by Bobby Cenoura
Male Angst Volume I.: FML, I Always Get Those Chicks is the antithesis to 50 Shades of Grey. In this novel, Reggie recounts two disastrous short term relationships: the first to a weed head Vietnamese mother of two who owns a nail salon and has an obsessed “husband”; and the second to an underemployed yet overweight Hispanic mother of two with two baby-daddies and secret sauce. Add to the character mix an interesting oasis of thugs and lowlifes who are sympathetic to Reggie’s cause and help him to count his blessings.
Reggie Jenkins is on to something but he just isn’t getting it right. He is quasi-urban: too black for the mainstream, but not black enough for the underground. The passing away of people, opportunities, and relationships in Reggie’s life have left a hole that he attempts to fill with sex, drugs, and false ego. Reggie has ‘Male Angst’.
MALE ANGST VOL 1: FML, I ALWAYS GET “THOSE” CHICKS
Under the Sea
Tara Thai is a restaurant where the theme is ‘under the sea’. The walls are decorated with elaborate aquamarine and teal-colored paint to give the diner an oceanic feel. Painted on these walls are pictures of fish and other marine life, and the lighting was composed of circular bulbs adorned with golden streamers to make them represent jellyfish floating along on an ocean blue. Even more extreme was the hoisted life-sized mannequin of a diver swimming with oxygen tank and all, suspended by thin wires as if it were deus ex machina , it was definitely a date-night restaurant waiting to drain the pockets of an unsuspecting sap if he dares to pay for a full course meal for two, appetizer, drink and desert.
We both sat across from each other scanning the menus. From time to time, I looked at her to see her face gently illuminated by the faux candle sitting in the middle of the table. It felt good to be out with a cute girl, but a creeping thought was whether or not we should go Dutch, because one, I really didn’t know her like that, and two, I didn’t want her to think that I was some punk that would just pay for her off the top. I decided that a happy medium would be to offer to pay for the dinner while suggesting that she pay the tip. That way, I would extend my hand in a chivalrous-like courtesy, while allowing her to exercise her new-age womanly right to independence.
When I go to these restaurants, my favorite dish is to order the whole fish. The fish is usually deep-fried and embellished with a chili-basil sauce. The sweetness of basil contrasted the spiciness of the peppers. Of course, the whole fish is usually the most expensive item on the menu, because its price dared to be defiant and read: MARKET. Not that I wouldn’t mind ordering a whole fish, but to do so with her is like a team effort. I wanted to put it out there, since I think that it would have created a bond between us, but at the same time, I didn’t want her to think I was ordering for her. As my thought process was churning, it was interrupted by a single robotic voice.
“Koos mey, how are you today? Would you layke to start with something to dwenk?”
I looked at Linh and she looked at me from behind her menu, almost as if we were playing peekaboo.
“Get wactha want, I got this round,” I said to her with the confidence that it wasn’t trickin’ if I had it.
“Okay…I’ll have a…Mint Mojito.”
“Okeyy, an you, sir? Would you layke something to dwenk?”
“Yeah, I’ll have a Long Island Iced Tea.”
As the lady left our table, she seemed to try hard to switch her hips, as she dragged her heels across the floor. Then I got a flashback of a lot of Asian people I knew who tended to drag their heels as they walked. I wondered why that was. Maybe, I thought, they had such strong calves that they couldn’t help it.
After a couple of sips of my drink, it hit me directly as I didn’t have much in my stomach. I was now feeling enthusiastic about the night and wanting to go balls out.
“So, have you ever had the whole Flounder before? It’s pretty good. You wanna get a whole flounder? We can share it.”
There was a brief silence between us. The thing about the word “meh” is that I am not even sure if it is a word. It’s more like an expression suggesting disinterest. For a moment, it was a bit of a buzz kill, my ego expecting cooperation and companionship. I let it go and turned my attention to the menu. Then she spoke.
“Umm they have curry puffs. I love those. Do you like them?”
The truth was that I really loved curry puffs, but since she took the whole experience down a notch with her lack of enthusiasm, I countered, letting her know that I didn’t give a crap if she wanted to continue on this “date.” I knew that she probably recognized that her utterance of that friggin’ annoying word turned me off and she was trying to make up for it. I let her take the lead in the conversation.
“I am so glad we came here. I haven’t eaten since early this afternoon, and sometimes I become a different person when I haven’t had food.”
“Kinda like the grumpy guy on the Snickers commercial before he gets a Snickers?”
“Yeah, like that.”
Okay, so the night was still salvageable. She was actually trying to explain why she was being a drag, and I followed up with it. In an essence, she just apologized to me and I accepted it.
We finally ordered the food. To start, we ordered a couple of curry puffs, which resembled a Pop-Tart filled with a curry chicken filling, and were golden brown and flaky. Next to it was a small relish dish made from pickles, red onions and vinegar to dip them in. We also ordered a couple of the Typhoon Soups– the Americanized version of Tom Yum, a lemongrass-based seafood soup with spicy broth, two shrimp, five calamari, two scallops, and four mussels. They definitely had a system, because I realized she had the exact same number of items in her soup as I did in mine. I would be wrong to call it seafood soup, since it didn’t contain any fish, just mollusks and bottom-feeders that, while tasty, not the most healthful. However, I did not come to the restaurant to initiate Linh into some sort of Halal food syndicate. I came here to wine, dine, and possibly bang her into a stupor.
“So I started writing this book,” Linh said in between slurping up her soup and taking a bite of her chicken patty.
“What kind of book?”
“It’s a crime/thriller/love story.”
“What’s it about?”
“It’s about a girl who belongs to a Vietnamese organized crime family, kinda like the Yakuza, and she is the daughter of the boss. And they hired a highly-trained bodyguard to drive her around, to you know, like school, shopping, etc.”
“That’s interesting. So where does the love story come in?”
“Well what happens is this body guard starts to fall in love with her, and he doesn’t show it directly, but he shows it in different ways, especially when he saves her life.”
“So does the girl end up falling for the guy?”
“Actually, that’s the thing. It’s gonna be one of those unrequited love stories. The girl is actually gonna fall for another guy who the bodyguard eventually finds out that he is from a rival crime family. Then in the end, the bodyguard is going to die saving her life…”
“And what about the guy she falls for? Is he going to end up killing her?”
“No, they are going to end up getting married and he is attempting to consolidate the wealth of the two crime families.”
“Hmm…have you decided on a title?”
“Yea, the Vietnamese Princess Bride.”
“Ahh, the Vietnamese Princess Bride, or VPB. Hey, wait a minute! Those are the initials for Vietnamese Playboys, this old school gang that wore the scorpion tattoos on their forearm?!”
“Girl, you betta be careful writing shit and coding it.”
“Well at least I would have done something I love before I die.”
“No guts, no glory, they say. I think that’s pretty cool that you like to write.”
“Yeah, I just haven’t even finished the first chapter yet, but I love to read stories all the time on my Kindle.”
“Well, we have a lot in common, ‘cause I like to write, too.”
“Really? What are you writing about?”
“A fictional story regarding the relationships between African Americans and Koreans in the inner city.”
“That’s interesting. Nobody’s done that before.”
“Yeah, it kind of focuses on the aspect of Koreans owning liquor stores in the inner city and how they relate—kinda how y’all own nail salons. Have you ever thought about it?”
“About how Blacks and Asians have a kind of interdependent ecosystem—we’re like the consumers and you guys are like the merchants—if it wasn’t for us, y’all wouldn’t eat,” I said in a southern-like accent. She giggled and nodded her head. I continued.
“In my book, the surroundings touch the Korean characters on a deeper level; one of the female characters becomes involved with one of the brothas from the inner city.”
“Is it a love story?”
“Not really, because I want to focus more on the cultural aspects to enlighten the reader so they won’t get distracted by sexual aspects of man and woman.”
When she asked me about my book, I felt like I was connecting with her, and that we had something in common, besides the fact that we both drink and like Thai food. Our entrees had already arrived. I ordered a tofu and vegetable Pad Ka-Prao, which Tara Thai had intentionally misspelled as Ka-Pow to draw the American eye. Despite semantics, the dish did have a spicy kick to it. If I could liken it to anything conventional, it would be like Chinese Pepper-steak stir-fry, but a vegetarian version. Linh ordered Penang curry. It had a burnt-sienna color broken by orange bubbles of oil that seemed to swirl around the dish in the curry sauce, mimicking the red-eye storm cloud of Jupiter, swirling around in its brown-orange atmosphere. She had ordered this dish with chicken. Little bamboo shoots floated on the river of spicy sauce like a series of bamboo rafts floating toward the horizon on a sunset river. The white mounts of jasmine rice steamed in bowls with a clean and aromatic smell.
At our table, we dined Asian style, and it made me feel closer to her. For me, and where I’m from, people didn’t usually order different foods and share with each other. To me, black folks were every-man-for-himself when it came to dining. I briefly recalled a moment in time when I was low on cash and didn’t have money for food. This black guy named Rohan would eat chicken in front of my face without offering me any. It wasn’t until I started to hang around with Asian people that I realized their “community pot” way of sharing food. They always asked me if I minded dining that way (sharing), but as we ate that night, we had a mutual understanding that we were dining with a sense of camaraderie. During this moment of total immersion, we moved about the table with our wrists, sampling and tasting different entrees and even daring to mix them.
“So what’s your deal? You know, like do you got a boyfriend or something?”
“Naw, well I don’t have a boyfriend or anything but I am divorced. I figure I would just tell you that from the jump…besides, you might actually know my ex-husband…”
“Oh really? What’s his name?”
“I don’t think I know him.”
“Well, you might see him on my FB page leaving me pet messages. He just doesn’t get it.”
“That it’s over.”
“Wow. So do you guys have kids?”
“We have two, but he isn’t around much anymore to see them. My sister takes care of them when I’m away.”
“Where is he now?”
“He’s stationed in Iraq.”
As soon as she said that her ex couldn’t get over her, two things jumped to my mind. They were like a push away from her and a pull toward her. I thought to myself, What type of thang-thang does she got that it’s making her ex refuse to let it go? That gave me a curious “pull” toward her. While contemplating this, my mind suddenly became overwhelmed by images of “Hamburger Hill” and “Rambo” with some random crazed marine with a scope on top of a rifle kicking down my door for dicking-down his ex. A part of me wondered if I should even try to get involved with this chick, but another part of me said, Well it’s not like she’s throwing it at you, so just enjoy the moment and see where it takes you.
“Well…that’s cool. I hope you guys work out things for your kids.”
“There is nothing to work out. He and I are over. Didn’t you hear me? He like cheated on me twice when he came back from one of his rotations, and I’m not playing his game of Mr. Righteous Serviceman anymore. The only reason why I didn’t divorce him was because I didn’t want to seem like an ice-cold bitch since he is serving in the military.”
After her bout of anger, I caught her in her first lie. She told me she was divorced. Now I started to doubt this chick. But before jumping to conclusions, I pried further.
“I thought you said you were already divorced. Is that for real or not?”
“Well, we’re practically divorced. We’ve been separated over a year and the paperwork is in process, but it’s hard to serve him the papers because of his military status. But I assure you, when he is done with his tour of duty, I will have him served.”
“That’s cool. I didn’t mean to stir up your shit.”
“I’m a little curious. Why did you decide to link up with me today anyway?” I asked her because I wanted to know if she saw my shirtless FB pics and thought I was sexy, or maybe she saw that I had similar acquaintances.
She candidly took a sip of her drink and then looked up and to the left, then returned her gaze to me, although averted a little; I could tell that she was getting kind of buzzed. In my mind, I thanked the waiters for making the drinks at a good strength, as I always believed in alcohol as a ‘truth’ serum.
“…at first when you messaged me, I was like who is this guy? But then I thought you were kinda funny when you started talking to me, and I noticed that we knew a lot of the same people. So I thought it was cool.”
Just as I thought, she felt comfortable about me because we knew the same people. I am glad my sense of humor still worked, and I am pretty sure if she went through my pics she would have seen the shirtless ones with my abs flexed. Hopefully I sealed the deal between sense of humor, sexiness, and connections. I know that the people she and I both knew were connected in the drug world, so she probably ‘dabbled’. I just had to mention Kayla to get it out of the way.
“That’s cool. Hey, listen, you may have seen my FB pics and me with a particular girl in a lot of them…in different places. That girl is not my girlfriend. We used to go together, but now we are just really good friends.”
“You don’t have to explain anything to me. It’s your life—your business.”
When Linh made that statement, my mind began to torment me again. The first positively, like thinking to myself about how women like guys that other women already like—so being in pictures with girls is a plus in that sense. I also felt good that she respected my privacy and my space, but of course, like a leaking roof, the negative feelings started to seep in, like standing storm water. I started to think, “If she doesn’t care who I’m with, I wonder who or what she could be hiding” in “her business” that she felt she wouldn’t have to explain to me, since I didn’t have to explain anything to her? The phrase Denzel Washington uttered in Training Day: “This is chess, not checkers!” rang in my head, as I considered that Linh could possibly be a roller. Though she did seem mature enough for a girl in her early twenties. I thought that having kids would give a woman consideration over the future and thus, less likely to take risks.
My ego was still suspicious that the girl that sat across from me sharing out of the same meal dishes was a ho. This suspiciousness came to mind whenever I thought I met a girl that was complete. It never fails… I told myself negatively, there’s always a friggin’ catch. Sitting there with a girl who was this attractive, I began to realize the tradeoff: she’s got two snotty-nosed kids, and a psychotic shell-shocked husband, and Heaven knows how many other guys are taking her out. FML, I always get those type of chicks, I said to myself.
( Continued… )
© 2014 All rights reserved. Book excerpt reprinted by permission of the author, Bobby Cenoura. Do not reproduce, copy or use without the author’s written permission. This excerpt is used for promotional purposes only.Meet the Author
Bobby Cenoura writes fact based fictional stories about contemporary Male and African American adaptations to post modern situations: “Male Angst”(a newly coined genre) and “Quasi Urban” (an offshoot of Urban Fiction/Street Literature) respectively.
Book smart + Street smart = Bobby’s brash yet logical explanation of Black people’s problems and Male Angst through the eyes of focused yet jaded main characters who dabble in contemporary and underground markets. Targets of his analysis include religion, race, family structure, the Afro-American self image and dating market conundrums. Bust your gut laughing or rub your chin in reflection.
Bobby was born and raised in the Washington D.C. Metropolitan area and has seen sweeping change in the area since the 1980s, which inspires a lions share of his literature. Other places that inspired him are California, Mexico and Peru. Bobby holds a double undergraduate degree in business and social sciences from the University of Maryland.
Purchase Male Angst: FML I Always Get “Those” Chicks
(Male Angst Series Book 1) by Bobby Cenoura