A friend

She was in hospital. Old and frail, they tell me A has been quite ill. I wanted to visit her, but things always seemed to get in the way.

She told me a story once. I had gone to drop off a meal at her home. She sat me down and told me of someone she knew. They were friends during the 1950s. It was a time when the white Australia policy was firmly in place, yet A tells me her best friend was Chinese.

She said the million dollar Sydney harbour views weren’t so stellar back then. They were wharves and working docks. It was the poor, working class end of town where she would visit her friend and play with her in the afternoons.

Her friend had a hard time at school. Other students would either ignore or belittle her. A remembers the unfairness of it.

“I went to their place for dinner,” A recounts. “Her family were considerate and kind. Not one of them spoke in their language all evening. They deliberately spoke english so that I could be included in their conversations.”

I wish I had asked more questions. In a time where it was easy and acceptable to treat others differently because of their race, A was different.

“I just liked her,” A says. I think she said it was because they were both naughty, but my memory is hazy.

I wish I knew A better, spoke to her more, understood that she was once young too.

I wish I could tell her how remarkable I think she is and how much I appreciated her story. I want the opportunity to say that her quiet, rebellious friendship made me love this place more, because there were people like her in it.

But they say she has been very ill. And life keeps getting in the way.