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Shanghai Story 3: Jerry Takes Control

Jerry Takes Control

Another normal day greeted Jerry as he left his home in darkness. It was a 5 story walk-up where he slept in the same room he did as a kid, except now he was 25 and had to share it with his grandmother. He wore a long coat over his uniform in a vain attempt to save face. He hated his job, he hated his life, he hated the fact that he had not “made it”, but most of all he hated the loneliness.

He was a good looking guy by Chinese standards. He had gone to university and graduated with above average marks. Just a few years before he had had dreams, dreams he shared with her, but what of them now? There was nothing, nothing to dream about anymore. She was gone and he had to go to work.

Hopping on his bike he peddled aimlessly along the bike lane on his way to his job. The sun had not yet risen but he knew it was probably going to be the same kind of day as it was yesterday, grey. As he peddled he tried to think about how he’d gotten to where he was. His parents were embarrassed to have a son as lowly as him. But damn it, he had tried. He’d done his best. He had had dreams.

Graduation day. That was his last happy day. His parents had been so proud, positively beaming. And she had been there too wishing him well from a distance. He looked out at the crowd of classmates and eager parents. They had arrived all together, and she was among them, all piled on destiny’s doorstep. The future was so bright it glowed reddish orange like the smog blocking a Shanghai sunset. Where would they go? And what adventures would they have? He and his chosen one ready to set sail on the sea of Chinese dreams, albeit secretly, at least then it was anyway.

That all changed shortly after graduation. She had found a job and he hadn’t. Her job was good and he was happy for her, but the offers that came his way were lesser, less than hers to be exact.  He couldn’t bring himself to except that, yet they were still in love and busy planning for the future. Then as weeks turned into months and months into a year, and their feeling remained strong and true, until that fateful day…

A car horn blared and Jerry was jerked back to reality. He’d almost been hit by a buss running the red. First he thought he was lucky and then reconsidered as the station loomed silhouetted in the distance against a starless early morning sky. “Perhaps it would be better if I’d kept dreaming…”, he thought out loud.

Bringing his bike to a halt he checked himself mentally. Had he brought all that was required? Check. Everything was ion order. He had his hat It was time to start his shift. The first drowsy disheveled passengers were on their way up the escalator. The station would be opened at any moment and he had to get to his job location where he’d be spending the next 9 hours as he had every other day for the past couple years. Briskly he scaled the stares rather than waiting with the others on the escalators and made his way inside and took up his position.

With a sigh he put on his cap and awaited the dreaded onslaught of early morning Shanghai commuters. How much longer could he put up with this? With the sneers, the rude comments, and worst of all, being utterly ignored. When anyone shoved past ignoring his imploring instruction to “Please Accept the Safety Check” it was a hard pill to swallow. His pride had all but dwindled since taking this position out of desperation. He had wanted a better job. He had been educated for a better job. And he had waited patiently for a better job. A better job that had never arrived. Two years after graduation he had taken this job. His grandmother was at home all day which meant he had no privacy, and his parents had nagged him incessantly about his wasting his days away watching daytime soap operas, but the real reason he had gone to work was to get away from his thoughts. His thoughts of her and the loneliness they caused him to endure.

In university they had shared a secret love kept from both their families. After graduation, it had worked for awhile, but her parents had started pushing her to find a husband almost from the first instant she had once again found herself under their roof. She had a job and her parents were eager that she find a husband too, at least before the age of 25. Finally she had broken down and told them she was in love, had been so for many years, with her classmate, Jerry.

“Uh,ahhh, hey, please accept the…”, the first passenger was past, bag unchecked.

The tedium was underway for another day and Jerry slumped his shoulders and sank into his role. The morning progressed quickly as Jerry mechanically gave his instruction and waved his arm about not paying much attention to anything. His mind was a blank as it often was at his work station. Some checked their bags through the scanner, some didn’t, but what did he care?

His supervisor entered the building and something clicked in Jerry. “Damn that asshole.”, he said under his breath

He had lost 6 hours salary lat month because too many had failed to check their bags. This was an insult upon injury. Jerry pulled himself together and tried to focus on his work when that loawai came in. He didn’t know the lowai’s name, nor had seen him in any other place but the station, but Jerry imagined he lived a grand life. All lowai are rich after-all, and so handsome. “I bet he can get any girl he wants”, he thought.

The laowai pushed passed ignoring his waving arm as he always did. “That prick!” Jerry cursed.

If anything made him mad it was the foreigners who ignored his instruction. Sure, there were only 3 or 4 a day at this station and thousands and thousands of Chinese that ignored him, but the laowai made him madder than the rest, especially this one! Tall, good looking, rich… He was better than Jerry, had come to his country and had taken a better job… He was too important to give Jerry face by listening. Probably had lower grades in uni too. “I wish he’d die” Jerry thought as the laowai sprinted up the stairs without so much as ever acknowledging Jerry’s existence.

A few moments later, still fuming about “that fucking laowai”, a pretty girl smiled at Jerry and checked her bag through the machine. This snapped Jerry out of his hate filled internal rant for a moment and sent his mind on his lost love once more. “If only I had found a job in time. If only I had her now. Then everything…”. Screeching wheels of the oncoming train halted Jerry’s meditation.

A moment later a passenger came running down the stairs screaming that there had been an accident. His supervisor came sprinting over and told him to stop anyone else from entering. Jerry had his hands full for the moment. Passengers refused to stop pushing past. This was rush hour and they all had to get to better jobs.

Finally the gates were locked and the police had arrived to force passengers to exit the station. It was a few hours into his shift and Jerry was thankful at the chance to relax, even if it was at some poor bastard’s expense. Also, he was eager to get a look for himself. He had overheard from commuters exiting the station that someone had jumped or was pushed in front of an oncoming train. “A laowai” they had said. Jerry wondered if it was the one who always pushed passed him… “Serves him right if it was”, he thought to himself, “There are too many foreigners in Shanghai anyway. Taking all the better jobs!”

He made his way to the top of the stairs. The platform was almost completely empty now except for the police and his fellow metro employees. He ambled up to the edge and… A shot of joy ripped through Jerry’s soul. “It was him!” he exclaimed madly “It was him!” again as he began to laugh out loud, really loud actually.

The people milling about the scene turned at the sound of laughter and just barely caught a glimpse of Jerry’s back as he shot down the stairs. Coming to the station entrance he threw off his hat and very nearly leapt for joy. To his bike he ran and peddled like hell’s fire was nipping at his heels the whole way home. Once in the house, he dashed passed his startled grandmother to the kitchen and got what he needed… He’d make them pay!

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