I’m standing in the street, checking my car tires for chalk, wondering if I’m going to get a ticket later in the day, when a man walks past with his dog and starts up a conversation about the parking situation.
‘Ma’am,’ he says, ‘you should call the city and ask them to issue you with a permit,’
‘We’ve tried that,’ says my neighbour, Melissa, who is standing behind my car checking for chalk, ‘but they won’t do it,’
Then Melissa tells the man that she has lived in the apartment for 20 years and that things regarding parking are unlikely to change.
‘I work for the city,’ the man says, ‘maybe you could try again, though you might have to pay,’
We both agree that we would probably have to pay, and then Melissa, who is wearing a towel on her head because I have just touched up her roots, goes inside and then, because he asks me where I am from, the man and I stand on the footpath, talking.
‘I am from Australia,’ I tell the man, who then tells me he has been there.
‘I’ve been there,’ he says, ‘I went to Sydney for my son’s wedding,’
‘Nice,’ I say.
‘Yeh,’ he says, ‘he married an Aborigines,’
‘Oh, yeh?’ I say.
‘Yes, ma’am,’ says the man, ‘and I knew nothing about the Aborigines until he married one,’
‘Well,’ I say, ‘they are the original population,’
Then I tell him a short history about Australia’s attempted genocide of the Aboriginals, and how once there was the White Australia Policy.
‘They are so black,’ the man says of the Aborigines he saw, shaking his head and laughing, ‘but they live just like normal people,’
‘Some do,’ I say, understanding that the man means in houses, with beds in the bedrooms and living in the living room.
‘They live in London, now,’ says the man about his son an the son’s wife.
Then the man tells me he was born in Shanghai, but came to the US when he was 10.
‘My whole family is out there still,’ he says, ‘and I ain’t seen none of them,’
‘Oh, yeh?’ I say.
‘Yes, ma’am,’ he says, ‘they weren’t too happy with my grandpa marrying a black woman, so my grandma came back here,’
‘Oh, yeh?’ I say again.
‘She lives in San Fransisco now,’ he tells me, ‘but she got married when she was 15,’
‘Interesting,’ I say and he laughs and says yes it is.
‘Well,’ I say, ‘I’d best get back inside,’
‘Yes, ma’am,’ he says.
And then he ask me my name and I tell him and then he tells me his name
‘That’s my English name,’ he says, ‘But my Chinese name is Lee Lee Ching,’
‘Okay, Lee,’ I say, ‘I hope you have a good day,’
You too, ma’am,’ he says as he starts to walk off with his dog, ‘you too.’