Angry Little Asian Man
This was just one of those days that picks at you like you are the scab and it is the bored child who secretly likes pain and blood, but doesn’t want anyone to know about it, thus the little tiny swipes. I was late picking up my mom and her husband at the airport, I forgot to bring my water bottle to the gym, my windshield wiper flew right off my car (in the rain,) and my friend Andie texted me to say, “meeting soon?” Which is her very sweet way of saying, “bitch, you forget about me?” I would have deserved that, because I had forgotten, but Andie is too sweet to even think that, much less say it. I aspire to have her sweetness and grace. I don’t. But I was glad that she still wanted to meet, for lunch, way after we were supposed to be having coffee.
I pick her up, and in trademark Andie style, she’s dressed like Audrey Hepburn. Maybe a slightly slutty Audrey Hepburn, with a black satin cocktail dress, rhinestone necklace and patent leather handbag. Also with thigh-high knit socks and hot pink hair. She’s awesome. Andie stands out in a crowd, for a lot of reasons. One of them is that she’s very tall, and I am willing to bet that more than one person has wondered if she was born a man or a woman.
In some ways, it doesn’t matter. She’s more a woman than I’ll ever be. In other ways, it matters, because our contexts shape us, our struggles shape us, our perspective shapes us. More importantly, how other people treat us is often based on how they deal with their contexts, and whether or not they care if Andie was born a man or a woman. More specifically, how her body was and is shaped.
It is not irrelevant that we are meeting today to talk about her writing for Not So Secret, and helping me build bridges between communities that have traditionally been marginalized and consistently misunderstood. I am so happy to have her in my life. For so many reasons.
In sharp contrast to her, I have just come from the gym. I am in yoga clothes, sweaty, unshowered and my fingernails were recently chewed to the quick because it’s the only bad stress-induced habit that I have. I should do drugs, it’s less ugly. I have thrown on an old grey sweater that doesn’t match in either color or cut. In short, I look like shit. Cute shit, but shit none the less.
We decide to go to a crappy little Vietnamese restaurant that we both acknowledge isn’t very good and has the worst service you can imagine. But it’s close and I’m harried, my day is already askew. It’s one of those shady places that is in a mini-strip mall thing, in an entirely questionable neighborhood. The kind about which the word “colorful” is used to mean “those scary people who talk funny and don’t look like me.”
The parking lot is crowded, and most of the spots are labeled with either “restaurant” or “mini mart.” There are two empty spots. One of them has a “No Parking” sign above it, the other has no sign, no label, no nothing. I pull into that spot.
We spend two hours slurping noodles and sharing ideas about how we can eliminate sexual shame and fear from the world. I tell her I have a 20 year goal. She says 10. Because that’s how she is. When we walk out, someone has parked a black SUV right behind my car, maybe 2 inches from my bumper. There are now plenty of empty spots, so the clear intent was to block me in.
I look around the parking lot and there are three men who are looking at us, eying each other and not saying a word. I admit, I was nervous. This felt like the beginning of an evening news story to me. Andie, in her festive frock, was undisturbed. I was already figuring out how I was going to fight off the obviously impending hate crime that was about to take place, while calling for help and video taping it for evidence. I was ready to go all Crouching Tiger on it. I wonder if this is the rape-survivor in me thinking, ever vigilant. Or maybe the screenwriter / actress, ever dramatic?
Andie just asks if any of them know whose car it is. They grunt, vaguely nodding their head towards the mini-mart, which is obviously a perfect setting for a shoot-out of some sort. Andie marches in, her perfectly pink hair lining up with the height measurement guide on the door. She’s tall. Even without the high-heels. “Do you know who’s car that is, they’ve accidentally blocked us in.”
I aspire to be as sweet as her. Accidentally my ass, I know passive aggressive when I see it.
The men in the mini-mart, and the men in the parking lot, all look at each other, and a furrow-browed Asian man in John Lennon glasses and a fleece vest comes out from behind the counter, arms waving and words flying out of his mouth like bats flapping around. He’s mad as hell. Apparently, I have parked in his space.
I think he’s threatening us, but I’m not terribly concerned, because I know I did nothing wrong. And I’m relieved that he’s angry about my parking, not my companion. But he keeps yelling. And his arms keep flapping. I can’t park there, he says. It is his spot. I have no business being there.
I reach out my hand to touch his shoulder, and look him in the eye to apologize as earnestly as I know how. I was eating in the restaurant with whom he shares the parking lot. The space was not labeled, it didn’t say no parking, so I thought it was fine to park there.
It was not fine. He yells some more. Do I not respect people? Their property? I have been there too long, and I shouldn’t be there at all. He is going to have me towed.
“Sir, honestly, I didn’t know I couldn’t park there, it is not labeled.”
“It supposed to be, but it raining, they no can paint in the wet.”
“I see. I’m sorry, like I said, it wasn’t labeled, so I had no idea that it was not okay for me to park there and go into the restaurant in this parking lot.”
He’s bouncing up and down. I think there are threats, but it is so comical that he has actually turned into a cartoon before my very eyes. The whole scene has. He has gotten shorter and rounder, his arms are little bat wings and he’s buzzing around me. The men in the parking lot are darker, and have no facial features, they are more like haunted trees in a forest that eats children. Andie has gotten even taller and more princess like, as if Disney had gone fetish like, and her hands are big enough now to catch the angry bat-man.
In reality, she is apologizing and being as polite and calm as can be. In my mind, she’s holding him in the palm of her huge hands, with the thumb and index finger of her other hand pinching his wings so that is torso is flapping instead. She’s telling him that it just isn’t nice to behave this way, and she’s not putting him down until he can compose himself. The tree men are creaking with subverted anger, impotent since they don’t have legs any more. And I’m this weird sloppy mess of a woman, oddly unshaven – even though that makes no sense – being hapless and comical in my own inability to do anything. I’m still prepared to defend my friend from imagined dangers, even though there is no danger, and she doesn’t need my protection.
Eventually I come back to the real world and the angry little Asian man moves his huge black SUV, Andie and I get in the car and drive the few blocks back to her house.
We discuss that he was so angry. It had nothing to do with us. He was just angry. At everything. The weather, his parents, the government, the…. He was just angry angry angry. It’s sad. I don’t know what to do with people like that. It’ makes no sense, so I just turn them into cartoon characters in my head.
I am surprised at myself, however. At how quickly I assumed that Andie and I were being judged, simply for our appearances and what people must have assumed about us. I could not have been more wrong.
I drop her off at home, and race around with the rest of my nutty day. Replace my windshield wipers and made it home barely in time to get my daughter to crew. But I’m still wondering why I assumed that people were judging us, and judging us menacingly at that.
He was just angry. In general. It had nothing to do with us.
Then I wondered how the hell we can deal with generalized anger. It’s “easy” to help people get to know and understand people who are different from them and chisel away at anger based in ignorance But generalized anger, that just makes you spin around all the time, that’s harder to deal with. And way worse. I bet Andie will figure out how to deal with that. And she’ll probably look perfect doing it.