else. Thinking about all this seems to force all of the anger I’ve felt in the last year to resurface. I can’t really help it. It just seems to come. Everyone just goes about their everyday lives, and somehow, even just that ignites my anger.

I think about this walk I am doing for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and though I am doing it for your memory and hopefully for others who may be suffering the way you did, sometimes, it feels so futile. It feels like a charade at times because all I really want is to have you back, alive and healthy. I want the world to not judge you for being as fragile and depressed as you were. I want the world to stop and think about you the way I think about you. No one else will ever understand. With your absence, I am even more acutely aware of how little one person can help another who is so deeply entrenched in his own darkness. It was too late for me to do anything for you before I even realized it.

Chris surprised me yesterday when I got home with a bouquet of these big yellow sunflowers. It reminded me of when we were little, and for a few years, we’d plant sunflowers together. When the flowers would blossom, the buds would reveal endless sunflower seeds, which we’d eat most of together and then save a handful to grow next year’s sunflowers. One year, you decided to take the liberty of just eating all of the seeds, and I got so mad. We were never going to grow sunflowers together again!

What I’d like to do is grow sunflowers for you again. I’d love to grow an entire garden of flowers for you, trees that will live longer than any human being could, flowers that would experience weather changes endlessly but would persevere. I want everything important I do to be because of everything you taught me, before and after you left this world. This is how I want you to know how significant you are in my life, even after your death.

I will always celebrate and acknowledge your birthday — last year, this year, in five years, in 20 years. I’ll make your future niece and nephew acknowledge it, too. I just hope you are eating cake, too. Hope that cake doesn’t get smeared the way Chris smeared your cake in 2012, though.

I miss you. Come visit me in my dreams sometime soon. I know you can be difficult and don’t always come when I want (in fact, you have never come when I asked), but cut me some slack because this is the second birthday of yours I have to celebrate without your being here. It still hurts. I’m not really looking forward to going back home to the room we used to share, knowing you will not be there. It’s such a cold, horrible place.

I love you, Ed. Don’t forget about me while you are doing whatever it is you are doing up there. And hope you are thinking about me as often as I am thinking about you.

Napa

I’m leaving to go home in two days. Chris and Ben are coming to San Francisco, too. On Sunday, we’re planning to take a day trip to the Napa Valley area, and my parents are not a huge fan of this. The first reason is because my mom disapproves of over drinking (to my mother, “over drinking” really means having anything more than half a glass of wine; even that is a lot to her). The second is because of the 6.0 earthquake that the area experienced just three days ago, and my dad is concerned that a lot of the roads will be blocked off and that a lot of the wineries will be closed for repair. My parents just like to worry.

It’s sad to think about going back to Napa. The last time I was there was in March 2013, when Ed was still alive, and we went with our parents for a very uneventful day trip to the area and tasted no wine. We had lunch at a decent spot in downtown Napa, wandered around aimlessly while my dad argumentatively told my mom he didn’t want to taste any wine and certainly did not want to pay to taste. My dad was asked to plan the day, and as usual, he planned nothing, which made my mom extremely angry. And because she can rarely allow herself to take her anger out on him, instead, she took it out on us and yelled at us multiple times that day. Ed never liked wine, and he couldn’t do any tastings anyway because of his medication. All in all, it was a wasted, miserable trip that made all of us angry. I just felt bad for Ed at the time because he was trying to be positive that day despite my mom screaming at both of us.

This time I will be going with Chris and Ben, and it will very likely be a much better time. But I get upset at the idea of knowing that the last time I was there was with Ed, and we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge to get there. We will have to drive over that bridge to get to Napa this time — the same place where he took his life, and a barrier is now being constructed. It is scary and almost depressing how quickly time passes, and how then, he seemed like he could have had hope and have been fine, and now, he no longer exists in this world, and I will be alone in that house with my parents.

Depression Quest

A friend sent me an article about a web-based game called Depression Quest, an interactive game where the user plays a fictional character that has depression. You go about this person’s everyday life, and your goal is to manage your illness and regular life events to the best of your ability in spite of your illness.

The goal of the game is to help those who do not know what it’s like to have depression to attempt to understand it better, to raise awareness for depression, mental illness, and suicide prevention, and to also help sufferers of depression realize that they are not alone in their feelings. Ironically, this game was released on the same day that Robin Williams was found to have committed suicide. If you’d like to play it, you can either play it for free or can pay what you want; all fees go directly to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

I think the game is a good attempt at trying to help raise awareness, but as someone who has lost someone to suicide and knew how hard his life was, I’m not fully convinced that this can help outsiders understand the state of mind better. After going through about 10 pages of the game, the only real “interaction” that happens are prompts that ask you what you want to do next (making a choice). The rest is all text and some sad background music. I can understand the state because of how close I was to Ed, but if I didn’t have that experience, I’m not sure I would gain more empathy and understanding just through this. It’s worth trying, but hasn’t struck a chord with me.

Carving

Last night, Chris took us to a show at the Flea Theater downtown called “Smoke,” which is about a guy and a girl who both have twisted ideas for what turns them on. The girl loves to be tortured, while the guy loves to use knives… during sex. So this show ultimately culminated in some odd dreams for me last night. In the most vivid dream, I am sitting on a chair in the middle of my parents’ living room, which is actually empty except for the chair, and Ed has a small but very sharp knife in his hands. I am wearing a cropped top and have my midriff exposed, and as I am sitting there plainly, Ed is carving different letters of the alphabet across my torso. I am bleeding from the cuts, but I feel nothing.

Friendly neighborhood store cheaps out

I’ve asked my friend, who works at Trader Joe’s, to see if she could ask if they’d be willing to donate snacks or beverages for the walkers this October’s American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Out of the Darkness Walk. The frustrating thing about asking is that they don’t accept e-mail, apparently because they want to be perceived as a “friendly neighborhood store” despite being a massive corporation that is skimping out on health insurance for its hard working employees, and each store will donate only $40 worth of goods for a given event. We have over 120 walkers who have signed up already, which does not include the number that may sign up between now and October 26, so this definitely doesn’t give us that much in actual food quantity. The cheapest granola bars at Trader Joe’s go for about 99 cents each.

So I’ve asked my friend to ask three different locations to donate, so that way, I’d get $120 total in donated food. Still not ideal, but it’s better than nothing, and it helps that I have someone who works at the store who can talk to them for me.

Unconfident women

Tonight, I attended the birthday party of one of Chris’s friends at the Dream hotel in downtown. It was one of those very New York-type spots, where everyone is dressed up and extremely glam, standing and chit-chatting while holding their $16 cocktails, all around a uniform four-feet-deep pool, into which no one will be jumping in.

I’m sitting and making conversation with some of his friend’s friends, listening to the story of how one of them is in a relationship with one of her colleagues, who has teenage children and is in the process of getting a very slow and painful divorce. The kids hate her and blame her for their parents’ breakup, and the man… doesn’t seem to have much of a spine at all.

Then he walks in, and within five minutes, the topic somehow gets to breast implants. We are discussing what men notice about a woman when she passes by. Well, I said, when I pass by, I’m sure my boobs are not at the top of the list! This guy responds, “Let me ask you something that she does not approve of (gestures to the woman who has been accused to break up his marriage): would you get a boob job?” I immediately answer no. “Oh god, you’re one of those women,” he says, rolling his eyes. “Why not?” Because I’m not quick-witted enough, I simply glare at him and respond, “Because I don’t believe in having anything fake on my body.” Then I slowly get up and get ready to leave.

I felt sorry for the woman after we had that interchange. That’s when I realized how unconfident she was to be with such a shallow, moronic man who was encouraging her to be fake and plastic.