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You Still Owe Me

Author: Ngan Nguyen

Please note: this piece contains descriptions some readers may find upsetting.

The gentle spring breeze touched my face as I walked along Union Street in Aberdeen. I was in a good mood as the melodic rhythm from the concert still played in my head and the taste of a delicious Chinese dinner lingered in my mouth. I joined the crowd who enjoyed their pleasant weekend.

‘Aagh.’

A middle-aged man jumped towards me. I stood as a statue and didn't know what was going on. He couldn’t read my blank, Asian face so he left. I turned back to search for him.

‘Virus.’

He looked straight at me from three meters away, shouting with a jubilant smile in his eyes. The empty and unemotional eyes of a man who had lost their soul to alcohol. Pedestrians stared at me in silence. My husband and a friend of mine were walking ahead but now they stopped. My husband approached the man, pouring angry words on his face. I took my phone out of my warm coat pocket, snapping a photo of him. He was shocked, I speculated, realising that his female victim was not alone.

I sat by the window, feeling black tea occupying my mouth softly. My fingers touched pink flowers, gifts from a Chinese girl who had wanted to discover Vietnamese language and two Scottish women who I volunteered with. Whilst my eyes were searching for early signs of green leaves on the valley below, I brooded after surfing the internet. People of Asian appearance were being beaten, threatened and insulted in different ways in person or online. I’m just one of many silent victims. Our Asian cultures nurture us to choose the harmonious way to avoid conflict. We prefer to bury our tears in our pillows rather than stand up to fight against prejudices. My eyes lingered on the video about a man with a sanitiser bottle chasing an elderly Asian woman. A surge of anger rushed to my head. How did her children and grandchildren feel? I could be chased like her one day. This was not just her story. This was mine too.

My husband and I went to the police station in the early morning after isolating for two weeks. We wanted to make sure that we didn't have symptoms of COVID-19. My husband sat on the bench waiting for me. After asking some questions, the female receptionist left. A couple of minutes passed. A young police man appeared. I reported what happened to me that evening.

‘You should go home and don’t go out,’ the policeman said coldly.

I lost my words, staring at him. I didn’t believe my ears.

‘How can you say that? Your job is to protect people.’ My husband jumped from the bench. His short, quick tones let me know that he had lost his temper.

The policeman was startled. He changed his mind immediately. I was led to a small room to ask for my statement. I left the police station with a heavy chest. Strangely, I felt Aberdeen on that spring day to be colder than winter.

It took the police five days to find the man but it would take me a whole life to forget how I was treated in the police station.

More than twelve months later, justice was brought to the court. That man pled guilty and had to serve 50 hours community service. Was I satisfied with this? What I really wanted was an apology. How dare you judge someone to be a virus carrier from the colour of their skin. I didn’t drink champagne, wine or whisky to celebrate this justice. Instead, I gulped down a glass of tap water. This pure and precious liquid is the most delicious drink for humans. It helps me to have a clear mind so that I can raise my voice in a proper way.

You still owe me.

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