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September 17, 2010 / Katie

a place called home

I walk through downtown. the lights left on for janitors in empty high rise offices shine down on the streets: Broadway, Fulton, Nassau, Centre. it is early fall.

in this fluorescent glow, I walk single-mindedly towards home. and can’t be bothered to look anyone in the eye. on the threshold of Chatham Square, near the statue of Confucius in neglect, I feel finally at ease. East Broadway is a dump, but it’s my dump.

no one else understands what it is to live here. it is a neighborhood of others. of immigrants striving, plodding on to turn a quick buck. of bohemians struggling to find meaning in their skinny jeans. of black monks and displaced Jews. of project kids on criminal errands. of things too steeped in complicated favors and unspoken intentions to comprehend.

unpleasant. uncivilized. unsanitary. Chinatown is not a place for living. it lives only in our imaginations, colored by impressions that cut glass but not steel, and make great happy hour anecdotes.

but Chinatown is not incense and tea, dim sum and peking ducks, cheap foot massages and knock-off purses. it is something else entirely, something much less knowable.

I look up to see the Q train kathunking its way across the Manhattan bridge. amid its deafening roar I realize something denied: I belong here. curious for someone who does not look the part. because being Chinese is a performance for me, and I know all the lines by heart. in this wasteland I can shine.

by chance and circumstance I ended up in Chinatown. it is by choice–the kind you never see yourself making–and by choice alone that I stay.

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One Comment

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  1. Jared / Dec 15 2010 10:35 am

    Wow! Would you like to switch lives for a while? =)

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