Hey there! I'm Vivian. Sometimes I write about life and sometimes I write about teaching.

This is the very first draft of a story I’m trying to write for The Moth, a hint of an idea formed as I washed the dishes this morning. As I write this intro, it’s already starting to fade! A friend and colleague has been encouraging me to attend a Moth live storytelling event for years. If you don’t already know, it’s like an open mic for storytelling; attendees can put their names in a “hat” and hope (or not) to be one of the chosen ten to tell their tale in front of the audience. Each event has a different theme and next month it’s Outlaw.
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The Stonewood Center, a typical outdoor mall you find in any suburb in Southern California, and also the setting for my short life as an outlaw.

I wasn’t destined to live a life of crime, even though as a Gen X latchkey kid, I certainly had the freedom and time to get into plenty of trouble. The genetic mix of being the oldest sibling, the oldest cousin mingled with my Chinese ancestors’ doctrine of filial piety had a strong hold on me. I was in Math Club…for fun…in seventh grade for heaven’s sake.

Unfortunately, that hold wasn’t strong enough to combat the lethal combination of Hillary*, the new girl in town, and turning 13. Hillary showed up one day in the middle of the school year. She walked into the gym with a confidence that neither I nor my best friend Sydney had, even after being in the same school for two years. Her long strawberry blonde hair flowed down her back with just the right amount of curl. Her Levi 501’s were skin tight and cuffed at the bottom, our 80’s version of skinny jeans. For some reason she targeted the two of us and struck up a conversation. She sounded so much like the Valley Girl from the Moon Zappa song of the same name. I was in awe, but also got an uneasy feeling from this city slicker. But my BFF at the time didn’t seem to have the same trepidation. Before I knew it we were all going to the mall together.

I’d grown up going the Stonewood Center, not only was it the place we went to buy all of our clothes, there was a Farrell’s Ice Cream and a movie theater. Being in the ‘burbs, this was our main source of entertainment. My best friend and I would often go into the bookstore and read books in the children’s section for eons, hiding the unfinished chapter books behind other books so that we could return to them on our next visit. (Wait, was that foreshadowing for my life as an outlaw?) This time, walking up with Hillary would be different.

Gaaah! Gotta run, part 2 next week.



*Names changed to protect the innocent (or not so innocent).

  1. Trish says:

    Oh, I can see where this is going and can’t wait for the sequel. (And Farrell’s? my dream experience…) Love The Moth and just discovered the Story Collider which has some cool storytelling also—about science. You should go for it once you finish Part 2.

    • Vivian Chen says:

      We didn’t get to celebrate our birthdays often as kids, but my brother and I both loved it when we got to go to Farrell’s! I’ll have to check out Story Collider.

  2. arjeha says:

    What a great beginning and can’t wait to read more. I can imagine the controlling influence Hillary had over you. Have to wait to see if my assumptions are correct. I know, never assume.

  3. Lee Ann says:

    Oh my gosh, Farrell’s Ice Cream! What did they used to do for birthday celebrations– I can almost remember it. Enjoyed the beginning! I wonder what Hillary looked like or how the girls would describe her walk that led them to see that confidence.

    • Vivian Chen says:

      Remember they used to bang the giant drum and raised the birthday person’s hand in the air, proclaiming them to be…something. That’s all I can remember. That and the Zoo sundae was made for like 20 people. Thanks for the wonderings. Good questions for revision!

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