While I was drawing this a van bearing the logo of a well-known pesticide company pulled up in front of the house, and a man got out.
The man, who was wearing a dark blue uniform and carrying a clipboard looked over at me, then back at the house, then back at me and back at the house and then called out- ‘Oh, have I parked in your way?’
Because the man had been observant, and then courteous, I responded with ‘no, I’m almost finished anyway’.
Taking our interaction as an invitation, the man crossed the road toward me.
‘What are you doing?’ he asked me, moving to my side and looking down at my drawing.
I told him about my hundred houses project, that it had taken me four years to get to 71, but that I was on a real roll now and aimed to finish in February or March or April.
‘Congratulations,’ the man said, ‘I wanna see them when they’re all done.’
I told him the website address, and then we got onto the topic of where I was from.
‘I am from Australia.’ I told the man.
‘I’ve been there,’ he said, ‘I went to Sydney for my son’s wedding.’
‘That’s nice.’ I said.
‘Yeh,’ he said, ‘he married an Aborigine.’
‘Oh?’ I say.
‘Yes, ma’am,’ said the man, ‘and I knew nothing about the Aborigines until he married one.’
‘Well,’ I said, ‘they are the original population.’
Then I gave him a short history about Australia’s massacre of indigenous people, and how once there had been a White Australia Policy.
The man expressed no surprise.
‘They live in London, now,’ he said, ‘my son and the Australian wife.’
Then the man told me he had been born in Shanghai, but came to the US when he was 10.
‘My whole family is out there still,’ he said, ‘and I ain’t seen none of them.’
‘Oh?’ I said, leaving it at that.
The conversation went quiet until I said; ‘Well, ‘thanks for the story, but I need to get back to my drawing before the light goes.’
‘Yes, ma’am.’ the man said.
But before he left he asked me my name and I told him and then he told me his.
‘That’s my English name.’ he said, ‘But my Chinese name is Lee Lee Ching.’
‘Okay then,’ I said, ‘I hope you have a good rest of your day.’
‘You too, ma’am.’ he said, turning and crossing the road toward the truck bearing the logo of well-known pesticide company.
Today’s podcast- Esther Perel: Before we got together I identified as gay