I Want to See You Smile

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Every weekday was the same for Derek. He would attend his classes at Cal State Fullerton, hang out with friends, and return home for the night. It seemed to be such a normal routine for the typical college student. But on a Monday afternoon, during the cool and serene month of April, the breaking of the cycle would be based on a crucial decision not only on his part, but on someone else’s as well.

As his final class of the day ended, Derek couldn’t spend time with his friends for the remainder of the day. The nineteen-year-old college student concentrated on two exams that he had to take on Thursday. He didn’t want to take any chances, since he failed the last Anthropology exam just a couple of weeks ago. Psychology and Trigonometry would become his primary focus for the next three days, and nothing would hold him back.

After departing from the campus, Derek situated himself near the bus stop on State College Boulevard. The descending sun indicated a rather late afternoon. The cloudless blue sky had been partially obscured by a thin orange haze that revealed its undying presence all day. A light breeze had arrived, making the leaves of palm trees achieve a rhythmic miniature dance in the slow-moving air. The temperature still remained cool for the Mediterranean-like springtime. It didn’t affect Derek at all: he felt comfortable in his brown cargo shorts and dark green t-shirt. He kept his shaggy brown hair untouched. He lived in Southern California for most of his life, and he knew how to adjust to the diverse California weather.

He got on the next bus that was scheduled to arrive. It moved away from Cal State Fullerton as it headed south. It didn’t take long for the bus to turn left on Chapman Avenue, towards Derek’s apartment.

The young man ignored the other passengers, which consisted mostly of working-class individuals and several other college students. He pulled out his Psychology textbook from his backpack and skimmed through a few paragraphs concerning adolescence. He immersed himself into the pages that held some of the most significant information for Thursday’s exam. He didn’t even pay attention to the passengers from the next few bus stops that entered the public vehicle. The textbook became a permanent location for his eyesight. The small talk between the other passengers proved meaningless to his ears. He thought of listening to a soft rock song on his iPod, but the sound of a familiar human voice interrupted his concentration.

“Feeling determined, are you?”

Derek looked up to see a Vietnamese-American man who he always recognized.

He smiled and said, “Hey, Trevor, how’s it goin’?”

Trevor, who sat on the opposite side of the bus facing Derek’s direction, was a neighbor in the apartment where Derek lived. On occasion, the two of them had taken the same route ever since the college student started attending Cal State Fullerton since last August. And they had the same reason why they didn’t take their own cars: saving gas money due to stressful times. Only Trevor had enough money to decide when he should take his car to work (and today wasn’t one of those times). His workplace was located on Chapman Avenue. As the supervisor of a local tavern, the thirty-eight-year-old man appeared handsome with his long black hair, which he grew at shoulder-length (one of those hairstyles popular in the East Asian media). Today, he wore black denim jeans and a black t-shirt. It made him look more charismatic that way, at least according to Derek.

The young man had a preference for other males, and Trevor caught his attention since his relocation. One look at the Asian man, and Derek found himself with a secret crush. There would be weekends where Derek stayed up until midnight, masturbating to the rhythmic sounds of techno (or even dubstep) as he imagined himself and Trevor alone and naked. But he did fight back against temptation: he concentrated on his studies as well, and he did well in the first and second semesters.

“I’m assuming that you’ve got a huge test next week.”

Derek replied, “Yeah, you’re right. I’ve got two of them on Thursday. I got to spend the weekdays with nothing but my brain and my textbooks.”

“You should make sure to hide your vodka as well.”

“I don’t drink.”

“I know. It was a joke.”

“Ah, sorry about that. I’m just a little nervous right now.”

Trevor’s frown didn’t change. “Maybe it’s best I leave you alone.”

Derek nodded and looked back down at his textbook to pick up where he left off. But this time, his concentration gained a little snag. He looked up from the pages containing scientific facts and examined the look on Trevor’s face. The Vietnamese man gazed out the window, focusing on the trees, buildings, and pedestrians that flew right past them. The fading luminosity of the setting sun constantly expired in brief but continuous moments as it had descended behind various trees and rooftops that could conceal its entire appearance. Something bothered Derek about Trevor’s solemn glance.

“Did you have a bad day or something?”

Trevor Taksim Escort didn’t move. “What makes you say that?”

“You look like you’re business is closing down. Is it?”

Trevor shook his head. “No, it’s not. But you’re right. I did have a bad day. I had to deal with some annoying barflies all day. That’s all.”

“I see.”

Derek didn’t buy it, however. He tried to look back down at his textbook, but he couldn’t stop looking at Trevor. There was something else that crept into those somber eyes, something much more disheartening.

Derek cleared his throat and asked, “Are you sure that’s all?”

Trevor finally gazed at the college student. “You don’t believe me?’

Derek had to be more honest. “It’s just that I haven’t seen you look very happy whenever we take the bus together. I find it hard to believe that you’d be dealing with lots of bad customers on a daily basis.”

“That’s what happens when you work at a bar. When you chat with people who ease their troubles by spending their money of hard liquor, you become a part of the sickening environment.”

“If it’s really that bothersome, then you could at least quit and find another job.”

“I can’t do that, Derek. This tavern is still a part of my life. Not only do I know how it works, but I’m one of the very few people who can handle the stress and depression when serving whores and jackasses. I don’t think I’m the kind of guy who would work at a gas station, or worse, a daycare center.”

“At least it’ll be different. I mean, you won’t be dealing with miserable people all day.”

Trevor still had the same frown on his face. “Don’t worry about that. Like I said, I can handle it. I have to.”

Derek raised his eyebrows. “What do you mean ‘have to’?”

Trevor closed his eyes. “Don’t worry about it.”

Now, Derek acquired his potential concern over his neighbor. As soon as he moved in to the apartment building, Derek introduced himself to the Vietnamese neighbor since they lived fairly close to each other. Despite the young man’s secret attraction, they held only scattered bouts of small talk at first. Ever since February, however, they began to know a little more about each other once they took the bus together. Ever since their small talk progressed towards casual conversation, Derek began to notice a pessimistic nature about the older man. He never smiled, and he never had anything positive to say about the apartment he lived in or the work he was involved in. Derek had this feeling that something tormented Trevor from the inside.

The bus stopped right near the apartment building. Only Derek and Trevor exited the vehicle. Once the doors closed and the bus drove away, the two men walked together towards home.

Derek asked, “You know, you don’t have to handle stuff like this.”

Trevor’s voice grew aggravated. “I said don’t worry about it. Just leave it alone. I can take care of myself fine.”

Derek didn’t feel convinced. He forced himself to give a response, “Okay. I’m sorry I bothered you.”

As they reached the apartment building, they separated without saying another word. Both of them lived on the second floor. Derek entered his residence in silence. He had lived with a roommate, but the latter had plans for the entire night. Derek was all by himself.

He placed his backpack and his Psychology textbook on the dining room table. He looked out the window, and he could see that the sky received a dark bluish hue that was still tainted by the orange haze. The setting sun still managed to reflect its most gentle rays on the wooden dining room table, rendering the lamps still useless at this time. Derek wasted no time as he opened up his textbook and pulled out one of his notebooks from his backpack. He took his time preparing to study for Thursday’s two exams. He began to immerse himself in the intricate scientific details printed on paper.

For the next few minutes, things seemed to run as smooth as it can be. But as he took notes on his notebook, his absorption in newfound knowledge struck a few barricades that interrupted its continuation. The image of Trevor appearing unhappy, downtrodden by an unidentified force, began to settle in Derek’s mind. He tried to focus on what he wrote, but the image in his head became clearer and unavoidable. He put his pencil down and closed his eyes. Something bothered him, and he thought he knew why.

Trevor never smiled. He never looked comfortable in his own surroundings. If compared to a staggered old miser, Trevor would quite possibly win the gold metal for outstanding pessimism. He never acted like an old man, but he also never acted like he would at least try to look satisfied about anything. Derek shook his head and looked down at his textbook. But the mental disruption didn’t cease. He tapped his fingers on the table for several seconds. He took a deep breath as he came to a realization. This became something more than just a sensuous fantasy. He did want to care about his neighbor after all. The two of them never declared themselves Taksim Escort Bayan as true friends, but they at least acknowledged each other’s existence. Derek didn’t want to acknowledge his surreptitious infatuation, since he still didn’t determine Trevor’s orientation just yet. They did share similar interests, such as watching hockey and listening to Pearl Jam and Staind, though they seldom joined each other’s company. So it seemed they were friends, but it didn’t appear to be a normal friendship.

After trying to concentrate on his studies once more, Derek couldn’t help himself. He felt the urge to unravel a mystery in the building. The fact that Trevor never even gave a smile became a bothersome statistic. Derek closed his textbook and stood up from his chair. He wanted to know more about Trevor’s attitude toward life. Psychology and Trigonometry would have to wait. Besides, the two exams would be on Thursday. There would be plenty of time to study tomorrow, and the day after that.

He wanted to visit Trevor in his own apartment, but he needed to find a good reason why. He didn’t want to be dishonest, but he didn’t want to just barge in on Trevor’s residence, either. Derek scratched his head and paced back and forth in the living room. He could only think of a lie. It didn’t take long for him to make up a story. He would pretend that he’s writing a Career Counseling essay for extra credit. He would ask Trevor a few questions about his job and his past history. Without even a speck of hesitation, Derek grabbed his pencil and notebook, left his apartment, and locked the door behind him.

He took deep breaths as he walked across the hallway and stopped in front of Trevor’s front door. He knocked three times and waited. He closed his eyes for several seconds. He couldn’t believe he was doing this. He didn’t want to believe that he would intrude on Trevor’s space just now, but he also didn’t want to believe that he wouldn’t discover perhaps a deep dark secret that no one would think exists in the building.

The door opened, and Trevor revealed himself at the other side of the entrance, leaving the door partially open. He wore the same black apparel as from on the bus. Derek could hear classical music played at a low volume.

“Hey, Trevor.”

“Hello, Derek, what’s up?”

Derek fought against the anxiety in his voice. “I have this assignment due on Wednesday. It’s for Career Counseling, and I’m supposed to interview someone who has a job. I was wondering if you’d be interested in answering a few questions.”

At first, Trevor looked suspicious. But then, he asked, “These questions will only be about my time at the tavern?”

Derek nodded. “Yeah, that’s right. And nothing else. Do you mind?”

“How long will it take?”

“About twenty to twenty-five minutes.”

After a brief moment of silence, the door was now entirely open. Trevor brought him in and said, “Why don’t you make yourself comfortable?”

Derek examined the apartment. It looked normal just like every other apartment building in Southern California: white walls, clean furniture, and one large window in the living room. A large boombox with a blue and black surface stood in the middle of a bookshelf. It played a classical composition that Derek couldn’t recognize right away.

“So what’s playing? Mozart? Mendelssohn?”

Trevor sat on his sofa. “You’re pretty close. It’s Brahms’s German Requiem.”

Derek scratched his head. The music didn’t sound dark or somber at all, nothing like Mozart’s own Requiem. Brahms’s composition held a major key, with a few uplifting melodies. “It doesn’t even sound like a requiem. It’s supposed to be a time for mourning, right?”

“Well, this one has more of a positive message to it. I listen to it plenty of times whenever I come back home from work.”

So there indeed was something that would please the Vietnamese man.

Derek complimented the choral music, to which Trevor replied, “Thanks. It’s nice to know that there’s someone else in this building who appreciates this Requiem as much as me.”

Derek opened up his notebook as he sat down on the other side of the sofa. “So, just like I said, this’ll take about twenty minutes or so.”

Trevor went to turn off the boombox before sitting back down again. “Don’t rush it. I don’t have anything to do for the rest of the night, anyway.”

“Okay, then.”

Derek continued with his dishonesty as he interviewed Trevor about his current occupation. For the first five minutes, he gave basic questions about place of origin. The young man already knew that Trevor had been born and raised in Southern California, and that he lived in the city of Fullerton for most of his life. This Derek had known for a long time, but it was now time for him to ask some interesting questions about working at the tavern.

“When did you decide to work as a bartender?”

“This may sound a bit absurd, but I had a natural talent for serving liquor. It took me awhile to learn more about the business, of course, but I managed Escort Taksim to become an expert.”

The tavern didn’t exist as a cosmopolitan setting. It was more of an ordinary saloon with a billiards table, a CD jukebox, a poker table, and an HD TV for sports broadcasting. It didn’t lack refinement, but it did have a deficiency of blissful ambiance due to the many discontented barflies who visited the place.

Derek asked, “Did you have other career options other than being the manager of a tavern?”

Trevor’s blank expression returned. “I don’t think I did.”

Derek grew curious about this particular question. “You mean you never wanted to be something else?”

“That sounds about right.”

“That doesn’t even sound right. Didn’t you ever want to be something like a musician or a teacher?’

“Next question, please.”

“Come on, Trevor. You can trust me. I’m your friend, and your neighbor. You can tell me anything. It won’t hurt, I can assure you that.”

Trevor sighed. “I remember that I wanted to be a filmmaker.”

“When was this?”

“I just turned thirteen when I wanted to be a film director. I planned on saving money so I could buy my own camera.”

“I’m hoping that it worked out.”

“Of course, it didn’t. I didn’t even have enough money to buy one.”

“But you did work later on, didn’t you? You still had enough time to make your first film.”

“Well, I didn’t.”

“Why not?”

Trevor’s eyes slowly looked down at the floor. “I lost my interest.”

“And that’s it? You just didn’t want to be a filmmaker anymore?”

“That’s right.”

“Come on. There’s gotta be a better reason than that. I’m sure your parents would be disappointed if they found out you didn’t follow your dreams.”

Trevor stayed silent after that remark.

Derek grew a little nervous. “Your parents did know about it, didn’t they?”

“Yes, they did.”

“And what happened?”

“They told me to forget about it.”

“But why?”

“You don’t want to know about it.”

“Yes, I do.”

“Is it really that important for extra credit?”

“Let’s forget about my homework for a second. I want to know why they told you to forget about it.”

“So now it’s an interrogation?”

Derek tried to stay calm. “I’m not an enemy, Trevor. I’m your neighbor, your friend.”

“So it’s true? You really do think we’re more than just neighbors?”

Derek almost mistook that statement for something more intimate, but he moved on. “Of course, I do. We have a lot of things in common. And one of them is that we like to look out for each other. You know why? It’s because we care about each other.”

Trevor looked as if he was almost taken aback by what the college student had just said. “Do you honestly believe that?”

Derek nodded. “Yes, I do.”

“Then what I’m about to tell you should be kept secret. This is only between you and me.”

“You mean you never told anyone about this?”

“Of course, I haven’t.”

“Is it that serious?”

“It depends.”

Derek straightened up as Trevor took a deep breath.

“My mother and father didn’t want me to become a filmmaker. They urged me to follow a different career. They wanted me to become a doctor. I was still very young, so I needed time to discover my true calling. But they didn’t believe in such a prolonged vacancy. You see, we didn’t live with a satisfying income. We barely had enough money to pay the rent. They knew that becoming a filmmaker would be a huge risk for anyone. Being someone with a more respectable reputation would be the right route for me. At least that’s what my parents thought. As a teenager, I had to deal with their aggressive lectures on why being a doctor would benefit me in the future. Of course, I refused to be a victim of their hostility. I wanted them to give back my freedom of expression. My passion for the arts would lead to their demise.

“When I was fourteen, I went to the park on a Saturday afternoon. I didn’t tell my parents that I would be bringing my video camera. In fact, I didn’t even tell them that I would be at the park. I was an adolescent. I didn’t want them to bother me. I didn’t want them to infect my infatuation with their pessimistic influence. I wanted to film the trees and the birds. You might think it’s silly, but I didn’t. I didn’t care about the simplicity of it. I just wanted to capture the visual grandeur of our natural world on camera. That time at the park gave me solace in the midst of verbal hostility. But it didn’t last long. I would regret my decision to keep this information from my parents. They grew worried about me when they discovered that I wasn’t home all day. I didn’t even give them a note. They called my friends on the phone, and none of them knew where I was. So my mother and father went out and looked for me.”

Trevor gave himself pause for a few seconds before continuing on.

“They must have made a bad left turn or something. Their car had collided with a cargo van when passing through an intersection. My mother died on impact, but my father would spend the next few weeks in the hospital before he died as well. Whenever I visited him, I could see that disappointed look on his face. It was horrifying. That solemn expression made it clear to me that I became a complete failure.

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