It Happened at 4:32 pm After Daylight Savings
That is to say, it was still bright outside when eight strangers knocked him down on Philadelphia pavement and kicked him until his jaw unhinged on both sides and his ears burst and blood smeared his vision. When he relays the story over the phone, he doesn’t repeat what they said to him, but I know enough to know they could also be applied to me, to my family, to my best friends, could be said to any Asian on the street who is or is not Chinese, who does or does not wear a face mask.
Some ironies parsed out only after the fact: due to those eight eighteen-to-twenty-two-year-old strangers, his immune system weakened. Four separate illnesses, two more trips to the hospital. Subsequent solitude. He was quarantined long before the public learned to quaver and splash clean their hands and buy out the face masks they had just-since taunted the wary about.
Another irony: If they had really been worried, the last thing they would have done was go near him that afternoon. This new fear just a cloak for old hate.