No Me Gusta Col Rizada – A Short Story

Content Warning: This story contains mention of suicide. Reader discretion is advised. This is a work of fiction.

Photo by Cedric Letsch on Unsplash

In a little Italian neighborhood near the Coit Tower, a swath of green space invites families to sit on park benches with aesthetic spikes, keeping them empty. Some stray travelers use their time to read real books or eReaders; many play on their phones.  The locked public toilets hide behind green and gold painted metal – inaccessible monuments to the city ordinances against the homeless. On a light pole near the Washington Park toilets, hangs an Italian flag – acceptable ethnic pride in a city so focused on Pride.

Two large dogs – larger than their owners – try to distract each other by initiating play. The Bay’s blue water shimmers through the trees as Union Street heads downhill. Against a clear blue sky, the world maintains an invisible boundary: the city on one side, me on the other.

This boundary follows my neighbors when we enter stores, or avoids us on trains. It turns heads when I speak Spanish to those that speak it to me. It garners looks in even the Mission and Bernal Heights neighborhoods, depending on the street. Fuiste de mi vecina. Hablé el idioma de mi vecina. Planning outings, I hear people say they’re “just not comfortable taking public transit because of the people using it.” By “the people,” they mean anyone too poor to use Uber or Lyft – my neighbors, as they’re priced out of their homes. Anyone forced into homelessness by landlords taking advantage of the influx of affluent young people coming to the city, anyone hurt by those supporting and choosing to be part of the problem.

San Francisco culture obsesses over hustle and definitions of achievement, creating blinders for “focus.” I watch my coworkers and the people I thought I knew focus to the point of denying that anything bad ever happens here. They shun or punish those that dare try to draw their attention to something outside their minds. In our company’s Human Resources department, I watch as they “solve” problems by silencing employees that raise concerns rather than admitting any harassment incidents occur. The company wins workplace culture awards from a third party reviewer based on an employee survey none of us ever see.

My friends seek out cults of social acceptance on the weekends. Each event they attend promises their problems will go away and solve themselves with enough positivity (and denial). I hear them talk about the latest seminar over a group dinner. Mental illnesses are a mindset problem. Anxiety, depression, or anything else can only be solved by seeking out “your higher power” – the goals you wish to achieve rather than fall for this weakness. They discourage each other from seeking medical help. 

One friend throws himself in front of the commuter train. I imagine him, so positive that the only escape from the pain he felt powerless against was to throw himself in front of that train he shut down for four hours. His mother sobs over thousands of crackling miles of static and telephone lines. His mother lives in Vietnam. I meet her at SFO and pay for the Lyft to her hotel. We sit in silence in the back seat, and she reaches for my hand. “Sean was a good boy,” she whispers to me. I squeeze her hand, feeling the lump in my throat grow and choke out tears. She flies out two days later after collecting his remains and making arrangements for his belongings. I never hear about a funeral.

But the mantras continue for the others: yoga and kale cure everything, including major depressive episodes. Your higher power is what you wish to achieve. That causes people to throw themselves in front of trains. They tell me that I don’t understand. They tell me I’m not eating enough kale. I’m not doing enough yoga. In San Francisco, every conversation leads back to Yoga and Kale. No me gusta col rizada.

From the top of Twin Peaks, I gaze out at the sun reflecting off The Bay and compose my resignation letter. My brain can’t choose to ignore what I see. Closing my eyes, I imagine Sean with his mother – a pair I never saw in life. His beautiful mother, a refugee in America, now, a returned Việt Kiều, lives on without her son. Would my own parents return to the land that they fled? How far does this invisible boundary between water and sky extend? ¿Hasta dónde llegaría para echar agua en el mar?


If this story brought up any difficult feelings for you regarding suicide, please reach out to https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ or call 1-800-273-8255 (USA). They are also available to chat 24/7/365

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my story today. If you enjoyed this story, please like, comment, and/or share it. This helps me know which posts my readers enjoy the most and can help me cater content.

If there is anything you see in this story that needs correction, please let me know! I am happy to work on aspects of this story to improve it for my audience.

How Not To Feel Alone On Your 31st Birthday In 2020

Happy Birthday To Me!

Today I turn 31 in the year 2020. The world is chaotic (to say the least). But there is so much for which to be thankful. We have an opportunity in this dark time: we can use this as a pathway to finding our similarities and common ground. We can use this as an opportunity to show compassion toward our fellow human beings. Don’t believe me? I have a challenge for every person reading this.

The Google Autocomplete Challenge

Alright! So, Google Autocomplete works by predicting what phrases have the highest probability of completing your query based on the most common searches by others within your same time zone, general demographics, and country. Most of the time this is reduced to the information that can be associated with your IP address. Remember, your IP address contains a lot of information about your location.

If you’re ever feeling alone, think about the population of the country where you live. I currently live in the United States – a country with a population of 328.2 Million people. Approximately 27% of Americans report using Google as their primary search engine. That means approximately 88.614 Million Americans use Google as their primary search engine.

That means that whatever the statistically most likely predicted completion of a search phrase is results from millions of people searching that phrase.

This means you are not alone. With every crazy question you have for the internet, you are not alone. For these first fifteen, I’m going to be very general. Then, once this concept has been demonstrated, let’s go on a journey. Some of these are funny, some are depressing, some are revealing.

1. “Is it…”

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2. “What to…”

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3. “Does the…”

(If you want to know, yes, the coronavirus test hurts)

4. “Are there…”

5. “Do I…”

6. “Why is…”

7. “Who was…”

Glad to see Americans are learning history?

8. “Did I…”

9. “Where are…”

10. “Am I…”

11. “How to make…”

12. “When will…”

13. “Does the United States…”

No, the United States does not use the metric system outside of scientific laboratories.

14. “How many…”

As you can see a lack of the metric system leads to a lot of confusion.

15. “How often…”

That’s a doozy.

Okay! So 15 questions in and you’ve noticed that Americans are just as confused about our units of measure as the rest of the world and things do seem to be interesting. Plus, if you’ve been sedentary and are questioning while your bowel habits have changed, you’re not alone. Drink more water, eat more fiber, and start going for more walks. You’ll feel better.

These next questions are for those of us that recognize that search histories get a little weird when you’re writing. So, let’s start looking at some of the autocompleted questions related to writing research I’ve seen lately. These get a bit dark and others are truly revealing.

1. “What do serial killers…”

2. “Why do serial killers…”

3. “Why do wives…”

4. “Why do husbands…”

5. “Why do partners…”

6. “Do cows…”

7. “How to fake…”

The search results here made my eye twitch.

8. “How to destroy…”

9. “Why doesn’t…”

10. “Humans are…”

I warned all of you that was going to get dark.

There’s one final search I am going to show you – it leads to one of my favorite poems I had forgotten about and hadn’t read in over 10 years.

“Hope is…”

What is that first search result? See below.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers (314) – Emily Dickinson

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.

I hope you can hear Hope’s song, and even if you can’t right now, know that you are not alone in searching for it amongst the noise.

What were your autocomplete results like when you searched similar beginning terms? Were they the same as mine? If you have suggestions of other terms for me to search please leave them in a comment 🙂

I am so thankful for your company on this bizarre journey through search engine autocompletes on my birthday. If you enjoyed this post, please share it, like, or comment. Without you, this post would be stored quietly on a server somewhere. Have a wonderful weekend ahead 🙂 With Love – Lo.