When I first met her, Margaret always looked at me like I was trying to steal something. “Fucking chinks,” she would mutter under her breath, softly, but not so soft that I couldn’t hear, which was the real intention anyway.
I normally walk away from this kind of baseless racism, but she was harmless. She looked about 80, voice a mix between gravelly Marge Simpson (hmm, Margaret too, funny that) and whoever played the Wicked Witch Of The West in the original Wizard of Oz (hmm, Oz as well). So one day, I spoke to her:
Me: Can chinks buy tea?
Margaret: They can, if they got money.
And so it began.
Then conversation. Strained at first, and peppered with accusations of how “your kind were stealing jobs from honest Australians.”
Then, slowly, revelation (I dare not call it trust): “I was an army nurse, divorced twice and happier for it.”
After a while, she refused to accept my 25 cents for the tea.
And I brought clean clothes that didn’t need washing to the launderette.