“Strangers on the MTR” by Valerie Wong

Strangers on the MTR

stilted silence as we walk out of the office together, thank god we only have to do this for five more
seconds. but oh wait, you’re going the same way and you just said “let’s go together” in that eternally
cheerful voice of yours, and well, i can’t exactly say no can i? so off we go, hurtling toward nowhere in a
dark underground tunnel, the moments punctuated by bursts of questions on both ends, mostly mine.
i’m trying my hardest to minimize my foreignness, but my canto crumbles, always crumbles, and i find
myself slipping into english as you answer in perfect chinese. you, the quintessential local and me, the
proverbial hong kong hybrid. why are we even talking?

now we’re sitting side by side on the train, the two of us so achingly self-conscious, which is made all the
worse by the knowing glances they shoot us, instant awkwardness. i’m filling in the newfound silence by
putting on some lip gloss; i can tell you’re trying not to look at my lips. can you say sexual tension? how
is there even tension, when you’re everything i don’t want? god, i have to look away, now.

after a little more sputtering the conversation gradually revives. slowly, details of our lives begin to filter
out—your sister, our schools, our joint sentence at the princeton review. maybe we aren’t so different
after all. out of the corner of my eye, i see another train passing ours in the dark, and i realize we’ve
been living parallel lives this whole time. but it seems we may have finally caught up to each other.

Valerie Wong was born in Toronto, grew up in Hong Kong and is currently studying international business at New York University.

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