Low Riders

@theo

Baseball cap.

Sunglasses.

Oversized Linux T-shirt.

A pair of Dad’s basketball shorts.

Flip-flops.

“You look like some kind of K-pop star trying to blend in at a swap meet,” Ernie laughs, downloading beside me in my bedroom.

“Says the guy who went with a beach towel for DOSVID-19 compliance,” I reply, and turn from the full-length mirror, gesture at Ernie’s very big and very fruity Tommy Bahama.

“Hey, I’m fat. Fat people have absolutely no business going fundoshi. But we can get away with wearing a towel in the steam room while discussing insider trading secrets. I’m merely dressing accordingly.” Ernie nods at my getup. “So, are you staging an anti-#SheenLife protest or something?”

I’m dealing with crippling shyness and morbid self-doubt, actually. “I don’t, uh, dress down a lot.”

“What are you talking about? You’ve been dressed down since the Fundoshi Mandate first started.”

“Yeah, as Joey Martin, but never default.”

“Aw, is this another one of your cute little phobias?”

Absolutely. “No. I just don’t own any swim shorts.”

“And here I thought Janny Boy was poor.” Ernie smirks at my torso. “By the way, you look so Asian right now.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Besides having the prominent low-riders—” He gestures at my calves. “—T-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops is the official uniform of Asian dudes the world over.”

“And a whole lot of other people, too,” I point out.

“Yeah, but Asian guys are always bumming around Starbucks in easternwear. And they get zero shit for it. Like, if anyone else shows up wearing shorts and flip-flops, you’re wondering if it’s laundry day. But if an Asian dude does it, you’re like, oh—he’s just Asian.”

“One day—one day without the racism is all I ask, dude.”

“Your people have the unique superpower of looking completely presentable in shorts and flip-flops while anyone else would look under-dressed. I’m not being racist, I’m stating a fact.”

“Stating your fat, you mean.”

Ernie goes over to my desk, grabs my phone.

“Hey!” I yell, darting after him. “What are you doing?”

“Making a point.”

“Ernie—”

“Relax. I’m just doing an image search.” He taps something out, shows me the phone. The search results offer up a variety of Asians in coffee shop settings. They’re all sporting Ernie’s so-called easternwear, and are working diligently on their various Apple products.

“Yeah?” I say. “So what?”

Ernie does another search.

The second batch of images: bus stops featuring random collections of college students waiting for their rides. The white people are in skinny jeans, the black people in trainers. For the girls, it’s leggings across the board. The token Asian dude? You guessed it, he’s got on a T-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops. And a baseball cap.

Ernie searches yet again.

A KBBQ: so many tees, shorts, and flip-flops—

“So what?” I exclaim through clenched teeth. I take back my phone.

Ernie leans in close. “Embrace your heritage, Daiso.”

“Daiso’s Japanese, dumbass. My Asian side is Chinese-Vietnamese.”

“Whatevs. Are you ready to crash Bug Eyes’ birthday party?”

I return to the mirror, frowning. “I don’t think I’m going to go.”

“Why not?”

“I’ve got stuff to do.”

“We all have stuff to do. Partying is stuff we want to do.”

“I’m just not the party type.”

“But you’ve already accepted the invite, right?”

“Yeah.”

“And your parents have already talked to Eva’s parents?”

“Well, yeah.”

And you already told the Bugster you’d go.”

I did.

“If she finds out you ditched her just to hang out here in your bedroom all day, she’s going to think you’re not hard for her anymore.”

“I don’t think she cares about, er, that.”

“Hard-ons are very important to a girl her age. She’s just being cool about it. Fucking women.”

“It’s not that,” I say, half-truthfully. “I don’t go in swimming pools. The chlorine’s bad for your skin. And besides, I kind of want to go default. You know, it being Eva’s birthday and all.”

“Then go default.”

“I’m…embarrassed.”

Ernie rolls his eyes. “Then go as your little jungle alter ego.”

“I’m kind of over that.”

“Then just fucking…go.”

“I don’t know anyone there.”

“You know Eves. And me. And I’m sure Summer Breeze and Butt Crack will be present.”

“I have a Web site that’s due.”

“When?”

“Next week.” I bite my lip.

Ernie sighs. “Fine, loser. If that’s the way you want it, I’ll go all by myself and tell Bugsy you said blah. Swipe me to her place.”

I hold up my phone—

—and at the last second Ernie grabs me by the arm, pulls me into frame as my finger activates the “Send” button.

“Hey!” I yell.

“Thank me later,” Ernie coos.

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Jesse Gordon

Geek. Writer. Supreme overlord of the SUPERMEGANET pseudoverse. Author of THE OATMEAL MAN, DOOKIE, and other such wasteful nonsense.