Bar Writings - Berkeley 1

Jeremy normally doesn’t go to bars by himself.

He’s here at one in Berkeley to make himself feel uncomfortable.

He buys a drink at the bar and takes out a notepad.

He observes the couple near him, they’re having a pleasant conversation. The man wears a round, expensive gold watch and a gold Cal jacket. His girlfriend wears a blue long sleeve shirt.

He writes a sentence in his pad and feels like a fraud.

He takes out his smartphone and writes this post, in the third person, because Jeremy’s afraid of getting too close to himself.

Also, people might think he’s just texting some one to meet him. That’s a lie.

“It’s ok,” he says to himself.

He talks to the bartender. She’s cute, she has nice eyes and speaks with self assurance and wears her hair in a ponytail. She must get hit on a lot.

He should be writing his grad application.

He must confess to the reader, he bought a box of condoms and they’re in his backpack.

He is not a douche, he’s preparing for the future.

“Going home now.”

Linger (a short story)


By James Y. Shih

For D.N.


He looked out his hotel window at the cold Hoboken day. On his way back to the hotel, he passed a lone duck wading in the pond. He wondered why the duck lingered in the cold north.

He met her in Manhattan earlier that day.


She had moved to New York from California years ago and was now working at a big firm downtown. They hadn’t spoken since she left. He was in town for business and it took an agonizingly long time before he reached out to her.

She recommended a dumpling restaurant in New York Chinatown. From the restaurant window, he saw her coming down the street wearing a long beige jacket and black boots. Behind him, he looked past the bathroom door and saw a square window. It was big enough for him to squeeze through and there was time to escape.

He was still attracted to her. That feeling hurt.


In his Hoboken hotel room, he could see clear across the Hudson back to their conversation. L’esprit d’escalier, the spirit of the staircase, the French say. All the things one should’ve said, but thought of too late.


Their conversation was polite.

“I’m glad to hear you’ve been doing well,” she said.

He was better. Before, just going to the supermarket where they shopped or passing by her parents’s house would send a dark blue fog over him and he’d feel overcast all day. Now, when he thought of her it was less intense. He withheld this.

“Thanks. You’ve been doing pretty good yourself,” he said.

She was doing well. She had gotten a bonus recently and had just moved in with her boyfriend. She was still unsure if she wanted to stay with the job and was nervous about how fast things were moving in her relationship.

“You’ll be fine,” he said.

She smiled. He was comforting her again.

It was true though. He knew that she could take care of herself and somewhere inside of him, the strings that bound him to her loosened. She was more confident, more sure of herself than he remembered. He was happy for her.

They hugged and promised to keep in touch.

He knew though that future meetings of this kind would be rare.


Inside his hotel room, the fading sunlight filtered through the window and fell on his bed.

He put on a pair of running shoes and threw on a puffy black North Face jacket.  He stepped out of the lobby into the cool late afternoon. Gray-white snow speckled the urban landscape. He ran towards the pond. Naked trees grew in number as he moved away from the hotel, their brown branches reaching to the sky.

As he approached, the lone duck was still wading in the water as if waiting for him. The duck turned his metallic green head towards him. He stopped and watched the duck return his stare.

The duck spun in the water and in a burst of motion, flapped his wings and took to the sky. The duck flew south and he followed his path, running on the ground.

Special thanks:

John Jeng, Thao Nguyen, and Nick Louie for their editorial support and suggestions.


Clean your room

Bring a jacket

Eat brown rice instead of white rice, purple even better

Sleep early

Get a good job


Don’t eat junk food

Don’t slouch

With that income, no one’s going to marry you

Whatever you do, do it well


I know it’s late, but thanks Mom.

All this time I thought you were nagging me, you were actually showing me your love.


thoughts - 0007 - rainy daly city

Running in the rain, he feels an ache in his chest. He settles on a bus stop bench and watches the activity around him.
A man in a yellow safety vest sprints across the dark wide street, yelping. Two young guys nearby, under cover of an umbrella, talk about Kubrick films. An older Chinese lady pushes a cart of crushed cans. She mutters to herself about the weather.
He breathes in the air and coughs. Someone is smoking weed nearby. College memories return to him in a haze. The rain lightens it’s fall.
The night holds all these people with her hands. Street lamps reflect off the wet ground and dance with the stoplights.
Alone on this bus bench, he rubs his face and his hands. The bus is delayed the sign flashes. He gets up and runs.

Thoughts - 0006 - Waking Up

He needs to wake up. He needs to understand that a girl will not solve all his problems. 

She’s not a block that will fill the gap in his life. 

No need to force that which does not fit.

He shouldn’t hate himself. He’s beautiful in his own flawed way.


Be true.

That’s the best thing he could ever do for himself.

Be alive.

He can be the person he’s always wanted to be, starting now.


Don’t rely on others to do that for you, you have to do that for yourself.