About the Author
Jack Cheng was born in Shanghai and grew up in a suburb of Detroit. After a few years in advertising as art director and copywriter, he left to start his own company, co-founding Disrupto, makers of Steepster and Memberly. He became a full-time writer in 2013 and published These Days, his debut novel about the human side of technology. He currently lives in Brooklyn, is exceedingly charming, and—Wait a minute. What’s going on? Those aren’t my—
JACK: It was starting to sound like every other bio. Too slow for my taste. Cut to the chase.
BIOGRAPHER: Maybe you should just write this yourself then.
JACK: I’m not paying you so I can write it myself.
BIOG: You’re not paying me at all!
JACK: Fine, I’ll double it.
BIOG: I can’t work like this.
JACK: Triple. But that’s my last offer.
BIOG: Look, I was doing this as a favor. For helping me move that Expedit bookcase down four flights of stairs.
JACK: That was a heavy bookcase.
BIOG: And I really appreciated the help.
JACK: You could’ve taken it apart, you know. Before we moved it.
BIOG: I know … but I lost the hex wrench thingy and didn’t want to go to the hardware store just to get—Hey, just what are you trying to do here?
JACK: I’m not trying to do anything.
JACK: Look, I want you to write it. But I have a few suggestions. Help me help you.
BIOG: Like what?
JACK: You’ve told them what I’ve done, where I’ve lived, but you haven’t given them a sense of who I am, what I’m like. What my biggest pet peeve is. You haven’t asked me to tell a funny joke.
BIOG: Tell me a funny joke.
JACK: I’m not good at telling jokes.
BIOG: But you just said—
JACK: I know what I said. It’s your job to figure out what I mean by the things I say.
JACK: Hey, I just noticed that “BIOG” kind of looks like “BLOG.” Weird, huh?
BIOG: Worst client ever …
JACK: What’d you say?
BIOG: Nothing. Okay. You want me to give them a sense of who you really are.
JACK: I’m waiting.
JACK: Here, start with my birth. Most biographies start like that. Origin stories. Talk about the circumstances of my birth, the home I grew up in, etc.
BIOG: What do you remember about when you were born?
JACK: What kind of question is that?
BIOG: What do you mean?
JACK: I was zero years old. I was too young to remember anything.
BIOG: Well, I did read somewhere that some people have memories of being birthed, and—
JACK: I’m not one of those people. Next.
BIOG: Fine. Tell me about the first thing you do remember.
BIOG: Are you playing Angry Birds on your phone?
JACK: Sorry, what?
BIOG: You were playing—
JACK: I wasn’t. What we were talking about?
BIOG: Your first memory.
JACK: Right. My first memory.
BIOG: Don’t tell me you don’t have—
JACK: Hold your horses. I’m thinking.
JACK: Okay: I remember a playground under a silver sky. I remember a rusted set of monkey bars, and the way the flaky metal rubbed against the inside of my knee …
BIOG: Go on.
JACK: That’s all I remember about that. But you know, I do remember my grandparents’ apartment. My parents and I lived in the tiny bedroom in the back, while my grandparents slept on a bed in the den. I think my aunt, uncle, and cousin stayed on a sofa bed in the den, too. It’s pretty common back in China—three, four generations in one household. I remember there was a desk in the bedroom, and I’d do my homework there. But that could be a false memory. I was maybe four, five years old? Did I even have homework in preschool?
BIOG: What else do you remember?
JACK: That the teacher didn’t like me that much. Or, she didn’t think I was anything special is more accurate. And then there was a school-wide competition for various arts—calligraphy, drawing—and I did both drawing and calligraphy and my entries ended up winning second place and third place. My teacher was really surprised that I won. “Ehh? You won?” I can practically hear her saying. I remember thinking, That’s right! I showed you. And one of the prizes was a tiny blue plastic tabletop lamp that fit perfectly on the desk in the bedroom.
JACK: But thinking back now, it doesn’t seem right. I couldn’t have had those emotions that young, could I? When does a child first develop a sense of pride, or vindication?
BIOG: It’s very common for people to project aspects of their more mature selves onto their former …
JACK: Wait a minute.
BIOG: … shows a certain degree of introspection, along with insecurities about …
JACK: How did I get into this lounge chair? I was sitting at my desk just a second ago.
BIOG: … your vulnerabilities on the path to expressing the your true self.
JACK: I know what you’re doing.
BIOG: I want you to close your eyes and count backwards from ten.
JACK: I don’t like where this is going.
BIOG: Sit back down.
JACK: I’m fine standing.
BIOG: Suit yourself. Now tell me: What’s on your mind?
JACK: Stop! Stop it. I don’t feel comfortable with this.
BIOG: It could be that your discomfort stems from your fear of—
JACK: Look, I’ll leave you alone, okay? Just write whatever you want! I’m out of here.
JACK: Unlock the door.
BIOG: I don’t know what you’re talking about.
JACK: Wait, why are you wearing my glasses? And my clothes! Where did these guys in ski masks come from? Hey! Let me g—
BIOG: Take him away.
JACK: You can’t do this! I’ll find you and I’ll … [unintelligible]
JACK[?]: [slow laughter]