THE LONG HAUL

FOR KEEPS

Eddie gets a reality check regarding racism in his community.


 

 

Chapter 26

 

 

 

Eddie married Lee at City Hall on New Year’s Day 1927. He could not afford to buy her a diamond ring, but he managed to scrape together enough money to buy her a simple gold ring with a tiny marquis cut emerald. Little Eddie Quan served as ring bearer. Another couple next in line to wed served as their witnesses.

 

After the quick service, he took his new wife and now-legitimate son to dinner at Tony’s where they were promptly denied entrance because Lee was Chinese. Eddie, infuriated, argued with the manager who repeatedly pointed to the sign in the window that said, “NO CHINESE”.

 

“Since when?” Eddie demanded.

 

“Since we opened ten years ago,” came the cool reply.

 

Eddie had walked past that window at least fifty times over the past ten years and he had never noticed the sign. He had never had reason to notice it. He had never had reason to notice all the other NO signs in town, either: NO JAPANESE, NO NEGROES, NO MEXICANS, NO WOMEN. That night as he drove Lee and Eddie Quan to the Spring Garden Restaurant in Chinatown, he noticed all the NO signs in the windows along the way, and once he got into Chinatown all the NO signs ceased to exist. He thought it remarkable the Chinese had not reciprocated with the same discrimination. Everyone was welcome in Chinatown. Money was money no matter what color the hands that exchanged it.

 

“It’s okay,” Lee said as he parked in front of Spring Garden.

 

“No, it ain’t okay.” He snuffed out his cigar in the ashtray and stared at it for a long time.

 

“This how it is,” Lee continued, “Some places okay, some not. Thought you knew.”

 

Still staring at his cigar in the ashtray, he answered disbelievingly, “I never noticed. I shoulda noticed, but I never did. Jesus... What’s wrong with people?”

 

She twisted her red cotton shoulder wrap in her hands on her lap. “Life with me be hard sometimes, Eddie. Maybe we get annulment and you go back with own kind.”

 

He shot her a determined glare. “Hell no! You’re my kind. You’re my wife. That’s our kid sleepin’ in the back seat. He’s both of us. I’m in this for the long haul, baby – no lookin’ back.”

 

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