It's amazing what treasures
you find when you're not looking. The photograph
of your bestfriend when you were 9 stuck in the back of a book. The ring
your first boyfriend gave you. The DNA
specialist living one town over.
That's right, in dinky, backwater, Western Maryland
there lives a man who discovered 32 of the DNA markers in each and every cell of my body
. A man with a list of credentials that would span the length of my arm, no doubt. A man who cast aside his fame
, his glory, his godhood among scientists
and chose instead to open a convenience store in a town where no one knew him. In a town where his skin tone and accent are foreign
and strange but not unwelcome.
"They call him Walter but that's not his real name. His real name was something foreign...Burmese
? Something like that. His accent almost hinted at Chinese
origins.." my dad told me as he relayed the tale of how he came to meet this man. A world-traveller
, I trust my dad's judgement of Asian accents and the possible origins of a person.
"Walter" has degrees in microbiology
and a slew of other things and yet he has turned away from science and is focusing on small business
in a small town with small minded people. Oh, and he's only in his forties.
When he first came to this town people welcomed him with open arms. Everyone smiled, spoke to him friendly, invited him, his wife and his brother to join the town in solidarity
. Then he opened his mouth. It wasn't the accent that turned them away, it was the knowledge
Small town people don't like being reminded they're small town people.
Who can honestly say they've looked in the mirror
without seeing something they didn't like. Perhaps it wasn't in the fleshy visage but something in the eyes that spoke of hidden secrets
, shameful lies
thoughts. Having a stranger you considered someone you could guide and show the way turn out to be your guide instead is a hard reality
My father attempted to explain this to Walter, who voiced his situation with puzzlement to a fellow human
being who seemed to understand him. He had called my father a mutt. My dad chuckled and smiled at this. The conversation went something as follows according to my dad:
Walter: Let me tell you something about DNA...and don't be offended. The purest DNA out there belongs to the Chinese. The least pure belongs to the Japanese and the Koreans.
My father's employee (who happens to be African American
): What about blacks?
Walter: That's tricky. It depends on who you're talking about. European and American blacks aren't pure, but African blacks are pretty pure. Overall blacks are almost as pure as the Chinese.
My dad: And us white guys?
Walter: You're mutts.
And this is where Walter told my father of his situation as an outcast
when neighbors looked him up on the internet and discovered the truth behind his mild claim to have "degrees." This is where my father told him of small town minds. Of small town people.