It’s been getting colder here. I think today it was around 20 F. I’ve started to get into a routine on Thursday. I wake up at 6:30 and then I either think about or actually accomplish doing some exercise. Then I run. Catching the bus to work is pretty easy, but you really don’t want to risk it if you want to make sure you get to the University on time. Teaching usually goes really well on Thursdays because I’m not to tired and after I treat myself to some baozi. Last week my friend who lives in Beijing was going to come visit. For some reason, I didn’t follow through with my routine. I changed it to Friday. Then why did I tell you about it? Probably because I want to prove that I’m real; I want to prove that I live in a city, have a life, do things and maybe, stuff.
Friday I went to the grocery store further down the block first. After I went and bought myself a new coat. I lucked out and the coat, a puffy stretch down UNIQLO piece of awesome was on sale. I enjoy being employed. I enjoy buying things, especially if they are going to keep me warm and make my complexion looks nice or something like that. I bought bacon at the store for my friend and I because I love bacon and it is the only thing anyone should ever care about in ever. I decided to walk back via the scenic route, something I don’t typically do, but hey. Spontaneity is good, right? Then I check my phone.
“Hey homegirl. Some bad news. I can’t make it———”
I don’t even bother to read the rest. I’m just upset. My face reads “WHATTHEFUCKMAN!IWASLOOKINGFORWARDIMADEPLANS!!! I BOUGHT BACON.”
Right, I fucking bought bacon for this guy and he bails? What gives. Walking with an added stomp I begin to notice things and start being a total Scrooge about what I’m seeing. Well, sort of. I’m not like going up to people and telling them “Bahumbug! Fuck off! Ohhhhh you’re happy? Well let’s see how long that lasts!”
I’m just grouchy. And then I see this man maybe twently feet outside of the gates to my apartment. He’s a Chinese man, probably from another province who from some series of events ended up in Shijiazhuang. He ended up on this street, cold in winter. I don’t know how but he’s learned to delicately pick garbage apart and eat it. And all I could think about was how upset I was my friend was going to have to come visit another weekend.
I was upset I was going to have to eat bacon alone while this poor man ate garbage. My garbage. I was upset about my plans being delayed. Man, I don’t even want to know what he’s upset about. I considered giving him some of the food I was carrying- but would that make me the cartoon of a colonist? Extending some charity out of pity for this man? Oh by my whiteness I do declare, here you poor soul taketh from my cornucopia! Did I ignore him?Was my trash really feeding a person? Would that make my waste their sustenance, one of the things keeping someone alive on this stinky planet? How could I make someone else’s life about me; about my value? That make me a colonist. Was I really the superior Foreigner casting a disapproving glance at this Other, a Lazy Native?
This dude was obviously cold, homeless, hungry and friendless enough that eating out a garbage can on his knees in the “nice part” of town (Jucai Street is home to luxury hotels, famous schools, and new apartments) was a good option. And I knew better than to watch. Nobody would bother him. He could eat all he wanted. This was not unfamiliar; it was natural.
It was routine.