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Abha Iyengar

 I was standing in the queue for my ticket when someone tapped me on the shoulder and said, ”Hey, are you Che Guevara?”  

Before I could reply, he waved and walked away.

What was the need for such a question, I wonder.

Anyways, I shrugged it off. No point in calling attention to myself. These Americans, they ask crazy questions. In China, we don’t walk up to strangers and question them about who they are. We let people alone, and don’t want to be disturbed ourselves.

These foreigners will ask anybody anything.

I look at the young boy who has fallen asleep on my shoulder. He is also Chinese, like me. He is a student, here on a scholarship. I have not come like he has. I’d rather not tell you how I came to America, how it is that I am living and breathing in a free country. But I don’t consider myself free, not yet. I can be caught and deported any time. That is why the disguise. I hope I am unrecognizable enough. I have not told the Chinese boy anything, but I think he knows. He can keep the secret, all Chinese can. Not like these American people, so open and frank. It frightens me, I tell you.

I am keeping to myself, travelling quiet. When I get off, my cousin will be there to receive me. I told him how to recognize me. Look out for a tall, thin, man with a black beard and black goggles. The cap completes the picture. I am sure he will find me. But it has to be him alone. No one else. He will wear a red muffler, he said. Red China, red muffler. He cannot forget his past, I think.

I look at the boy with his head on my shoulder, as if I belong to him. What a coincidence, sitting next to a fellow Chinese. He has not been here long, that I can tell, because of his dress, so conservative, compared to the young Americans. Also, he is neat and clean and speaks with respect. These American kids are all dressed in loose clothes and bright colours and wear make-up and show so much skin, it is embarrassing to me. I hope the young boy wakes up soon. He makes me think of the young son I will never have. My wife died in childbirth and I have not married again.

It is strange to find a connection in a new country. I wish I could call this boy “my son."

My station is arriving. I will wake up the young boy. “Wake up, my son, wake up,” I’ll say. Then leave. We will go our separate ways, but we have made a connection. I will remember him, I know.

I look out the opposite window, trying not to care.