Chinese or Japanese?

©Irene Park

This photo seemed mildly relevant. ©Irene Park

In the spirit of getting things going again, right away, here’s my first story in eight months:

So last week, I’m standing on the subway after a regular humdrum day, feeling fairly blahzay because lately, no matter how many hours I sleep, I’ve been too exhausted to make my face presentable to the world, let alone get to work on time (daily oops). That day, I’d actually gotten up early enough to groom my brows, but I’m still doing my best to face away from people because one look in the mirror shows me I’m still looking gaunt and frazzled.

I’m minding my own business, bobbing my head heedlessly to some ’90s Mariah on iTunes, when I hear a voice behind me.

“Excuse me? Excuse me?”

I ignore it, but the voice draws closer this time, with increasing insistence. “Excuse me? EXCUSE me?”

I realize dude is talking to me and finally turn around to find a dumpy-looking light-skinned black kid (not being racist, just objective) — he’s probably a high school senior or college freshman — with a gleeful smile on his face.

“Um, can I help you?” I asked, glaring at him suspiciously over my shoulder.

Sans preamble, Dumpy gives it to me straight. “Excuse me,” he says, with a voice not very unlike magazine subscription saleschildren, “but are you Chinese or Japanese?”

I raise an eyebrow. “I’m neither.”

“Well,” he replies, laying it on thick. “I just wanted to tell you you’re very beautiful.”

I make this face, then “laugh” awkwardly. “Uhh, thanks…?”

He holds up his phone. “I want to FaceTime with you but…” His voice falters and he waves vaguely in my direction. I assume he’s caught on I’m a little disgusted. “You have yourself a wonderful evening!” He joins his two friends who are waiting for him, seemingly oblivious to our exchange, then walk away.

The first thing I do is check my pockets, because, WTF?


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