Sometimes I feel like I’m in a movie. The scenery seems like elaborate props and I’m waiting for the dramatic music to cue. Only, I feel like I’ve forgotten my lines. How did I even get this part, and who is out there watching?
Sitting on a dirty tarp, breathing in the exhaust, listening to the Cantonese, Vietnamese and Indonesian chatter floating around my ears, watching children chasing bubbles, laundry drying as high as 10 stories up, honking cars blend with the hip-hop music for the impromptu dance lessons playing out before me.
I watch a man walk into the town circle where we were gathered. He is wearing a chocolate brown sweatshirt that’s tucked into his navy blue sweatpants that are hiked far above his waist, which are tucked into his starch white socks that are pulled up to his calves. He puts his bulk of bags and clothes on an open spot on a bench a few feet away from our tarp. He carefully removes both of his shoes, then folds his socks into the shoes. His navy blue sweatpants he crumples into a ball into his bag. In his green boxers with cartoon fish he struts into the center of the circle, tucking his sweatshirt deep into his boxers, so the ends hang out the bottom. Legs like toothpicks make awkward movements, his face contorted with thought, large ears looking misplaced on a head too small. In his bony hands he holds the bulb of a flame flower. He kicks it around like a hacky sack, an imaginary soccer game being played out before anxious mothers who keep their children too close and laughing teenagers who act like they hadn’t been taught not to point. This goes on until the street sweeper unknowingly sweeps up his next shot. He snatches the bulb from the dust pan, then throws it on the ground in anger, flattening the bulb. The laughing girls are still pointing.
Then a couple of the girls in our group turn on their music to dance. Out of my side-view I see the man, a young boy in an awkwardly grown man’s body, meticulously putting his pants back on, tucking each leg into the starch white socks, velcroing his shoes tight. Then he makes his way towards us. And starts to dance. Mimicking every hop, twist, thrust, shake and jiggle with exact precision, the laughing girls stop pointing, mouths slightly agape. And then he improvised, spinning on the ground, looking as though he belonged in a dance video instead of the noisy town circle of Macau.
The camera moves to focus behind the new dance hero to find Kelli and Julie crouched by the lamppost, blowing bubbles for the little Chinese children to chase. The mothers were okay with the bubbles. Just not the imaginary soccer game. With each bubble that was chased to its doom, laughed rings out. Julie is playing a small game of tag with the bubble wand and two little boys. Kelli is firmly planted on the ground, children floating around her with giggles and outstretched little fingers.
As I’m writing these scenes furiously down in my journal, so as not to lose the moment that is already captured in my camera, the soccer playing dancing hero is suddenly standing over me. I notice his shadow fall over the words I had just written about him. “Um goy. Ni homa.” (Excuse me. How are you?) I smile and nod, not knowing how to answer the greeting in Cantonese, and shake his hand instead. He grins and looks down in my journal, even though my script must look as foreign to him as the characters on the neon signs that border the circle do to me. Then he shrugs his bony shoulders and goes back to dancing, following the drumbeats of the traditional Indonesian folk songs echoing on the concrete.
What’s the name of this movie, and who’s watching?