Amanda and Tianyu: the DVD box set

Oh, well, anyway, this is a serious post, and it’s sad and funny and pretty much about my husband, and if you hate sap and romance and sad, then you shouldn’t click. (It’s long)

I don’t know if you people read my user info, so I just decided to write something about Tianyu, because I am a woman in love, and in some ways that is bad. For me. He doesn’t care. And I don’t tell this shit to my family because…I don’t know. I like to tell this shit at my own pace, and when I’m not in the mood to talk about it, then I’m not in the mood to talk about it. But I’m in the mood, so here we all are.

This is Tianyu:

Sexy, no? A little gay. Yeah. His LJ is available, and you can read it if you want. I do. Often. I find reading the LJs of people I know to be dead a sort of cold comfort.


Tianyu was born in Kansas. His parents are from China, and they are very smart. I won’t say what they do. His sister is also hella smart, and I love her to bits.

There are lots of jokes and stories about Tianyu as a kid: he got into fights, other kids called him “Tin Cup” and “Rin Tin Tianyu.” He was sent to private school in high school, where he discovered that people loved his brain, and that there are other crazy ass bastards out there. I hear he tried to make a band saw out of a motor and an old saw blade. I heard that it almost killed the pool table. He made a movie called “Mountie Force Rides Again,” which is the funniest thing I have ever seen, and if it is ever digitized, I will pimp the fuck out of it. It is about an FBI agent and a Mountie that team up to fight Jacque LeStrappe about a titanium spork. They made it before they had ever seen or heard of due South, IIRC, just in case you’re wondering.

Tianyu applied to CMU because he didn’t get into MIT. He didn’t know what he wanted to do, but he figured that he was good with computers, so, ::shrug::. That was what he said: ::shrug::

I didn’t know a lot about Tianyu’s first year of college. I heard that he bought his girlfriend a box of fortune cookies for her birthday. That was when he got into Dagorhir. He and Lu invented a cheese and Spam stew called “Tian-lu stew”. I never tasted it. I think that’s a good thing.


I met him on a Highlander mailing list and I thought he was a girl because I misread his name as Tina yu. He was dating , a high school buddy, through a long distance relationship. He had pursued her through HS, and she had always turned him down. He was out of his mind with her, and the 2 times we met while they were dating, I think I had to remind myself that I wasn’t a man-stealer.

He had this brown leather jacket, see—

Anyway, we met when I was giving him bootleg eps of Cold Squad on VHS.

Later in the summer, he IMd me out of the blue because had dumped him. It took all summer and about fifteen gallons of Hagen Daas, but he got over it. When I offered to pick him up at the airport, it was a little like this:

Me: I’ll pick you up.
Tianyu: I have lots of luggage. And a band saw. And everything is duct taped shut.
Me: That’s okay.
Tianyu: I’ll be in at 3 PM on Saturday.
Me: OK (turns to the camera) IT’S ON NOW.

On our first date, Tianyu tried to convince me that Jet Li was stalking him, and that they would have to fight to be The One. He spent the whole day shiftily glancing at air ducts. Then he tried to flip a Mentos from the tube and they all fell out the bottom.

I was lost forever.


Tianyu loved hair bands like Winger and Warrant; he adored Queen, and could sing the falsetto of “Barcelona”. He loved the Kingsingers and madrigal music, and he sang in the Marvin Hamlish choir at Heinz Hall.

Tianyu could play the piano and the guitar; he once arranged a punk remix of Madonna’s Like A Virgin. He was in many bands over the years, usually pick-up bands for special occasions. My favorite was “Mona Lisa Was A Fat Bitch”, in which he played the guitar and sang lead at CMU’s carnival. I think that was 1999. They covered “Ice Cream Man” and played an instrumental they wrote, and whose title I found out later was “Big Titty Bitches”. Yeah. College.

Tianyu built things with his hands. He did it for a living, and he liked to actually do the building, not just the design. He modded all of his longarms so much that when I went to sell them, the dealer had to examine them all inch by inch. He kept saying, ‘I see what he did! That’s amazing!’

Tianyu watched Love Hina and then walked around screaming about how tight Narusegawa’s spoon was. He once found a trenchcoat belt on a parking meter, wrote “FUCK YOU, I FOUND THIS ON A FUCKING PARKING METER!” on it in marker and wore it like a headband for a whole weekend. He was horrified at soaps that smelled like fruit, because he thought anything that smelled like something edible should fucking be edible. He thought Milkbone dog biscuits were good for his teeth and breath (they were not).

Tianyu and I loved that our initials were ‘T&A’. I think this was regarded as a sign. I was the T. He was the A, definitely. We formed a band with some people, called it ‘Amish Drive-By.’ I picked his ass up every weekend for two years and we lived in my apartment. Once at a rib festival, we saw America, and Tianyu spent the whole concert in the back, screaming “PLAY THE LAST UNICORN!’ in between songs. No, they didn’t play it.

Tianyu and I fucked about from 1999-2003, until we got married. He was in school. I was teaching school. I am often wigged out by the fact that I was graduating college when he was graduating high school. Tianyu and I went to my school’s shitty plays and musicals. My kids knew about him. The girls thought he was hot. He totes was.

Tianyu had no sexual fear, and no sexual qualms. He let me dress him up and put make up on him and take him to fetish balls. He wasn’t shy. On Sundays, he rarely wore clothes unless he was cold. He liked to say that he was genetically bred for heat.

We got married. You know, and then he got a job for Lockheed Martin, and in 2003 we relocated to Orlando.

Jesus, Orlando had many high points: Dragon*Con easy access. We lived through the hurricane season of 2004. We went to THE HOLY LAND EXPERIENCE and managed not to get booted. Our life was a rollercoaster of insane, and I think I liked it that we weren’t near any family and few friends, because we managed to get an intense three years in.

I made Tianyu a LJ. He…used it for evil. This is what he sounded like. And this. I like that second one. I like the first because I’m in it. And here: Tianyu takes a meme survey.

Tianyu was the best husband ever. He decorated my car like Alucard for Valentine’s Day. When my laptop was stolen from our apartment, he took the day off to go to all the pawnshops and yell at the police and the apartment complex, who had apparently hired shady painters. He brought me coffee in the middle of the day because we worked three minutes away from each other.

I don’t want to talk about what I did for Tianyu, but I like to think that I made him happy.

I want to blame what happened next on my neighbors downstairs, who moved in six months before we left and played Reggeton at mind numbing decibels, no matter what we did. It drove me insane. I am not kidding you. To this day when I hear that music, I feel an intense rage inside. After about three months of it, when Tianyu was applying to grad schools and the like, and we didn’t want to move because we thought we might be leaving anyway and we didn’t want to sign a new lease, I turned to him and said, “You have to do something, Tianyu, because I am going crazy. I’ll leave if I have to.”

Tianyu didn’t like his job at LM. It was boring and intensive, and he wanted to build robotic arms and shit. He took his GREs and was accepted to UofM, but unfortunately not with any grant money or a stipend. We decided that we’d just go back to Pittsburgh and see if he couldn’t do better trying for positions at CMU. We packed up our life in Florida and returned to Pittsburgh, but not before we ruined our downstairs neighbors’ Christmas by blasting the entire Anal Cunt CD through the floor at a mind numbing decibel on Christmas day, for like three hours. It was a joint effort.

We rolled into Pittsburgh at the end of December, and it was cold and wet and we had no place to live. That should have been a fucking sign.



When we came back to Pittsburgh, it was to a job that he wasn’t fond of. He worked a lot of hours, and he didn’t have time for anything extra curricular. We were squeezed into a one-bedroom apartment with half our stuff in storage, waiting for us to buy a house. All the fun stuff was packed away, but we told ourselves, ‘it’s only for a few months’.

By February, it was obvious that something was wrong. I got him the name of a shrink, and he went regularly. I don’t know if they ever talked about medication. I didn’t want to tread on him. I was working at Sylvan, and it wasn’t great, either.

We thought we’d try for a kid, just “practice”. The sex was good. I didn’t think I’d get pregnant so soon. It’s supposed to take the average couple about 10 months go get pregnant. Tianyu and I managed it on the first month. In its own way, that’s kind of schway. At one point, we went ice skating, and I managed to fall and bruise all my ribs. He was sore too. We had one session of experimental morning sex for conception, and it was the most painful thing in the world. I like to think that that was when Viola came to fruition: out of our cursing and whining and orgasming at 6 in the morning on a Tuesday.

One night in March, Tianyu turned to me and said, “I think I’m losing it, and I don’t know what to do.” I didn’t either.

This wasn’t the first time I had dealt with depression in someone close. I won’t get into that, and I myself am very depressive, but with me it’s a low level that pretty much colours my whole outlook. Tianyu has taken care of me when I have the occasional break down. I’m a secret cutter, or I was. I was part of a teenage Paxil experiment back in the nineties, because we didn’t have health insurance and they gave us the Paxil for free. If that was something he wanted to try, I was all for it. I don’t know if it was ever on the table.

At the end of March, I was 2 days late, and of course, we all know why now. I took the test and freaked out. We were due to close on a house in two weeks. We were getting the fuck out of the one bedroom apartment and moving into a house with bad wallpaper and pocket doors and hardwood floors and stained glass windows. We drew up plans to hang the LCD projector from the ceiling so that we could watch TV and play video games in 5×5 feet.

I like to think he was happy. He certainly instigated happy sex! And we went to an anime convention the next day, bought the worst hentai ever. Ate at Bob Evans. I remember this because I still cannot go there.

Sunday was bleak. We were back to normal. I wasn’t sick or anything, and we slept in. He slept with his head on my stomach. I don’t know what that means, to this day. The weather was shitty. It was cold. I had to work, and he was trying to change the engine mounts on his car. He had the wrong tools, fucked it up, and was in general feeling inadequate. Who knows if that was what started it.

Here’s the thing I’ve only told a few people, but I’ll say it now: we argued. We had a big fight about him and me and depression and everything. I told him that I’d get an abortion. I looked up the abortion clinics online. I don’t know if I would have done it. Maybe, to save us. (I say this because back then I didn’t understand Viola, and how much I would love her, but actions like this are documents of time, dated, unretractable, and there they are.)

He was sullen. Tianyu was never an arguer. He just sat there, staring. I was furious about…who knows what about. All I knew was that I had been living with this, and I had done everything that I could and I couldn’t fix anything (not that it was my job to fix anything I guess), and it was dragging me down. So I said that I was going to my parents’ and I packed a bag.

And when I left the house, I turned to him, and I said something. I have tried to imagine what it was that I said. It was a cheap shot, a throwaway line, something that doesn’t have any impact until later, when the consequences of it have already settled. It might have been something like, ‘When you know what you want, let me know.’ It might have been, ‘Jesus, then just kill yourself and put us all out of our misery.’ I don’t think it was, but in my blacker moments, I run it in my head like a screenplay, and there we are.

The cops come to your door, and they don’t tell you that someone is dead right away. I understand that now, and I guess they do it because they want to get coherent answers out of you before the screaming starts. Because that was all I did. Then I think I managed to answer some questions about him, about what happened to the best of my knowledge, and then mum gave me an Ativan or something.

Everything else is me without Tianyu, so it doesn’t matter to this story. Credits.


There’s a CPU in my parents’ house. It’s his. I haven’t turned it on since he died. And I’m afraid that there’s a note on there. I daydream about it. Sometimes it’s a long thing about how he just can’t live in this world anymore, and I can totally understand that. Sometimes it says things about me that I don’t want anyone thinking of me.

If I let the CPU sit there long enough, eventually, it won’t work when I hook it up., It will just sit there, this unworking lump, and I can imagine that Tianyu just didn’t have time to write the note. I can imagine that he went out to the car because he was coming to the house to see me. I can imagine that he opened the glove box, saw the gun, and just…didn’t think. That there was some audible pop in his brain and in that moment, the man I knew wasn’t really there, much in the same manner one might stick one’s finger in an electric socket. Because it’s there, you know?

That’s what they say. I donated his brain tissue to a suicide study. I bought him this headstone:

I can only imagine he’d like it.

Here’s the thing, about Tianyu, being dead. We can’t ask him what he meant, what he felt. We can only conjecture. And I have heard multiple theories. They are all skewed by what people thought they knew about Tianyu, or what they want to believe so that it makes sense. I have mentioned mine to a few people, I think, my old shrink, Arsenic, my mom. But I don’t like to share it because of the “what the hell do I know?” factor.

But I’m going to say it now, knowing that there are people out there who will disagree with me. That’s fine. Like I said, the only one who can tell us for sure is in the dirt.

Tianyu wanted to be all things. Tianyu wanted to be famous, and musical, and fighty and academic. He wanted to be “the guy”. He told me that. When I asked him why he didn’t want to go to fighting practice, or join another krav maga class in Pittsburgh, that was what he said: “I’m not that good at any of them, and it’s not worth doing if I can’t be ‘the guy’.” There it is. Well, it’s more. Tianyu was a jack of all trades, master of none. He liked doing everything. But he also believed that he needed a purpose in life, like to attach himself to a project that was doing good in the world. The problem with that activity was that academic research was something he didn’t really have the spirit for. He hated all consuming work, because it took away all his free time. At the same time, outside forces were pressuring him to go to school, get his Ph.D. We both agreed that this would be a good thing, I mean, who doesn’t want a Ph.D.?

But that’s a lot of work, and I’d had enough years with Tianyu to see what that would do. He’d work 24-7 and then, obvs, you see where all work and no play make Tianyu a dull boy.

So I’ll say it—Tianyu battled what he thought he should do against what he really wanted to do (I really thought he should design firearms for Smith and Wesson, but that was just me). Tianyu wanted to have meaning at the same time he wanted to be indulgent. Tianyu wanted a meaningful career without losing all of the extra things that he did in his free time. And we all know that doesn’t work out well.

It’s depressing, really. Realizing that you are small because of what you do, realizing that you will never be ‘the man’ (I like to call it being a life BNF). And while that seems like a dumb reason to kill yourself, it’s not. It’s impactual. It’s a shift in worldview that to this day makes me nervous. It’s a battle of being significant and insignificant at the same time. Most of us aren’t bothered by it. Some of us take it to a different place. I know I do.

That wasn’t really what I wanted to say. Oh, here it is. Tianyu was driven to succeed, and that can be a good thing if you only have one goal in mind: a career, I guess, or something else. But I can’t help but feel that Tianyu treated everything he did with the drive that we use to attack our careers, and that doesn’t work. And he didn’t seem to be interested in the career part, per se. I think that pissed him off.

All of this feeds into his depression, along with me, I am sure. And things we heard from outside sources about what he should do with his life, and the concept of buying a house, and having a kid. In the end, it made a damp environment where depression just festered.


I take a lot of things away from this for obvious reasons. I will tell them to you, because you are still reading. And I’ll do it in a list:

1. You should be careful what you say. No, we can’t monitor what we say all the time, and we can’t plan like every time we see someone will be our last, but we should be careful before we fly off the handle in anger. Because you do not want to live the rest of your life thinking, “the last thing I said to x was ‘die in a fire’.”

2. So much shit doesn’t matter. And fear? It’s bullshit. And if you are upset about something? Let it go. Because it doesn’t matter. (I have been told this is unhealthy. You know what? Fuck you.)

3. Careers and the like are fine if that is what you want, but living life is just as valid. I’m not turning myself inside out for a career ever again at the expense of my free time, free time to fuck around with writing, dancing, drinking, my kid, painting bananas, whatever it is I want to do. Because I don’t know many people who look back and say, “man, I wish I had worked more” unless they’re like, Jack Fucking Bauer.

4. My kid? She can be whatever the fucking hell she wants to be. If she wants to be a cosmetologist and go to beauty school, then whoop de do. Is she happy? Is she smart? Does she have common sense? THERE YOU GO.

5. In the end, it’s all dust. Tianyu is dead. He doesn’t care, and what he did doesn’t matter in a lot of ways, except for the impact he made on me and you and anyone else he touched. And when I die, that’s the same. So in the end, you should just roll through life, scooping everything up to consume and love and share, people, because when you die, none of it goes with you, and the world churns and grinds unceasingly on.

Of course, none of that is shit I couldn’t have learnt in another ways, I suppose.


I moved out of the apartment today. I don’t know what you needed all that ammo for, but I guess I don’t need all these comics, right? The blasting caps and the detonators, however, were a shock. Planning on blowing up Parliament?

I started another letter to you last week, but I was interrupted and as an end result decided not to finish it.

Also? I went to your grave Monday, but I got it wrong and talked to the wrong mound of dirt for fifteen minutes. So here is what I said, pretty much:

I don’t know why you did what you did. Of course I think about our fight a lot. I think about the time I threatened to move out in October. I wonder sometimes if you thought I could ever leave you. To be honest, I did too, when you were sad, when I had convinced myself that I had made you depressed, or that I had somehow corrupted you. But what I have learned is that I could have never left you, because what I feel regarding you is so resonant, so profound, that it’s just a series of concussions in my chest, really, and I find that I am unable to speak of it.

Also- I wonder if you thought it was the end for you. and I get angry, just a little, though, because there is nothing we couldn’t have fixed, really, except for maybe rectal cancer or a zombie invasion.

I wish you had talked to me more, about how you felt. I wish you had come to me like you do when you have nightmares. You used to squeeze my chest and bury your face in my neck and then I’d know how scared you are.

Because I only ever saw you cry once, at our wedding, and now when it’s dark, I see you crying in that car, before you did what you did, and I can honestly say that it’s the worst mental picture I can have of you.


I’m sorry a thousand times over for the fight. It doesn’t change the fact that you suck because you get the last word and it was a fucking dumb one. Also? You suck because when you told me that you’d never kill yourself, you lied to me, big time. I can’t remember the last time you lied to me, probably because you never did. But the one time you did, it was the big one, so you owe me, buster.


About Amanda Ching

I write. Fo' you.
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2 Responses to Amanda and Tianyu: the DVD box set

  1. Ali says:

    ((hugs)) What I remember most about him is that he made you incredibly happy, in a way that made me envious and happy for you at the same time. Thanks for sharing this part of the story.

  2. RaeWhit says:

    I’ve read this a few times since you posted it. There are some things you say that I swear I missed on the previous passes. This time, I just want to say that the stories you tell about Tianyu, the things he said, how he laughed, how crazy he was, all that makes me smile, and cry, because it’s easier for people who didn’t spend a whole lot of time with him, like me, to lose their sense of him , if that makes any sense.

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