I’m Not Your Friend, Friend

Strangers strike up conversations for a few reasons: (a) they’re curious, (b) they’re nervous, or (c) they’re both. Usually, it’s both.

I used to see this stocky guy around campus during grad school. He was a few years older than me, that’s all I could gather. We’d encounter each other every couple of months, standing at the same intersection or passing by the Young Library. We might have worked in the same building but I never found out.

Our sightings were as brief as they were rare. We never said anything substantive, we just nodded at the other’s existence or mumbled a greeting. Not strangers, not friends; half-acquaintances.


One spring day he got in line behind me at the coffee shop outside my building. Fate decided this encounter would be a real conversation. There was intent in his eyes. He spoke first.

“So, what are you?” He said.

“What do you mean?” I replied.

Nice opener. This was going south fast.

“Are you Filipino or something?”

“Nope.”

“Are you sure?”

“I’m pretty sure.”

“Ok, so then what are you?”

“Chinese.”

“Oh OK. Because my friend is Filipino. You look like my friend.”

“Well, I’m not Filipino. Part of my family moved to the Philippines as land owners about 150 years ago. But not me, never been. My best friend is, if that helps?”

“Because you really look like my friend.”

I’m not your friend, friend.


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