I Broke Up With Alabama
"Hi. Where are you going?," a man asked me as he sat across from me at the bus station in Alabama.
We just got off the same bus from Atlanta to some city in Alabama, Birmingham, maybe? I don't know the geography of Alabama at all. I still can't look at maps of Alabama without crying. The break up was rough.
I told him I was going to Huntsville.
Him: "Where are you from?"
Him: No, where are you from from?
Him: Oh, so you're native American?
I thought yourself, "Oh, so this is a race question. I imagined myself rolling my eyes into the back of my head, but I didn't actually move a muscle. I looked him straight in the eye and said, "No, I am native to this country."
He looked confused.
Me: I was born in America. I've lived in this country my whole life. I grew up speaking English. I've never left North America.
Him: Well, where are your parents from?
Me: California. They both grew up there. They met in high school in California. They still live in California.
Him: Where are your grandparents from?
Him: But what are you?
Me: A female human.
Him: No, I mean like, your origin...
Me: Are you asking my nationality?
Him: Yeah, where are you from.
I listed my heritage in the order I always do:
Welsh, German, English, Spanish, Filipino.
Him: Oh, I knew you were that, or some other type of Chinese or Japanese or something.
Me: Japan invaded the Philippines. My grandmother on my mother's side had to hide from Japanese soldiers during the war. I have nothing against Japanese people, but we are not all the same. Every Asian country can't be lumped into "some sort of Chinese."
Just kidding, I didn't say that at all. But, my brain did. I just sat there quietly and stared at the floor.
I could feel him still gazing at me, satisfied that he "guessed me right!" Way to go, you figured it out,
I must've been some sort of Asian. One hundred points for accurately finding and identifying an orient in the wild. You have earned another badge for your species identification sash.
I looked up. Then I asked him the same, "Where are you from?"
Me: No, where are your grandparents from?
My questioning was lost on him.
The bus to Huntsville pulled in and I got up and hopped aboard. I made eye contact with every snowboarding passenger, hoping to find someone my age to talk to, or someone I could befriend during the rest of my ride.
The man boarded the bus. We locked eyes. I slowly placed my backpack on the seat next me. I just couldn't bare to talk to him anymore.
He sat in the seats across the aisle from me.
Him: What are you doing here?
Me: I got a job at Space Camp
Him: Oh, that place is great. They'll be happy to have one of you there.
I subtley shoved headphones into my left ear to muffle the sound of his microaggressions. It was just too hard to be polite to him anymore, so I figured I could just nod for awhile, while secretly tuning him out to the sound of my "ethnic music."
I reached my stop. We said goodbye. I was relieved.
This article was first published on 16 June 2016