Friday, August 31, 2007

The Chinese Stranger

My blog friend Dale wrote about one of his scarier back yard adventures the other day, I thought I’d share one of my own. We have three dogs. Chance and Lucky are a pair of border collies. Belle, the sheltie, ate our daughter’s Ipod once so I refer to her as the “4 gig Idog”. Every time she barks, Apple charges 50 cents to her Itunes account. We took two of them for a walk because we only have two leashes. The Idog chewed through the third leash so we had to leave Chance behind. We got back from the walk. My wife stopped to chat with our next door neighbor and Chance wouldn’t let me close the gate because she wanted her turn to go for a walk. I obliged.

A few nights ago we had a full lunar eclipse. Tonight was a full moon. The bottom half of our street has no lights. When it gets dark it’s just tree branches and an occasional house light. The dog and I walk by a driveway and an unfamiliar Japansese woman is standing at the foot of the street staring into her cellphone. The glow from the backlight of her cellphone frames her face like something from a scary movie. Actually, I know the exact movie. It’s this Korean horror movie my wife and I got from Netflix several weeks ago, Arang. This girl appears in the movie, the guy sees her face, blood starts to flow everywhere, and he chokes to death. Of course, if this were a scary movie, my dog would notice the ghost lady and start barking. Instead, my dog just keeps walking and looking for things to sniff.

I walk to the end of the block and the dog and I turn around. This time the Japanese lady has suddenly appeared at the foot of a different driveway, but she’s still staring into her glowing cellphone. She steps towards me. I do a quick check for flowing blood at my feet, but there’s no sea of red.
“Excuse me, can you help me please?”

The woman explains that she’s looking for the house where she’s staying. She has the address, but can’t remember where it is. I want to ask her if she happens to be a ghost from a Korean horror movie, but figure that might offend her on the off chance that she isn’t one. Besides, I’m still inhaling and exhaling more or less normally and I hear no dissonant violins or synthesizers behind me. She asks me if I can show her how to find #756. which is X’s house, an Indian woman and her non-Indian husband.

I don’t know most of my neighbors, but I’ve never seen any east-Indians on my block. No shock, the name of the people who own the house this lady is staying in rings no bells. It turns out the woman’s not Japanese. She’s Chinese like me. Talk about embarrassing. I’m supposed to spot that sort of thing, but I’m just not good at spotting differences between Asian groups. I did see a Christopher Walken movie recently and was convinced that he looks Chinese these days, same thing with Bruce Willis. My wife insists its’ their plastic surgery, but I’d just as soon that not be the reason.

The woman asks me if I’ll walk her up what turn out to be several random driveways on my own street as she looks for the house she’s supposed to be staying at. It turns out that she flew in from Singapore the night before for an herbal healing seminar at a nearby college. She’s been to the United States once fifteen years ago, but that was to New York City. She’s never seen a neighborhood quite like mine and has no idea how the streets work nor can she reach the people she’s staying with on her cellphone. I check again and note that I’m still breathing normally. There is no pool of blood at my feet and the dog is not mysteriously responding to cues that I can not see.

We keep stopping at the spookiest house on my block which she is certain can’t be the right one, but it’s the only one that might fit the address she’s written on a folded white sheet of paper. I learn that her name is Dian and that she used to live in Indonesia as well though her family is from Fuzhou , China ( I think that’s right). She asks me what part of China my family came from, I tell her Guangdong. She nods then corrects my pronunciation.

As we walk into the third driveway, I hear a woman shouting but I don’t respond. Each time we get to what might be the right door, Dian asks me if I’d mind coming to the door with her. I ask her which island she grew up on in Indonesia. She looks at me blankly and says “Indonesia, you know where that is?”

“Yes, I do, but which island?”

We walk for a bit longer as she asks me if I’ve ever been to Singapore. I first say “No” then remember that I was in the airport once there or was that Kuala Lumpur? “ Damn, there went my chances to be Miss Teen America.

For some odd reason, she says “You know Bali?”

I nod.

“That’s where my family was, but we went back and forth from Fuzhou, to Bali, to Singapore.”

Now this is the weird thing, she’s finally pretty sure that we’ve found the right house, but this is where the Daw….’s live and they’re definitely not East-Indian. Since, we’ve run out of addresses and have determined that there is no 756 on the street, we try it anyway. She knocks first. No one answers. She then pushes open the door to reveal an empty living room and entry way.

Dian keeps trying to invite me in for a drink. She’s either really grateful or I still have it (not likely). An East Indian woman appears from the kitchen. That family’s dog slips out their front doorway. Dian asks me in again. I tell her that I live at 8** up the street, come say Hi and meet my wife. She hands me her business card, but it’s too dark to read.

The dog and I get home. My wife still isn’t there. She finally appears from the street side of our front yard and sees me. “Where’d you go? I’ve been looking for you. Didn’t you hear me calling after you?”

How do I explain that I was ducking down a driveway with some strange woman who wanted me to hang out with her? I tell my story and keep saying “jet lag” to explain why the woman seemed so disoriented. Maybe we should have her over or something? I suggest. My wife looks at the card which says “Spa and spa supplies” , shrugs, but definitely doesn’t say “What a good idea!”

"So when the heck did the Daw*(#$'s move out? How come we never noticed?" I ask.

I suddenly have this vision of dropping by the Daw*(* house tomorrow night and finding them still living there with no older East Indian woman anywhere in sight. A shiver runs through me, but there's still no pool of blood around me, so I figure I'm safe for now.

We both look up at the full moon and go back into our house. Years ago, any time my parents would see another Chinese person pretty much anywhere that would be reason enough for my dad to go start a conversation. It was the most embarrassing thing for me as a kid because I didn’t want even more reminders that we were different from most of the people around us. So many years later, that odd bond of being overseas Chinese never quite faded out of my life. Suddenly, it made me miss my father.



At 8/31/2007 09:07:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a scary, dreamy, weird, and slightly sweet adventure.

At 8/31/2007 10:12:00 AM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

Looking back, I should have had a cello player dressed as a bunny rabbit playing the scary parts of the Bach Cello Suites provding the background music.

At 8/31/2007 08:47:00 PM, Blogger Dale said...

An amazing tale Chancelucky.

I laughed (the iDog is genius), I was creeped out (by being called a blog friend - kidding - by your Arang encounter) and I nearly burst into tears when you said it all made you miss your father.

At 9/01/2007 01:27:00 PM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

Thanks Dale,
I'm just glad my neighbors aren't quite as colorful as yours.

At 9/02/2007 03:09:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can get you a third leash for $1.59 so you don't have to scare the heck out of Mrs CL.

At 9/02/2007 04:35:00 PM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

If you can get leashes for 1.59, that would be great. They get sort of expensive when you have a dog who always tries to eat them.
Even if we had 3 leashes, it's really no fun to take three dogs for a walk with two people. They keep crossing into one another.


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