Orientation

He sidled into the room late and took a seat next to me near the back. It was hot outside, a dewy August in St. Paul, Minnesota, 1988, but he was wearing a raggedy gray car coat and Doc Martens. He had a stringy goatee and lank hair that flopped over his eyes, and he reeked of cigarettes. He badly needed a shower. He was of average height and rather thin, but incongruously, especially for an eighteen-year-old, he sported a noticeable paunch.

He glanced at the name tag stuck to my shirt. “Eric Cho,” he read. “What do you know, another Korean.” He wasn’t wearing a name tag himself. An act of defiance, apparently. All the other kids wore name tags, as dictated, for Macalester College’s freshman orientation. “Joshua,” he told me, and I nodded.

He took a look around at the other students in the room—an introductory session for a first-year course called The Vietnam War: Apocalyptic Visions and Imperialist Hegemony. They were overwhelmingly Midwestern, upper-middle-class, white-bread. “What do you think, bro?” he said. “We were put in here to provide the Oriental perspective, weren’t we?”

Want to read more?
Please login.
New to Narrative? sign up.
It's easy and free.