"Hi, I am Leaven," she began. "Do you remember me?"
"Oh, yeah." I said with excitement. "Of course I remember you, Leaven. You're coming from English corner, right? How was it today?"
"Oh, wow!!" She almost shouted. "You are so cleaver and have such good remembering. It was good."
"I'm glad. Were you able to talk with the teacher about universities in Canada?"
"Oh no, maybe I am very busy in recent days." She said looking a little dismayed.
"Yeah, I understand." I began attempting to cheer her up. "It's that time of year when work is piling up."
She looked confused.
"There is so much work." I clarified, not realizing that she wasn't familiar with my earlier phrase.
"Oh. Yes, I have so much work."
"Me too. I have a LOT of papers left to grade from the midterm examinations."
"Being a teacher is hard," she said sincerely.
"It's ok. Being a student is hard, too." I said with an encouraging smile. "I'm sure you will be fine, though."
I was consciously speaking more slowly.
"Well," I began, attempting to part ways, "I have to go get something from my office, so I will see you later."
"Ok, can I have your number?" She asked with diminished excitement in her voice.
"Here you go," I said showing her my number in my phone (those extra digits are so hard to remember sometimes).
"Ok, I'll see ya later." I said noticing that she wasn't budging. "You could walk with me if you like."
"Yes, I really want to talk with you." She said almost sprinting to catch up with me.
We walked to my office, grabbed my shoes that I'd gone to get out of my desk and walked and talked with Leaven a bit more. We bonded over the fact that we are both from the South of our countries and fear the Changchun winter. She walked me all the way to my apartment before asking the inevitable question:
"Can I touch your hair?"
"Yeah. . . Sure." I stammered an answer out, surprised that she'd asked so abruptly.
"Oh, wow! It's so cool." She said with pure delight. "Is it nature?"
"Yes, it's natural." I responded, purposely overemphasizing natural and heard her repeat the word softly to herself. "My hair is curly."
"I think it is very good." She said with an assuring smile.
As we parted ways, at my apartment door, I could only think of how many times I've had that conversation (both in my broken Chinese and another's broken English). I don't think I will ever tire of the compliments so many women (and rarely men) give me concerning my hair, but I know I will tire of the hair touching, especially from strangers. Most people don't reach to touch my hair, so I'm not in grave danger. It's laughable and exciting in those rare cases when a stranger (usually an older person) walks up to examine my hair. It's pretty cool to feel like a celebrity where ever I go. . . courtesy of my hair.