Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Count: 3,577

I made a load of revisions, which will all best posted later at the end of this week. I am a full 12% down :(


Heading for the door, I have managed to so far avoid any trauma; I just have no need for further organized blandness which no rice-vinegar-sweet dipping sauce can cover up, the strain of Americans by birth and secret wish reaching for a heritage they were born not into but next to, or even out of, another activity to fill out days and give a sense of identity without responsibility. These celebrations of cultures so proudly preserved—but are they also fermented? And would you then be proud of them still?—are too tinny to resonate with me, they cannot compare with my youth, or even my memories now faded. I see no reason to try to revive my Asian culture if it is to be only enclosed in dining halls after hours, my being Asian is not some occasion to which I invite others, and certainly not gawkers who cannot truly pay the price of admission, for which no ticket is issued and no hand is stamped with some cherry blossom.
But as I step out the double doors into the crispy air of leaves freshly fallen and crispily yet unwet by the now infrequent rains, I run into them. This encounter had perhaps been an apprehension before, but there is nothing to do now, as I cannot plausibly just turn right back into the dining hall. They stroll by hand-in-hand, unconcerned, Cyrena’s head turning just enough to plausibly not see me, Kevin stealing a glance at me over her head before reaching to open the door for her. I duck my head and walk, shakily pulling out a Lucky from my crushed pack, pausing only an instant to light it and walk on slightly more light-headed but no less heart-heavy. I can only shake my head.
The walk back to the room is lonely, punctuated by the winds which begin to pick up, picking up leaves and other fallen debris.

Geoffrey is telling a story he thinks demonstrates his Asian sensitivity. “I was in the store across the street, you know, that pharmacy and just went in for a drink, and there was this older Asian lady in front of me and she was talking to the clerks who had all emerged from their backroom to try to explain to her that there were no more metal bookshelves in the color she wanted, but that she could always paint it. She was insisting on something about her price, again and again, and they were repeating themselves too. They were just laughing at her, openly, looking at each other, shaking their heads.”
So what did you do? “Well, I felt bad but I didn’t want to interfere, I mean, so we both look Asian, and actually I guess we actually are, but why would they think that I could speak Asian or even her particular dialect.” So you just left?
“Well, I tried to just pay for my drink, but they were just getting impatient so they asked me to translate, and I tried to dodge it, because I thought she looked like was from the Northwest and I said this to her and the clerks, but no, she was from my part of Asia, and so I tried to explain to her what they were trying to say, about the repainting, but she just frantically repeated the same line again, and now in Asian too. She had the right amount of money in her hand, tax included, waving, but I didn’t know what else I could do to help so I just paid up and left.” Why didn’t you do anything else? “Nothing, I guess. It was none of my business.” So why do you feel bad? “Well, because I was put on the spot. Why did they just assume that I was her kind of Asian?”
You’re obviously not. You have no idea what it’s like. “What, you’re an old Asian woman now?” More so than you. So what if you’re put on the spot? “I just don’t get it, though, when minorities mistreat other minorities.” Oh, so it’s a minority issue, then. “Yes, they should understand that we should be working together.” Well, did you educate or correct? “It’s not my place.” Your place is just to feel bad then? “No, I’m not someone who feels sorry for himself just like that.” So you feel like these other minorities—what kind were they anyway? “Um, African-Americans and Hispanics.” Do you think that matters? “Well, they often make fun of us, you’ve heard it, you know, all that ‘ching-chong-mak-a-haya’ crap.” Do you really think that white people are any better at all? “Well, they certainly don’t say the same things.” But don’t they think them? Don’t they just box us in into different boxes? “Of course, but they’re educable.” So you say, but they think we’re educable too, but that’s not the point. I just don’t get you and your bad-feelings.
“Look, it’s just that I hate it when I’m reminded how people see us.” When you’re reminded?! You should be so lucky. How do you think that Asian woman feels? She’s probably still there. You’re reminded every once in a while of your skin your blood your tongue, but she lives in each. Do you think this is just some isolated incident for her? I mean, she’s old. What did you think she was before—she probably had an entire life longer than yours in Asia. Who do you feel bad for anyway? You’re not stuck in a foreign country every time you step foot outside your home, without either passport or extraterritoriality. You get to come home, a non-minority here on campus—how many years of buying bookshelves at pharmacies do you have left? How many years do you think she has left? Do you think she has any pride left undinted? What do you think it takes to keep walking into situations where you know that people will make fun of you in ways you might not even understand, or get, just to get through your everyday? How much stubbornness does it take? What else do you think she has left to give up? How do you prepare yourself to dive into the foreign? How deep a breath do you need to take? How long do you try and hold it? What do you think they hear when you speak? Who do you think she puts herself through? When do you take a stand? And wouldn’t you have laughed, shaken your head, rolled your eyes too if you weren’t put on the spot? How long would you cling to hope? How long could you?
Admit it. You’re just embarrassed. You’re embarrassed that for all your education, your honors, your grades, your sophisticated laboratory techniques, your gadgets and your bookshelves, when it comes to these clerks, these clerks who also lack, really, the same things as your old woman when compared to you, can lump together you with that woman at a glance, and can just embarrass you like anyone. And you’re thinking, they should know better, they are on the edge of this campus, so they should know better, but of course they don’t. Their ideas don’t come from themselves, any more than any of ours do. This is just the way things are, so you do your best. You do your best to forget, to give others other things to look at so that they can forget, but that only works for so long. Every once in a while you are forced to confront yourself, and all your attempts to control your Asianness by channeling it through your club come to nothing. As well as you have done on paper your last name is still unchangeably Asian, and so are all your friends. And I wish there were something that you could do about it.

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