Monday, October 08, 2007

Me and Lily Shee

My freshman year of college I was given an assignment to interview people on their views of welfare recipients. I didn't have any solid friends yet, but I wasn't going to let that stop me. I was sitting at a table near some vending machines, and I see the pretty Asian girl from my Calculus class. We smile at each other, and I introduce myself. Then I ask her if she minded if I interviewed her for this class. She took on a serious/comic face and said, 'Uh, o-kay', in this mock dramatic tone which I was to learn was her trademark during the course of our friendship. I asked my question. 'How do you feel about people who are on welfare?' 'Oh', she answered. This time there was no acting. Her face showed a genuine look of consternation. 'They're lazy'. Her answer took me off guard and I laughed. 'Really?' I asked, giving her a chance to recant. 'Yes', she continued, 'They can get a job at McDonald's. When I was in high school, I worked all the time'. I don't know why I wanted to change her opinion. Maybe she was right. Every single one was lazy and there was no circumstance where someone could legitimately be accepting government assistance. I guess that's what triggered my defense reflex. There was such a finality about her stance. As I came to know Lily more as a friend, it was clear that all of her opinions, from men's behaviors to visiting relatives from China were either good or bad, there was never any ambiguity in her world. I found it hilarious. One time we were at the mall shopping for a dress for her to wear to her sister's wedding. 'Do you have family coming from China?' I was curious. 'Yes', she looked glum. 'Aren't you excited?' 'No. I hate my relatives. They're disgusting'. Whoa! That was so harsh. I laughed in amusement. 'Why are they disgusting?' I couldn't resist. 'They pick their nose in public. They're always embarrassing me'. Well, that was that. One day we were lounging about my apartment discussing her views on men. She had a boyfriend. An American named Bill who took her to nice restaurants and bought or made her expensive jewelry. Bill would always get mad at her because she preferred the cheap, trendy jewelry from those little jewelry kiosks at the mall. Again she surprised me with her views when she told me that she is expected to look beautiful all the time, and that if she doesn't look young and beautiful, no man will marry her. She completely believed that these two attributes were the only ones necessary for such a union. I sometimes felt like I was watching some 19th century soap opera when listening to her. I realized then that life had been hard for Lily. She said her parents always called her ugly. I met her parents. They lived in a little apartment in an all Chinese neighborhood in Queens. Her father bought this big bag of fried chicken wings on the street, we went back to their place and all sat around eating them. No one talked. Later Lily had to go to the Chinese bank to take care of some family business. Her father drove us to the bus station to return to school. The road was very bumpy and rough, and I kept bouncing out of my seat. He said something to Lily in Cantonese. She looked flatly at me and translated, 'You will lose your virginity on this ride'. I cracked up, and her father smiled at me. Over the summer I found myself with lots of idle time. Lily and I spent hours lazing around, braiding our hair and being vain. She had this other side which would come out on these such days. It was completely different than the stoic, judgmental Lily. This other side was pensive and innocent. She would talk about dreams she'd had of butterflies and reincarnation, floating through time like a candle. I didn't really know what she was talking about, I just knew that this was the only time she seemed really happy and content. I guess it was like her fantasy world. And then she met Seamus. Seamus, whose real name is Steve, looked so Irish I had to call him Seamus. We met one Winter night at Bacchus. Bacchus was the only bar in New Paltz that I felt comfortable in. It had a long wooden bar, hardwood floors and a pool table. They had over twenty beers on tap, which to me spoke of their respect for all tastes. So I was sitting there at the bar, in the midst of believing that my date had stood me up, and there was Seamus, sitting next to me. He had a wool hat on pulled down to his eyebrows like he was hiding from the world. He looked a bit abandoned himself, and as the hour approached 45 minutes from the time my date was supposed to have arrived, I felt this woolen-hatted man would be a good audience for my anguish. 'Did your date stand you up too?' I asked him. 'No. I'm here with my friend. Some guy stood you up?' He asked incredulously. 'I would never do that to you! Do you want me to call him and yell at him?' he offered. I felt better already, now that I had an ally. 'No thanks, it's fine. It's just snowing out, and I never would have driven all this way in the snow, and it's just so rude'. Seamus invited me to play pool with him and his friend. I did, and their company was greatly appreciated. We ended up going out on one date, and I decided I wasn't attracted to him. So I fixed him up with my friend Kerri, who really liked him, but there were no sparks on his end. A few months went by. Lily and I went to Bacchus one night and Seamus was there. We hung out and played pool. Lily and Seamus spoke a little. On our drive home, Lily seemed to have fallen in love with Seamus. She revealed that she has never been physically attracted to any man (not even Bill, her current boyfriend) but she felt a huge attraction to Seamus. Somehow, the attraction for Seamus became contagious, because suddenly I too had a huge crush on him! We spent the next few days discussing our mutual crushes, and since Lily and I were such good friends, we didn't seem to mind that there was only one of him but two of us. I guess we didn't think anything would materialize from this anyway. Of course we were wrong. I'm not sure exactly what happened between Lily and Seamus- I sense it never really left the fantasy stage. But something I said to Lily ended our friendship. I don't even remember what it was. Something about a lack of trust, and her being deeply insulted. She had actually already moved to California at this point, far away from me, Seamus, and the nose-picking relatives. But that was it. She couldn't be friends with someone who didn't trust her. That's the only time a man has come between any of my friendships. I'd like to find Lily again. It's been about seven years. Knowing her, she probably hasn't forgiven me yet.

16 comments:

Jon said...

I bet you could find her. Go for it!

It's tough when things like this happen. Something similar happened to me and a very close friend about 8 years ago. I've tried to find him, but I don't think he lives here anymore. I have no idea where to look.

tamar said...

jon~ at least you don't have to worry about his surname having changed.. Hopefully.. I'm actually very good at finding lost friends, so let me know if you need any tips..

Anonymous said...

Tamar: What an interesting story about Lily and Seamus. It's amazing that apparently your friendship soured when you talked about men and neither one of you wound up getting involved with the one man both of you liked. Maybe there's more to the story on Lily's end or maybe she just moved on.

I can't ever recall discussing females with other guys, or maybe I can't remember because it was so long ago.

If you're thinking about contacting Lily, than go ahead and give it a try.

Thanks for sharing. This was an interesting story.

Kevin

Mike said...

Hi, Tamar. I really enjoyed this story about your friendship with Lily Shee. You bring to life the difficulty of being close to a person who sees things in such a black and white, all good v all bad way. You just never know what will set them off. I particularly liked the part about her father...I can just imagine him smiling in the front seat at your reaction to his joke.

Well, I hope you find Lily. It would be interesting to know how she's changed over the years...and if she's finally forgiven you. I trust you'll keep us all informed!

Regards, Mike

tamar said...

Kevin~ Well, I hadn't considered that Lily had a different version of this story than my own.. Of course, that's so funny.. I'm sure Seamus' version would be a brand new one as well.. Love to hear both of theirs, but not so much Seamus', because.. Well, that's a whole new post!

Mike~ Yeah, that's my favorite part too! Just give me a dirty joke in a foreign language, and I'll stay amused for hours! Now that everyone here has expressed interest in me finding her, I will actually put some muscle into it.. I have a sneaking suspicion that she hasn't changed though.. But really, I liked her for who she was, so I really don't want to discuver that she's changed..

Just_because_today said...

I feel like I have to say something insightful about the trust that Lily needed in her friend but I'm not going to...I rather concentrate on the 20 tap beers offered on that bar and why was that important to someone who would only ever taste one?

tamar said...

just!!!~ no insightful comments required.. I didn't know what to make of that either, and I knew the girl, supposedly.. The beer issue? Well, I have a finely tuned sense of taste, to where I can detect the slightest hint of an added herb or spice.. So.. I appreciated knowing that they were AVAILABLE, even if I wasn't ever going to sample them.. It's nice to know you have options.. And as you know, I do sample on occasion, give me some credit!! :-)

~Deb said...

This story was so entertaining- as always Tamar! I have to say, in my own opinion, Lily seems to have a strong-minded view of the world. Taurus? (hehe) But, I think through conflicts of opinions and beliefs, some people are overly sensitive to hearing what others have to say. I read this really great pamphlet this morning about conflicts and different point of views, and it said, ”Every perspective has some merit. When you grow up in a home that functions on a right vs. wrong justice scale, the person who’s “right” gets praised while the one who’s “wrong” gets put down. And that’s a pity because generally it’s not an “I’m-right-and-you’re-wrong” issue, as much as an “I-see-it-this-way-and-you-see-it-that-way” issue. So before you go to war ask yourself, “What’s more important, my need to correct or my need to connect? Can I let somebody else be ‘right’ sometimes, without injecting my opinion?”

Opinions are great. Conflicting viewpoints help us grow. If we’re not strong enough to handle what another has to say, then we lose all sight of possible friendships.

In the case of Seamus, men come and go (and women in my case), but friends last forever. Do you still talk to Seamus?

tamar said...

deb, deb~ I like that pamphlet.. I don't know that this situation fits that model though.. I don't deny my own black-and-white views at times, but in this case, Lily was the one shutting me out.. I think the heart of it all was simple insecurities.. I've grown up a lot since then, and have learned how to trust more, at least as a friend.. Seamus and I did not remain friends.. But that's another (pretty funny) story, and maybe the topic of my next post.. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Tamar: Can't wait to hear the Seamus story.

Trusting more, as a friend, can be difficult. I have few friends that I trust implicitly, but the ones I do, I can place a lot of reliance on and it's a good feeling to know that I can count on them. It's not easy getting friends like that.

Kevin

tamar said...

kevin~ hey! you're following the comments trail, I like that! :-)
I think trust probably has more to do with ourselves letting go than another's trustworthiness, do you know what I mean? For me at least, it kind of all boils down to spending time with someone, and then I tend to trust people very easily.. The tricky part is agreeing to trust someone enough to agree to spend time with them..

Anonymous said...

Tamar: I understand where you are coming from with trust. It makes sense, especially the part about letting go to another's trustworthiness.

From my perspective, trust comes from knowing people well enough to trust them implicitly, not necessarily having to spend much time with them.

For one of the people I trust, we don't have similar hobbies, but have similar values and beliefs. We don't spend much time together but do keep in contact at least weekly. If either of us ever needed something we'd be there for each other. It's a good feeling to have a friend like this.

Kevin

Just_because_today said...

“What’s more important, my need to correct or my need to connect? Can I let somebody else be ‘right’ sometimes, without injecting my opinion?”

Just_because_today said...

“What’s more important, my need to correct or my need to connect? Can I let somebody else be ‘right’ sometimes, without injecting my opinion?”
This is a comment worth writing a whole post about! I agree with it so much. More often than not, we impose our own opinion shutting down the views of others (or they do it to us) and it becomes difficult to be ourselves in the aims of avoiding conflict.
In most relationships, it is difficult to express our opinion and truly connect. Some times to keep a friend it is easier to keep our opinions to ourselves...then you wonder if it's worth keeping...

tamar said...

kevin~ I imagine you having a lot more than one good friend that you trust.. But really, one is all you need.. It is a great feeling to trust someone, I agree..

just for today~ I HOPE your comments are not directed at yours truly? If so, please call me immediately.. If not, you're wrong!! Ha ha, my weird sagittarian humour..

Anonymous said...

Tamar: There's different levels of trust involved with friends. There's only a few people I know well enough to trust implicitly. Other friends are trustworthy, but I might not confide in them and vice versa.

Kevin