Feeling Arizona

Although it is Saturday morning, it is a typical work day in the PRC. Wednesday is the Dragon Boat Festival, a work holiday. In order to give people a longer break, the work week has been shifted. Schools and business are open Saturday and Sunday and are closed Monday and Tuesday.

Thus, the kids are enjoying their second-to-last day of school. Jason is back at the apartment. I am at Starbucks in what will be my last unfettered writing day before our departure. I am currently ensconced in a comfy upholstered chair (hard to come by elsewhere) and drinking my last green tea and black sesame frapucino for the foreseeable future.

In other words, I am all set to have a productive morning. I am hoping to finish my redrafted introduction. But the thing is, as I pulled the computer out of my bag, I realized with a feeling of dread that I left my passport back at the apartment. I don’t even have a copy with me.

I have written elsewhere of the fact that foreigners are required to carry their passports and that both Jason and I have been stopped and asked to produce our documents. I have also written about the feeling it gave me – a feeling of intractable alterity that could never be remedied by tenure or competence in Chinese language or culture. Being stopped made me feel like I would never belong because, no matter how Chinese I might become, I would never look Chinese. Forgetting to carry your passport brings a different feeling, however. Without my passport, I am not only an outsider on account of my race, I have little defense against people who seek to challenge the legitimacy of my presence.

In all likelihood, this is probably no big deal. Chances are that I will be fine here in the Starbucks and make it through the subway ride back to campus without incident. All the same, in the unlikely event I was stopped, I would be in trouble. Thus, I have moved to a seat behind the wall so I am not visible to any passing law enforcement and I will definitely stay clear of any police officers I encounter on the way home. While I would be more comfortable just heading home right now, as rush hour is over I think it is best that I wait until the midday rush, when the subway is more crowded and I am less noticeable. I am a fugitive and there is no hiding it because my race makes me visible and problematic, the lack of documents just provides more options for those who would wish to manage the disruption of my existence.

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