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The Distance (continued from preceding page)
“What’s up,” he said as he unloaded his bag and sat
down next to me.
The president did a brief introduction of the club’s mission and history. Then she went off stage and joined us in the audience for some ice breakers. Since the girl in front of Jason had no one in her row, I natu- rally got stuck with George.
“Nice seeing you here,” I smiled.
“Where are you from again?” George asked. I heard Jason’s partner ask him the same question. We fell silent in unison.
“Beijing,” I said.
“SoCal,” I heard Jason say.
“Oh, so you’re an international student?” George asked with a surprised look, as if awed by my family’s financial prowess to afford the international tuition.
“Technically no,” I said. “I came here when I was nine. So where are you from?”
“I was born and raised in Boston. My great great grandparents were from Sweden, you know where that is right?” he asked.
I thought it was a rhetorical question, so I didn’t an- swer. Then he pulled out his phone and showed me
a complete map of Europe on the screen. He pointed at Sweden, “There it is. They fought in France against the Germans in World War II.”
“You know where France is right?” he added.
“Yeah, he knows,” I heard Jason bud in. He had his arm around my shoulder. Something in his explo- sive voice told me the conversation was turning sour. I nervously stared at the grandfather clock in the distance and perused the elegant way in which the second hand moved. “Are you Chinese too?” George asked.
“No, I’m Korean,” Jason said.
“South or north?”
“South or north?” George Anderson repeated.
“South?” Jason squinted until his eyes become two horizontal lines. The sarcastic tone in his voice implied the question was as dumb as, say, asking our seven billion neighbors what’s two plus two, or
asking the Great George Anderson himself, who’s the first president of the United States of America. “Also, my friend was raised here. He might even know more European countries than you,” he continued.
I thanked Jason a thousand times in my heart, but he kind of missed the point. He subconsciously implied that had I been raised in China then it’s possible that I might’ve not known those countries, that it was
my education in the States that made me a worldly person. In reality, any educated person in Asia could easily name ten European countries and all the major battlegrounds of World War II.
George gave us a disgusted look, grabbed his bag, and relocated next to Jason’s partner.
“Thanks,” I said as we surfaced from the basement. The rain had stopped. Sunlight once again illuminat- ed the green, rusty bronze statues of the once impor- tant men in the Arts Quad.
We walked ten minutes in the direction of our resi- dence hall without speaking another word. Crushed earthworms washed down the gutter of a big road. Behind the bushes, squirrels whose tails were larger than bodies once again held acorns between their hands in boxing position.
“Hey listen, um, I have something to tell you,” Jason paused as we passed by the stairs that led downhill to west campus, where most of the upperclassmen lived.
“Yeah?” I said.
“You, you know,” he stuttered a bit, “How I said I’m from SoCal?”
I nodded.
“Well, that’s not entirely accurate.”
“What do you mean?” I returned the bewildered look he’d given me on move in day.
He pulled out his wallet, opened it, and stared in- tensely at a silver credit card as if making sure for the hundredth time that it’s still there after a crazy night at the club.
Then he murmured to his credit card, “I’m originally from Beijing.”
“It’s complicated though,” he immediately added. “I lived there till I was six. My dad is Korean, but my

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