Edward Lee's work has appeared in Transcendent Visions. He has taken writing courses at NYU-SPS. He lives in New York City with his family and two cats.
Big Bang Blonde
She was a short, blonde girl with big eyes and small lips that had a secret thing for Asian guys. She lived with her parents in Korea for the first twelve years of her life, her father was a diplomat, and she just grew accustomed to the features of the people around her. Her family moved over to the states, just in time for puberty, and she dated a few guys in high school and college, tall and white, but she secretly wanted a boy named Hak Kwon to approach her all through high school, and there was another Asian guy in college, but each one never did approach her. Asian guys never made advances towards her, even though she would try to encourage them; so, she secretly watched Korean dramas and K-pop videos swooning over Kim Su Hyun and Big Bang. She never told any of her white friends about her thing for Asian guys or pop culture, and they would never have guessed it. It struck Rachel’s friends as odd that she was so picky with men, letting the attentions of well-to-do, good looking men go unnoticed, but they just thought she was a snob that thought no one was good enough for her.
Rachel was a chief technology officer at a start-up company that was trying to make breakthroughs in customizing websites to their visitors’ preferences, and she worked with computer science engineers mostly from Washington State University. There was this one guy she had her eye on, smart, but awkward and introverted. "Why were they always introverted?" she thought. His name was Christopher Kim, and he was good at writing code, not brilliant, but there was something about him that said to Rachel, he’s different, or not, but you should definitely find out. So, she would do tacky things like stand hunched over his shoulder while he was at his computer working or compliment him and ask him for his input excessively like he was some Yoda-type guru master, and she his padawan. It took Christopher a while, it was obvious to all his co-workers by then, but he caught on, and he asked her out for coffee to discuss “ideas for the company.”
Rachel was excited at the prospect of her first quasi-date with a cute Asian guy, and for their date, she wore a sleeveless blouse under her power suit, and she wore a skirt that was slightly shorter than usual. After work, she walked with Christopher to the coffee house, where employees of the start up would sometimes hang out or have impromptu meetings, and they found a table. Christopher, eschewing small talk, spent the whole time discussing his ideas for gearing websites to their visitors with simple either or questionnaires that would categorize the user broadly and specifically all at the same time. Questions like Beatles or Elvis? Biggie or Tupac? Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg? Edgar Allan Poe or H.P. Lovecraft? He had a list of questions that Rachel scrolled and scrolled through, on Christopher’s Surface Pad; the questions cross referenced themselves when you clicked on an answer. He said these questionnaires would, “Put an emphasis on taste, personality, rather than user history and inclination. And it wouldn’t be a long list of things to like and dislike that bores most website users. We could make the questionnaires easy and fun, and the questionnaires of course would already be pre-customized with the first few questions based on the user’s website history.”
Rachel went home after their “meeting” was over and fed her dog. She checked her email. In her inbox was an email from Christopher. She opened it. It was the list of questions and a thank you at the end.
After their “meeting,” Rachel treated Christopher with a coldness unique to attractive blondes. Christopher was puzzled--she seemed interested in his ideas at the coffee house--that she didn’t want to go over his ideas in depth or at a meeting with others, and mentioned it to her; she coldly told him, “There are a set of approaches including yours that I’m thinking about proposing to the chief operating officer, and I will get back to you, meaning I will contact you, if your proposal is brought up or develops any type of traction, Chris.”
“Okay, Rachel. Just checking.”
Water off a duck’s back, Rachel thought as Christopher went back to his desk. Rachel wanted to ignore Christopher and shuttle his ideas, but his ideas were the best approach anyone at the start-up had come up with, and she needed to hand in something to the chief operating officer soon; she could give him Christopher’s intuitive, innovative approach or she could hand him the drivel that all the other ideas amounted to, including derivative approaches or ones that tested the propriety of collecting user information and history. Running out of time, she used Christopher’s ideas as the major principle of her proposal, taste and personality over user history and inclination, and the chief operating officer, whom she had spoken to all of once before, called her and told her, her proposal was brilliant, and he wanted the people behind it working on a prototype ASAP.
Rachel called Christopher into her office the next morning. She told him about her meeting with the chief operating officer and how he loved his idea, and she wanted to start a prototype of Christopher's idea and test it, and she wanted him to take on an advisory role. It was basically a slap in the face, but he was ebullient, so surprised that she had actually taken his ideas seriously that he told her he would love this advisory position and that he had no problems with it. This surprised Rachel. It was his idea and he was perfectly content to watch on the sidelines as other people configured and implemented it. He didn’t even care that Rachel was taking all of the credit for his work.
“Okay,” Rachel said. “I love team players, Christopher, and you’re definitely a team player. I and a core group are going to expand on your questions, and I’ll send you an email of what we thought up. You can tell me what you think.”
Another slap, he wouldn’t be active at internal meetings.
“Okay,” he said delighted.
At the first internal meeting, the brain trust could only expand on Christopher’s list by one question. John Lennon or Bob Dylan? They could categorize the Lennon answerers as admirers of youthful iconic figures, and the Dylan answerers as admirers of icons you could grow old with. It was a good start that excited the group until they realized that was all they could come up with. The brain trust even suggested by the third unproductive meeting that they didn’t need any more questions that the original list with the one new question was enough. Rachel wasn’t sure and she called Christopher after the meeting was over. She told him that the meetings were going nowhere and:
“Do you think our one question is enough to complete your questionnaire, Chris?”
“I’ve thought of five more, since we last talked,” Christopher said.
“What are the questions?”
“I’ll tell you if you give me more control over the project.”
“Deal. Let me hear the questions.”
“First question, Batman or Superman?”
“And how do you define each answer?”
“The Batman choosers believe you have to work for everything in life. Batman is a human being with no special powers, whose training and perseverance make him a comic book hero. These people want products or information that will improve them in some way. And the Superman choosers believe you’re just born with it.”
“Okay what’s the next one--you know what, in fact, let’s do this face to face instead of over the phone.”
“You want me to get on Skype.”
“How about you come to the office, I’m still here, and you bring some coffee, milk, no sugar."
After Christopher had bought two large coffees at the coffee house, he showed up outside the company office. He was greeted at the door by Rachel, who locked the door after him. They went to her office and went over his questions, and the two of them, with a chemistry and simpatico akin to two radio talk show hosts who are great at bouncing ideas off each other and complementing the other’s ideas, came up with twenty five more questions and their implicating answers.
When it was getting past the wee hours of the morning and their back and forth was starting to peter out after hours of energetic talk, Rachel said, “It’s getting late.”
“It's two twenty,” Christopher agreed, looking at his watch.
“Thanks so much for this,” Rachel said, laying her hand on top of Christopher’s hand. Christopher blinked and then Rachel kissed him. Christopher far from shying away was emboldened, until Rachel had to resist him and ask him to stop. She thought it an odd contradiction that he was so reluctant to make a move, but once a move was made he could barely control himself. Christopher settled himself and said he would go home. He asked Rachel if she needed a ride. Rachel said thanks, but it wasn’t necessary.
Rachel didn’t leave after Christopher left. She decided to sleep in her office, which wasn’t unusual for her. She reclined in her chair, her ego gratified that Christopher did have romantic, sexual interest in her. Closing her eyes, sleeping, she dreamt she was a Venus fly trap and then a spider spinning her prey in webbing. She dreamt she was spinning and webbing the boy group Big Bang and Christopher impersonating a pop star, Christopher saying, “It’s Halloween. That’s why I’m dressed up. Stop and get me out of this.” But Rachel ignored him and kept spinning her web around Christopher and hung him on her web, the sixth and final member of Big Bang.
Afterwards, she woke up to the bustle of people outside of her office, talking, walking by. Nancy a female assistant came into her office saying, “Didn’t mean to wake you, Rachel. I was wondering if you wanted me to schedule another questionnaire meeting?”
“Yes, and I think it would be a good idea if Christopher joined us.”
"I’ll get that meeting set up. When do you want to start?”
“When I’ve had my coffee and check on a few things, half an hour from now.”
Nancy nodded and closed the door. Rachel turned on her iPad and Googled: Big Bang. She slipped on her ear buds and whispered the lyrics to Big Bang's outlandish videos. From outside she looked like she was talking to herself energetically. Christopher, who was looking at her from his desk, thought, "Rachel or credit for my idea and a promotion?" Rachel inadvertently looked at him; he looked away.