Danny Nguyen was sitting in a black leather chair and looking at Dr. Stevens with sad eyes. He acknowledged him with a curt smile and a nod. But he wasn’t listening to him. Instead, he stared at the long, black hair that curled out from a zit under Dr. Steven’s lower lip. He hunched forward, his elbows resting on his knees, one arm extended, as though he was going to reach over and pull that black hair from Dr. Stevens’ face. He sighed and pressed his legs together. He needed to use the bathroom.
“Danny? Danny, did you hear me?” Dr. Stevens asked.
Danny checked the clock hanging from the wall. 4:30PM. Time to go. “No, I didn’t. Sorry, do you mind telling me again?”
“You’ve been diagnosed with clinical depression.”
“Many people go through depression. You can beat this. You can recover. Don’t worry about it, it’s not that terrible.”
But it seemed terrible. “Oh, I’m not upset…I just had a bowel movement,” Danny said, under his breath.
“Did you say something?”
“I said I’m always about improvement.”
“That’s good to hear,” Dr. Stevens said. “I’ll write you a prescription for Prozac.”
Danny crossed his legs, as he watched Dr. Stevens type on his computer. “Can you just email me that later? I’m in a hurry.”
“It’ll only take a few minutes. I’m almost done.”
“I got to go, Dr. Stevens.”
“I know you do, Danny. Just give me one more moment, and I’ll have you out of here.”
“That’s not what I meant.”
“What did you mean?” Dr. Stevens pressed a few buttons on his keyboard. The printer turned on and started printing out a copy of the prescriptions.
“I’m leaving now. Catch you later,” Danny said, and stood up from his chair. He grabbed the printed copy and walked out of the office. Then he turned around at the doorway and said, “Dr. Stevens.”
“You have something sticking on your face.”
Dr. Stevens touched his cheeks and rubbed his chin. “Did I get it off?”
Danny stared at the long, black hair jutting from Dr. Steven’s face, frowned, and said, “No, you didn’t. But don’t worry about it, it’s not that terrible.”
And off Danny ran, rushing down the hallway to the bathroom. When Danny opened the door to the stall, he farted and farted and farted. He dropped his pants to his ankles and plopped down on the toilet. He sighed with relief. He checked Twitter on his phone. Tomorrow was May 1st, which happened to be the first day of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. As a Vietnamese American, Danny knew he had an obligation to celebrate his roots. He decided he would do something each day to acknowledge the special month. He flushed the toilet.
The next afternoon—the first day of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month—Danny drove to the liquor store and bought a bottle of jack, traveled to the gas station and got a box of spirits, and then he went home and put on an episode of The Walking Dead. Glenn, the designated Asian American character in the show, was Danny’s hero. He felt seen and validated when he watched Glenn; even though, Glenn was Korean American, and not Vietnamese American. But at least he was Asian American. That was what mattered. When he watched an episode, he felt like he was recognizing heritage month.
Danny drank. He smoked. His Bushwick apartment had always reeked and now it reeked even more. The doorbell was ringing. He took a bong-rip and melted into the couch. The doorbell kept ringing. Danny made himself a second drink and then he opened the door.
Sarah was frowning. She walked past him, her shoulder bumping into his shoulder. She set down her purse and plopped down on the crumbling couch.
“Want a drink?” Danny asked, the glass in his hand feeling heavy, even though it was half-empty. He was buzzed and wanted to get drunker.
Sarah shook her head. “I’m tired,” she said, sinking back into the plush cushions. She stared straight ahead at the TV. Glenn was walking on the street with Maggie, their hands touching, their faces flushed.
Danny nodded to show he understood, but in reality, he wasn’t sure why he had invited Sarah over in the first place. They hadn’t hooked up for months, which didn’t matter too much to him, but the last time they hung out, Sarah had thrown up on him and his blue Uniqlo sweater. She had told him she still had feelings for him, but she was plastered, so Danny didn’t believe her. The brown and orange stains wouldn’t come out of the fabric, despite putting bleach in the laundry. She had bought him that sweater and he wore it constantly. But now, it was buried in the back of his storage closet, beneath a pile of books that he never had a chance to read.
He sat next to her, a bowl of buttered popcorn on his lap. He drank from his glass and turned the volume up. He coughed out loud when Maggie and Glenn were looking for condoms at a dilapidated convenience store.
Sarah laughed. “We’ve done that before, haven’t we?”
“It wasn’t all just sex, Sarah.”
“Wasn’t it though? And why are we watching The Walking Dead? This show is strange.”
Sarah rolled her eyes. “No, but seriously. Why are we watching this?”
“It’s Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. And for each day of this month, I’m doing something to acknowledge my background. Glenn is Asian American. So, I’m showing him my support by watching this show.”
“That’s actually really thoughtful, Danny. But isn’t Glenn, Korean American?”
“Steven Yeun who plays Glenn is Korean American.”
“Which would make Glenn, Korean American. You’re Vietnamese American.”
“He’s still Asian American. And yeah, I’m Vietnamese American. But Sarah, there are practically no Vietnamese American actors in Hollywood, or the silver screen. That’s why I have to root for anyone who kind of resembles me. Because there aren’t many of us to begin with.”
“Sorry, I was being insensitive.”
“You weren’t being insensitive. You were just being a little ignorant.”
“And you’re a little asshole. I hate when you treat me like I’m an oblivious, country white girl.”
“Well, you are from Alabama.”
“Alabama is not country… we’re progressive…sometimes.”
Danny finished his drink and set the bowl of popcorn on the coffee table. He liked to think that Maggie and Glenn fell in love because they had feelings for each other, had common interests together, had a spark burning brightly from pithy banter, and meaningful conversations. But they had also crossed paths during The Walking Dead, a zombie apocalypse. He tried not to think about that part too much. His phone buzzed with a notification.
Danny checked it. His ex-gf Martha had an IG account for her dog Reggie, and Reggie had just liked his latest post on Instagram, which was a photograph of Keanu Reeves wearing glasses. Danny clicked on her dog’s account and went through photographs of her and her dog. She looked happy.
“What you looking at?” Sarah asked.
“Tenable porn.” He put his phone away.
“No. I said tenable porn. What the fuck is tentacle porn?”
“It’s porn with tentacles in it. Dicks the size of tentacles. Why are you watching porn, anyhow?”
“Let’s change the subject.”
“Well, recently I read a Wikipedia article about double consciousness, and I had this epiphany that white people most likely act fake-nice to me, only because they don’t see me as a threat. But I am intimidating. I am taller than the average Asian male. I hold a white-belt in karate. I smoke cigarettes without filters. I listen to loud music on the train, in a crowd of other New Yorkers. I spit on the ground and don’t apologize for spitting. I walk around the brick patios of coffee shops in Williamsburg with a picket sign saying it’s ‘Asian Pacific American Heritage Month’, and I shout at rich fat toddlers who burp and don’t say excuse me.”
“It’s been a while since I’ve heard you mansplain. Did you smoke earlier?”
“Sorry, I guess I was going on a tangent. But yeah, I had sativa. Want some?”
“Maybe. I don’t want to get that high.”
“I’m not that high.”
“Your eyes look super small.”
“Wow. Thanks for the micro-aggression.”
“I’m fucking with you.”
Sarah huffed and punched him in the arm. “Asshole.”
Danny grinned and broke eye-contact with Sarah. He focused on the TV; right now, Glenn and Maggie were fighting zombies. Danny was tired. He yawned and tried to fight off his sleepiness, but eventually he sat back and closed his eyes.
He heard a soft voice say, “I still care about you.”
When Danny woke up in the middle of the night, he saw that Sarah was curled up on the couch and holding onto him. He needed to pee. He tried to slip away from her arms and legs, which made her wrap her body around him even more. Sarah grunted, eyes closed, nuzzling her head against Danny’s face. He sighed and gave up, and drifted back to sleep.
The next morning, Danny opened his eyes and saw Sarah staring at him, her arms crossed. “Everything okay?”
“No, everything is not okay. You pissed on yourself, Danny. And I was laying on top of you, which means, you pissed on me.”
Danny looked at his pants. There was a huge wet spot on his crotch. “Sarah, I’m so sorry.”
Sarah let out a bitter laugh and shook her head. “Thanks for your apology. But you’re pissing me off, Danny.”
“Don’t you mean I ‘pissed you off’. Like, didn’t it happen the night before, and not just now?”
Sarah glared at him.
“I should go.”
“Go where? You live here.”
“Right. This is awkward though. I’m going to head out and get some coffee. Would you like some?”
“I’d like some dry clothes, Danny.”
“Of course. Feel free to look in my room. I’ll be right back.”
Danny changed out of his pants and boxers and put on a new set of clothes. And then he left his apartment and rode his bike to the neighborhood coffee shop. When he stood in line at the coffee shop, Danny felt someone tap his shoulder. He turned around and his eyes grew bigger. Martha was standing behind him.
“Martha, hey. What are you doing here?”
Martha laughed. “I live in this neighborhood, Danny. That’s how we first met. At this coffee shop.”
“Are you sure? Jeez, I need to stop smoking so much weed. It’s affecting my memory.”
“You should try CBD. It doesn’t get you high, and it’s good for you. But yeah, so how are you doing?”
“I’m not sure.”
“What do you mean?”
“My doctor told me the other day that I have clinical depression.”
“Danny, everyone’s depressed. Some people are just better at hiding that they’re dead inside.”
“Do you have to be so morbid?”
“I’m a realist. I do hope you get better. Don’t take those medications, though. Big Pharma is problematic, like hell.”
“If I don’t take the medications, how am I supposed to recover and be happy?”
“No one is happy, Danny. Only the insane are.”
“If you say so.”
“Well, I got to go. Reggie needs to see the vet.”
“He liked my photo of Keanu Reeves. Tell him I said thank you.”
“Danny, I run Reggie’s IG. I was the one who liked your photo of Keanu Reeves. But I appreciate the thank you.”
Danny looked puzzled. “You don’t follow me on Instagram, but your dog does…I’m going to block Reggie’s account.”
“All right, bye Danny.” Martha flipped her long black hair back and marched away from him, her iced mocha spilling slightly. She walked out of the coffee shop, the door swinging shut.
She seems happy, thought Danny.
When Danny was walking up to his apartment complex, he saw Sarah standing on the balcony, wearing his sweatpants and his blue Uniqlo sweater. She waved at him and put out the cigarette she’d been smoking. She rolled up the sleeves on the Uniqlo sweater; sadly, it still had brown and orange stains. “You coming up?” she asked, leaning against the railing, her curly brown hair fluttering in the wind.
Danny nodded. “I’ll be right there.” He went inside of his apartment and walked out onto the balcony. The sun was shining down and a breeze streamed on by. EDM blasted from the downstairs unit, the melody was giddy and loud. Danny stood next to Sarah and rolled a spliff with tobacco, cheap weed, and thin white papers. He looked at Sarah, then looked at his Uniqlo sweater.
“Stop staring at my chest, perv,” Sarah said, lighting another cigarette. She exhaled smoke.
“You’re getting smoke all over my sweater, Sarah,” Danny said.
Danny stopped rolling the spliff and cleared his throat. “And you’ve already thrown up on my sweater. I don’t think you should be wearing it.”
“I bought you this sweater.”
“Give it back,” Danny said, his hand extending out.
“I’m not taking it off.”
“Because I’m not wearing anything under it.”
“Then go inside and change out of it.”
“Why did you put the sweater under a pile of books? What’s your deal? I thought you loved this sweater?”
Danny rubbed the wrinkles on his forehead. “I did love that sweater. But that was a long time ago.”
Sarah slapped Danny. And then she walked back inside. She took off the sweater and threw it on the floor, and stomped on it. “Fuck you, Danny. And fuck your sweater,” she said, walking out of the apartment.
He was watching Sarah, as she got into her Honda Civic and drove out of the neighborhood, when his stomach tightened. He lit the spliff and smoked. After a few hits, Danny went inside and picked up the sweater, walked down to the back of the apartment complex, and flung his sweater into the dumpster. The pain in his stomach softened.
Danny went to the local pharmacy and retrieved his prescription for Prozac. When he made it back home, he opened the plastic bottle of Prozac and took out two 100MG capsules. He poured himself a glass of water, setting it on his desk, as he got on his laptop and looked up the side effects of Prozac on the internet.
*Nausea, drowsiness, loss of appetite, sweating, dizziness, or anxiety may occur when taking this medication. Fast/irregular heartbeat, vision changes, fainting, or seizures, can also happen. Serious allergic reactions to this drug are quite seldom. See medical help immediately, if you notice symptoms of rash, swelling, or trouble breathing.
After he was done reading, Danny popped the capsules of Prozac into his mouth, drank some water, and swallowed. For lunch, he ate a bowl of pho and a spring roll, which was a typical weekend meal for him, but it was also to celebrate the second day of Asian Pacific American Heritage month. He smoked a joint on his balcony and dmed Reggie on Instagram: do you have CBD?
A minute passed. Danny was feeling lightheaded. He stubbed out the joint into an ashtray.
His phone buzzed.
Reggie: Sure do. You can have some. Just stop by my place.
Danny: Cool. Be there soon.
“Try this tincture. Open wide. Wider. There you go,” Martha said, putting CBD drops in Danny’s mouth. She patted him on the back and asked, “How’s it taste?” They were at Martha’s place.
In the living room, Danny hiccupped. “Delicious.” His stomach clenched. He hit his chest with his fist and burped loudly. He vomited on Martha’s Birkenstocks. A half-digested Prozac capsule spilled onto the carpet.
“What the fuck, Danny?” Martha said, jumping backwards, her hands raised up in disgust. She looked down at her Birkenstocks and screamed. “Goddamnit, you ruined them.” She pointed at her Birkenstocks and glared at Danny. “These sandals cost $90. 90. Fucking. Dollars.”
“Martha, I’m so sorry. Shit, now I know what Sarah feels like.”
“Sarah? Sarah Garbner?” Martha slid out of her Birkenstocks and cleaned her feet with a paper towel. She looked angry, rightfully so.
“Yeah. You know her?”
“We went to middle school together. What does Sarah have to do with anything?”
“Well, she threw up on my Uniglo sweater months ago. And now, I’ve just thrown up. I feel I can relate to her now.”
“Danny, how do you think that makes me feel? Would you want me to talk about the guys I’ve been fucking?”
“Shit, I guess I wasn’t thinking about your feelings. And just to be clear, Sarah and I aren’t fucking. At least not anymore.”
“Can you think about anyone other than yourself? Put yourself in my shoes.”
“I’d rather not.”
“Well, your shoes are covered in vomit.”
Martha stared at him, then looked down at her shoes. Her hands were trembling but she didn’t say anything. She slipped out of her shoes, tossing them to the side, and walked out of the living room.
Danny stood with his hands stuffed in his pockets. He crouched down to his haunches and looked at the shoes, feeling awkward and uncomfortable and downtrodden. In the kitchen, he grabbed a paper towel from the countertop, and then turned on the cold water in the sink. He felt the paper towel growing wet and damp. Then, he wiped the vomit off of the shoes with the wet paper towel. He cleaned the shoes from toe to heel, rubbing back and forth until everything was spotless. But Danny could still smell the vomit burning his nostrils, filling him up, settling.
Andrew Tran is a writer from Virginia. @AndyT187
Damien Cephus (29) is a Washington, DC based artist who produces work in a variety of mediums. Traditionally and digitally trained the emerging artist frequently posts to his Instagram page. Influenced by cartoons, music and films he hopes to blend the bright colors of fictional landscapes and grounded topics, such as depression, isolation, and the pursuit of happiness.
Follow the artist Instagram: @Cephgawd