I hate this time of year. The air just feels heavy. Put yourself in a crowded, confined space with little to no air conditioning, like a shuttle bus, and the air turns into lead. There aren’t any seats left, so I’m standing, holding the umbrella that I thought I would need 10 minutes ago. Only now, there isn’t a single drop of water coming out of the sky.
There’s a group of guys talking about roommate problems just next to me. There’s a lot of chatter, but it’s mostly background noise. I’m too busy trying to figure out how I’m going to get my iPod out of my backpack and plug in my headphones. It’s going to be next to impossible. The bus driver is being unusually delicate today, tapping the brakes every 50 feet. Today was a long day, and I’m only thinking about getting home and getting out of my work clothes. Maybe a shower.
Then the guy to my immediate right says, “I mean, I don’t have to put up with that Asian shit.”
My head turns of its own accord. It is a complete knee-jerk reaction. It’s not like I was listening for it. But bam, “Asian shit,” and my head turns almost completely around.
He notices that I notice, and he audibly backpedals.
“I mean, it’s a cultural thing. Y’know, with emotions being bottled up. Me, I like to talk.”
He turns to me, “No offense.”
I say nothing and look out the double doors. Now I’m being paranoid. Maybe he believes that I don’t speak English. I think about the stupid things that people assume about other people.
He quickly changes topics from his roommate to the Marlins, and how they’re going to go all the way this year.
I listen. People say some pretty stupid things. The bus seems to take its sweet time as we approach the final stop. My door opens.
His group stands up. There’s four of them, and they’re all about a foot taller than me.
I get off of the bus and turn around just as he steps off.
We’re facing each other, and he’s got a confused look on his face. I wonder what mine looks like. I was hoping for amicable, but I probably pulled off bemused. For a second, he looks almost afraid.
“Just offhand,” I offer. “You might want to look around before you attach a personal trait to an entire race. No offense.” *
“Hey, I was just talking about my roommate, I didn’t mean–“
I’ve already turned around. I didn’t want an apology. I only wanted him to think about it.
On the way home, I never did manage to plug my earphones in.
* Yeah, I know it doesn’t make sense. But it sounded cool at the time. Sure, I could have said something along the lines of, “You might not want to attach a personal trait to an entire race, it just seems like some asshole shit–no offense.” But really, what would that have accomplished?