#42: Asian Girls, by Paul Florez

My first year as an MFA student at The New School is coming to an end. By this time next month I’ll already have turned in my final paper for my literary seminar, dropped the extra seven pounds I gained during the Polar Vortex phenomenon, and bid adieu to classrooms with awful florescent lighting for summer shares on the sunny gay haven known as Fire Island (Note: I haven’t been formally invited to a share yet, but the devil never needed an invite to paradise). 

Dear reader, it’s been a long year. So long that I am violating the fourth wall of this article and reminding you of some pretty damn awkward moments: the first time I met with my professor and the wire from my adult braces popped out, scratching my mouth and causing me to droll all over myself. Or the time I chased after an underclassman down the hall of the main building, with my Calvin Klein underwear exposed, and threatening to write an expose on all gender bathrooms.

As of this writing, I wanted to believe that all the awkwardness I’ve endured this year was long behind me and that as I gear up for the final weeks of the semester, I can go out on a high note: plenty of new friends, big creative leaps with my writing, and respect from my professors.

Boy, was I wrong.

The other day, I was waiting for my friend Amy at the entrance to the L train on 14th street and 2nd Avenue. We were attending the Second Annual H.I.P Lit Golden Book Awards over at the Pouring Ribbon on Avenue B. I was particularly excited because a book ceremony is always the perfect occasion to showcase your quirky fashion, especially if you’re a writer. If you can look like you’re from the 1920s, people will automatically believe you have a creative yet unpredictable personality.

I was dressed to the nine. Gone were my snap back hats and high-tops I wear everyday to class, and in their place were brand new wingtip shoes and suspenders. If you’re a male writer in NYC and want people to take you seriously—wear suspenders.

Amy was running late, as always, and I thought as a clever joke I’d snap photos of other Asian girls coming out of the subway, and tell her I thought each one of them was her. I envisioned showing her twenty photos of other Asian girls while playfully scolding her for keeping me waiting next to the crazy homeless woman who had a sign that read, “Starving model.”

I stood at the subway entrance, my new blue iPhone C a stark contrast to the gray sky looming over the Lower East Side, and coyly began taking photos of all the Japanese girls exiting the L train. It turns out 14th street and 2nd avenue is a popular spot for hip Asian women with asymmetrical bobs and J Crew dresses because within minutes I had a dozen photos.

Suddenly, I got a tap on my shoulder. I envisioned Amy’s big smile and her asking, “What the heck are you doing?” But as I turned around I came upon the terrified look of my fiction professor.

I didn’t say hi. Instead my brand new phone, naked without its cover, fell onto the pavement. I reached down to get it, strategically avoiding eye contact with my teacher. Understand, this professor is my hero and here we were, him with a stylish messenger bag that undoubtedly was housing his next great manuscript, and me on my knees with a dozen photos of Asian girls on my phone. The universe can be a cruel stage at times.

I took a moment to mumble a barley audible sentence, but my professor just nodded, his headphones still secured in his ears, and he walked away. I awkwardly waved. “My phone’s okay,” I said. He never asked.

Sadly, this humiliating scenario has become an all too familiar story especially to Amy, who is my best friend. When Amy arrived minutes later I explained the story to her. She just shook her head, laughed and said, “He must think you’re crazy.”

Very true, Amy. Very true. And at the beginning of the year this situation may have bothered me so much that I would’ve written an article about it. Yet now, as I gear up for my second year I take the higher road and…oh, wait.

I guess the more things change, the more they stay the same.


Paul Florez is currently receiving his MFA in fiction at The New School. He is a contributor for the Huffington Post and his work has also appeared in Slice MagazineQueerty, and The Advocate. You can follow his misadventures over on twitter @mrpaulflorez.