Coming to America is the first time I ever go somewhere that far—to the other side of Earth!—on my own. With two luggages and a carry-on backpack, I had three lay-overs and landed in Will Rogers Airport.
When I went to the Department of Motor Vehicles to take my computer test, my examiner took my information paper, my passport, my I-20 form, and my I-94, and looked me over from head to toe from above his glasses. He was an African American, and for me, a new comer in Oklahoma, his accent was too heavy for me to understand. He looked at me like I was a piece of meat that he was about to chop up and put into bags.
“How old are you again?” He had said, and I indicated to the paper in his hand. Twenty four, I said with a intimidated, quiet voice. He looked at me again with that appraising stare of his, and the corner of his mouth curled up. “Oh, you are no baby no more, huh?” He glanced down and pointed his finger at the cover of my passport. “What’s the deal? Here it says you’re from China, but you have Taiwan here on the paper.”
I cursed myself silently. I didn’t think twice when I put down “Taiwan” as my country of birth, but on my passport it showed Republic of China. It was the first time I hated the awkward political problem between Taiwan and China, and I wasn’t in a mood to discuss it with the officer. “Republic of China is Taiwan.” I used my limited English to explain, “People’s Republic of China is China.”
He looked bored. “So are you from Beijing?” He said, “that’s the only city I know about that country.”
“I’m from Taipei.” I didn’t bother explaining that Beijing is in China and Taipei is in Taiwan. He didn’t seem to be interested in world geography, and I wasn’t interested in teaching it.
“Are you afraid, being so far away from home?” He asked, “you have any relatives here?”
“No. Not at all.” I didn’t want to chit-chat. I wanted to get my paperwork done and take the test and go home.
He made a sound to acknowledge my words, and looked at my paper again. “I bet you’re not even a hundred pounds,” he said out of blue and actually smiled. “I can literally put you in a luggage and carry you on my own.”
“I weigh a hundred and four.” I said as a matter of fact.
It seemed fun for him seeing me embarrassed, and I didn’t want to give him that pleasure, but I couldn’t help myself. So when I was finally dismissed from his office and was assigned to use computer twenty-five to take the test, I did it within fifteen minutes and went back to see him with the result of only one question missed.
“You done?” He looked surprised.
“Chinese people are good at test taking.” I replied.
He gave me the paper for a learner’s permit, and I headed out of the low, squatting DMV building and back to my heat-up Honda CR-V. I drove onto Interstate 240 and went home. Humiliation filled my chest, and I played Taylor Swift’s songs loud enough to keep myself from crying.
I felt a lot about coming to America alone. But fear was not one of them.