Sunday, October 19, 2008

The man in the suit

By Kevin

The man stood in the hallway knocking at the door, wearing a suit and holding a briefcase in his hand. But nobody was answering. When we turned on the hallway light, he seemed stunned for a moment. Then he shouted. “Nice to meet you.”

As we waited for Wes to answer his door, you could hear the man's mind racing.

As we walked in, the man followed behind. “May I come in?” he asked me, in the hallway, in broken English. “It's not my house...” I looked to Wes, but the man had already slid past the threshold and into the door. Wes, shocked, motioned him in and pointed toward the seat.

For the next 10 minutes, Ruth and I said little. Wes began talking with the strange man in Chinese, subtly trying to figure out why he came in. “May I practice speaking English with you?”

“Yes, but only for a few minutes,” Wes said. “We have plans.”

He only managed a handful more English words in the next several minutes.

Apparently the man was a former student who now teaches political science at a local school. He'd come to visit a friend of his, Wes' neighbor. He was excited to learn that we were Americans and that we were planning to watch a movie together. His eyes shifted, nervously back and forth between us. He grinned from ear-to-ear. We began to worry that our plans to relax and watch a movie might be falling apart. Then it came:

“May I watch with you?” the man asked in English.

Wes answered in Chinese. Something to the extent of: “I don't think you would understand because it is American culture.”

“I would really like to see an American film.”

Wes paused and tried another tactic: “I don't even know your name. If a strange man just walked in your door and started asking questions, then invited himself to watch a movie what would you say?”

Then he stood up and walked him to the door. After pulling the door shut, Wes breathed a sigh of relief. “What just happened?”

We shook our heads. “That was strange,” we agreed.

“You have to remember, they don't see us as people,” Wes reminded us as we recounted one of the strangest 10-minute episodes we've been a part of.

“Time to start looking through the peephole before we open the door.”

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