Being in Sydney has made me realize something profound about my diet. I’m not a vegetarian, I’m an American vegetarian. I haven’t eaten meat for 10 years, however my herbivorous life has been made easy by the fact that Americans are obsessed with mock meat. I’ve been raised with “chick’n” wings and fakenn bacon, however Australia’s preservative laws prevent such things from existing here. Because of this fact, I’ve been consuming a diet of mostly raw vegetables alongside an unfortunate amount of Reeces peanut butter cups for my source of fatty substance. Subsequently, due to my healthy appetite for cucumbers and capsicums, I am constantly going to the grocery store to get more produce. Oftentimes these trips end up being at night when I return to our apartment for an evening meal. The walk-everywhere culture of Sydney is interesting to me because back home in Los Angeles I hate walking alone, especially at night. Walking alone means car honks, catcalls, and druggies asking for money. The streets of Sydney are wildly safe, comparably. My rudest encounter for a while was a drunk guy shouting between swigs of Wild Turkey that he oughta give me a kiss. Overall, though, my experiences in the streets of Sydney have been majorly docile, until a few weeks ago when I was approached by a strangely tall asian man on my way to the market. He wore a long camel-brown robe, and looked like a kind enough person. I couldn’t tell the significance of the garment, but he appeared gentle like one of the hari-krishna people you see at the airport. I knew that he was going to try to talk to me, and due to my oath it would be wrong not to. See, I made an oath after being snubbed so much while working at the environmental organization– the promise being that I’d never be in too much of a rush to make a connection with another human being. Still, on this particular occasion I really didn’t want to stop and talk to anyone.
I was careful to avoid eye contact with the man, my gaze locked definitively into the distance, yet I could sense him targeting me as I approached his bit of sidewalk. Of course, right as I pass him he pounces out. I was expecting this, but not the gold coin that he’d thrust into my hand. I examine the coin which is made from cheap metal and has an image of some unfamiliar deity printed onto it. My assumption is that I will have to pay for whatever this thing is so I try to hand it back to him but he won’t take it. Instead he’s chanting some strange words at me. The tone in his voice isn’t soft or inviting as I had expected it would be, but is instead violent and overflowing with what feels like malicious intent.
“Changarido! Changarido!” he yells at me, five, ten times.
“I don’t want it! i don’t want it!” I yell back at him.
We literally tussle for a moment and finally I manage to get the coin back in his hand. He stops chanting and I use the moment to run away towards the safety of the sliding doors of the grocery store. As I take the escalator down to the produce section, I feel, throughout my whole body, as if I was just cursed by the man. “Goddamnit,” I’m thinking, “I think I was just cursed! Do I even believe in curses? If so, this is just the worst week for me to be cursed too since I’m about to start looking for a job!” Yet even through my haze of anger, I realize that I’m smirking a half smile. The odd encounter had reminded me of my beloved, wild Los Angeles. Part of me wanted to go back outside and nuzzle my face gently into the man’s robes and say
“Thank you sir, feels like home.” But he was gone.