I had a feeling Jeff was the one. He was smart, made me laugh, and didn’t mind that I hadn’t seen The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Unlike the other guys I met on OkCupid, he called me after I let him feel me up in the abandoned Sears parking lot and asked me to dinner.
It wasn’t anything special – Chili’s, I think. At 21, my palate was still coming into its own. I stuck to things I knew — mozzarella sticks, chicken tenders, quesadillas. When Jeff mentioned splitting the Southwest eggrolls, I felt sweat begin to accumulate.
My eyes scanned the description: black beans, corn, and jalapeños were all things I hadn’t tried before, and I didn’t think our first date was a good time to experiment.
“I don’t know,” I said, “I’m not really into spicy food.”
“C’mon,” he smiled, “you’ll like them. Trust me.”
The black beans seemed to isolate themselves from the rest of the eggroll, simply flattening against my tongue and cheeks, but never dissolving, while the jalapeños made my eyes water. I swallowed one, and let Jeff have the rest — he didn’t seem to mind.
One October Sunday, Jeff’s mother scoffed when I admitted to buying my sauce. She told him to cancel our dinner reservations and placed an apron around my waist. We sipped cheap merlot and laughed as the meatballs simmered, never once checking the time.
As we lay in bed one evening, Jeff turned to me and kissed me deeply. This is it, I thought. He’s going to ask me to live with him.
“So, I have a question to ask you.”
“Okay,” I said, trying to sound calm.
“What are, like, your fantasies?”
“What do you mean?” I asked half-confused, half-disappointed.
“C’mon, you know!” he laughed.
“Like, my dream job? I don’t know — I guess I’d like to get my book pub—”
“No, no,” he laughed harder, “like what are your sexual fantasies?”
“I don’t know. Why don’t you tell me yours?”
Jeff sat up excitedly, crossing his legs beneath him.
“Okay, so have you ever seen Kill Bill?”
“No,” I lied, knowing exactly which fantasy Jeff wanted me to fulfill.
“Well there’s this girl, Gogo. She’s like a super badass who tries to kill Uma Thurman with this ball on a chain.”
“You want me to try to kill you with a ball and chain?” I laughed. “Extreme, don’t you think?”
“No,” he said, getting more serious. “She’s wearing this Catholic school girl outfit. I think it’s really sexy, and I think it would be hot if you, you know…”
“What does she look like?” I asked.
“She’s got this blue blazer and plaid mini-skirt and—”
“No, not the uniform. What does she look like?”
“I guess she kind of looks like,” he paused, knowing he’d been caught.
“Like you,” he said. “You know…Asian.”
Jeff got up from the bed and walked over to the closet. After opening the door, he knelt on the floor and crawled inside. A Rangers duffel bag, mismatched pairs of shoes, and little league trophies were tossed into a pile until he emerged with a black trash bag and placed it on the bed.
The skirt of the Catholic school girl uniform had a frayed hem — I couldn’t tell if it was because the outfit had been worn or because it had been purchased from a Halloween costume store. Also inside was a kimono, a paper fan, and a pair of pink Chinese slippers — the kind every girl between the ages of 9 and 17 wore in 1999.
I’d met guys like Jeff at bars who’d remark, “that’s hot,” after I told them I was Korean. Some would approach me as I waited for my triple grande vanilla latte, look me up and down, and almost whisper, “I love Oriental women.” And then, there were the occasional streetwalkers who’d peel their eyes back and coo, “You love me long time?”
I usually flipped these men the bird, advised them to seek medical treatment for yellow fever, or turned the volume up on my iPod while increasing my pace. But I wasn’t in a bar or on the street — I was in the bed of a man I’d come to love.
“So,” Jeff smiled sheepishly, “you feeling adventurous?”
“No,” I said firmer than I had intended.
“That’s okay,” he said. “Maybe another time?”
“I don’t think so,” I spat, gathering my clothes from the foot of the bed. “You know what my fantasy is?”
“Tell me,” he said, attempting to wrap his arms around my waist.
I wanted to tell Jeff he was my fantasy — him loving the me I finally had the courage to let out. The me I hadn’t shown anyone in a long time. The me I thought was gone.
“It’s not having to be your Asian fuck toy.”
As I stormed out of his bedroom, down the stairs, and to my car, I wiped tears from my eyes.
Jeff wasn’t the first white guy with a fetish for Asian women I’d met, just the first I’d fallen in love with. He also wasn’t the first guy who’d asked me to sport the tartan miniskirt and white button-down that was a size too small. But he was going to be the last.
About Lauren J Sharkey
Lauren J. Sharkey is a Korean American adoptee, writer, and editor from Long Island, NY. Her debut novel, INCONVENIENT DAUGHTER, is forthcoming in 2020, and her creative nonfiction has appeared in Dear Adoption, and Blind Faith Books’ I AM STRENGTH collection.