After running six miles on the treadmill Gail Chong turned off her Walkman and mopped her sweaty face and neck with a towel. After resting a little she pumped some iron in the campus gym. It was Saturday morning and the place was packed with students and she had to wait her turn at many of the machines. Throw in the fact that it was an unusually hot day in February and the air conditioning in the gym was broken. Brilliant! But she maintained her patience, being friendly and courteous to her fellow students, as Guns and Roses was blasted into her ears.
After completing a few sets of arm curls using dumbbell weights, she worked in with a guy at the fly machine. When she was done she wiped her perspiration off the seat and moved on. She noticed some guys checking her out. They'd stare but rarely approached her. Her male friends said it was because of her size and shape and the fact that she was intimidating. She didn't think she was intimidating. . .well, maybe sometimes. But she was glad she didn't have to worry about guys hitting on her all the time.
You see, Gail was big and tall for an Asian woman, and was glad she broke all the stereotypes associated with them. She wasn't submissive, obedient, shy, passive, good at massages, didn't believe in women doing all the work, didn't like Hello Kitty, and was horrible at math and the sciences. She wasn't a bad driver and definitely wasn't the model minority. Instead, she cursed aloud at terrible drivers (especially the Asian ones), played air guitar and air drums while driving, banged her head to metal behind the wheel, occasionally got Ds and Fs on her class work, got fired from a work-study job, liked wrestling guys (especially arm wrestling), and liked all men, not just white guys. In fact, she belonged to the Asian Student Union and facilitated a workshop on the whole Asian women dating white men issue.
Gail was nearly six feet tall and had a thick, muscular build (but she wasn't fat or chubby). She thought some of her best features were her huge, muscular thighs and calves. Some of the guys working out agreed, as they looked at them. She heard one young man whisper to his friend, "God, look how big her thighs and calves are. Never saw such a big Asian girl before." Her butt was big and curvy like a black woman's, another feature that stopped men dead in their tracks and made their jaws drop open. Her breasts were large, her lips big and full, her shoulder length black hair big and wavy like her favorite big hair rockers. Her skin complexion was brown.
She used a bunch of leg machines, ending with the leg press. Guns and Roses's "Civil War" blared from her Walkman's earphones. When she finished her last set her Scorpion's T-shirt and tight purple shorts were drenched in sweat. Her big butt cheeks bulged out a little from the shorts and she pulled the shorts down occasionally. Then she wiped her sweat off the machine's seat.
After taking a quick shower, she walked out to her bike in her flip flops and rode through the streets of Davis until she reached her house. She took off her helmet and went in, smelling fresh Chinese food.
Her cousin and roommate, Linda, was making fried rice. Compared to Gail, she was shorter and had pale skin, had an athletic physique, and had short dark hair.
"Smells delicious!" Gail said.
"Thanks. Irene and Steve should be back soon."
"Okay." Gail took out the chow fun she prepared last night and heated it up in the oven.
Moments later, a slender black woman and a stocky white man came in with bags in their hands. These were Gail and Linda's roommates, Irene and Steve.
Irene put her hands up in the air, laughing. "I know, I know, I'm lame and uncreative. I should've cooked something. It's a potluck and barbeque. But I opted for the easy way and bought something."
"It's okay," Gail said. "What'd you get?"
"Gumbo and fried chicken. I know, stereotypical. We're celebrating Chinese New Year, Black History Month, and your birthday all in one, remember?"
Gail beamed. "Yeah! February's an awesome month. What'd you get, Steve?"
"What else? Booze!" He put the bottles and cans into the fridge and a large cooler.
Irene handed Gail a pointed birthday hat that looked like a dunce cap and she put it on, strapping the rubber band under her chin. "There you go! Stunning!" Irene said.
Linda laughed. "Hey, don't you wanna get out of that Def Leppard shirt and purple shorts?"
"Why?" Gail asked. "I like them. Besides, it's hot outside."
"Speaking of music," Irene said, dashing off to the living room for a second to throw on a rap CD. Loud, vibrating bass heavy music shook and rattled the window frames and floor. She returned to the kitchen.
"Hey, 'Rene, isn't your brother coming later?" Linda asked.
Irene grinned mischievously. "Oh, yeah. . .he is, finally. He keeps flaking out on me. But he promised me he'd come today. . .he always asks about you, Gail. . ."
Gail was intrigued, turning to her. "What do you mean?"
Irene's maintained her naughty smile. "Marcus is always askin' if you're single. He didn't make any moves before 'cause you had a boyfriend. But I told him you're single now and I think my little brother's interested in you. Don't disappoint my baby brother now, girl!"
"Wait, he came here before, didn't he?" Gail asked, pushing her glasses up her nose.
"Yeah, for my birthday party, remember?"
Gail laughed. "That's right. The male stripper that burst out of that giant cake! Nice lap dance!"
"There you go."
"Your brother came to one of my hula dancing classes, too, right?
Irene nodded, chuckling. "He stared at your big thighs and calves under that grass skirt all afternoon. Said he enjoyed watching you dance barefoot."
Linda hooted and howled. "Baby!"
"He thought you were either Filipina, Hawaiian, or Japanese."
"Nope, one hundred percent Chinese, baby!" Gail replied. "What else did he say?" Her expression was curious.
"He asked if you dated black guys and I told him you were one of the most open-minded people I know. Although I remember you telling me in the past about your preference for Asian men."
"I've expanded my preferences since."
"So you're interested, I take it?"
"Well, I don't remember much about Marcus so let me refresh my memory later and see how it goes."
"You sure seem to remember him! Oh, the volleyball match!" Irene said, eyes wide open.
"When you and the other members of the Asian Student Union had that barbeque last summer and played volleyball in the sand. Me, Marcus, and a couple of his friends stopped by, remember?"
Gail thought a moment, nodding. "Talk about baking under the sun!"
"You guys chatted briefly and I recall him commenting on your tight purple shorts with your booty cheeks sticking out!"
Linda hooted and howled again, putting the fried rice in a large bowl.
"And him staring at your legs and enjoying watching you play barefoot."
Steve came in, scratching his head. "What's all this barefoot stuff about?"
Gail put on her ankle sweatbands and walked barefoot to the door after someone rang the doorbell. Her other cousins, Robert, Max, and Karen greeted and hugged her and came in with their dishes. Several minutes later, Gail's brother arrived with egg rolls, pot stickers, and chow mein.
He eyed her from head to toe, mouth gaped open. "Whoa! You've gotten more muscular!"
"Been hitting the gym a lot."
Irene came over, smiling. "So this is your little bro. Hi, I'm Irene." They shook hands.
"Yep," Gail said, towering over him. "I used to protect him from bullies at school. Remember that time we walked home from school and I beat up those three boys that were harassing you?"
Irene raised her eyebrows. "Wow! Impressive."
Her brother smiled. "She ain't lying. My big sister can fight."
The rap CD ended and someone threw on a Beasties Boys album. The windows rattled again as "You Gotta Fight for your Right to Party" started. Gail's cousin, Robert, tapped her pointed birthday hat, chuckling.
"Cute!" he said. "So are we gonna do the Dragon Boat or not?"
"Cool. I'll bring the registration forms when I see you in class."
"Me and Linda are coordinating another ASU barbeque and volleyball match. Want to play?"
"Second Saturday of next month."
"I think I'll be free. What other activities are happening?"
"Also in March we're going to volunteer at that Chinese senior center in Sacramento. There's another event at this Chinese church in town where we're going to help the seniors make scrapbooks."
Robert frowned. "Sorry, I think I'll pass on the old fogies."
The doorbell rang again and Gail opened it. Standing in the doorway was a young African American man, average build, with a close cropped afro. He wore big sunglasses, a Cowboys jersey, and baggy jeans.
"How you doin'?" he asked with a charming smile. "Well, well, well, it's the birthday girl, Gail."
"Yep. . .you're Marcus?"
"The one and only, the legendary."
She laughed and they shook hands.
He took a wrapped gift out of his pants pocket and handed it to her. "Happy birthday."
"Baby brother!" Irene said, giving him a big hug and a kiss. "Finally came after flaking out on me so many times!"
"Hey, I'm here, ain't I?"
Irene laughed, kissing him on the cheek again. "I miss you. How they treatin' you down in the Bay Area?"
"Okay. Can I get a beer?"
She chuckled. "Sure!" They went to the cooler sitting on the backyard's deck and she handed him a Corona. Steve was flipping burgers, hotdogs, and chicken wings, dressed in a tacky white chef's hat and apron. People were sitting at tables, on lounge chairs, and others sat inside in the living room. Some boogied to the Beastie Boy's "Brass Monkey." That led into "No Sleep Till Brooklyn." Two people were playing Frisbee in the small yard.
"What do you think of Gail?" Irene whispered.
"She seems cool," Marcus replied, drinking some beer. "She's still ripped."
"Go mingle with her," she encouraged.
"I will, I will. . .let your lil bro work his magic, you dig?"
Linda and Gail talked briefly in Linda's bedroom.
"So what do you think of Marcus?" Linda whispered.
Gail shrugged. "Seems like a nice guy. It's hard to say after having only a handful of conversations with him."
"You think he's good looking?"
She nodded. "Yeah. What do you think of him?"
"Not my type. Well, go socialize with him," Linda said optimistically.
Gail walked barefoot into the living room where her other cousins and friends, as well as some of Steve's and Irene's friends, chatted away and danced. Run DMC blared from the speakers. Steve strolled in, drinking beer and shaking his booty. People laughed.
Later, they played Charades in the living room. They divided themselves into groups and Marcus wound up on a team with Gail, Robert, and Linda. Gail's team sat on the floor, with her sitting very close to Marcus she could smell his cologne. He accidentally touched her bare feet several times but she didn't mind. A couple of times he intentionally brushed his hand against her bare, muscular thighs. His ring got entangled with one of her ankle sweatbands. Again, she didn't seem to notice. She smelled of Coppertone sunscreen and was turning him on. Gail didn't see his massive erection protruding from his jeans. But Linda did.
Gail 'acted out' the name of a movie for her teammates and Robert got the answer. When she had to use hand gestures to describe another film Marcus gave the wrong answer, cursing with a grin. Eventually, the other team won.
Gail smiled at Marcus. "You did good."
"Hey, you tried. Give yourself credit."
"Yeah. . .you play board games a lot?"
"Whenever we have parties here."
"Which is fairly often, I take it. According to my sister."
"Yeah, I guess you can say that. Partying and hanging out with friends is a great way to relieve stress and unwind from school. But I wouldn't call myself your typical partying college student."
Marcus drank his Corona. "How would you describe yourself then?" They were still sitting close to one another, mainly because the music was loud and they were trying to hear what the other was saying. Her foot touched him a few times, and her Coppertone still aroused him.
"Well, I don't drink a lot and I don't do drugs."
"Not even pot?"
"I've tried it once or twice but it's not my cup of tea."
He drank more beer, shooting her a flirtatious smile. "What is your cup of tea?"
"Weight lifting, working out, outdoor activities. I like keeping active."
He checked out her brawny arms, chest, and legs. "I can see that. You bodybuild?"
Irene came over with a camera and snapped a couple of pictures of them, winking and smiling. Gail smelled marijuana.
"Everyone's been encouraging me to enter competitions but I haven't. I've been so busy with school, the ASU, and other stuff."
"You should do it. You'd win the heavyweight class easily. Piece of cake."
She thought about it. "We'll see." Marcus asked a question but she couldn't hear it with the music cranked up. So she leaned in closer to him. "I'm sorry?"
"My sister says you like wrestling guys." His grin grew naughty. Her bare foot brushed against him again.
Gail started blushing and laughing.
He leaned closer to her and asked, "So the rumors are true then?"
She continued laughing.
Marcus curled his right hand, creating a mock microphone, putting it up to her mouth. "Miss Gail, Channel 5 news is dying to know: do you like wrestling guys?"
Her face was still red. "Uhh, no comment," she said, chuckling.
"I take that as a yes."
"Well, I am on the school wrestling team. I'll leave it at that."
He put the microphone up to his lips. "Okay, I'm satisfied. . .Irene says you never lost an arm wrestling match."
"Gee, she sure gossips a lot!"
He finished his Corona. "Let's see if you can remain undefeated. C'mon."
She followed him to a table in the backyard and they sat down. The music was turned down and people gathered around the table to watch. After locking hands, Linda counted to three and they started. Gail's brawny brown arm overpowered him, almost slamming his to the table's surface. But Marcus wasn't going to give up without a fight. He mustered all the strength he could and came back with a vengeance, pushing her arm to within inches of the table. Their hands remained clenched for a few minutes until she finally overwhelmed him and slammed his arm down. People started hooting and cheering.
Gail bowed sarcastically. "Thank you, thank you, thank you."
Next up was Robert, whom she easily beat. And then there was Steve, a more formidable opponent considering his stocky build. He, like Marcus put up a good resistance for a few minutes, their hands and arms sweaty. But in the end Gail came away victorious again.
She bowed once more, tapping her pointed birthday hat. "Birthday girl wins all!"
More cheering and applause. Marcus stirred up a ruckus, chanting, "Rematch! Rematch!" She capitulated and they sat down again, embracing their hands tightly. Irene counted to three and they were off. Irene snapped a shot of the battle with her camera. One would think Gail was exhausted, spent from all the wrestling but on the contrary, she still had a lot of energy. Surprisingly, she slammed Marcus's arm down within seconds.
More rowdy cheering followed.
Marcus took a deep breath, raising his eyebrows. "Girl, where'd you learn to do that?"
After working out at the gym, Gail went to the campus office of the ASU. Robert and some other members were crowded around a radio, listening carefully.
"What happened?" Gail asked him.
"An African American guy got the crap beat out of him by the LAPD."
She frowned. "Oh, shoot." She heard the newscaster say the name, "Rodney King."
"Let's grab a burrito and then study," Robert said, slinging on his backpack.
As they were munching on their burritos, Robert asked, "So have you talked to Irene's brother?"
She shook her head. "No, I've been really busy with school and coordinating all these ASU activities. He left a message on our house answering machine. I've been meaning to call him back."
"You like him?"
"I don't know. . .he's a nice guy. . .but I don't know." She laughed. "I feel kind of pressured by Irene, like I'm not supposed to disappoint her. I wonder how she'll react if I'm not interested in him."
"Just be honest, be yourself and go with your gut instinct."
She nodded. "We haven't even gone out yet. It's weird jumping the gun, you know?"
He drank some sofa. "Do you want to date him?"
She shrugged. "I don't know. . .again, I feel Irene breathing down my back, that I should just to please her. We're really close friends, I've known her a long time."
"Yeah, looks like you're in a tough spot."
"Uh-hmm. We'll see what happens. Have you ever dated a black girl before?"
He shook his head.
He shrugged. "Just never happened. I guess I'm attracted to Asian girls."
A month later, as she was running along a quiet trail she bumped into Marcus. He was dressed in a sweat suit, jogging with a dog. She wore a Guns and Roses shirt and tight blue shorts, Loverboy's "Working for the Weekend" blasting from her Walkman's headphones. She didn't even notice him, absorbed in the music. He waved at her and she turned off the Walkman, smiling at him and his Beagle
"Hey," she said. "How've you been?"
"Good. And yourself?"
"Doing okay." She knelt down in front of the dog, patting him gently. "Aw, he's so cute and adorable! What's his name?"
"Like from Star Wars?"
"Love that name. You hear me, Chewie? You're cute. Ooooh, that's a good boy!"
Chewie wagged his tail and rubbed his head against her calf affectionately. She patted his head again and said, "So do you jog here often?"
"No. I visited my grandma and some friends up in Sacramento and decided to come here and just chill out."
"And not visit your big sister? Shame on you! I'm gonna tell!" she said, laughing.
He put his finger to his lips. "Shhhhh!"
She continued laughing.
"Naw, I'm gonna visit her later. In fact, you wanna join us for lunch later? My treat."
She gave Chewie one final pat and stood up. "Nah, I better not. You guys need family bonding time. I do that all the time with my brother and cousins."
"Know what you mean, but it really wouldn't be a problem if you came. By the way, you and your brother look alike."
She beamed. "Yeah, lots of people have noticed the close family resemblance. You look like your sister a little."
"I do? Yuck!"
Gail laughed. She liked his sense of humor. It was something she noticed early on and thought it was fun sharing laughs with him. She patted Chewie again. The dog rubbed sniffed her shoes, rubbing his head against her legs.
"Aw, cute little boy!" she said.
"We should get together sometime."
She paused. "Sure. Sorry I didn't call back earlier. Was super busy."
"I understand. . .hey, wanna catch a movie?"
She hesitated. "Which one?"
"The Silence of the Lambs. That looks good."
"Yeah, it's gotten great reviews. . .okay. When do you want to go?"
"How about this Saturday?"
She thought a moment. "This weekend's not good."
"How about next Saturday?"
That night, she made some mix tapes for her Walkman. She grabbed a stack of her hard rock and metal records and recorded them onto cassettes. She had some compact discs too and recorded those as well. Afterwards she did some studying in her room. An hour later there was a knock on her door.