Chinese tends to pierce my brain like sunlight into fog and perhaps this is a substantive reason why I liked the sound so much. But this back and forth seemed familiar to me…
I was third in line at the bank, rocking ever so slightly back and forth on my legs and had been debating the sexual lives of the men in front of me, an obese older gentleman with a Seattle Seahawks hat – when was the last time he had a come hither moment of raw virility – and a short man in a red, plastic jumpsuit whose coloring, complexion, and sneaking tendrils on his neck and on his knuckles spoke to a hidden blanket of man hair.
Rapid-fire is a tired way to describe listening to a language you don’t know, because it’s natural that this is going to be the speed that a native would speak it. But the back and forth by the two Chinese girls was robotic in their vocalizations, one girl in glasses seeming to cut off the slightly smaller next to her in barking orders.
These were girls I had seen on campus before. Both barely hovering around the five foot mark, but dressed in layers as is decidedly not the style elsewhere on campus – think Harajuku for the Kmart audience. The smaller girl gave off the air of club diva, grey stiletto boots, a few non-matching belts, a good smattering of makeup, and this was 12:20 on a Saturday afternoon. The other was more subdued in appearance but the spearheaded PR face of the duo. They spoke loudly and the latter girl stomped past the line and headed into the commercial teller line, calling out to her friend in a whispered yell and maniacal wave.
“Neeeeey,” the other girl would call and wave back until, with a huff and heave of her oversized purse onto the counter, the girl with glasses pulled her friend in front of the teller line that was closed but had a somewhat baffled and miffed bank employee sorting paperwork.
There were a couple of glares from our line as the girls exchanged money, again the girl with glasses now prodding a bank manager for explanations. It made me think how screwed Americans could get in an environment where the cultural norm is whoever can push their way up wins all the cookies.
Cue to a few weeks back, mid stretch in my Friday yoga class. The teacher reminds of a lithe Amazonian, not a woman who lumbers so much as commands, is perhaps a little tightly wound, and is very, very focused. We were in the second portions of class, winding down from fast cardio flow movements to simple stretches.
The creaky door to the mat room opens and two small girls in school uniforms walk into the edge of the room. Our instructor looks up and narrows her eyes. They talk loudly to each other and I think, ‘Hey, Chinese!’ Now, since I can’t stretch as far as others, I get a better view of everyone rump, but also, interplay like the following.
“Can I help you two?”
The girl with glasses is pushed by her cohort: “Is this kickboxing or yoga?”
I suppress a giggle.
“This is yoga, please, if you’d like to join, come in and close the door.” The girls talk amongst themselves and one girl leaves. The girl with the glasses remains by the open door.
“Are you staying or are you going?”
“My friend does not know.”
“But are YOU staying or going?”
The instructor yells out, “I do not want to be rude, but I am trying to foster a tranquil environment and I DO NOT CARE ABOUT YOUR FRIEND. PLEASE GO. JUST GO.” Her voices ends up shrill. The girl in glasses is mute for a split second and then bows over, hands clasping in front of her and mumbles her apologies. “Yes, yes,” the instructor imitates the movement, “Namaste. Now, GO.”
Give me TRANQUILITY NOW.
Welcome to America girls.