This story comes from my own experiences growing up in Tokyo and riding the subway. Hearing the ethnic Japanese speak about me in Japanese without realising I was fluent. The prompts were courtesy of 3WordWednesday with Naughty, Tactic and Zenith,  Visual Thesaurus word of the day: ecdysiast (basically a faux Greek word meaning  stripper, coined in the mid 20th century,) as well as the word cutting (as in: inclined or likely to wound the feelings of others especially because of a ruthless incisiveness <a cutting remark>) from Trifecta

The traffic idles, echoing the Morse code stutter of raindrops against the windowpane. Echoing the turbulence he felt inside, although the constant vibrations and the fumes of an army ensnared while crossing the bridge could conceivably account for it. That would be his answer, if anyone ever asked. Sam stares out through his reflection and across the river of brake lights, into the sun mounted above the horizon, far from its zenith and setting behind the grey steel spider web of the Story Bridge. He wears his headphones. Always. He feels like a stranger in a strange land, caught in flagrante, almost naughty, an ecdysiast filmed in the midst of his twice-daily rite.  Leaning against the graffito not even planned, the scrawled phone number, the promise that she “loves it, a good time guaranteed,” he stares down the aisle, watching his fellow commuters. His eyes shift between faces, quickly skipping away at the threat lurking within the challenge of eye contact with a stranger. He watches, ever alert, ever wary. His tactic: if you can see them coming, you can act – rather than be forced to react.

He is terrified; although he tries to show a brave face, tries to hide behind his veneer of casual indifference. He leans back in his seat – it was always his, portside out, starboard home – and scans the crowd. His headphones on, his iPod turned off. He sits, in the backseat of the bus, crowded out of real life by the press of the masses. Forcing himself to listen to their conversations, to hear their cutting hatred of him said aloud, mocking him as they suppose temporary deafness, as they assume his ignorance of English.

“Fucking Asians, I can’t fucking stand them. Look at him just staring out the window; he thinks he’s fucking better than us.” Sam sits, and stares out the window into the mirages cast deep within the shimmering heatwave rising off the tarmac. Just once he would like to tell them he could hear them. That he could understand every word. That he was born less than five kilometres from this exact point, in the left hand lane where they found themselves, suspended high above the serpentine brown of the river below them. He never will.

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12 thoughts on “Xenophobe

  1. Interesting twist on the roles of the ethnicities. Alone on a crowded bus – well done.

  2. Satu says:

    I loved this one. Nice twist and very lifelike description of the situation. Funny coincidence we both wrote about paranoid feelings in public transport and both inspired by time abroad. (Mine by the year I spent near London – but it’s not autobiographical as in fact I love London – even the Tube). 😀

  3. Sheilagh Lee says:

    great twist.unfortunately this does happen everywhere my daughter went to Japan and some people talked badly about her and foreigners not realizing she spoke and understood Japanese.It’s too bad when a few people speak and some take it for the way all think,Great story.

  4. Alice Audrey says:

    It probably wouldn’t do any good even if he could make them understand. Idiots are idiots the world over.

    Great use of three words. Please read my attempt.

  5. This is why I always felt like *such* a gaijin – and felt rude for not being able to communicate.
    Maybe it’s the few hours sleep I got, but I got a bit sad during that story.

  6. Angel Sharum says:

    Always sad when people judge others for stupid reasons. I’m sorry you had to go through that in your life.

  7. Smoph says:

    I think we were entirely priviledged to grow up where we did Chris, don’t you think? We would never be those people.

  8. Great job of portraying the outsider here – I’ve been in this situation before and it’s not a fun place to be.

  9. I am so sorry that this has to be a true story for anyone. It is very sad.

    The description of the rain as “echoing the Morse code stutter of raindrops” was perfect for the mood. So often we here the child-like description of rain “the pitter-patter even when it destroys the mood. Well done.

  10. Chris Morton says:

    Know what this is like as I live in Taiwan. Although luckily I’m far from fluent.

  11. […] Xenophobe by ChrisWhiteWrites @chriswhitewrite ~ Slice of Life ~ […]

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