i overheard one of my customers discussing his recent job offer:
“They made an offer of $70,000. I don’t think they understand what I’m worth…I had to explain to them what I should be getting. But it’s understandable, since this company’s from the midwest.” (paraphrasing here).
Good grief! I don’t know about you, but I think that’s an amazing offer! Sheesh – you can’t satsify some people!
(back from 2000….sometime….when I was an undergrad at Berkeley)
The Princess has always been in danger. Always in danger of falling off the royal cliff.
She lived in a royal tower, away from the rest of her subjects, away from society. Hoping to find harmony within herself. Her friends once visited her at the royal tower. they thought it was quite novel to roam through the hallways of her royal tower. But only the towers they were allowed to trespass upon. They enjoyed the hospitality of the Princess and they took her for granted. They wanted to make the royal tower their home, and take advantage of the generosity of the Princess. This infuriated Her Highness and she was so upset, that she took a match and burned down her royal tower. She didn’t want her friends to enjoy her home and allow her to fade in the woodwork. A few friends managed to escape the flames and they promised the Princess they would mend their ways. They promised to always be by her side.
So the Princess built a new tower. It was more elegant and higher than ever before. The friends adored her new home, but they didn’t like climbing the staircases. There were too many steps to reach the main hall. So slowly, one by one, they decided forgot to visit the Princess. And she was alone.
She built a new tower, not as high, but hidden in a forest so only she would know the way. She built high spiky walls to keep out the despair of society. She built her ivory walls to protect herself from the pain friends may bring. She built another, small hole, to allow one person in at a time. And only at her permission. Only when she was sure she could trust her new friend. The Princess was lonely and so she came down from her tower to visit other royal members of the kingdom. She found a duke who could sing and spout poetry from his lips. She invited him to her royal tower. He entertained her and she fell in love with him. He promised to be with her forever. But one day, when the Princess was napping, the duke heard a nightingale. It was a beautiful bird with a sweet voice. So he followed it out of the tower and he allowed the bird and her song to lead him out of the forest. He thought he would be happy with the bird and its beautiful songs. But the bird flew away from him, the moment he wasn’t looking. He tried to go back to the royal tower, to apologize to the Princess for his broken promise. But he couldn’t find his way in the forest. And once again, she was alone.
The Princess found other suitors to visit her palace. But this time, she was not looking for company. She wanted revenge. Her suitors were merely toys for her amusement. And she could always find new toys to play with. And she proceeded to rip out the heart of anyone who has managed to slip into her tower. She left the bleeding hearts as trophies on her wall. As a reminder of how painful it was to give up her heart to another. But it was not enough. She wanted to add the duke’s heart to her trophy case. One day, when the Princess was hunting for new toys, she saw the duke sitting on bench. She noticed he was alone. She sat down next to him and asked him why he left her. He said he couldn’t stand how she would always lock him out of her bedroom. He said he was lonely, even when they were in the same room. He said she kept locking him out and so he found a nightingale, who kept him company with her songs. But he was alone. The Princess only smiled and left him. She went home with a new toy.
While she was stealing hearts, she also rejected a few. She sent those rejected hearts into her labyrinth woods, wandering and confused. However, there was one exception to this process. She met a Lord who could make her laugh. A Lord who could dance her off her feet. She deiced to keep this one around. For the pleasant company he provided. He was thankful to hold on to his heart. But he suffered quietly as he witnessed each toy coming through the tiny door. He offered no protest when she would play with other toys in front of him.
One of her suitors managed to convince her to stay out of her tower for a little while. This Prince showed her a city by the bay, with its tiny little bridge and it rolling waves. He took her to his home, a small cottage that overlooked this city. He was willing to be anything for her, friend, jester, debater, lover. He only wanted to take care of the Princess and he placed her in a home were she could not lock him out of any rooms. She felt so vulnerable without her ivory walls, but she learned to trust him. She became happy with him.
Still, she feared of forgetting the way to her royal tower. So every so often, she would take a trip by herself and into the woods. She would trace the lonely path that wounded its way to her tower, protected by its spiky ivory walls. Occasionally she would visit the duke and the lord on her way to the tower. Pretending the memories they shared were always happy ones. The duke would joke that she broke up with him. But she knew he was only trying to hide his own loneliness. She knew he was happy she found someone to take care of her. The lord would flirt outrageously to her and she would regret never giving him a chance to court her. The lord would try to dance with her and would try to hang on to her. But she would threaten to take his heart away. So he let go of her.
One day, she returned from her trip to find the home empty. She searched for her prince but the fog blinded her. She thought he betrayed her in the same way the duke did. But the Prince was standing next to her, trying to hold on to her, but she kept moving away in a confused state. Feeling the pain that her ivory walls once protected her from, she ran away from the city by the bay. She went back to her royal tower.
The Prince raced after her, all ways a day’s travel behind her grieving footsteps. He found the duke and the Lord she use to talk about. He enlisted their aid to find her. They brought him to the woods that hid her royal tower.
Once she arrived to the royal tower, she stepped inside the tiny door. She cared not for the beautiful rooms, nor her trophy of stolen hearts. She decided to add on to the tower, making it as tall as her second tower. Once completed, she climbed to the top.
At the top, she looked down and saw the Prince, the Lord, and the Duke. They waved frantically at her, trying to convince her to unlock the tiny door so they could save her. But she didn’t want to be saved. She just didn’t want to hurt anymore.
She stood there, at the top of her tower, suspended in time. Alone.
For the Princess has always been in danger. Always in danger of falling off the royal cliff.
(12/13/1998 – I was suppose to be studying for finals…but I got wrapped up in my stress with my roommates at Unit 2. This experience made it clear to me that I didn’t want to live with anybody but family…or a boyfriend)
I was walking around Dwinelle, finishing up errands. You know, picking up papers with grades I don’t want to see and navigating a lettered labyrinth with no reason or rhyme. And that’s when I saw her. Standing in the middle of the hall, I think on the d floor, with a smug grimace on her face. Two men with the same dirty blonde hair and tiny pin eyes accompanied her.
It was my roommate and I figured those thugs accompanying her must be her brothers.
Unlike other tense encounters at the apartment we shared where we fought over music volume and bathroom rights, the d floor made an awkward battleground. Well, for one thing, both thug brothers held guns. I have never seen a real gun before, but I didn’t want to be around to check out their authenticity.
I started to move backward, keeping they’re gangly bodies in my line of vision. Her smug grimace turned into a truly disgusting smile and I guess she was happy about my discomfort.
“Not happy to see me? Your own roommate?” she asked me in the incredible difficult accent that tended to grate on my ears. There were times at the apartment when I would wince if she were talking to me.
“Nah, just had more errands to do.” I said, still moving backwards. But this time, the thugs step forward in time to my retreating footsteps.
Scrambling in my mind for some safe ground and place I knew at least three professors, I said “Top floor, f floor.” I remembered the Classics and the film departments were located up there. I had film 50 and classics 10 b as a sophomore and classics 121 this semester. I figured my chances of meeting someone I knew from any of those classes might be good on that floor. Besides, I can always hit on of the professor’s office hours. At least, that’s what I hoped. It was difficult to strategize when the thug brothers, in their imitation leather jackets had guns level to your forehead.
“We’ll go with you. Turn around.” I normal don’t follow orders, simply because I’m like a cat. It’s difficult to tell someone like me what to do. However, since she has the gunpowder to back up her words, I thought it might be smart to follow along.
And I chose the stairs to get up to f floor. I hoped that might exhaust the Russian psycho terrorists for a little bit and it did. But not enough to make them lower their weapons.
So I walked and the damn floor was empty. I glanced over at the film department and it was closed. Then I checked the classics department and it was closed as well.
“What are you doing here?” she asked, “this place is empty. Probably because of finals. Yeah, and I would know, after all I took some a few days ago.”
I held my tongue. Normally, when she makes so damn annoying comments, like she knows the university of California at Berkeley better than me, just because she was older, by a month, I would come back with something pretty mean. I would have mentioned something like the fact that she only took 2 finals here at CAL compared to my 2 years of experience. But that was being petty and well, in this situation, it wouldn’t have helped me. So I thought of the only thing that may save my ass.
“I have to pick up my paper from my classics class.” which was a lie. So, now I’m indirectly involving my classics prof in this mess. I silently asked his pardon in my heart.
We kept walking and the thug brother’s steel toed boots filled the empty hall with annoying thuds, almost as bad as their sister’s accents. I haven’t heard them talk yet.
We approached his office and the door was open. Dear God, this poor man has know idea what I’m going to do to him.
“Can you guys please stay outside of here?” I turned around
“It would only take a moment. Besides, you don’t want him setting off the silent alarm when he sees your guns, now do you?” another lie.
She held up her fists and her thug brothers halted their advance.
Thank goodness she didn’t know jack about Dwinelle. Honestly, why would CAL invest in a silent alarm system for this godforsaken building? Don’t know. Besides, like I said, she was new here and she likes to think she knew everything already. However, she knows I’m more of an authority. So if she disagrees with me, then she thinks she admitting her ignorance and heaven forbid she did that in front of me.
so I knocked on prof. bulloch’s door and quickly walked inside. my foot slowly pushed the door.
I said loudly “hello! just wondering if you have the papers graded.” and I quickly put my finger to my mouth to hush his response. yeah, he was confused.
“Oh, okay, I can wait while you look for it.” my foot pushed the door a little more. then I grabbed a pen and some paper and scribbled a note on it. I hope it wasn’t someone else’s paper I grabbed.
I wrote “they have guns outside and they’re pointing it at me.”
I pushed the note to him and read it quickly. then he nodded his head and replied
“I think I need to talk with you about the paper to explain why I graded it this way.”
he always had a cool British accent.
and I heard Diana let out an annoyed sigh.
“Okay.” I grabbed another piece of paper to start scribbling.
“I’m going to have to close this door, so we can have a little privacy,”
then one of the thug brothers sighed. thankfully, they didn’t come crashing in.
he read the note, which said: keep talking, please.
figured I should be polite, afterall, I was fucking with his life here.
he started to lecture on sex and death and Hades and persephone. amazing, he can still spout out a Greek mythology at gunpoint.
I kept writing the next note, nodding and affirming with a yes, every now and then. I managed to follow his train of thought and I could usually interject some witty remark.
sure, just another normal office hour.
after a few minutes, I showed him my note:
roommate when psycho, has big thug bros with guns. have no clue why me. please call police when I leave.
he wrote back: don’t leave.
then I shrugged at him and nodded my head at the door. while he continued his discourse on orpheus and his dead wife, I started to stand up. I could hear them shifting weights outside. any moment they’ll come in.
“well, I understand. I’ll keep that in mind for the next paper.”
“good luck.” and he took my shaking hand and squeezed it. he was trying to silently reassure me, trying to say it will be alright. I managed a shaky smile for his sentiment. at least I didn’t feel like I was alone. he made me feel like he could empathize. I was scared, real scared. but I had to get out of there, to give us both a chance at making it out of this jacked up situation alive.
I opened the door slowly. it was like opening a door to another timeline.
Diana was standing there, holding a gun to my brother’s head.
my heart dropped into my stomach, knocking the wind out of me. I couldn’t speak but my prof felt like he had to comment on the situation.
“what the hell do you think you’re doing?”
she held my brother tighter and I bet he could smell the caviar on her breath. she waits until the evening to take a bath, and so I’m sure that embrace placed him right next to her body odor. “kristina needs to learn a lesson.”
the prof moved me to the side and took a step forward. the thug brother leveled his gun at him and pulled the trigger. the bullet found it’s mark about a 3 inches into the wall next to the prof’s head.
after the explosion stopped echoing through the f floor, I weakly asked “what lesson?”
“about my campaign race.”
“what?” David, the prof, and I asked simultaneously.
“about my race. you would not endorse me.”
“the ASUC elections?” I asked,” this is all about some stupid student election? Diana you know why I can’t endorse anybody. I have no more titles, no more power, nothing this year! I’m a nobody on campus.”
“bullshit!” she cried. gee, that was the first time I heard her curse.
“really,” I pleaded, “it’s also against the res hall constitution for me to use any of my former titles to endorse candidates. the residence hall assembly was a nonpartisan organization.”
” so, you don’t want me to be in a position of power, is that it?” her brother now aimed his gun at me. the other thug bro stepped towards me and pushed himself between the prof and my body. he then clamped down my shoulders. smelled like vodka and it wasn’t absolute. why was I thinking about his smell at a time like this?
“Diana, you missed the point entirely!” I tried to shrug of his hands, but he just held on tighter and chuckled.
“listen, maybe we could talk about this lounge-“the professor was interrupted when the bro moved his gun from my head to his own. he pulled the trigger and the bullet found its mark in the wall about three inches from the other side of his head.
Diana snapped her fingers. she dragged my brother out of sight while the prof and I were still paralyzed from the shock of the last gunshot. the sound of the elevator doors swishing open and close snapped my out of my paralysis.
I started running after them with the prof at my heels.
“What are you doing?” he asked or rather he panted. poor guy, probably didn’t have this type of exercise in a while.
“Going after them.” I took the stairs and he paused at the top of the stairs before he began his descent down.
“why don’t we call the police? let them take care of this mess.” he sounded so far away and yet I could still hear his shoes falling quite close behind me. maybe he was talking softly and trying to conserve his energy.
“no time. have to take care of it myself.” I stopped and turned around. he grabbed the handrails to halt his descent. “could you call the police for me?”
“I’m not letting you go by yourself.” and there was quite in the stairwell, only his British voice echoing in the air. I kept running down the stairs.
we run out to the parking lot and we see David was struggling to evade his captors. they shove him into a brown van and drove off with the one person who meant the world to me. I tried to run after them but the prof held me back, grabbing my arm.
“you can’t run after a moving car. you’re not immortal like that.” and that’s when I saw something glistening on the black pavement. a set of keys. my brother’s keys.
“but I can drive after them” and I started up the race to the next parking lot where my brother kept the mpv. it was raining and the prof kept up with my pace. it felt like I was running in slow motion.
reached the car. it was gleaming white on that gray day. and opened the driver’s side door at the same time he opened the passenger’s door.
“what has gotten into you? why can’t you take a moment to think this out?” he asked me. he was out of breath and he was concerned. of all the emotions he could be expressing, like anger for putting his life in danger, disgust for getting embroiled in a roommate dispute, or even exasperation for dealing with seriously whacked minds, even my own. but he was concerned.
“I can’t. nobody does that to my brother. nobody hurts my brother like that gets away with it.” I could barely get the words out. spitting them out in staccato because my heart was now choking my throat with fear for my brother and anger at my whacked roommate. I always thought she needed help, but this is ridiculous. then I noticed he was buckling up for a ride.”Are you sure you want to come along?”
“well, I can’t turn my back on you now.”
I shrugged and let the car zoom out of the parking space.
it was raining and the road was slippery and well, I was thinking about the last time I was ripping around at 80 mph on residential streets. back when I had the pathfinder. for some reason the streetlights were not working.
“are you crazy? where did you learn how to drive like this?” his whole body was tight and I saw out of the corner of my eyes that he was clutching to that one overhead hook thing for dear life.
“did you want to get out?” can’t believe I was so polite when I was driving like a bloody maniac.
“no, just slow down!” he was getting hysterical. most people do when they first get in the car with me.
“can’t. they still have my brother.” which seemed like a logical explanation. i’m sure. we drove down telegraph, which was against the flow of traffic, but there was no traffic to be seen. what the cops don’t know can’t hurt them. the brown van was gliding like it didn’t have any problems. like it didn’t have my brother hostage in it. I wonder who was driving.
“have you ever been in a car chase before?” yeah, he was nervous. especially when we finally hit 90 mph. but that didn’t feel fast enough to catch the damn brown van.
“well, I did a little drag racing in the Disneyland parking lot.”
“oh, is that all?” sarcasm, professor? I guess so.
“and I had a little incident with my pathfinder, back when I was in highschool.” I was now talking with an amazingly calm voice. just like I was out for a simple ride to the city, or something normal and mundane. not like I was in a high-speed chase that would probably cost me my license, my parents’ wrath, and my prof’s grade adjustment on my final exam.
“what happened to the pathfinder?”
“I was late for class and I was going about 80 down this hill. flipped the pathfinder twice and totaled it.” he was shocked and I think he was getting nauseous. “do you need to get out of the car?”
“Just keep driving.”
something like a black bundle came tumbling out of the brown van. I sped past it and saw David’s bleeding face. the brown van didn’t stop but I came to a screeching halt. the last time I made skids marks on the road was when I totaled the pathfinder. at least I kept the mpv in one piece this time. a fleeting thought worried if the prof got whiplash. but he looked all right. backed-up to my bro lying on the ground. placed the car in park and helped him into the back seat. It felt so good to see him and I could finally breath normally again. I gave him a quick hug and kiss on the forehead. he winced at the kiss and I think I just touched a wound. but I was too happy to see him to care.
back in the driver’s seat and as I started the car, I made some introductions: “Prof. Bulloch, here’s my brother Raymond. Raymond Vera meet Prof. Bulloch.”
they shook hands.
“Kristina, they’re coming back,” the prof said. sure enough, their brown van was making a beeline for our mpv. I moved that van out of there and they maintained pursuit.
then they started shooting at us.
“I don’t know how we’re going to explain the broken glass to mom and dad.” David said quietly.
“I guess I’m just worrying about staying alive at the moment.”
we kept driving in the rain. nobody was shot.