Thursday, April 9, 2009

A Dim-Sim in Transit

I met Jock on the train.
He was the initiator of our conversation, which moved haltingly from Chatswood train station to fashion,
onto dim-sims and family affairs; finally coming to a stop at Town Hall station.

Jock I estimate to be about 66 years of age and to have worn the same sweat and food stained periwinkle blue polyester shirt for, at least, 37 of those years. At least.
“It’s a bloody crime” Jock barked, snapping me out of a solo train-travellers reverie.
Initially I was not sure to whom this dumpy, ruddy bulbous-faced man with
impressive tussocks of grey hair surging from his ears was talking to.
It was that moment, for me, when you feel someone is just out there hanging.
The air is loaded and prickly.
So with something of a cautious pause, to ease the discomfort (my discomfort) I questioned “Ah, what was that?”
And that was all Jock needed.

“What people call fashion. Kids. What kids call fashion” nodding to a pack of boisterous late teens.
They’re numerous facial piercings resplendent and glinting in the artificial light.
The train came to a grinding halt and Jock and I watched the ‘kids’ jostle from the carriage onto the platform,
parting through a sedate straw-hat-wearing group of Asian private school girls.
“And don’t even get me started on them” Jock scoffed, turning his attention to rearranging his belongings
and copious plastic bags in his dingy ‘Ansett Airways’ shoulder bag.

Suddenly it all made sense.
Jock was just another racist old bloke. Prejudiced towards just about anything even remotely new or different,
impossible to please; no doubt partial to his meat and 3 veg.
Just as I assumed I had this guy all stitched up, all typecast and neatly packaged into a little labelled box, Jock triumphantly pulled out of his shabby grey ‘Ansett’ shoulder bag, a wrinkled redolent brown paper bag and thrust it towards me.
I started to think of every reason why not to accept this rather unexpected gift,
but found myself reaching into the grease-splotched paper sack and pulling out a cold
stale-smelling piece of the bounty,
pinching it uneasily between my thumb and forefinger.

“My son married one you know” Jock stated,
returning the brown paper bag, without retrieving a dim sim for himself, to his jam-packed shoulder bag.
I think I stared dumbly.
Jock didn’t look up from his re-arranging and fine-tuning of his bags contents, and simply continued:
“A Filipino, my son married a Filipino”.
My mind tried to retrace our steps of dialogue that led to this final announcement,
but Jock continued, still rummaging.
He detailed his disapproving reaction to the courtship and marriage by not speaking directly to his sons partner,
not attending the wedding and declining invitations from his son and his sons wife for meals or birthdays.

There was no pride in his admission, no satisfaction, no eye contact either.
It seemed Jock was confessing. Coming clean.
“He had a son. My boy. Has a son” Jock blurted after an awkward pause.
He dove back with fervour into his seemingly endless sorting of the contents within his bag.
Suddenly the train lurched to a stop.
Without looking up, Jock zipped his bulging bag said “My name is Jock and this is my stop”.
And I just sat.
Still holding that dim-sim between my thumb and my forefinger.