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.

The Poetry Of Jordan Pace

I’m excited to share and feature 4 poems by Jordan Pace. You may know him by his Twitter or his new book Perfectly Imperfect. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Jordan as a fellow author in the Writing Community and through Coffee House Writers. I love these poems, and found myself paying special attention to A Serpent’s Kiss as I broke down the complete experiences described. That said, I’m going to save my personal interpretation of each poem and what I took away from it until after. Without further ado, let’s begin.


Tasteless Coffee

We sat side by side
It felt as if we were miles apart.
Our cups dangled
With our feet;
We watched as waves crashed against walls.
We talked for hours,
Our words felt like whispers
Was he hiding something?
I couldn’t tell
The breeze so strong
The faint smell of salt air
Losing my reason to care
I leaned forward, my full intention to fall
He caught me, his cup staring with an inviting glare
I arrived at it,
A feeling of curiosity washing over me
Why does his coffee have no flavor?
I look back again
I wonder
When did this space get so empty?
Who was I talking to all this time?


The waterside imagery steals me away and I, too, am sitting on that retaining wall, feeling detached from the person I am with – wondering if I knew them this whole time. The metaphor of time and conversation to waves eroding the relationship and details of the scene overtime hits me in a soft underbelly place I haven’t thought about in a while.


A Serpent’s Kiss

Lonely,
I am fine,
quiet inside.
a war rages on the other side.
there are cracks in my armor,
No perfect men wear armor.
You,
My imperfection,
a variable I cannot account for.
Your slithering, salty, sinking words burrow into me,
like a bullet lodged in a dead man’s chest
A bullet Cannot be pulled out without care.
I keep it there.
Holding fast to what remains of you,
unaware of its effects.
I see you in places you did not exist, a bad dream fades into reality.
As I lay on the bed,
there is nothing left to say.
I knew the risk and how it would end.
You watch over me, a serpent’s gaze.
Has the poison taken effect?


The narrator first begins with a self assessment – he is an imperfect man: a perfect man would need no armor. Worse yet, his armor has cracks that left him vulnerable to abuse in this mind trick of self blame.

As the narrator continues to describe this ex-abuser as a venomous snake, it becomes obvious how appropriate the comparison is. Some relationships are toxic like venom, leaving lasting wounds in the form of trauma. He is holding it both intentionally and against his will.

But the narrator in the poem suffers the lasting effects of the relationship even if everything seems quiet on the surface. The lasting trauma is described as a “bullet lodged in a dead man’s chest” implying the depth of despair and destruction felt surrounding the trauma.

The last 3 lines may be the most impacting. “I knew the risk and how it would end.” The narrator describes the gut feeling paired with the inability to resist the relationship. It could be argued that with the comparison of the ex to a serpent, the narrator was hypnotized. “You watch over me, a serpent’s gaze.” The last line closes the poem with the hardest question of all – that of intent. “Has the poison taken effect?” Did the abuser intend this all along? Is this what they wanted?


Excuse me

Excuse me,
baby, I’m tired, your hips swing with energy to light my world for eons. Excuse my language,
But I think you’re a dime,
a definite “jack of all trades” when it comes to working
Excuse me for entering your life,
Then exiting, by mistake


Apologetically, there are short lived relationships that can feel bought or traded. The narrator then mentions leaving unintentionally, apologetically, even though there is nothing wrong with the other party. There are many layers of guilt here.


I WAS CREATED TO BE YOU

You cannot relate
to my pain-
molded by fires, created
through some ultimate desire.
A mold,
I was left to fill your desires
and when it did not work,
I was told to simply
“get over it.” My world
is torn asunder; my life
unraveled.

Years of work and effort made
to seem like less than
the step forward it truly was.

All because it didn’t work
for you? Was I never considered
in your equation? Was I even ever
a variable?

Lots of these things,
I will never, ever know,
but one thing’s for sure:
I may have to spend the rest
of my life defining myself.


To me, this poem screams of the struggles of the effects of a narcissistic relationship. I interpreted this as a parent-child relationship and what I call “bonsai children”. Bonsai children grow up with parents who carefully shape and mold every aspect of their lives so they are more like ornaments to benefit the parent more than individuals.


About Jordan Pace

Jordan Pace’s book Perfectly Imperfect is available for purchase here in paperback and on kindle. You can keep up with their writing on Coffee House Writers here. To keep most up to date, you can follow them on Twitter.

What did you think of these interpretations? Do you agree? Disagree? Did you find different meaning that I didn’t find? Let me know in the comments! Do you want to see more of these posts? Let me know by liking this post or commenting below.

As always, thank you for reading. Remember to keep supporting artists and authors during these crazy times.

We’re On An Adventure

Rainbows everywhere

Today we did something crazy. We drove from Missoula, Montana to Eureka, Montana and back to give a friend a ride back to civilization from their family’s compound after they tested negative for COVID-19. What a great chance to show everyone this amazing place I live!

I did say rainbows

Beautiful Montana

These are all from today

I am blessed to live in a place of wide open spaces and the optical illusion that creates a bigger sky

Where glaciers collide with clouds

Flathead Lake is always a welcome sight

Flathead Lake is a gem

We hit a bit of rain on our way, but it eventually subsided.

As with any good Montana road trip you have to stop for the wildlife.

Don’t worry – they move eventually

You’d never believe this is one of the major shipping routes across the US border into British Columbia, now would you?

Nearing Eureka as it begins to get darker

Blue sky still visible at 9 PM? Not for long!

Near Trego, Montana the last bits of day find their way into this beautiful night

We managed to catch the sunset on our way in to town

As I’m pleased to share with you some of the magnificent clouds we witnessed about 15 miles south of the Canadian border at the port of Roosville

As we return from Eureka we see signs reminding us to social distance and stay close to home. Missoula County and Lincoln County both have 0 active cases. Our friend safely in tow, they are also high risk, have been isolating, and need to get to Missoula for a doctor appointment that cannot be done over a video chat.

Whitefish looks desolate. There’s no one on the roads here. It makes sense – Flathead County is among the hardest hit in the state – every case that’s been traceable has been connected to travel. Flathead County is where the airport for West Glacier and Whitefish is. We head south toward Kalispell.

So helpful

We stop in Kalispell to charge the car and use a disposable barrier for handling the charging cable. Charging will require a couple of hours.

It’s dark, so the pictures aren’t going to be very interesting for the rest of tonight. We will be safely back in Missoula soon.

And there’s your Montana road trip during this crazy time. The world is a mess. Stay safe – hold your family close.