WE MET ON THE ELEVATOR
This morning there was just the two of us in the elevator.
You gave me a formal, simple nod, a half a smile to
Acknowledge the other’s existence. To dilute the
Awkwardness should the elevator get stuck, or
When we might need to talk to each other.
But I’m not worthy to look at for a second, at
Least not more than your iPhone screen.
Funny thing is, we live next to each other,
We may never visit each other’s rooms,
sit on each other’s beds, or watch movies,
LOL and take silly Selfies. I have accepted that.
I long to extend the conversation to more than
the 20 second elevator ride. “first floor.”
we have arrived at the cafeteria.
The door opens, and I am alone again.
You don’t know that I circled the salad table 3 times,
Getting ‘extra sauce’ before I mustard the courage to sit with you.
See what I did there? Argh, you never get my jokes.
Would I, should I, try to sit with the girls?
How do I fit into the 15-girl stronghold?
Where are the boys sitting? Well, never mind,
someone took the last seat, but it’s OK.
I don’t even have classes with those guys.
My food must be getting cold. Do I even need to eat lunch?
When I finally sit down, it’s with people
who can’t wait to leave the table.
I can tell by the way you all shovel your food.
The conversation recedes as I sit down –
you must think I am lost or something.
As always I say nothing but a ‘hey guys.’
Actually, I’d like us to chat like friends.
I could try to talk to you all, ask ‘how was your day?’
But I’m too hungry and tired today.
Unintentionally, I maintain a polite distance
from those whose friendships I could profit from.
The most open minded of you. The smiling kids in the prospectus.
But I’m not keyed in to impress or manipulate you guys.
Our value systems are not wired the same,
Because you are not my people,
Your imagined praise or condemnation
Means nothing to me. China, it seems, is where
I’ve come to dream about home. I do miss home.
The conversation at the table has died now, and with a sad realization,
I find I’m sitting alone.
I arrive early to find a seat and wonder who will be
the unlucky student doomed to sit next to me.
And you don’t make it easy either. You wander around,
exclaiming loudly until you resign and grumpily sit next to me.
I keep my silence. I write my notes vigorously, muttering to myself at times.
I get sidetracked at times. I wonder why everybody is looking at me,
until I realize the teacher was talking to me. “No, I do not have a question”.
Minutes later, I raise my hand, and dim the brightness of the teacher’s face
when it turns out I’m only asking to go to the bathroom. When I return,
all comments are in Chinese, and I gloomily sit down, wondering why
I did not just stay in the bathroom for a minute longer.
Counting down till class ends…