I’d lost my taste for apples

Emilie HoráckováPragueJune 2000
It was a beautiful morning. I had had a good sleep. The sun was pouring its warmth all over the countryside, and I was in a good mood because I didn’t have to go to work. I enjoyed that feeling a lot.
I made some coffee and was thinking about cooking lunch for the whole family, so that they would enjoy it. At the same time I wanted to make something inexpensive and easy to cook.
I dressed slowly and went shopping. I bought all the necessary ingredients, and walked and window-shopped around town. Sometimes I would also walk in to see what they had and what I could buy for my children or myself. I came to a square where there is a market. Vietnamese traders sell their usual stuff but there are also Czech greengrocers and tradesmen. I saw one I know. We talk to each other from time to time. I always try to bargain with him. He is open to that, and we always cut a deal.
He was selling beautiful apples that day, but pretty expensive too.
I started to pick some out and put them into a plastic bag. I had put in almost two kilos of apples when suddenly a woman behind me who had been watching me closely for a while started saying very loudly that what I was doing was wrong and that she didn’t like it. She also wanted to buy apples, but she didn’t want any that I had touched and picked through. I was stunned. I stared at her, saying nothing.
I was very surprised. I had on a clean and neat dress and nice perfume and I couldn’t understand what her problem was. I couldn´t believe she was saying something like that. If my hands had been dirty, it would have been a different story. I was ashamed, and my good mood and my smile were gone.
Everyone was looking at us, waiting to see what would happen next.
I live in a small town, and we all know each other pretty well, but I had never seen that woman, so the situation was even stranger.
And then the greengrocer lit into me, complaining that I was keeping his customers away.
That was more than I could take. I hadn’t done anything different on any other day I’d been there!
I turned to the woman and said: "I can buy anything I want to, and I want quality. So I can pick what I want to buy. And my hands are not dirty. Also, I wash apples at home before I eat them: don’t you do that too? In any case, I’m not the only one who picks through apples before buying them, am I?”
But I’d lost my taste for apples. I thrust the plastic bag into the greengrocer´s hands and told both him and the woman to go to hell.
My day had begun wonderfully, but it had turned gray. I was disgusted.
You know, little things like this taste bitter. And they go to show what sort of people we have around us: mean people who like conflict.
I don’t want to sermonize, but I think the Czechs still have to learn to become tolerant and respectful, to accept the fact that there are other people here too who must be given equal opportunities: people who must be treated like human beings even whenthey’re doing such an ordinary thing as buying apples.
That woman was angry with me for picking through the apples, and she added her prejudice about Roma to her anger, her conclusion being that we are just a bunch of thieves.
I walked home humiliated and disgusted.

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