Through Eyes Different Than Your Own
Posted on July 15, 2015
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Isn’t that the expression? I usually get “His is a face only a mother could love.” But, hey, there’s a kind of beauty in that too. I’m a people watcher. I enjoy looking around and picking out the people who present themselves in ways that absolutely fascinates me. And they most likely wouldn’t fascinate you in the least. These are the people I wind up talking to, the ones whose stories I gently prod them for and listen to.
Many folks have jokingly referred to me as a rather derogatory term over the years because of my apparent propensity to be friends with a perceived larger-than-normal group of people who happen to be Asian. I honestly don’t give a shit. And you know what? You should hear some of the stories these friends tell me. Many of them weren’t born in the US and even if they were, their upbringing has been very different from my own. This fascinates me, though it admittedly also depresses me because I often realize what an absolutely spoiled brat I must look like to them based on my own upbringing.
I recently spent some time with someone who inspired a character in a story I’m currently editing. We’ve talked online for the past seven years and he finally moved to the US to work here for a year. In some ways, it may be a good thing he’s on the other side of the country because I think we would spend far too much time together talking about everything under the sun. In other ways, I miss not having the opportunity to see where these conversations might go.
This friend opened up about his childhood—he’s the youngest of five—about what it was like growing up in Vietnam, about the hardships he and his family went through, about his moving away to work, where that led him, the people he met along the way, his outlook on life and how it’s evolved, how he perceives those around him, what he thought the people in the US would be like versus how they’ve been for him so far, his dreams, his failings, and what it’s like to see the world through his eyes.
If ever I felt like my issues or problems in life were the end all/be all of existence, they paled in comparison to his journey so far. And, once again, I realized what a spoiled brat I must look like. I’m hoping he didn’t notice, though I’m sure he did. He’s 26 years old going on 36. I’m 45 going on 35, so at least I can say he’s older than my first fake age. For the first time in a long time, I didn’t feel a generation gap meeting someone younger than myself. It felt very much like we were coming from the same place in that respect.
My friend gave me the opportunity two months ago while I was writing the first draft of the story to ask him any questions I wanted. And I did. Many of the details he provided are in the story. You might not recognize them right away, but they’re there. It unnerved him a little when he read an early draft, but told me he liked how I’d researched things above and beyond what he’d told me. Some of it was about food, some of it was about his homeland, and some of it was about his little personality quirks. It was nothing intimate, but so much of what make characters and situations come to life for readers are the details.
I’m proud to call him my friend. I’m proud he trusted me enough to share so much about his life, that we got to spend time together shopping, talking, eating, watching a movie, swimming, attending a concert, laughing, and cementing a friendship I hope lasts many, many decades. I’m also honored he will be appearing on the cover of the upcoming book. He manages to capture a moment in time as the character does in the story, and I can’t think of anybody else who I’d rather have representing it.
Kristoffer Gair (who formerly wrote under the pseudonym Kage Alan) is the Detroit-based author of Honor Unbound, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To My Sexual Orientation, Andy Stevenson Vs. The Lord Of The Loins, Gaylias: Operation Thunderspell, several short stories featured in anthologies (to be combined in a forthcoming book), the recently re-published novella Falling Awake, its sequel, Falling Awake II: Revenant and Falling Awake III: Requiem.
3 Responses to “Through Eyes Different Than Your Own”
Patricia Hebel says:
July 20, 2015 at 8:48 am
That special quality of being a good listener is your special talent. This is why you are a good writer too. You inspire trust in people.. You are a faithful friend. Don’t be down on yourself for your upbringing. It is what it is.
July 20, 2015 at 11:01 am
My upbringing was good, but I was spoiled. I don’t think I turned out like a typical spoiled only child, so that’s a positive.
Dorien Grey says:
July 20, 2015 at 1:49 pm
Friends add spice to our lives, and the wider our circle of friends, the more flavorful our existence. Good writers, like good chefs, incorporate these spices into their work.