It was one of those mornings when I simply didn’t want to get up. It was just getting cool enough to be very comfy under the blankets, but I did. I got up, and it was just around 7am. I followed my little routine, and before I knew it, I was at the door checking my pockets for everything. Keys? Check. Money? Check. Cigarettes? Check. Lighter? Check. Phone? Check. Vitamins? Check. Two coins? Check. And with that, I was ready to go. Leaves were rustling below my feet, as was the petrified cat poop that I have to step over every day when I leave. Some of my neighbors were shouting in some unintelligible dialect at one another. I round the corner to see the dude scaling the fish that still wiggles. And there’s some sort of sale going on? I don’t investigate, but wonder why all of the old people are lining up. Then it hits me—the smell of the youtiao man. I get the coin ready, grab one of those little plastic bags, pick up a scalding hot oil stick, and hand him that cool metal piece without exchanging a word. Some of the locals look at me in disbelief. My insides are smiling. Chuckling actually. I squeeze in between the oncoming car and e-bike. My youtiao is eaten by the time the garbage can arrives. Passing Subway, I think of how much money I’ve saved by going with the oil stick instead of a sandwich.
Then it’s off to Starbucks which is charging me more for my coffee than I would be charged in the U.S., but that’s beside the point. “Zhe li he de ah?” “Dui de.” Can’t get that in the U.S. now can you? The streets here are cleaner than the one outside of my apartment. No cat shit to step over. I can smell winter coming as I shake just a little bit from the wind. A bus flies around the corner coming too close for comfort, and I wonder how I used to do this when I was hungover. My stomach is feeling good as the espresso wraps itself around the youtiao and vitamin mixture. Why I can’t feel this good all the time, I just don’t know. The intersection comes with a green light, and I scurry across just in time before it turns red. I feel bad for slow walkers around these parts. The sound of the erhu isn’t that great, but I drop that second coin in his plastic cup regardless. He can’t see me, but nods his head at the clank of metal. The green leaves shake with the breeze. Bark is peeling off the French Maples. I trip a bit over my own feet, but nobody notices. A cigarette is lit, and I wonder why my new electronic one has to be charged so much. I can’t be blamed for trying now can I? Take it one trip-free step at a time.
By Tim Hoerle