"before we begin"–Chapter 9

Frank Li knows that his conservative Korean parents will not approve of the girl he is dating, so he and friend Joy Song agree to enter into a fake relationship to appease their families.
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definitions & notes only words
  1. halcyon
    idyllically calm and peaceful; suggesting happy tranquility
    Sometimes I look way back to six months ago, during the halcyon days of junior year.
  2. augury
    an event indicating important things to come
    As a leading indicator, a bellwether, augury, harbinger, and many other words from the now-useless PSAT vocabulary study guide, a score of 1500 would mean I would probably kick the real SAT’s ass high enough to gain the attention of The Harvard, which is the Number One Top School in Whole of United States, according to Mom-n-Dad.
  3. harbinger
    something indicating the approach of something or someone
    As a leading indicator, a bellwether, augury, harbinger, and many other words from the now-useless PSAT vocabulary study guide, a score of 1500 would mean I would probably kick the real SAT’s ass high enough to gain the attention of The Harvard, which is the Number One Top School in Whole of United States, according to Mom-n-Dad.
  4. nix
    command against
    Berklee is my real dream school. But Mom-n-Dad have already nixed that notion. Music? How you making money? How you eating?
  5. tribunal
    an assembly to conduct judicial business
    This is how disownment happens. It’s not like some final sentence declared during some family tribunal. Disownment is a gradual kind of neglect.
  6. oblique
    not direct, explicit, or straightforward
    The only time and place we even obliquely approach the subject of girl is when we happen to find ourselves sitting on the shore of Lake Girlfriend.
  7. arpeggio
    a chord whose notes are played in rapid succession
    Above, nameless jazz infuses the cavernous faceted space with echoey arpeggios.
  8. ostracize
    expel from a community or group
    I think it comes from not knowing which would be worse: dating a girl my parents hated or dating a girl my parents loved. Being ostracized or being micromanaged.
  9. culminate
    end, especially to reach a final or climactic stage
    Mom-n-Dad inherited The Store from an older Korean couple of that first wave who came over in the sixties. No written contracts or anything. Just an introduction from a good friend, then tea, then dinners, and finally many deep bows, culminating in warm, two-handed handshakes.
  10. gouge
    swindle; obtain by coercion
    I hope the next version of the American dream doesn’t involve gouging people for food stamps.
  11. ploy
    a maneuver in a game or conversation
    Mom’s home resting from her morning shift, leaving me and Dad alone for his turn. I suspect all this is Mom’s ploy to get me to bond with Dad in my last year before I head off to college.
  12. affluent
    having an abundant supply of money or possessions of value
    Meanwhile, the Koreans in Korea have moved on, become more affluent, more savvy.
  13. requisite
    necessary for relief or supply
    “You can’t 3D-print ABS or polycarbonate. At least I can’t. I don’t have the requisite tech.”
  14. spectral
    relating to an array of the components of an emission
    We fall into an old habit: building a four-by-four tower with the colors ascending in spectral ROYGBIV order.
  15. concomitant
    following or accompanying as a consequence
    We’re all sober kids, all in the same Advanced Placement (AP) classes, and therefore do not get invited to parties and their concomitant opportunities to imbibe.
  16. imbibe
    take in liquids
    We’re all sober kids, all in the same Advanced Placement (AP) classes, and therefore do not get invited to parties and their concomitant opportunities to imbibe.
  17. vignette
    a small illustrative sketch
    Dad laughs, steadying his to-go drink from hell, and for a second I can imagine them before they had me and Hanna. It’s a paradoxically sweet vignette.
  18. copious
    large in number or quantity
    For a second I think the issue has been successfully forced, copious science has been dropped, minds have been quietly blown, we are all one human race, this is the United States of America, I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted.
  19. exalt
    raise in rank, character, or status
    For a second I think the issue has been successfully forced, copious science has been dropped, minds have been quietly blown, we are all one human race, this is the United States of America, I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted.
  20. devolve
    grow worse
    Someone said it must have something to do with a bunch of round-eye American soldiers saving them from civil war, which led to a close examination of the size of General MacArthur’s eyes, which pivoted to theories about big-eyed characters in Japanese anime, which devolved into a big Lego-throwing debate about which was better, Japanese manga or Korean manhwa.
  21. pantomime
    a performance using gestures and movements without words
    I naturally mistake the fist bump for a high five, and the whole thing becomes this strange gearshift pantomime: the awkward greeting ritual of male nerds everywhere.
  22. inscrutable
    difficult or impossible to understand
    I have no idea how anything works. I have no idea what is happening. I stare back into her eternal ancient gray eyes looking all ancient and gray and eternal into mine and find that they are also inscrutable.
  23. vector
    a quantity that has magnitude and direction
    I find Q waiting for me by the elephant tree: this big melted biomass of spiny leaves and branches oozing its way out of a rectangle in the concrete. Apparently it’s not a tree, but a giant yucca evolving along its own isolated vector.
  24. paladin
    someone who fights for a cause
    Q’s already got his miniature hero figurines—a tiny wizard, elf, and paladin—standing in delta formation on a lunch table.
  25. respective
    considered individually
    It no longer feels quite like I’m here with Brit and Joy’s here with Wu. Right now it’s feeling strangely like I’m here with Joy, and we’ve each brought our respective problems along.
  26. jaded
    bored or apathetic after experiencing too much of something
    My phone buzzes. I always keep it on vibrate—Q and I find ringtones depressing and believe they are forlorn cries for validation in a noisy, jaded world.
  27. feign
    give a false appearance of
    Q’s dad simply sits and chews and feigns obliviousness. He excels at being king of the dorks; he is proudly aware of this particular genius of his.
  28. homunculus
    a person who is tiny or diminutive
    I’m watching a little homunculus run around a 2D landscape from a God-view perspective.
  29. cornice
    a molding between the ceiling and the top of a wall
    A tiny projector sits on a faux-marble cornice and throws the giant view of the game onto a blank wall that Q has painted with some kind of special projector screen paint for maximum image quality.
  30. interloper
    someone who intrudes on the privacy or property of another
    “Also, since you’re the interloper here, shouldn’t you be considered the alien, not them?”
  31. discreet
    heedful of potential consequences
    I tap a cigarette from an open box under the counter and slide it over all sneaky-style. Luis feigns an itch and discreetly tucks it behind his ear.
  32. clandestine
    conducted with or marked by hidden aims or methods
    Our budding relationship can’t just be a clandestine series of greenhouses and minivans.
  33. phalanx
    a body of troops in close array
    He repeats the last part to a phalanx of glass Guadalupe candles.
  34. solder
    an alloy used when melted to join two metal surfaces
    An entire wall is pegboard, holding coils of cable and solder and wire and tools.
  35. entail
    impose, involve, or imply as a necessary result
    “I just don’t really know what it entails. Or care. Because it’s so totally and completely boring.”
  36. logistic
    relating to necessary details of operation
    “But just logistically it makes life so much easier,” says Joy.
  37. ersatz
    artificial and inferior
    I’ve held her hand plenty of times in the past: during thumb wrestling, ersatz seances with the other kids during Halloween, or interminable prayer circles before holiday feasts.
  38. swarthy
    naturally having skin of a dark color
    He escorts us over to the kids’ table and hustles out chairs for us, like a swarthy maître d’ from Middle Earth, and we sit.
  39. insipid
    lacking interest or significance or impact
    Then someone—Mrs. Song, fiddling with her giant Korea-only phone/tablet thing—abruptly puts on an adult contemporary rock song: some insipid string of croony cliches.
  40. inaugural
    serving to set in motion
    Me and Joy execute the fatal finishing move of tonight’s smashing inaugural test run.
Created on March 13, 2020 (updated March 18, 2020)

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