China was a pretty, nineteen-year-old blonde in shorts and a Batman T-shirt. She had to go from the Oceanfront all the way to Hampton. The GPS said it would be a thirty-eight minute drive. Fortunately, China is exactly the kind of person you want for a long Uber ride.
She dropped her skateboard in the back and sat comfortably in the front seat. Right away, I could tell she was a talker. That’s a good thing. I like it when riders enjoy conversation as much as I do. Especially when they have interesting stories to tell.
China is a recent high school graduate. That’s how I figured out she was nineteen. Nothing special about that. Then she told me about her family.
“I’m the oldest of nineteen.”
“Wait. What? You have eighteen younger brothers and sisters?”
“Yup.” She grinned.
“How is that even…”
“And no twins.”
She was enjoying making me work this out.
“Some of them must be adopted, right?”
“But your mom couldn’t have had a baby every year for nineteen years…
She laughed and helped me out.
“They’re not all the same mom.”
Turns out her family is quite a mixed bag. It’s so convoluted I’m sure I’ll get it wrong here (If you’re reading this, China, forgive me for messing it up).
Her mom’s been married three times and has a total of seven children. Only two by China’s father–China and her brother Wolfgang.
So, China only has one full brother. The others are various combinations of half and step-siblings.
Her mom has seven children. Her step-dad has four from a previous marriage.
And then there’s her father.”My dad has kids from various baby mommas. Eight that I know of. There’s probably more out there, but I stopped looking a while ago. My dad’s a bit of a player.”
“My dad traveled a lot for his job. He worked for the circus, putting the rides together.”
“This story just gets better and better.”
She laughed. In fact, China laughed a lot throughout the conversation. She takes her crazy family life in stride.
“So, my dad basically has children all over the place from chicks he’d hook up with at the circus.”
“How did you find out about them all?”
“I dated a guy in high school whose dad was a private detective. He helped me find them. I’d heard stories about my dad having other kids and I wanted to know about them. After we found them, some of them came to live with us and my mom got custody.”
“Really? That sounds kind of crazy.”
“Actually, we all get along really well.”
She went on to talk about her relationship with her siblings. In particular her half-brother, James, who is just a year younger. They are best friends and kindred spirits.
They are both musical, joining the high school band together. They both play a variety of instruments. James is, “just short of being a virtuoso.”
They love to perform spontaneously. In the nursing home where they visit their grandmother. Or on a toy piano at General Dollar. They even did some busking at the Oceanfront back in the day.
“Do you sing?” I asked.
“No, we rap.”
Right. Of course you do.
To prove it, she busted an original rhyme for me.
Her rap made me laugh. In our long conversation, China never once used a profanity. She was articulate and sweet. But her rap was filthy. I won’t quote any here, but let’s just say the FCC would require some heavy bleeping. It was a weird, brief transformation.
I asked her what her future looked like.
China wants to be in politics. She wants to make changes to this messed up country. She cares about injustice and inequity in our judicial system. She was passionate and knowledgeable about laws she found ridiculous.
“Did you know that in thirty-one states a rapist can apply for custody rights?”
“Really? No. I didn’t. That seems crazy.”
Her plan is to join the military. Learn law through the JAG program. Get her law degree, pass the bar, start a non-profit with her boyfriend to help the homeless and then run for office.
“So you want to be like Hillary Clinton.”
“I mean you want to be a politician like Hillary Clinton.”
“Yeah. Only better.”
“The problem is,” I told her.”You’re too sincere to be a politician. You actually want to make a positive difference in the world. That’s not how politics seems to work in this country.”
“I know. That’s what I want to change.”
I dropped China off with her skateboard at some docks at Hampton University. She lives with her boyfriend on a little sailboat.
Of course she does.
As she exited, I said, “I can’t wait to see your name on a ballot one day, China. You’ve got my vote.”