How Prejudiced

(c) citizenoftheworld

(c) citizenoftheworld

On Chengdu’s Bar Street, bar girls feign crying to try and get customers inside. They bawl into their hands dramatically, playing the part of the distressed young woman who just needs a man to save them (preferably intoxicated and rich).

Most bars serve one type of beer. There are all Budweiser bars, all Coors bars. Different levels of hell. When I finally relent and order a Coors, it’s warm.

I run into a middle-aged Chinese man at the bar. His uninhibited attitude is pleasing.

“When you really want to cheat on your wife,” he says, “the best way is to just screw a girl you don’t care about. Then no love, no problem. Watch out for love, that is the worst. If you feel like you love the new girl, wait six months before you screw her again.”

Silly man! I think, only to notice that he is touching each waitress, whispering in their ears in the meantime. Damn it, that’s right. Silly men often have a lot of power.

He takes me to karaoke with his friends, mostly older women, probably hookers.

“We paid so much for that room,” he tells me later, still swinging his drink. “Those KTV girls would have done anything we wanted.”

“Anything?” I say. “As in, fix our cable?”

At the hostel, I meet a young Chinese man going to study in East LA; his friend is going to Brown. I tell him I went to the University of Nevada. “What is that?” he asks. “A Chinese school?”

The hostel is full of foreign travelers, most of them eco-tourists. “China would be wonderful it if weren’t for all the Chinese people. Rude, intolerant people can ruin a country.”

I stop referring to myself as a backpacker. Those packs just look stupid, don’t fit on airplane bins well, are heavy to lug around, and make young people look like they’re going camping. Camping in the wilderness seems different from exploring a city.

“I tried learning Chinese,” one of them says, “but then I could understand their hate speech towards me. Now I would rather not know what they are saying.”

How prejudiced these foreign visitors are, I think to myself throughout the night, as I try to sleep in the dorm. I can’t, because the Chinese men in my room stay up shouting into their cellphones. There are rooms outside for that, and they don’t seem to care that I’m trying to sleep.

How prejudiced these foreign visitors are, I repeat like a lullaby.

Kawika is a destitute graduate student, a gasoline-and-fire mixture of Irish and Filipino, and an atheist with just enough faith left to keep writing fiction. His work has appeared in over a dozen journals, including decomP, Smokelong Quarterly, Annalemma, The Monarch Review and Mobius: Journal of Social Change.

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