Taken for a Local

It’s happened a few times – mostly during October when I might have been dressed in a ’50s red polka-dot number and black/red eye make-up and someone asks to take my picture, cooing, “I love your costume”. I smile for a photo and don’t have the heart to tell them it was laundry day and my hair is really that black because my ancestors have never heard of Manic Panic.

Or I’ll have been the only person wandering down Derby Street NOT looking up at all the buildings, and instead looking at the floor, carrying a couple of CVS bags full of milk and loo roll. Tourists in their touristy uniforms tiptoe up to me with a map and I accidentally give them directions to Collins Cove instead of to the House of Seven Gables behind me.

It frequently left me bemused at the fact that I was harboring a little secret: I wasn’t actually living there. All of those times, I was visiting for a few days/weeks. Each time, I’d assumed that tourists simply just assume everyone else is a local designed to offer friendly GPS services (much in the way that chavs use an oversized pram full of stolen Primark knickers to dominate a pathway). It felt cheeky and warming at the same time. Like a silent fart.

In my local coffee place,  they’re starting to recognize me and have already started making my drink before I take out my wallet. I thought I had one of those forgettable faces, but I guess there aren’t too many English-accented, South Asian-ethnicitied whingers in Salem.

On the train (I hate trains) home, a woman asked me if she could use my phone to call her ride as she had forgotten her mobile at home. I said yes, but mostly because I recognised her as we both took the shuttle from the station into the office. We’ve never spoken, or barely even smiled at each other, but she knew where I was disembarking.

Walking home along Essex St, I was stopped by these guys asking if I recommended anywhere for them to go explore for the next half-hour. I pointed them to Front St (impossible to give directions down that funny side street/conglomerate of unmarked storefronts in Derby Square). Yesterday, the roads were a ghost town. Derby Street was being assaulted by some twat’s car’s sound system that was clearly incapable of sustaining the rusty ear-rape that is (most of) dubstep. All I heard was BZZWHOMP BZZWHOMP BZZZ. I mumbled something unflattering under my breath as the culprit swanned into the off-license, then realised that as he had essentially driven onto my street, he was my neighbour, a friend of the husband’s. Maybe he didn’t notice me calling him a pillock, scowl-tutting in disgust and giving his car a wide berth in case he accidentally ran me over.

Is it too late to still feel like a tourist now? Is there really no turning back? Almost every item of clothing I wear, even though they’re relatively cheap, comes from the UK. I look like a foreigner. Even thanks to the skin tone, I look like a damn foreigner. When I talk, I sound like a foreigner. It’s a nice feeling.



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