“Well, you’re comin’ home with me!” She said matter of factly. “You can stay on board my boat for the next few days, while you sort things out.”
“Thank you! I can do chores on your boat while I’m here.” I said.
“Don’t you worry, I’ll put you to work! You can clean my boat from top to bottom. I have a business too, you can work there to earn your keep.”
I gratefully accepted her terms. I cleaned her boat throughly and worked all day at her insurance company. She was a shrewd employer.
“It don’t bother me none that you’ve got them slanty eyes.” She confessed to me in private. “You’re a hard worker. I like you Orientals. You Orientals are smart, keep to yourselves and don’t cause trouble…not like them Blacks or Mexicans or A-rabs!”
Horrified, I didn’t know how to react. I was couch surfing on her salty, live aboard boat so I guiltily kept my mouth shut in silent protest. What could I say? Accuse her of offensive stereotyping and selective racism? She handed me ginger snap cookies loosely wrapped in cellophane from a stagnant cookie jar. I bit into the dusty mold, politely smiled and placed the gag causing bite into my napkin discreetly. I didn’t want to offend her hospitality.
She told me raunchy stories about her past marriage, episodes that she must have thought were universally funny; bizarre, crazy stories about drawing designs on her husband’s penis while he was sleeping out of comic revenge. They were inappropriate revelations that I nervously laughed at to humor her.
By the third day, I’d arranged to move to another boat docked at the marina. She seemed surprised that I’d found an alternative plan so quickly. Maybe she assumed I’d be living with her indefinitely, living off of her charity as an indentured servant and companion.
She was old-fashioned, probably socially raised to accept racism as truth. My parents were like that too, biased against other races and foreign cultures. When hatred of difference is the norm, when it’s subversively taught in schools and reinforced in society through books and media, false assumptions become subliminally true. She and my parents and so many of their generation, didn’t know that they were bigoted, they were ignorantly innocent.
But I’m grateful that she rescued me from homelessness for those first uncertain three days, I was lucky to have Girl Friday servitude with her rather than lying raped and dead in a dumpster or worse kept prisoner as a psychopath’s slave. Statistically, running away is dangerous. Many teen runaways are sex-trafficked, become drug addicts or end up homeless.
Based on the violence I witnessed during childhood, I believed everything both good and bad could happen, to anyone at any time, for any random reason. So in order to brace myself, I always expected the worst. Fortunately in the times I needed it most, help always arrived like a miracle.