I was trying to imagine “Amber Yang” in neon pink and green flashing marquee lights, then thought yellow lights might have been more fitting.
Nah. That couldn’t happen. I was and always would be Amber Yang. Never the Amber Yang. Never the most talked about Yang in the whole history of China, which included ancient China, of course. Just plain old Amber, only daughter of Mark and Iris, completely unrelated to the singer.
I’d been having trouble sleeping. Must have been insomnia or something—maybe those growing pains I read about somewhere. That was it. Maybe it was like one of those midlife crises that older people went through, except for teenagers. Or maybe I just aged fast.
For the past nine years I’d been trying, subconsciously of course, to figure out who I was. Mom once told me that I knew how to sing before I knew how to talk and that I was better at it, too. She sent me to ballet lessons at the age of three, but finding myself no good at it, I quit four years later. That was when I began to draw. I suspect I inherited the artsy gene from Dad. A fashion designer, he was recently cut from Holly Doll, a sitcom for young girls who love clothes and love playing dress-up. Working on clothing designs for the show kept him busy, and he had a way of missing out. His career had just come to a screeching halt. They told him his designs weren’t chic enough. I had no idea what that meant, as I had never ventured into the fashion world, but I was pretty sure it was a big insult. So he was back to working at Co Z Monster, the local café, making coffee to help the overweight become morbidly obese. Oh, and getting on Mom’s nerves. I bet they couldn’t go one day without fighting, and now things had been looking sour, especially for Dad. Once, I did an oil painting of them fighting. I took a snapshot when they weren’t paying attention, developed the picture, and created a likeness. Ironically, Mom said it was some of my best work. She framed it and hung it on their bedroom wall, above the bedpost. She had all my paintings framed.
Considering that it was my junior year, I probably should have been applying to art school. But I was not. I wanted to start singing again. I didn’t know where it would take me, but I had an idea of where I wanted to go. The problem was…no one knew about it yet. It was not exactly a popular choice with my parents. Neither was art school, but the ’rents thought I could do painting until I figured out what I’m really going to do. For as long as I could remember, my parents had wanted me to get into medical school. It was such common knowledge that even Mr. Frasca, my Chemistry teacher from the year before, labeled my condition as “the Chinese way.”
When I think of my Chemistry teacher, I first think of his hair. Mr. Frasca was balding and the few strands left here and there were white. He had two sons, and the eldest was about to turn twenty-eight this year. I don’t know how long he had been teaching, but Mr. Frasca looked ancient. At the very least I could surmise that he had enough Chinese students over the years to come up with a name for my condition, as it were. That’s cool. It would have been even cooler if I could have gotten him to convince my parents that I wasn’t going to follow “the Chinese way.” Yeah, maybe on the day the sky’s made of blueberry ice cream.
My plan was to cut a demo, send it off to various record companies, get signed, sell billions of LPs, get noticed by the media, and land my first acting gig all by the time I turned twenty. Why twenty? No particular reason. I just happened to like that number. And…it was not that far into the future. Why acting? Well, it just seemed that if you were a singer, then you had to be an actor as well. (In my case, actress.)
There was just one problem with this plan: if I didn’t let my parents know what I was up to soon, I might not even get a chance to sing “do-re-mi.” But for now, I had to figure out a way to nip this insomnia in the bud or I’d be going crazy soon! Thankfully the next day was Friday, so after I forced my butt to get up, get to school, and make it through all my classes, I could finally drive me and my beat-up old car to my favorite spot by the Hoop, otherwise known as the Hope Court. Maybe I’d even get in some balling time. After all, they say physical activity can cure sleeping problems. Either way, I had to get to the Hoop; it was my secret place where I liked to hang and hide from everyone. And when I say everyone, I mean everyone.