We wait for our dinner at white-draped tables. Side by side, we smile at one another. The woman could be from Texas or Colorado or Montana or California. Her name might be Evelyn or Florence or Charlotte or Carol. We are in China, a country of one billion Chinese faces. She says, I have lived here for six years, I feel almost local. She sees these faces every day—Chinese people walking along dusty sidewalks, Chinese people working in her home, Chinese people driving her from Point A to Point B. It took a long time to learn their names. She says, It is too easy to mix them up. She gave them American names or truncated their Chinese ones—Johnny, Xiao Hu—or called them by their job titles—siji for driver, aiyi for maid. Her husband works for Shell Oil. I am young, twenty-six, Chinese-American, born in St. Louis, raised on Wonder Bread and Hershey’s. “But still,” the woman says. She pats me on the arm, leans in close. “Your English is so good.”
Darien Gee lives and writes from the island of Hawaii. She attended Wellesley College and graduated from Rice University. She is the author of several novels published by Penguin Random House, as well as an award-winning book on writing the memoir.