The Gold Chain

My date’s green paisley sport shirt was open at the collar, and the right tail had come halfway out of his black denim pants. The inch-and-a-half of hair on the top of his head was slanted to the right as if it were about to fall over. Though the name was Nihonjin, his features were Chinese. There was something Banana—yellow on the outside but white on the inside—about the way he talked grandiloquently on whether a person can have more than one personality and where the seat of consciousness lies. Sitting next to me on the bus, he gazed into my eyes every few seconds. A smile lit up his whole face, which made me wonder what he could possibly see there.

Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. I repeated the chant in my mind, trying to hold onto the tranquility that filled me to overflowing. For half an hour I had felt the leader’s blessing flowing from his raised palm to the motionless congregation. Compassion. Wisdom. Interconnectedness. Nichiren creates personal development through self-awareness. If someone meditates with sufficient devotion, anything she wishes for will be hers. Typically the men want money. Perhaps in my secret heart I wished for what was beside me.

Though it would have been impolite to look out the window, I was conscious of scrub-covered mountains towering over us, making me feel insignificant. My date’s voice rose as if lecturing the passengers. He gestured with his hands, appearing pleased with himself. Uneasy at having attention drawn to us, I touched the good luck gold chain at my throat, above my V-neck blouse.

Whenever she thought I was getting uppity my mother would say, “The nail that stands up gets hammered down.” It reminded me of my date, whose long Asian torso forced me to look up at him. My friends used to say, “Don’t stand out.” Anyone who did was criticized for incorrect grammar, a lock of hair out of place, any small fault—until the offender blended in. Humility is the Nihonjin way, like our smiling, twitting and giggling in unison. Perhaps that is why we make such poor entrepreneurs—all the Japanese restaurants in town are owned by Chinese.

My date fell silent. I had wanted to put a bag over his head. His eyes moved to my face and then a few inches lower, where they lingered. I slapped him on the cheek and shouted, “You were looking down my blouse!”

He stared at me with a hurt expression. Anger mingling with longing, he opened his mouth to explain. Then he turned to the front of the bus, put his hands in his lap, and shifted away in his seat. We rode the rest of the way in silence.

Ron Morita studied neurophysiology at UCLA’s Brain Research Institute because so much of what we consider ourselves to be is in the brain. Finding himself unsuited to the minutia of academia, he earned a Masters in biomedical engineering from Case Western Reserve and became an electrical engineer. His fiction appeared in Cigale Literary Magazine and has been accepted by The Chamber Four Literary Magazine and Penduline Literary Magazine. Ron has four unpublished novels. He lives in Medford, Massachusetts. www.facebook/RonMoritaStories