In the early 1990s, my sister dated K___, whom my parents hated.  They’d gotten over their Oh my goodness, he’s white phase and moved onto their Oh my goodness, he’s a loser phase.  Maybe this is true of over-protective parents everywhere:  no one is good enough.  For Vietnamese parents particularly, the ideal mate is an asymptote; though people can approach good enough, they never quite make it.

That’s not to say that K___ was good enough.  He was tall, thin, and blond, with the air of someone who’d just finished second in a regatta.  He worked waiting tables at the then-recently opened Spinnakers in the Cherry Creek Mall.  My sister had met him at the nightclub she frequented, the 23rd Parish; K___ was best friends with the DJ there, a gay black man named Tracy Jones.

K___ also fancied himself a DJ but had appalling taste in music.  Granted, electronic music was still in its infancy, but K___ preferred songs that sounded like that had come off a Commodore Amiga (long before chiptunes were hip, obviously).  He gave my sister mix tapes, and she passed them on to me, and I listened with an equal mixture of befuddlement and antipathy.

At the end of one of his tapes, he put the “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.”  But stripped of its context, the song seemed odd to me.  K___ explained:  it’s funny because it’s sung by a group of men on crucifixes.  Okay then.  He pressed:  Haven’t you ever seen Monty Python’s Life of Brian?

(Growing up, I was only ever a moderate Monty Python fan.  It came on late night weekends on PBS, after The Benny Hill Show.  I remember segments like the ‘Upper Class Twit of the Year’ but much of its free-associative surrealism escaped me.   Even as a youngster, I demanded narrative cohesion.)

Under the guise of being a good little brother, I lent K___ music that I thought was great.  The Orb’s first album, The Orb’s Adventures Beyond the Ultraverse.  The 4-disc This Mortal Coil boxset.   The Future Sound of London’s Accelerator.  But our tastes never converged.  And anyway, K___ soon joined the Navy and shipped off for training, and my sister found that an opportune time to break up with him.  Alas, I never got my CDs back.

I ran into K___ again, years later, after I had finished grad school and was working in a movie theater.  He came in with a redhead sporting the librarian-by-day/roller-derby-by-night look.  I recognized him immediately (confirmed I saw his credit card), but he didn’t recognize me.  I wanted to say, “Hey, give me back my This Mortal Coil boxset” — but didn’t.  Part of it was pride:  since we met last, I had accomplished what exactly besides making lattes and slinging popcorn?  The other part of it was:  why bother?  What would I say?  ‘Hey, thanks for ruining the ending of The Life of Brian for me’?

Instead, I poured him a glass of wine and let him see his movie in peace.  It goes without saying what song I hummed all night long.

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