When I walk the sidewalks of this huge city, this boundless Chinatown, I watch people's eyes.
I don't watch out of curiosity about what they are thinking, but out of self absorbed curiosity about whether they will notice my foreign face or not. I guess it's like a game I play, trying to catch someone staring.
But this has proven to be a disappointing game, no one looks at me or seems to care about my face. Maybe the locals are used to seeing foreigners, (which is weird because I never see any), or maybe their eyes don't rove around like mine, or maybe I'm just not quick enough!
But I've been doing something a little different lately: I've been covering most of my face. At first I thought no one would look at me at all because they couldn't see my foreign features under my black face cover. Which, other than the cold, was one of my reasons for wearing it, to hide my face. But, to my surprise, I got way more stares and double-takes walking along the sidewalks. I couldn't figure out why.
Now that I wasn't playing the game anymore, trying to catch stares. It bugged me. I was supposed to blend in. Why were people staring at me?
Then after a few days of sidewalk double-takes I looked at my refection in a window. I was kind of surprised by what I saw, by what I looked like peering out over my black shroud.
I looked kinda scary. My eyes were deep set, peering back at me under the shadow of my pronounced eye-brow-ridge. The bridge of my nose accentuated my oddness even more, dividing what little was showing of my face in half like a fantastically steep mountain range. It's a miracle that I can see things directly in front of me!
Of course I might be exaggerating and being a bit dramatic about what I saw in that reflection but keep in mind that I've been looking at almost entirely Asian faces on the sidewalks for the last month or so. Asian faces tend to have smoother faces, shallower eye sockets and nose bridges, than the average Irish-Norwegian like myself. But when they see my whole face it must just look like a Westerner's face, a common and not unusual thing to see here on TV, on billboards, and every now and then on the side-walk. But when you cover the rest of the face and show only the part that differs the most, the eyes and nose bridge, it seems to throw people off when they get close enough to see it. It all happens too fast when you're walking towards them. You get a lot of double-takes and stares.
Then again I don't know if I've seen anybody else wearing black fabric over their face like I do. Maybe they're just staring at the weirdo dressed like a ninja terrorist.