Sunday, January 13, 2013


PRETTY MUCH By Matthew Ng-Wai Shing I didn’t feel clean. Who doesn’t feel clean after spending freaking 10 minutes in the shower? Most girls probably. What a waste of time those girls are, spending 8 hours a day in the bathroom or whatever. How fussy do they think we are? Sure Lucy was all done up last night. But 8 hours of make up or not, I would have still gone down on her. She’s a slammin’ hottie. My bed was still a mess. I looked down on the storm of sheets as I pulled on clothes. Boxers, trackpants, t-shirt, hoodie. I guess I should probably clean them now – the sheets that is – but how? No way was I gonna use the washer mum gave us. Not for these. She’d ball her eyes out if she knew I’d filthied her second best washing machine with the dead skin cells of a white girl. I don’t know why but I get guilty as sometimes. It’s the craziest thing. Last week, the bus driver gave me too much change. It was only like 30 cents or something. I spent the whole bus ride anxious as. In the end, I was too embarrassed to give it back, so I just left it on the seat for some idiot to find like it was fucking Christmas. How the hell was I gonna get this stuff clean? There were a couple of laundromats around the place. Or maybe I could get it done at Jinny’s mum’s place. God I was hungry. I can’t think to save myself when I’m hungry. I went back into the kitchen hoping to find some food for thought. Liam was still slouched over the dining table, totally submerged in his iPad. “Jackie Chan,” he spouted as I headed to the pantry. Wow, he must have seen my reflection. “Man, are you kidding me? It was like the first one we said.” “Oh yeah.” All morning we’d been trying to think of famous Asian dudes who had got with white girls. But we gave up after Tiger Woods. Now we were just trying to name famous Asian guys. So far we had Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee, Jet Li, Jeremy Lin and that guy from Glee who just dances. “Where’s Jinny?” “On the phone with her mum.” He pointed down the stairs towards a bubbling of Chinese I hadn’t noticed before. Shit, I didn’t know she spoke Chinese. “Shit, I didn’t know she spoke Chinese.” “Yep, and it’s fucking annoying. Speaking of which…” The babble of Chinese got closer and a short Asian girl with long dyed hair appeared at the top of the stairs. The broken stream of Chinese stopped; Jinny swivelled the phone away from her mouth to speak. “Honey?” “What.” Liam took a couple of pokes at the screen to pause it. “How about Genghis Khan?” “Oh yeah he totally counts, that guy was a boss.” I intercepted. “What?” She shot me her confused face. “She’s talking about dinner fuckwit.” Oh. That Genghis Khan. “So?” She pressed. Liam replied with a shrug. She turned to me. “What do you think Nath?” Genghis Khan huh. Man, that guy probably got gangs of chicks. I bet you a million bucks he was a dick in real life though. People like that always are. You can’t have that much shit without being some incredible asshole. Liam gave his screen another poke. “Who’s going?” I asked. “Family dinner.” “Yours or his?” Tilting my head at the re-submerged Liam. “Mine.” “Definitely no. That place is a scam for white people. Like when they serve sweet and sour pork at yum cha.” It really was. “Star Café it is then. I’ll get mum to book for six-thirty ok? And please don’t wear a singlet this time Liam.” Without another peep she turned on the Chinese again and marched back downstairs. Liam was far too engrossed in a video of some kid microwaving an orange to say anything back. I went to the pantry to get food. I was crazy hungry after all that, but there was pretty much nothing on my shelf so I stole a Shrewsbury from Liam’s. He’d never know. I’m a cat-burglar when it comes to stealing biscuits. Mum used to plant stale ones on the top so we’d eat them first, or hid the good chocolate ones in a Tupperware container behind the rice. I learnt to be sneakier. I went back to my room. It was still a trash hole. And I really needed to clean my sheets. You know, I never clean my sheets automatically. And when I say automatically, I don’t mean that I don’t use a washing machine – it’s not the fucking dark ages. I mean like, ever since I’ve started doing my own washing, I’ve always had to remind myself to do it, otherwise I just forget. It’s tragic. Damn, I totally forgot to ask Jinny about washing them at her place. Lucky I had gangs of free minutes left. I got out my crappy brick phone and dialled her. “Hey, what’s up?” “You off the phone?” “Yeah, do you want it?” “Nah, just checking. Hey, are you going back to your mum’s today?” “Not until dinner. Why?” “Oh, I, uh, was wondering if I could do some washing over there, maybe.” “Nah, it’ll be dark by the time I’m there. What’s wrong with the machine your mum got us?” “Nothing. I just don’t feel like it.” “Oh ok. Random.” “Yeah.” “Is that it?” “Yeah.” “Ok, bye.” The phone beeped as she hung up. Damn. I couldn’t use mum’s washer, I really couldn’t. I’d never be able to look at her straight again. Goddamn I’m stubborn sometimes. I guess it’s going to have to be the fucking laundromat. I head-butted my duvet onto the floor, separating it from the top sheet. The bottom sheet was one of those elastic ones so I had to go around and peel back the corners before it unhooked from the mattress properly. I grabbed a rubbish bag from the kitchen and threw my sheets inside, along with whatever was in my washing basket. I didn’t wanna look like some hobo walking down the street, so I stuffed the black rubbish sack inside my Nike gym bag. Once I had got out onto the driveway, I had to work out which one to go to. There were gangs of laundromats around my place. You can always tell how poor a place is by the number of laundromats around. Or the number of fish and chip shops. Man, if you studied it enough, I bet you could work out the price of a house just from the number of fish and chip shops around. You’d probably make the news. The closest laundromat was probably the one by the motorway. But the one at the roundabout had a bakery on the way so it was really a no-brainer. I was about halfway to the bakery when I felt a gang of zizzes in my pocket. I had to switch the bag over to my left hand to check the text. It was good because my right arm was starting to get secretly tired. You won’t believe me, but sheets are heavy as. It was a text from Lucy. Would you look at that. I must be really good in the sack or something. Hey hun hows ur morning goin? C u 2nyt? Xoxo Since when were we hunning each other? I put my phone back in my pocket. This is my secret trick for texting girls. Never text them back straight away. If you make them wait a little bit they’ll start missing you like shit. I didn’t even know if I wanted to see her again tonight. I mean I did, but I’d probably be in trouble if she became anything. My laundry bag had switched hands at least 4 more times by the time I reached the bakery. All this walking in the sun was starting to make me feel sticky and gross. The bakery was sitting directly across the road from a primary school and right next to a fish and chip shop. I saw a gang of chubby brown kids playing coin rugby in the shop window as I walked past. Bastards never had a chance. I could hear a loud banging noise coming from the bakery. It sounded like my Por Por cutting up boiled chicken with her massive cleaver. The sound got louder as I stepped through the string of coloured ribbons that hung in the doorway. A little Chinese boy was standing at the back of the stuffy little shop. He was watching his dad kneading the shit out of a gang of dough. The dad was short, with a white oil-spoiled cap, an itchy looking moustache and a complexion somewhere between pie crust and donut. He was wearing an old, filthy looking navy polar fleece, speckled with all kinds of wonderful shit. Good thing he had gloves on. “Can I howp you?” I got out my wallet. Ten bucks. Better make it count. “G’day mate, can I get a mince and cheese pie, a passionfruit donut, and a pizza bread.” “Any drinks for you?” “No thanks.” I never buy drinks. They’re always so expensive and packed with sugar and shit. And people who buy bottled water are just dumb. I swear to god that every time I see someone buy a bottle of water I die a little bit. “Where you from?” He asked as he pulled my pie from the warmer. God, I hate that question. It’s like, if I tell him I was born here, he’s gonna ask where my ancestors are from or something. But if I say I’m Chinese he’ll go on about how I don’t sound Chinese and all. “Oh, I live just up the road.” “No, where are your parents from?” Fucking hell. I really couldn’t be bothered with this routine. I don’t wanna be disrespectful or anything, but when you’re like me, you’ve had this conversation with a million other idiots. Sometimes you want to go and explain it all to people, but sometimes you just want to go and eat your pie. “Sorry, I’m in a bit of a hurry.” I gave him the best smile I could find. I felt kinda bad for him. The guy was fobby as hell. Goong Goong and Por Por would have been in the same boat when they opened up their fish and chip shop. That kid in the back didn’t know how good he had it, even though he was probably still getting teased a gangload at school. He rang up my stuff on the till. $2.80 – pie. $1.20 – passionfruit donut. Fuck yes. $2.00 – pizza bread. $6.00. Sweet. “Oh, can I also get a giant cookie?” It was a bargain at a dollar. He slipped one into a brown paper bag. “Thanks.” I put my note on the counter and slipped the change into my pocket. “You have very nice day” he smiled. “Cheers mate, have a good one.” I loved wishing people to have a good one. The coloured ribbons washed over me as I went out. The bread thumping started up again, but I didn’t really notice: I was far too focussed on Operation Breakfast Slash Lunch. The roundabout wasn’t too far away now, which was good because my shoulders were slaying me. I skipped across the road so I could walk in the shade of the trees from a golf course that stretched out on that side of the street. The sick thing was that all the houses on the other side of the road were all kind of shit. On one side sits this flash as golf course with brushstrokes of grass, manmade lakes and water fountains. And on the other side lies a gang of tired houses with unkempt lawns and beat up letterboxes. Imagine waking up in the morning, looking across your raggedy as lawn and seeing gangs of old white people strolling through paradise and smacking the shit out of little white balls everywhere. It was enough to break your heart. The pie, donut and half of the pizza bread was history by the time I got to the roundabout, which was absolutely flocked with people. They were all piling into the second hand clothes shop next to the laundromat. There must have been a sale on or something. A board underneath the shop sign read: CLOTHES – CURTAINS – SHEETS – SHOES – $2/kg No way. They were selling clothes by the kilo? Man, that’s cheaper than apples. People were just pulling shit out of mountains of clothes and tossing them on the ground like trash. It was total anarchy. I dragged past, staring like I was at the zoo. I would have stayed longer if I wasn’t feeling so gross from all the walking. Although my shoulders probably would have given up if I had waited any longer before stepping inside the laundromat. An electronic bell announced my intrusion. We used to love going in and out of shop doors when I was a kid. If you didn’t make the buzz go, you were invisible. The place was about the size of a classroom, lined with massive washing machines and dryers. You could see the clothes spinning round and round like wheels on a train, humming away noisily. People had placed their empty plastic baskets outside them to make sure no one else got confused and took their shit. A pair of Polynesian mums were folding their dried stuff on a table in the middle. A Maori lady had commandeered three consecutive heavy duty 22kg machines. She was sorting several rubbish bags of clothes into the three holes with the same efficiency and concentration I had exercised during lunch. The place reeked of steam and clean clothes. I went up to the wiry Indian guy behind the counter. His son was playing with a vacuum cleaner behind him. “What do you want?” “Uh, can I wash my clothes please?” I showed him the rubbish bag I had concealed in my gym bag. “I haven’t been here before.” I added. I always sound like a fucking idiot when I talk to strangers. I have no idea why. “Take number six.” He pointed at one of the smaller machines that no one was using. “Ok, sweet.” “Three dollars.” “Oh, right.” I fished the coins out of my pocket. Three bucks. Perfect change. It was my lucky day. He walked me over to the machine. “Put your clothes here.” He pointed to the hole in the front, before pulling out a small plastic drawer above it. “Put your powder here.” Powder? Shit, I had totally forgotten about powder. “Uh, I don’t have any.” “We have plenty of range here. 90 cents each.” Fuck. I didn’t have any cash left. I knew I’d regret getting that fucking cookie. How am I supposed to wash my sheets if I don’t even have washing stuff for it! Shit, it was way too far to go all the way back home to get some. I was thinking so loud I almost didn’t hear the waifish voice behind me. “I have.” I turned around to find a fragment of a lady, wrinkled like a roast kumara, holding out a Signature Range ice cream container full of white washing powder. “Oh, thank you. That would be awesome.” Another fucking luck out. I should go buy a lotto ticket. And I should get her one too. Except you need money for that. I piled my sheets in, caked with last night’s grime. Ugh. The Indian guy put some special coin in the machine and got it going. “You stay here. 30 minutes ok.” I couldn’t tell if it was a question or not from his accent, so I just nodded. I took a perch by the entrance, next to the lovely grandma who had bailed me out. “Hey, thanks a lot.” “It’s ok, it’s ok,” she smiled. Are you hungry? I’ve got this cookie if you want. “Nah!” She wobbled her head. “Too hard for my teeth.” She pulled back her lips like a chimp to reveal a checker board of silver fillings, tapping on them with her long ivory fingernail. “See?” I laughed. I couldn’t handle it, I really couldn’t. At that moment, it was probably the funniest thing in the world. Her lips moved back into a toothy grin as she leaned back on her chair. I watched a gang of clothes churn round in the machine behind her. For some reason it made me think about molecules, like the ones you see on washing powder ads. Tiny little blue and white balls, kicking out all the evil green ones that are festering in the fabric. Where were all the green balls supposed to go? They obviously can’t go back to where they came from. I suppose they get flushed down into the sewer, pop out at some beach, and poison a dolphin or something. Some of the lucky ones probably manage to cling onto some other poor piece of fabric and resettle, meet a particularly nasty female green ball and make lots of evil green ball babies. And nothing is really properly clean ever again. But what does clean mean anyway? I know me and mum have very different interpretations of the word clean. I guess about 30 minutes later, the wiry Indian guy came up to us. “Washing’s done,” he said, looking at me. “You want dry?” I would’ve loved to, but I was out of coin. And no way was I letting my new friend shout me. “Nah, I’ll just hang it out.” “Ok then. Have a nice day.” “Cheers.” I got up and piled my sheets back into the rubbish bag, which was then potted into my gym bag. I picked out the eyes of the old lady as I headed to the door. I gave her a wave goodbye and got a toothy smile and a hand wobble in return. The walk back wasn’t nearly as hard as I’d feared. In fact, the sheets seemed to be even lighter than before which I know from physics can’t be true. But that’s what it felt like. Maybe it was because I was going downhill. Actually, the strangest thing was that I didn’t feel dirty anymore. You won’t believe me, but the smell of free washing powder will do that to you. Jinny was outside my room when I got back, trying to get something down from the top shelf of the linen cupboard. “Hey.” “Hey.” “You need a hand?” “Nah, almost got it.” “Hey, I didn’t know you spoke Chinese.” “Oh yeah, it’s like my one gift to my parents.” “You taught yourself?” I asked. That shit’s not easy to learn. I’ve thought about trying to learn it at least a million times. “Nah, they taught me.” “Oh. Well, isn’t it more like their gift to you then?” “It’s not like I had a choice. When I was growing up they wouldn’t talk to me if I spoke to them in English. You can’t imagine how much that sucked.” “‘Spose I can’t.” “So, you meeting up with your lady friend tonight?” “What? Oh, you mean Lucy?” “Who else would I be talking about dopey?” She laughed. “Yeah, of course. Yeah… nah, I think I’m gonna head back home tonight. See the fam bam and stuff.” “Ugh, I can’t even talk about my family right now. This dinner’s been driving me up the wall. Ah, there we go.” She pulled down a thick rectangle of baby blue sheets. “So, where have you been all day?” “Ended up going to the laundromat.” “Oh yeah? How was it? I’ve never been to one.” “It was nice.” “Nice,” she smiled as she walked off, clean sheets in hand. I went back into my room and pulled the bag of damp sheets out of my gym bag. I found that cookie lying at the bottom of it. I took it into the kitchen. Liam was still on the iPad. He hadn’t moved an inch. “Hey, I nicked one of your biscuits before so I got you this,” placing the cookie on the dining table. “Shot bro.” He grabbed it and took a meaty gnarl out of the side. “Hey dude, check out this drunk Wizard getting kicked in the nutsack by a Ninja Turtle. It’s fucking hilarious

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