Category Archives: Short Stories

Finding Chocolate Boy

“Please put up your backrest, miss”

I was in the last row of seats before the washrooms with nobody sitting behind me. My seat was reclined by about two inches.

Nevertheless, I silently brought up my backrest to it’s original, leaning slightly forward position while the non-English speaking man next to me pretended to not understand as if he’d never flown on a plane before. His seat remained reclined the full five inches with his tray table down.

The South Korean steward moved forward through the rows of seats and Ravi Shankar started to play on the speakers. Korean Air knows how to introduce you to India gently, and it works well with the dark, musty red carpets leading you to the baggage claim of BOM (Mumbai’s international airport).

But as the plane started to tilt downward, I suddenly felt a big wad of anxiety forming around my solar plexus. I chastised myself. “Why are you so nervous all-of-a-sudden? You have been dying to come back to Mumbai since you left 6 months ago.”

Within my sparsely packed suitcase, there was a bag of gifts for my friends from my first and most recent trip to India who had really left an impact on me. I had met so many great people, especially because my friend Sara and I were on a networking mission to learn more about the Indian film industry. However, there were a few who really went out of their way to help us on our trip and these people became good friends. Because I have an innate guilt that nothing in this world should come free, I have brought payment for their friendship in the form of maple syrup, Canadian flags, and handcrafted dream catchers.

I let my mind rest on this bag of Canadian kitsch and I tried to remember what I had bought for whom. I hoped I hadn’t forgotten anybody important. Still, the anxiety wouldn’t go away and I didn’t know what was causing it. As someone who analyzes themselves as a hobby, I felt I should think about it a bit.

Three months previously, I had started this blog and online portfolio so I could have a more visible presence on the web. Fake it ‘till you make it became my new motto. WordPress has a great dashboard for your blog so you can see how many people visited your page, how many clicks, what links are most popular, etc. However, I get the most entertainment from seeing the Google searches that have led people to my website. Some of the most recent favorites are: “awkward look gif”, “shaved my eyebrows off”, and “don’t worry bus, we all make mistakes”.

Ironically (I think) the day I get on my flight to Mumbai somebody has searched “mcglynn died on plane”. In order to counteract this scary prediction I post about it on twitter. If I acknowledge it, it’s way less likely to happen… and if it does, then it can go down in history that I predicted my own death.  So I get on my plane anyway and don’t tell my poor mother and father about it.

Final Destination: Mumbai.

However, I know that this anxiety isn’t caused by fear of flying. The last year I probably spent around 70-80 hours in flight, not including airport time and layovers. I actually love flying, because it gives me a very good excuse to watch 6 movies back to back and not feel like I should be doing something more productive like working on my screenplay. Surprisingly, the trip was great because I had a moment of inspiration after watching “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” and rewrote the whole structure of my current script (based in Mumbai of course).

I had travelled so much because the last year included 5 months of travelling from May to November. Vancouver – Chennai, Chennai – Vancouver, Vancouver – Toronto, Toronto – Johannesburg, Johannesburg – Cape Town, Cape Town – Johannesburg, Johannesburg – London, London – Vancouver, and now Vancouver – Mumbai.

I fell for Mumbai in a big way. I fell in love with its chaotic energy; it’s people, and its buzzing potential. I was told many times before I first planned my trip to India, “You either love it, or you hate it”. For Mumbai it became “you either love it, or you hate it, or you become obsessed with it.”

I’m not ashamed to say that when I left Mumbai, I shed a tear. I was intoxicated with whiskey and Mumbai, but mostly whiskey… or was it Mumbai? I got back to Vancouver later and was buzzing with unbridled energy. I could feel the twinkle in my eyes, and I had made a resolution to return to Mumbai in the New Year by any means possible.

So there I was. The plane hit the tarmac smoothly and we all coasted toward the baggage terminal at 2:45 am on the dot. The anxiety dulled as I stepped into the spiced air, then revved itself up again while I got stuck between a family of six taking up the whole corridor rolling their bags and dragging their children. I realized that this was a new frontier for me and I was feeling so anxious because I had reached uncharted territory in my life. While I had lived in Mumbai for a month and a half, never before had I returned to a foreign country with the intentions of living and working. I was going into the unknown.

“Oh my god, does this mean I’m no longer a student? Am I finally all-grown up and making big life decisions?” Sure I hadn’t technically graduated from University yet, but I hadn’t been taking classes for 6 months and planned to finish my degree via correspondence (only 5 classes to go!)

It was an exciting and daunting thought that carried me through to the baggage carousel. My bag arrived at the same time as me, and I could feel jealous stares as I cruised in and picked up my bag like it happens all the time (it never happens to me). With that little sign from the universe, I started to feel like my cocky-self again and as I went through customs I critiqued the outfits other white people had chosen to fly in. Are your pajamas really going to make your seat any more comfortable? Classic internal monologue of a person so aware of their own insecurities they have to criticize others privately because they know how ridiculous they’re being.

So why was reaching a new point in my life more scary than exciting?

Canadian-Breath-SprayI thought of one of my gifts, a Canadian spearmint breath spray with a lumberjack on the package, the sort of thing you pick up in a joke store. I was planning on giving it to a very special friend who probably had no idea of my name. During my first stay in Mumbai I was living in Colaba, a beautiful part of town with equal parts beggars and tourists, taxi drivers and merchants. That was where I met my little chocolate-boy Rahul, and keep on reading before you jump to conclusions about my British heritage and how racist I must be.

I first met Rahul when I was walking around the Colaba causeway, a street lined with shops and merchants selling their wares (Same shit, different block). Children often target white elephants like me and ask for money, rice, or milk and play up on their cuteness to get what they want. I was getting accustomed to saying no when Rahul came up to me and asked me for chocolate.

“Sorry, I don’t have any chocolate on me”

“Chocolate”

“I don’t have any chocolate”

“Chocolate, ma’am”

“I told you I don’t have any chocolate!”

I started walking faster to try and lose him, but he kept on following me.

“What do you want?”

“Chocolate”

I stopped, and took a moment to look at him. He was not dirty like the other kids of the street, and had an adorable smile with white teeth and big brown eyes.

“Do you live around here?”

“School” he said, pointing down the street and looking up at me with his sweet smiling face.

I realized he just lived around here and he spent his time after school playing with the other kids in the area and getting free candy from tourists. However, it was off-season and there weren’t many tourists around so I found I was getting quite a bit of concentrated attention whenever I went out for a walk. This monosyllabic boy was somehow making an impression on me.

“Sorry, no chocolate today. Maybe tomorrow”

“Ok” he shrugged, and he let me walk away.

I kept of seeing him every day and each time I didn’t have any chocolate. After a week of this, I decided to buy a chocolate bar and keep it in my bag for a surprise. Of course I couldn’t find him anywhere after that. I would scour the street every time I went out, and I even started making special trips to walk around and look for him.

After a couple of weeks of this chocolate bar melting and re-melting in my bag, he turned up again.

“Hello” he said. He started walking next to me.

“Hey chocolate boy! I have been looking for you”

He kept smiling as we walked together. He doesn’t ask for chocolate.

“Is there anything you want?” I asked.

“Rice”

Was this kid mocking me?

“I thought you liked chocolate”

“Yes” he said.

“So would you like rice or chocolate?”

“Rice” he answers with a smile.

“Well, too bad. I only have chocolate for you today.”

I reached into my bag and give him the semi-melted bar of chocolate. A group of kids saw this and they got up and came over.

“Thank you” he said. He took off just a scraggly-haired little girl came up to me with her palms out.

I dodged the rest of the kids and got back to my friends house where I was staying, and was dying to fill them in after weeks of my search for chocolate boy. That Sunday we visited the slum kids a few blocks away and brought a soccer ball and a big bag of candy to give every little chocolate boy and girl a fun day.

As we made our way into the slum, chocolate-boy joined us and I finally learned his real name. Rahul the chocolate boy led us through the slum and helped give out candy to the children and told them in Hindi that they could come play soccer. He was our guide and middleman who made sure the big kids weren’t stealing candy from the little ones, and that it was evenly distributed. We found a good patch for the soccer match and it rained, which only made the whole thing more fun.

The day I left Mumbai, my sandal broke and Rahul found me limping my way back to the house. He took me to a cobbler on the corner and we talked as my shoe was being fixed. I told him I would be back, and that I would find him again. He asked about Canada and when we should meet and I said I didn’t know what day I would be back but I would look for him.

So I found myself back there, 6 months later with some joke breath-spray, a Canadian flag, and 500 rupees ($10 CAD) wrapped up in a plastic bag so the other kids wouldn’t see his gift and try to take it from him. The anxiety from the plane ride had abated because I realized the cause. I am afraid of big changes because generally my life is pretty good, and although I don’t have much to lose I know that things can stop going my way and get a lot worse. This new stage of my life had a lot of potential to go wrong regardless of how much I wanted it to go right, and I am scared of the unknown whether or not it’s failure or success that takes me there.

I made a special hour and a half trip to Colaba from my hostel in Andheri near the airport in order to track down Rahul and give him his gift. I had a night out planned with my old troublemaker friends in the area as well, but I came early in the afternoon to find my chocolate boy. I know that the gift would probably be a little underwhelming for your average kid, but I know from experience that a lot of Indians are cautious of getting close with foreigners because they come to India, say they’re coming back, and disappear. It is the same reason why I used to never go out of my way for a tourist besides giving directions. But when someone goes out into the unknown and invites a stranger in transit to be their friend, it really makes a huge difference to their trip. My best memories from travelling are all because of my experiences with locals, and my top activity for every country is to have a home-cooked meal at someone’s house.

Tree-lined street, Colaba. Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Again, it is fear of the unknown that we avoid making new connections. The fear of losing time we invest into a new friendship, or the money we spend on their drinks at the bar, or the energy we put into making them happy. Nobody wants to be taken advantage of, so it meant a lot to me when my friends in India took the risk and gave me their time and friendship, and I know part of the gift was the mere fact that I came back.

I walked through Colaba… the usual streets I would find Rahul and couldn’t find him. Very conscious of how much I looked like a lost tourist, I tried not to wander around in circles too much (again trying to avoid confrontation and potentially meeting new people). As I walked through a back road fairly close to the slum, I passed a large group of young boys with a cricket bat. I peered closely at the shorter ones and saw one I thought looked like Rahul. One of the older boys spotted me, and asked if I wanted to join the game. Surprised at the invite, I looked up and saw they were all watching me. I said no, only because I was tired and it was very hot but I appreciated the invite. I asked if they knew a boy called Rahul who hung out in the area. I gestured his height by placing my hand, palm down at my belly button.

“Rahul?” the tallest one repeated.

The boys looked at each other. I could hear the name Rahul being repeated amongst them. Nobody said they knew him.

“Sorry, he’s not here” the tall boy said.

I thanked them and walked away disappointed I hadn’t found him.

I sat down for a fresh lime soda at a hotel near the Gateway of India and paused in the middle of the book I was reading to analyze their response. “Sorry, he’s not here”. Did that mean that they did or didn’t know him? Did it mean he was there earlier? Did that mean he moved away? Was he dead?

I stopped myself there. I didn’t want to over-analyze it anymore; another unknown area that can only be discovered if it’s explored. I gave up the search for the day, but I knew I would be back.

Chocolate-boy has disappeared again, but I know he will turn up when I least expect it. I will go back with his photograph and ask around if I have to, because I promised Rahul that I would be back and find him and I can’t bear to give the lumberjack breath spray to anybody but him. My mission to find Rahul has become a small-scale and more palpable version of my life right now. I will only know when I find him whether or not he trusted me to come back. I am still scared of the new path I’m on, but if I have learned one thing this year it’s that fear is no reason to hold yourself back. Fear of finding out that I’ll never see Rahul again is mixed with fear of some strange new life that awaits me. And so I venture forth into the unknown, with my fear tucked away and wrapped in plastic with the rest of my baggage.

P.S. If anybody knows Rahul, please let me know.

Rahul posed for me while the cobbler fixed my sandal.

Rahul and the Cobbler

*~Edd!e: A Romantic, Teen-Thriller and True Story

Sometime early on in my five-year high school saga, I found my first love on a website called Nexopia.

I just checked, and somehow it’s still around. Anyway, I was fifteen years old and had had a few “relationships,” each one last less than two or three weeks.

I was not looking for my first love when I joined Nexopia… not at all. I was more than familiar with dating websites like LavaLife, where I would prank unsuspecting men looking for a casual encounter by setting up a time and place and imagining them waiting for this beautiful blond, eighteen-year old model to show them a night of fun and of course nobody showing up. I did this once… Maybe twice.

So I joined Nexopia.com because my friends all had profiles. You could personalize your page with HTML codes you could copy and paste and have things like a cursor that would sparkle and leave a trail of glitter-scat wherever you moved your mouse. Some people got very creative. This is when I think “Emo” and “Scene” became “things.”

Teens and pre-teens would post angsty poetry or fill out personality quizzes and see how many friends they could get to do the same. It’s really not that different from Facebook, but I think Nexopia came first and didn’t appeal to anyone that had grown out of acne or their training bras.

It was new: a strange and wonderful world.

One day as I signed in to post a new webcam picture I took of myself, I saw that a young, Hispanic guy with the username *~Edd!e commented on my wall.

“Hey, nice pics. How R U?”

I took a look at his profile and saw some fairly grainy webcam pictures of a guy with big brown eyes, buzzed hair, sparse facial hair, muscular arms, and a black baseball cap. There wasn’t a single picture without that hat. He lived in Alberta; about 1158 km from Vancouver.

I think my username was something like, $$$P.M.c.G-Unit$$$… I was in the middle of my Baller to Mall-Punk transition phase and I guess I thought dollar signs said a lot about who I was as a person. I replied, unsure of what I thought.

“Hey, do I kno U?”

He didn’t. He said he was browsing and saw my pics, thought I looked interesting and wanted to get in touch. I didn’t think this kind of behavior was strange. After all, in elementary school my friends and I would exchange msn contacts to collect the most amount of friends. This would often lead to getting to know another kids from a nearby school who you would get a crush on, see once, and feel too shy to mention anything about the (K) 😛 😉 messages we would exchange back and forth. A picture I drew of *~Edd!e when we were dating online.

Soon, we had exchanged msn addresses and we started chatting. *~Edd!e told me his life story, and I told him mine. However, his was much more eventful than anything I could even dream up.

*~Edd!e was born in El Salvador during the civil war and because his mother had lost track of the date he had no real idea of how old he was. He estimated he was eighteen, and he never celebrated his birthday.
I said he should just pick a day and celebrate, but he said it wasn’t that easy.
He had an older and younger brother. They all escaped to Canada as refugees and his mother now worked as a cleaning lady to pay rent. He said his older brother was involved in a gang that was widespread across North America, and that due to his brother’s involvement, he watched his youngest brother get shot in a park during a murder attempt on his brother.

I couldn’t believe that someone in Canada could have that kind of backstory, let alone someone I could meet on Nexopia.

*~Edd!e had had a hard time dealing with life after that and started doing drugs and even joined the gang. His brother had the intelligence to give little *~Edd!e a smack on the head, and tell him to leave the gang. The price of getting him out of the gang was for *~Edd!e’s brother to move to Vancouver and take care of business over there.

So now *~Eddie was off drugs, going to school, and DJ’ing in his basement. I don’t know how he afforded turntables, but then I never asked. To get this close, we had been chatting on msn for about three months. I was so blown away by his story, I couldn’t help but get a massive crush on him. I was drawn to his tragedy the same way people like to adopt abused animals and nurse them back to health. I wanted to make him happy, and be the one girl he could tell anything.

Somehow, I managed to fight past the (K) 😛 😉 stage of our relationship and straight-up type: “I like you.”

He was a bit sadistic and asked me what I meant. I pushed down the knot in my stomach and answered, “I like like you.”
“What does that mean?” he asked.

Oh goddamn it all…

“I HAVE A CRUSH ON YOU” I typed, crushing the letters on the keyboard. I was seething.

As it turned out, he had a crush on me too. He told me the night before he was hanging out with his ex-girlfriend who tried to make out with him and he turned her down. He said it was because of me.

Let’s try at look at this from my naïve, fifteen year old perspective. Sure he said he was eighteen, but he didn’t know for sure. What’s more, I told him I liked him first and he never said anything until I did. Also, I knew he wasn’t an old man because we had chatted with webcams and I could see him moving around and doing silly things because I asked him to.

Long story a little bit shorter, we agreed to have an exclusive, online dating relationship.

Here is where things get messed up. Yes, you have seen nothing yet. Buckle Up.

Our online relationship lasted another five months before we decided to take it to the next level. In this time, we exchanged music files. He would make a track with is DJ setup, and I would record some vocals on Garageband and send it back with layer upon layer of reverb. We made some stuff that I remember sounding kind of good. I actually wrote him a love song and I still have the recording of it somewhere. Pretty cute right?

He also told me that he was a part of a DJ group called DJ Tiesto, and that the ‘e’ in Tiesto stood for his name.
The group couldn’t sell commercially so they chose one guy to represent them and created a new persona, DJ Tiesto. I chose to believe him, although I wasn’t without my doubts.

Lo’ and Behold, *~Edd!e’s brother invited him out to Vancouver to come live. He showed some doubt because of the gang involvement, but I encouraged him to move so we could meet in person.
His brother had found him a place on a street nearby my house. He remembered the street name but not the house number. I started getting a lot of exercise walking up and down that street at any chance to guess which house would be his and thinking seeing some Hispanic person might be a clue.

I pressed him for the house number, but in the end the plan fell through and he had to move in with his aunt and uncle in Delta, about a 2.5-hour bus trip from my house. I didn’t make any preemptive walks out that way.

So *~Edd!e moved to Vancouver, and of course I was thrilled! I was super nervous meeting him so I planned for us to meet at a bus loop in a very public area. I hadn’t told my parents the truth about meeting him on the internet, but said we had met while he was visiting Vancouver and had been chatting on msn ever since. I didn’t keep it a secret because I couldn’t not share all these awesome songs we had made together.
They knew everything else about him. I had shared his tragic story, our Internet dating, and our meeting place and time. They told me I could invite him over and he could sleep on the futon in the basement so he wouldn’t have to bus back to Delta at night. I love my parents.

The moment of our meeting was pretty uneventful. He got off the bus and I recognized him instantly. We shared an awkward hug and hopped on a bus to go see my high school. It was a cold, December night and we walked down a dark road to the back entrance of my school. The gates were locked, so we walked back.
Somehow, I worked up the courage to make a bold move. I stopped walking and grabbed his hand. He turned around to face me and I kissed him. I still remember the cold drip of his nose on my cheek. Gross, but I was willing to ignore it.

He was visibly shocked, and then exclaimed how cool that was and that he wasn’t expecting a kiss for a while. We got back on a bus and went to my house. My mom met him and showed us how to set up the futon bed in the basement, left us alone to say goodnight, then made damn sure I went to bed in my own room two floors up.

*~Edd!e and I’s relationship continued in this manner. He could sleep in my basement when he came over, but when I visited him in Delta I had to come home every night. He got a job at McDonalds in Metrotown mall, and I went over to visit him one day when he got off work. It was a week before Christmas.
We went around the mall and he said we wanted to buy gifts for my mom, my dad, and my sister. I helped him pick out a coat he wanted to buy my mom that was on sale; a pretty big gift but a nice gesture.

A couple days later, he came over with a big bag of goodies. He said he wanted to bring gifts since he didn’t get to give anyone Christmas presents. Along with a couple $10 watches, he gave my sister a bottle of Lacoste perfume. My mom was surprised by the winter coat, but accepted it. She started thinking something wasn’t right here. How could he afford this stuff if he works at McDonalds? *~Edd!e had also sent me a few gifts during our online relationship. I once got a package in the mail with three beautiful rings that I was pretty sure were made with Swarovski crystal. My mom knew about these gifts, but kept her suspicions to herself for the most part.

Things developed. He came over for Christmas dinner and watched the party unfold. We’ve always had a fairly musical Christmas because my dad is a musician and my mom, sister, and I played piano, guitar and sang. *~Edd!e didn’t end up contributing anything because his turntables were still in Edmonton. He made it through the family event without many problems, but my family noted how he never took off his black baseball cap and was very quiet.
“That’s just the way he is,” I said. Not to mention he had a hard family history.

In January, he told me his brother gave him a hummer for Christmas. I wanted to see it so badly! He said he didn’t know where it was parked, but that he didn’t want me to see it because it was ugly and painted four different colors. I then started to scan every parking lot for multi-colored hummers.
I told my parents, and they casually asked me why he would continue bussing from Delta for 2.5 hours every day when he could drive the hummer. I asked *~Edd!e, and he admitted to not having a driver’s license.

One day I got a call from the Police. They said they found a wallet with my ID in it. I had given my school ID to *~Edd!e so he could get cheaper bus fares, so I told them it was his. The police told me that there were actually a few different people’s ID’s in his wallet, and that they were very curious about that. I asked *~Edd!e about it over the phone later, and he said his Edmonton friends gave them to him so he could have their pictures while he was gone. I was suspicious of there being another girl, so when he went to the bathroom the next time we hung out, I took a quick look in his wallet to find an Edmonton Driver’s license with his picture on it. I didn’t want him to know I peeked, so I kept it to myself. No girl’s pictures were found. A few months went by, and the questions kept on piling up for my parents.

Right before he moved to Vancouver, I told him I loved him. It was true. In fact I was so blinded by this love that I never thought to ask the questions my parents did. I took his answers at face value, and naively assumed that they didn’t really affect me either way.

On a Saturday afternoon, I met up with *~Edd!e at a train station for a surprise. He took me to the parking lot, and he showed me a beaten up blue Volkswagen. His uncle had lent it to him for the day so he could drive me around town. I asked about his not having a driver’s license, and he said he would drive carefully and not get caught. I noticed that the keyhole on the driver’s side door was missing and I asked about it. He said his uncle locked himself out of the car the day before and had to break in to get his keys out. Okay then.

When *~Edd!e drove me home, my parents came out to see the car he drove. My mom saw the hole in the door. He drove back to Delta that night and my mom came into my bedroom and sat me down. She asked me about the car, the drivers license, the hummer, the gifts, the gangster brother, everything. I told her everything I knew, but it didn’t even come close to answering all the question she had. My mom was very careful and left me with a new set of questions to ask *~Edd!e when he got home from his drive. She never openly passed judgment on him in front of me, but merely transplanted the doubts she had into my own brain. My mother is a very smart woman.

*~Edd!e called when he got back home, and I started to ask him these questions. I had so many, that he smelled that something was up and he asked why I was so curious. I told him I was talking with my mom about the hole in the car door, and he got very quiet.

“I don’t see why you need to tell you mom something like that” he said.
“I didn’t. She saw the hole and I was curious about it too” I answered.
“I don’t want you talking to your parents about me” he commanded.
“Why? They like you, they just want to know some things” I pleaded.

“If you don’t stop talking to your parents about me, I’m going to kill myself.”

I believed him. Knowing his past with drugs, his disturbing upbringing, and his brother’s involvement with gangs I wouldn’t put it past him.

“Ok, I’ll try” I said.

I slowly dragged myself upstairs, totally stunned by the interaction. My sister saw me and asked me what was wrong. I said nothing, and went to my bedroom. Five minutes later, I heard a soft knocking on my door and choked voice calling my name. “Paula, can I come in?” said my sister.
She came in, and told me she was worried about me. We had always been able to tell each other everything, and that she could tell something was very wrong. She asked if it was about *~Edd!e and I broke down.
I cried as I told her everything that had just happened. My sister held me through both of our shock and she quietly let me know that our family loves me and that they don’t want to lose me.

I knew that it would be impossible to sustain this lie. I had to tell *~Edd!e that I loved my parents too much to shut them out of my life. I called him and told him just that, and added that I love him but if he chooses to end his own life because I wanted to talk to my parents then it’s his own choice and not my fault. My parents had done nothing wrong and were only looking out for my best interests.

*~Edd!e’s voice sounded strange when he answered. He told me he had a gun with him. I cried through the phone that I was sorry but I couldn’t shut my parents out of my life. He hung up.

The next week, *~Edd!e told me he was moving back to Alberta. His mom had become very sick and needed him at home. I went to the Greyhound station with him and said a teary goodbye with mixed emotions. I wasn’t sure if he was leaving because of his mother or because I had betrayed him. Either way, the separation was a blessing in the end.

A couple weeks of peace  after months of stress, drama, tension, or crying, I realized that whatever was going on with him was wrong and needed to end. I think I stopped loving him when he gave me the ultimatum of my family or him… clearly my family will stick around longer and not move away if they’re mad at me.

My mind was clear for the first time, and I called him in while my parents were in the house and broke up with him. He told me that if he started using heroin again it would be my fault. Heroin Again? I didn’t know there was a first time.  Good Riddance I thought… this guy has too many issues for a now sixteen-year old girl to deal with.

I cut him out of my life completely. I told him I couldn’t speak to him anymore. A month or two later he called me from an unknown number and asked what I was doing since he was in town again. I told him I was busy and didn’t say where. I was paranoid of him showing up unannounced at my home for weeks but he never did.

I chalked it up to his being a compulsive liar, although I’m now fairly sure there was more to the story than that.
A few years later he added me on the new Nexopia, Facebook, with a message saying he was curious about what I was up to. I took the opportunity to creep his profile and saw he was actually DJ’ing and had a trashy girlfriend. I chose to ignore the message.

Never once have I ever regretted this relationship. From beginning to end, we were in contact for 12 months. I don’t think there is anything in the world that could have opened my eyes to the crazy things people are capable of and at the same time teach me that if everyone around you thinks something is wrong – something is probably wrong. Love is a scary thing for me to this day because it requires so much trust, and if you love someone badly enough it can leads to blindness even when the unanswered questions are slapping you in the face.

I wonder if *~Edd!e is still out there, if he really doesn’t know how old he is, if he has a gangster brother, and if he still tells people he is a secret member of DJ Tiesto… Perhaps he really is and it’s a huge house-music conspiracy. Who knows?

All I can do is share the story with others, but not to warn people about the ‘dangers’ of Internet dating.
The problem wasn’t the Internet, it was the two people on either side of their monitors taking webcam photos and posting them on Nexopia. – One so naïve and desperate to make an impression that she takes on a rescue mission to save a poor El Salvadorian refugee boy with her love – and One who is so deeply traumatized by something that they only feel empowered by manipulating people and can’t handle the threat of control being taken away so they keep them in the dark.

So now I am a much wiser person who writes potentially incriminating stories about past follies on the internet for everyone to read. But I don’t regret past mistakes; I learn from them.

Mumbai, what is it about you?

I have done some travelling in the short while I have been on this earth but there is only one place with a magnetic pull where every minute I’m not there I feel like I’m missing out. I have seen many different cities and explored many countries such as England, France, Egypt, South Africa, Japan, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, and the list goes on. However, the one city that really left an imprint on my psyche is Mumbai.

Even though the new name struggles to roll off the tongue, the energy of the city quickly infuses your being through it’s daily do-or-die decisions like crossing the street. Those who haven’t loved India are the ones who have tried to resist being taken with the flow. The beauty of this massive metropolis is not only in the pretty twinkling lights of the Queen’s Necklace traffic at night, but also the dirt, the stink, and the pollution. Mumbai offers plenty of bad and so-called “dirty” things as any city does, but it’s intensified by its volume compared to Western cities. However, without the contrast we cannot truly appreciate the good things.

Unfortunately, I find many visitors focus on the bad things in Mumbai and fail to see the beauty that shines through the dirt. My experience was definitely influenced by having a nice, air-conditioned flat to stay in just off the Colaba Causeway and having friends who have lived in the city for their whole lives. I had it really good during my month and a half in Mumbai, but that doesn’t make my opinion any less valid. In fact, most tourists passing through don’t have the chance to see a lot of the great people and places I did, so consider my experience one of the many facets and faces Mumbai has to offer. I love this city.

To be honest, I didn’t even take the time to see most of the tourist destinations. I didn’t go into the Dharavi Slum area, and didn’t see the Dobhi Ghat. However, I caught the local train from Churchgate to Goregaon (an hour-long ride) a few times a week, got an inside look at the famous Film City, and made it out to the club more times a week than I’m willing to admit. I spent every moment in Mumbai spoiling myself and reaping every pleasure I couldn’t afford back in Vancouver. I ate delicious desserts every day from a great cafe called Leo’s Boulangerie, indulged in a couple of Thai massages, and drank all the Whiskey that came my way. This city taught me how to party, and how to get mix business with pleasure.

However, I can’t say the city whispered in my ear and told me how to talk to taxi drivers so they don’t rip me off. It was the collective energy and attitude of sucking every drop out of life that came through the people I met and shared my experiences with. It’s the personal interactions you have while travelling which are the most memorable, and I have since made a vow to help every tourist I meet by being a good host and showing them sides of the city they wouldn’t normally see by inviting them to join me and my friends and family. The best meals I have ever had when travelling have always been home-cooked.

So, needless to say, I got to enjoy a few home cooked meals during my stay. Before my trip to India, I had no idea of the variety in Indian food. Having a limited choice of Punjabi restaurants in Vancouver, I was surprised to learn about the joys of eating Idli off a banana leaf at 3 in the morning… and Dosas with omelettes and sambar from a street-side shack for breakfast after an all-nighter. There was also Sri Krishna Sweets, where I would go with my friend and buy one of everything so we could taste each one. Oh, how I dream of Ghee.

I definitely didn’t get to try everything edible, but at least I know I’m going back. The day I left Mumbai was a Sunday, and my friend and I had to catch a bus to Hyderabad that night at 8 o’clock. Our party-animal friends spent the day with us and dropped us at the bus fairly inebriated. We knew we weren’t coming back for a long time, and Mumbai had started to feel like home. A tear or two found it’s way to my eye as I looked out the window and we drove away.

I found it a lot easier to fly out of India than I found it to get the bus to Hyderabad. When I got back to Vancouver, my days were full of meetings, reunions, and work, yet somehow I felt like I was doing nothing. My body was still buzzing from the energy in India, and the pace in Vancouver felt unnaturally slow. I knew from the moment I left Mumbai that I had to go back and try to live there.
From that moment, everything I have done has been to increase my chances of moving to Mumbai. I did lots of research on Visa requirements and seriously considered signing up for a job I didn’t want just so I could be there. However, I just couldn’t get my ducks in a line for a permanent move in January, so I am going back to Mumbai for ten weeks to see what I can do. Perhaps the charm will wear off on my second visit, but I doubt it. There is something about the energy of this city that measures time by the breath. I will go back. How do I know? I just bought my plane ticket.

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The Girl from Germany

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I have had many strange encounters riding the bus over the years. 90% of these take place at night. While sometimes it’s creepy and frightening, most of the time it’s entertaining. Often the people are men, and these men are often drunk. I can remember seeing strange men on the bus since I started taking Vancouver transit when I was thirteen.

When I was that age, my only confidence was from the self-defense and rape-awareness class I had taken in school. The moral of the story was that being quiet and polite to these men when they approach you would encourage them. However, being mean and telling them to get lost can set them off and you put yourself at risk of attack. The woman teaching us liked to use the ultimatum: You will either end up In the truck, or Under the truck.

The solution was the look them dead in the eye and use sentences starting with “I” like, “I don’t want to talk to you”, “I would like it if you stopped staring at me”, etc.

This stuck with me and every time a drunken guy comes up to me to chat while I’m waiting at the bus exchange, I would assertively tell him “I don’t want to talk right now”. Sometimes this would work, but more often it would just spark a conversation.

Last night while I was sitting on the bus to go home, a young man of about twenty-five stumbled into the seat next to me nearly sitting on my lap. I had my headphones on and ignored him. I could smell the alcohol on his breath. There were many empty pairs of seats on the bus, but he chose to sit next to me. I could see him looking at me with my peripheral vision (because I’m so sneaky) but refused to acknowledge him.

The bus started moving, and he turned to me and said something. I pretended to not hear or see him, thinking he would leave me alone. I was tired from a long day at a film festival followed by a housewarming party, and it was one o’clock in the morning.

He proceeded to poke my arm in order to get my attention.

I took out my headphones, turned to him, and said, “Can I help you?”

“Hey, I just wanted to chat,” he said.

“Why do you want to talk to me?”

“Because you’re a, a, you’re cute and I feel like talking.”

“I don’t want to talk tonight” I tried to keep the smile off my face. He was so drunk and earnest; I could tell he had no creepy intentions. I still didn’t feel like talking.

For some reason, some men think that insulting a girl will get her attention and make her interested. This was the method the guy attempted next, but couldn’t quite pull off.

“I just thought you weren’t some stuck up b*tch who I could have a conversation with. I’m not trying to say you’re a b*tch though.”

I saw my opportunity for an out.

“You can say it if you want.”

He went for it.

“Ok, you’re a b*tch”

I subsequently reached for my headphones and put them back on.

“Then you shouldn’t talk to me.”

Poor guy, I was being a b*tch. I was only doing it because I couldn’t be bothered to amuse some drunken guy on his ride home! I was enjoying the Bassnectar playlist I had put together for the ride home, and wanted to zone out.

I could see through my peripherals (again) that he was trying to say something to me. I tried to ignore him, but he got to me and I couldn’t fight back the smile this time. It seems I had really played the part of being insulted well.

Off come the headphones. “I’m sorry, what did you say?”

“I’m sorry, I never should have called you a b*tch. I wouldn’t even call my ex-girlfriend that.”

“You wouldn’t?”

“Well, I do sometimes in bed because she likes that kind of stuff…” his voice trailed off.

“You still sleep with your ex-girlfriend?”

He is taken aback. He didn’t notice his phrasing.

“What? No, that would be impossible anyway because she’s in Germany.”

“I see,” and I was about to put my headphones back on.

“Please talk to me? I just want to talk because I’m bored and you look boring.”

Wait a minute. “I looked boring? Then why talk to me?”

“No that’s not what I said. I mean you look bored. I could talk to that guy over there but he’s playing on his phone and doesn’t give a shit. But you are really hot and bored so I thought I would talk to you.”

“Ok, thanks. I think.” I go for the headphones-

“Will you please just entertain me for the bus ride?”

I sigh. I’m no longer tired, and this guy is so persistent…

“Ok, I’ll talk to you”

He proceeds to pump his fist and yell a loud, “Yes!”

Other people sitting behind us on the bus snicker, and I go a little red. Damn it, I just gave in! I’m so weak!

Oh well, it’s just a conversation.

So we talked. He asked me many questions, starting with my name. He then tried to guess what I did that night and guessed wrong about five times before giving up and asking. He asked me what was in my purse.

“Just some personal effects.”

He asks me to show him, but I refuse.

“Why not?”

“Because it’s over the line. I don’t see why I should show a stranger what’s inside my bag.”

“Oh, you have a line? Where is this line?”

“Between the public and private. You have one too, but it’s blurred because you’re drunk.”

“I’m not that drunk… And I don’t have a line.”

“Ok, so tell me about your ex-girlfriend in Germany.”

“What? Well, I guess I do have a line,” he said.

“Yes, we all have baggage we don’t like to share. Mine happens to be a purse.”

He started asking me a string of random questions. What do I do? What did I study? What kind of things do I like? He then asked me if I have tried bondage.

“I’m not telling you that.”

“Why not?”

“Because it’s inside the bag. Over the line” I said.

“I have never tried it. Well, maybe kind of. Not really…” he mused.

I stayed silent and hoped he would change the topic.

“So what’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened to you?” he asked.

I knew the answer. I wondered if I should share the story, and decided it couldn’t hurt. It was nothing I was ashamed of.

“I dated a boy I met on the Internet for a year when I was 14. He moved to Vancouver six months in, and turned out to be a compulsive liar. He threatened to kill himself if I didn’t stop talking to my family.” I replied.

(I’ll share the full story another time.)

“Wow, do you regret it?” he was looking at me with deep interest.

“No. I learned a lot of valuable lessons from it.”

“What was the biggest lesson you learned?”

“To listen to the people who care about you, especially if they are all telling you the same thing.”

At this point, I thought I had shared enough. I had become very interested in this guy and what had led him into having this conversation with me. Why did he want to know the details of a stranger’s stories of sex and love?

“So what is your story?” I asked.

“What do you mean? You want my life story?” he laughed.

“No, but why don’t you tell me about the girl from Germany, or what you did tonight?”

“Well I got home from work, and was really bored. I ate some noodles-”

“Kim-Chi?” I asked.

“What? You’re so racist!” He exclaimed.

“No I’m not! You said you’re a student, and students live off of Kim-Chi noodles!”

“Oh, right. Well, my mom made me real noodles. Not that fake shit…. So I was bored and I called up my friend but he was in the hospital. Can you believe it? In the hospital! So then I called my other friend and he wanted to chill. He asked me to come to Commercial Drive and so I did. He talked about his problems the entire time and I drank, and drank, and drank. Then I got on the bus to go home and here I am.” He laughed and lurched forward as the bus slowed for a traffic light.

“Ok, so I am a bit drunk” he admitted.

“So you got on the bus and now you want me to talk about myself? Aren’t you tired of hearing people talk about themselves?”

“I don’t know. I like talking to people. Tell me something else about yourself.”

“Why don’t you tell me the story of your girlfriend from Germany.”

“Ex-girlfriend.”

“Is she German?”

“Well yea, of course!” His eyes gaze upward and he thinks silently.

“Where did you meet?” I pressed.

He smiled down at his hands.

“She was a dishwasher at the restaurant I worked at. My boss was a Vietnamese guy who would say yes to everything, so I asked him to get her the job so I could talk to her. We had met a month before but she was living on the island with her boyfriend. Eventually we started talking and she asked me to hang out. So we started meeting outside of work and we would smoke up together. One day, I kissed her. Then I took her back to my house, and I banged her.”

He laughed and looked at me… clearly proud of himself.

“So then you two were together after that?” I asked, trying to keep a straight face.

He nods.

“How long until she moved back to Germany?”

“About a month. It was super intense.”

“So why did you bother having a relationship with her if you knew she was moving back so soon?”

“I don’t know. It was crazy. I was crazy about her.”

“So did she end it when she moved back?”

“No. She wanted to keep dating long-distance. I even went over to see her. Amsterdam has some beautiful women by the way.”

I listened silently.

“I broke up with her about a month ago. She wasn’t very happy with me. In fact, I think she hates me now. But it’s not like I didn’t want to be with her. She didn’t understand how hard it was for me to be hanging on when she wasn’t going to be coming back again.”

The bus was coming to his stop.

“It’s too bad you couldn’t make things work out. Do you keep in touch?” I asked.

“Yea, we chat every couple of weeks.” He said, shrugging his shoulders.

I wanted to tell him that it was okay. That I have also been in a similar situation, and just because it doesn’t work out it doesn’t mean you failed.

From his interest in my stories and reluctance to discuss the girl from Germany, I could tell he was hurt, and unsure if he made the right decision. He was looking for similar stories in others that would justify his decision to protect himself from pain by ending an undesirable situation: the long-distance relationship.

The fact that he continued to talk with her gave me mixed emotions. I think that it’s good he didn’t try to cut her out of his life because the relationship couldn’t be what he wanted. At the same time, I wonder if it’s cruel to keep talking with a girl who has feelings for him and keep her hanging on. At least he is facing his feelings for her and being honest instead of cutting her out and keeping his pain to himself.

The bus was slowing down and people were moving toward the doors. I stayed seated while he picked up his umbrella.

“Well I like you. You’re cool. Can I have your number?” he asked.

“I’m not giving you my number.” I said.

“Come on, give me your number” he persisted.

“Sorry, but I already gave in to having a conversation with you, I’m not giving you my number as well” I laughed.

I wondered what might happen if I gave him my number. He would call me I guess. I suppose it wouldn’t be the worst thing either. However, I wasn’t ready to start a friendship with this guy. He clearly needed to sort out his feelings about the girl from Germany, and I wasn’t the person to do it with.

We had entertained each other for thirty minutes on a rainy night, and that was where our relationship would end. I could tell he understood.

He smiled at me and said, “Okay. Goodbye”

“Have a good night.” I said, even though it was already morning.

What is the Point, Werner?

Werner Herzog always has a way of making me ponder the meaning of life. After watching “Encounters at the End of the World” I was reminded that everything I do is essentially meaningless. The activities that were going on in Antarctica were spectacular and interesting, but were all trumped by the Zen attitude of the ice upon which it was happening. Penguins that run for the mountains instead of the sea are called disoriented… While openly we admit they are headed for certain death, I saw that one penguin as a dreamer. However, our attitude is “How strange… Why would a penguin deviate from the norm and do something as fruitless as run away from the life of the colony?” Can’t we apply this to ourselves? In our society, dreamers are recognized for their successes and are praised for taking action and changing the lives of many people. But aren’t we all headed for certain death just like the penguin? It’s so easy to forget this and get caught up in life’s daily drama… we are controlled by the fear of failing and so we stay in our comfort zone instead of taking advantage of the fact that one day we will die and it’s pretty likely nobody will care if we screwed up that one time.

But what would be the point of pushing boundaries and taking risks during our short time on earth? For me the point is to be happy and enjoy my time for as long as possible. When I think of what makes me the happiest, it is without a doubt my relationships; friends, family, lovers, and pets included.

However, I have been on the giving and receiving end of one-sided relationships that leave us feeling hurt and betrayed. Every time I feel myself getting into one of those situations I feel the need to cut it off before it becomes like a gangrenous limb, but it’s not healthy and if I keep doing this I will end up as a stump.

I cannot choose who I care about. It sucks, but I have tried to practice what I have been preached: to love freely and expect nothing in return. Forgive and let live. Reap what you sow etcetera… in other words, become a fucking doormat for everyone to walk on.

So how can I win and be happy? Balance.

What balance? If I knew I wouldn’t be writing this. Find out what you expect from others and let them know. All I want right now is to have my feelings be respected.

So I will love freely and do what it takes to make a relationship healthy and happy, so long as I am not treated like a doormat. Pouring love into a black hole won’t make the world a better place and it doesn’t have to. It won’t make me happy and I will only live for so long. The best I can do is be honest and open about my feelings and expectations with the people I love and hope they do the same… and as soon as that love starts to hurt and become draining, the relationship is becoming one-sided and needs to change. I will try to recognize it quickly and not waste my time; I don’t get a lot of it. However, I will continue to take risks and fail because I am human, I just have to accept that it’s ok, move on, and be happy.

Now that’s all well and good, but I still need to find a way to pay the bills while I choose to live on this earth.

So then what kind of job can I do that will leave me all the time I need for my relationships to be a priority? I can’t think of any comfortable jobs that will leave me feeling creatively satisfied or help me grow. So, I will make films and tell stories with my time on this earth; projects that reflect the importance of loving freely but are not so idealistic we feel we can’t make mistakes. It’s human nature to have expectations, become disappointed, and get angry when we feel disrespected. It’s stories we tell that reflect these human truths, and so I tell stories.

P.S. It’s a beautiful film.Image

Tall, Fit, and Blond.

Everything today is telling me I should write this story. From a Sunday morning girl chat in the kitchen to the front page of Reddit, popularity in school has been on the tip of my tongue. Perhaps it’s the yearly ritual of getting dressed up and finding a party to go to that has everyone reminiscing about times past. It seems like Halloween is a time capsule, and we stumble around in costumes trying to find our friends year after year.

But it’s also October, Bullying-Awareness Month, so I’m going to tell you the story of my school years, and my experience with friends and bullies as I grew up.

Elementary School

When I was in elementary school I was a free-spirited and imaginative child. For the first couple of years this was a fine way to be. I would be more than happy to run off by myself and pretend to be a unicorn, and I even had some friends who would join in. I did tend to stand out from the rest of the class due to my relaxed parents who let me dress myself. My classroom had a rule that students had to wear indoor shoes when inside, so I naturally took the opportunity to wear a pair of wooden clogs that couldn’t go outside… every day. The teacher ended up moving my desk to the carpeted part of the room so I wouldn’t make such a racket.

As you might expect children to do, the kids in my class grew up a bit more every year. However, I continued to be happy playing my imagination games and hiding in bushes for the entire lunch period. Eventually as the other kids in my class took to other interests like sports and talking on the playground, they stopped wanting to play with me and instead made fun of me when I brought my hand-made stilts to school, or threw my ball out-of-bounds and told on me when I went to go find it.

My class had 22 kids, and we all stayed in the same class group every year. The bullying became more intense every year and the teachers were not a huge help in preventing it so as a result, a few children switched into the English program or changed schools every year. My parents finally let me change schools when I was 12 after I came home crying and begging to be moved. By the time I graduated from elementary school, that class only had 4 students left.

I had seen enough movies to know that when you change schools, you reinvent yourself and do a makeover to become the cool kid you always wanted to be but knew the bullies wouldn’t let you. I started wearing my mom’s old blue and green eyeliner thick around my eyes and tried to dress like Avril Levine. At this new school, I like to think I made quite the impression dropping into the class halfway through the school year like some badass kid that got kicked out of school for being too cool. Everybody was nice at first, but then I became closer with a couple of girls who were considered less popular. I noticed that I was starting to get bullied again by certain looks I would get from the popular girls like, “Are you really hanging out with her?”

I tried to stop it by ignoring these girls but it was too late. I had been lumped in with their group. So I decided to make the most of it by being friends with them. We had an interesting relationship, because while we were friends I secretly resented them for making me uncool again after all my hard work. This would come out in the form of put-downs and I would say demeaning things when they would do or say something I thought was uncool. I wasn’t a very good friend.

However, the bullying at this school wasn’t so bad. The kids were generally nicer, and although there was definitely a popular and unpopular clique there wasn’t too much interaction between the groups. Despite this, there were three girls in particular who I thought had made it their responsibility to make sure I never became popular or got to talk to the boys I had crushes on.

These were the days of msn. Friends would add total strangers to their accounts because they were friends of friends at a different school. I had a boy on my msn account that I had never met before but was friends with some of the popular girls. We were chatting and he asked me to describe myself. I thought about how to do that and decided to stick to the facts and keep it basic. “Tall, fit, and blond,” I said. Little did I know it was not the boy on the other side of the screen, but the three mean girls. I meant my description to say that I’m taller than your average 13 year old, I’m not fat, and I have blond hair, but these girls thought I was bragging about myself. For weeks after this I would walk down the hallway and the girls would mock me and flip their hair as they pranced past me saying, “I’m tall, fit, and blond.”

While in the past I may have been hurt by their bullying, for the first time I actually knew and believed that what they were saying as they mocked me was true. So I thought, “Yea, I’m tall, fit, and blond and you are a jealous bitch.” Thus began a turning point in my life. The more the girls said it, the more I believed it and my confidence grew. I started hanging out with some of the nice and popular girls and getting close to some of the boys I liked. I was still friendly with my old friends but we no longer hung out at lunchtime. I was starting to become part of the popular crowd although I never fully felt secure with these new friends. Every day I would approach them at lunch, I was afraid they would have changed their minds about me or that the bullying girls would have told them some rumor that would make them hate me.

I tried to be cool by being bad. I made friends with some neighbors a year older than me and we would sneak alcohol from my parent’s liquor cabinet and drink it at the local community center. I even got a boyfriend a year older than me (and in high school) who kissed me on the cheek. I later learned from old friends that they thought I was “so hardcore.” That was not the image I was going for, but seemed to come along with the lifestyle of these grade 8’s who were in high school and thus were “cool.” This is how I graduated from elementary school at the age of 13, growing in confidence but looking for some piece of identity and circle of friends with whom I could be secure.

The summer of 2003

The summers were an interesting experience for me, as a child who has friends outside of school and no longer feels like they have to be on defense all day. I would go to summer camps, play outside with the boys in my neighborhood, and take summer courses. In 2003, I took a sailing course with my older sister. One of the instructors was 16 and I had a total crush on him. I went through puberty early and was almost fully grown into my height of 5″7′ by 13. By acting more mature like my sister and pretending I knew who Ozzy Osbourne was thanks to the amazing Internet, I became friends with this guy. When the course ended, we would hang out and I met his other friends. Here I was at 13, hanging out with a bunch of boys who had already been in high school for 2 years. These guys were pretty alternative and into heavy metal music, so I got into bands like Rammstein and starting wearing all black. I even tried to dye my hair pink, but my mom wouldn’t let me dye it permanently so I would by wash-out pink dye and put it in my hair every day I showered.

By the time high school came around, I was full-on wanna-be-Goth I didn’t quite understand it, but my cool, older friends were into it so I was into it.

High School

I quickly found out that Goth people were not popular in high school, so I made a change in what was probably under a month and became a “baller girl”. If you don’t know what it means, imagine a “wigger” but a girl. It was basically a gangster-inspired lifestyle that happened to include playing basketball, hence the word “Baller”. I showed up to school in a pink velour tracksuit, wore the Lugs boots that construction workers wear, and shaved a line in my eyebrow. I wore orange makeup to look tanned and had a bling P necklace that I stole from an accessory shop.

14 years old and at the height of my popularity

I found my place in a group of the most popular kids in school and fought tooth and nail to stay there. I even had a girl threaten to beat me up because I was a dating a reform-school boy that she liked. Some of the bullies from my first school ended up being my friends, and we would purposely exclude the kids who wanted to join the popular circle of people talking by cutting them out by standing directly in front of them. I was being cruel, but I saw it as “Eat or be eaten”. In private, I was very nice to everyone and honestly harbored no bad feelings toward anybody. But if one of my popular friends were making fun of someone I liked, I would join in the fun because it was more important for me to be popular than to be nice.

I continued in my “hard-core” ways despite no longer being a Goth kid. I would chug bottles of vodka with my girl friends on the weekends and kiss boys at parties. In this way, I took this way further than the popular kids. This lifestyle eventually drew me away from the popular kids at school and I found a partner in crime who could keep up with me. We would go out together in search for thrills and older boys, and instead of being a “baller” I became a bit punk or a bit alternative or a bit gangster depending on the group we were hanging out with.

After that friend left, I suddenly found myself without any close friends at school. Now I was 16, and I felt I had outgrown popularity and would have more luck finding good friends in those kids that I liked but would ignore because they weren’t popular. I found myself a great group of girls and boys and we would hang out in our special spot in the hallway every day. I made some new friends, and got one of my best friends to this day, Leanne. Through this group, I eventually went through the unavoidable growing pains of finding out who I really was when I took away all the labels I had been sticking to myself over the years.

I like what I found underneath.

When I graduated high school I finished with a clear head and a confidence in myself that was hardened and crystallized by years of fighting to prove I was good enough. While I don’t support bullying and feel very sorry for the pain I  caused others, it made me who I am today. I’m tall, fit, and blond, and proud of it.

Note: While I may have come out from the experience of bullying a stronger person, I don’t think bullying should be something kids have to deal with. I am lucky to have a good life, with great friends and a loving family, and this is probably why I managed to stick it out. Many kids and adolescents become depressed and consider suicide, so please stop bullying if you see it. Give support to those who need it and avoid taking out your insecurities and anger on other people, and others will follow your example.

A Model of Myself

Modelling is one of the many careers that I have been interested in since I was a child. My sister became a model at 16 with John Casablancas and got an ongoing job as the Talula fit-model. When I was 14, my mom recognized my own interest and signed me up for a modelling course at John Casablancas. The course was designed for adolescent girls to develop confidence in their skills such as public speaking, and also gave workshops on posing, dressing, walking, and makeup. At the end we had a photoshoot with a professional photographer, and the models who showed promise would sometimes end up with a contract with John Casablancas.

I had a great time during the course. I made friends with some of the other girls my age, and there was an energy of excitement that lasted throughout the course with a potential modelling contract at the end of it. On the day we were supposed to give speeches to the group on what we believed in, I remember I wore a belt with my 1-inch zip Dorinha jeans that was bright red with the word “SEX” printed repeatedly along the length. It didn’t even occur to me that it was inappropriate, and I stood up and gave me speech with confidence. My mother and I were both shocked when we realized I had gone the whole day wearing this belt and that neither of the modelling coaches mentioned it.

When the course finished and I did not receive an offer to start modelling, I immediately decided that the course was a money grab designed to give hope to young girls who want to be models regardless if they have to body-type to be professionals or not. I applied to another agency and received a reply that stated that not all girls are meant to be models and that I wasn’t tall enough. Being an inch or two taller than my sister, I knew it wasn’t true. I told myself that they were too nice to tell me that I’m fat and should just give up. So that is what I did. My mother still insists that I benefited from the course she paid $2000 for. I did learn how to do my makeup in a tasteful way, and to this day my headshot is still stuck to the fridge.

Eight years later I met Shilpa Mukerji, a photographer based in Mumbai. My friend and colleague Sara Blake and I met her through her mother while we were interning at a workshop in Chennai, India. We discussed over chapatis the prospect of doing a fun and creative photoshoot together before we left Mumbai. We threw around some ideas and at the end I was super excited to be infront of the camera again.

Sara and I did a whole day modelling together for Shilpa. I found the process to be energizing and exhausting at the same time. I liken the experience to acting for films, where you must be aware of your placement and positioning and immerse yourself in the moment and feel the emotions you want to project. I took some tips from Tyra Banks and felt “through my eyes”. It’s amazing how watching reality television can teach you do’s and dont’s through other people’s mistakes.

We followed up with another photo shoot that was just Shilpa and I. Sara is a cinematographer and decided she was much happier behind the camera than infront. I was in my element again and had a blast. I thought, perhaps I really can be a model despite being a size up from commercial model body-measurements. Since that day in July 2012, I have decided that I am a model regardless if I get paid or not. I say this in the sense that someone can be a musician if they play an instrument. Our actions define us, not our paycheques. I have had a paid gig here and there, and soon I hope to be represented by an agency who will support me based on my photos and not the inches around my waist.

Shilpa Mukerji’s Website

My Portfolio