Thursday, December 18, 2014

My Worlds Collide

Continued from Gone with the World

I got up and walked to the door, still half asleep. I opened it without checking first to see who it was. I was thinking that it would be my cousin but it was Mark. He brought me a coffee and I was wondering if I had slept all the way through until the morning.  He walked right in and said, “You like coffee, right? I thought you could use one since it’s only four o’clock and you are having a nap.”

It felt really strange and I began to think that I shouldn’t have opened the door. I was still standing by the door when there was another knock. I opened it immediately and it was my cousin. I felt so relieved to see his face and thought, “Ay caramba! What perfect timing.” Mark gave me the strangest look, put the coffee on the counter, walked to the door, and said, “I’ll call you later,” as he stared my cousin down and walked out. 

Izaak shook my hand. That was what we did when we had missed someone, or when we hadn’t seen someone in a long time. We never hugged, not even if you really liked the person. 

Izaak and I always got along really well. I hadn’t seen him since the one summer before when he helped me learn the road signs when I wrote my beginner’s driving test. He got me an already written beginner’s test that someone else had passed.

Apparently, that was how people got their beginner’s. He asked me, “How else do you think people who can’t read pass this test?”

I thought that if everyone else was doing that, then it must be okay, and I would do it too. I memorized all the right answers and passed on the first try.  

Izaak asked who that creepy guy was and what he was doing here. I explained the story of how I met him and that he kept calling me and that he came over even after I told him not to. I just went on and on. It felt so good to talk to someone who knew Low German. I didn’t have to think so hard to find the right words before I gave an answer. I was so excited to tell him that I had passed my driver’s test a few months before I got laid off from my job at the factory.

I had put all my excitement about passing the road test into the back of my mind. When I saw Izaak, it all came back. Finally, I got to tell the one person who knew how much that meant to me. He was the one person who could appreciate my efforts and he was truly happy for me.

Then I stopped myself and thought before I told him about all my struggles, that I was completely lost and that I had no idea what I was doing. I had to find out why he came over. I asked why he had come over he said, “Well, I came over for a few reasons. One is that I brought you a box of stuff that your mom sent you from Mexico. She also told me to ask if you could just come back home to Mexico.”

“I knew it!”

“Don’t worry; I’m not here to tell you what to do. I always knew that you wouldn’t come back and I don’t blame you. I wouldn’t either but please don’t tell your mom I said that.”

He told me that he was just passing through and that he himself had a really hard time accepting the Mexican Mennonite way of life.

Other than Izaak, I had one cousin, Susana, whom I had always been very close with. Her parents stopped going to the Old Colony church when they came to Canada about a year before I did. I didn’t get to see her much because they lived about two hours from where I lived.

I thought, “How lucky am I? Out of my one hundred and thirty-eight or so cousins, two of them don’t think that I am completely out of my mind,” My aunts and uncles were spread all over the place. Some lived in Manitoba and others were in Ontario, Texas, Honduras, and Mexico.

I didn’t know exactly what they all thought of me leaving but I knew most of them were against it. Just like they were all against Susana’s parents for letting her and her siblings go to public school in Canada.

One of my aunts had told my mom that she should have just forced me to stay in Mexico and that I just needed a good old spanking.

Another reason Izaak came over was to ask if he could leave his old clunker of a car in my parking space at my apartment until the next time he came back to Canada. He wanted to go live in Texas for a while. He said he was sick of working in tobacco fields and giving the money to his parents, so he was leaving before the tobacco picking season even started. 

He said I could use the car whenever I wanted to. I thought this was perfect. It would give me a bit more freedom. Now, if only I had the money for gas, I could really test the driving skills that I had learned at the driver’s ed course.

Getting my driver’s license was my second biggest accomplishment since coming to Canada. My first one was landing that dream factory job I loved so much. I had dreamed of it but never thought that it would actually happen for real, especially being a woman and a “hard learner.” For me, those were huge accomplishments.

Izaak and I went outside to the parking lot where he showed me his car and gave me the keys. I got in behind the wheel, closed my eyes, and imagined the freedom. When I opened my eyes, I noticed that the car had almost a full tank of gas. That was going to change so many things, Izaak had no idea.

Izaak’s buddies drove onto the parking lot, wearing their cowboy gear, hats, and all. We could hear them coming a mile away because of the Narco Corridos music they were playing so loudly. I was trying really hard to fight it but that whole scene and the smell of Mexican dust mixed with the air freshener in Izaak’s car was so familiar. It brought back so many memories that it gave me the shivers.

The Mexican cowboys stayed in the truck as Izaak shook my hand and said goodbye to me. That’s when I felt the true separation between all of my worlds. I truly enjoyed seeing Izaak but, at the same time, I was hoping no one from the apartment building would see me with those guys. Similarly, I enjoyed spending time with Bree and George but I didn’t want any Low German people to see me talking to them.

Growing up, all I heard was that we don’t do things like the welt menschen doone (worldly people do) because we are not worldly people. Now that I could decide for myself, all my worlds: Mexican Spanish, Mennonite Low German, Canadian English, and Anna were colliding faster than I could handle. 

I just leaned against the car as I watched Izaak get in the truck and drive off. I felt sick to my stomach for feeling like that. I slid down against the car to the ground, sat there, and attempted to process everything that had just happened.

It all had happened way too fast. My head was spinning. I couldn’t even think in one language anymore; they were all mixing up. I didn’t know what to do with all my feelings and that was supposed to be a relaxing day off for me. Click here to continue reading my story.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Gone with the World

Continued from Speechless Mennonite

I sat on the couch for a while to catch my breath and find my voice again. George walked back and forth from the kitchen to the living room a few times with his hands still on his head and said, “Okay, please forget what I just said and let me show you how easy it is to work the VCR remote.”

It looked easy enough when he was doing it. He showed me where all his movies were.

“Here, I have an extra set of keys. How about you take the keys and your tape? Go home and think about it and decide if you want to watch a movie,” said George.

I took them and said, “Okay, I will.”

“Awesome, and make yourself at home. Help yourself to anything in my fridge. I have to get going; my ride should be here soon,” he said.

I took the tape and the keys and walked back to my apartment. I looked through the window and watched as he got into the back of a black car and drove off. I put the tape into my tape player and sat down on the orange-flowered loveseat that Mark had given me. I listened to the tape three times over and thought, “This is going to be a really long day if this is all I am going to do.”

I felt the butterflies forming in my stomach as I started imagining what it would be like to watch a movie at George’s apartment all by myself. I talked myself into it and thought, “Why not? George is right. No one else has to know,” I got all nervous. The more I thought about doing it, the faster my heart started pounding.

I turned off the tape player, grabbed the keys, and slowly walked through my door. I stood there completely still and listened for anyone walking in the hallway. I slowly turned to lock my door and tried not to make any noise while I tiptoed all the way to George’s apartment. I unlocked the door, walked in as quietly as possible, and locked the door right behind me. I stood there for a while and when I turned my head to look around, the lizard was staring at me.

I imagined what the lizard was thinking: “What is she doing just standing by the door?” I slowly put down the keys so it wouldn’t startle him and walked around to see if anyone was hiding in there. I checked the bathroom and, on my way back from the bathroom, I passed the bedroom door and peeked in a little and thought, “Oba Nee, Anna, do NOT go in there!”

I checked the kitchen and then I took a deep breath and thought, “Okay, it’s all clear. I am by myself in George’s apartment with only his pets.”

I got myself a big glass of water and started looking through his movies. I had no idea what to look for or which one I might like, so I picked Basic Instinct because Bree said it was a good one and she loved it. I put the movie on and sat down but I was not comfortable since I heard every noise. I walked to the window to see if anyone was coming.

I sat down again and saw a bottle of black sparkly nail polish on the coffee table. I thought, “This must be Bree’s because she always wears black sparkly nail polish. I thought maybe I could do my nails. I didn’t think she would mind if I put some on.

I thought, “Ahhh, why not? I am already doing so many things I’m not supposed to do,” I opened the bottle and, as I felt the first brush stroke on the nail of my pinky, I even got the shivers. I thought that now I really had gone with the world.

I painted all my nails and sat there and didn’t move as they dried. I just turned my head to look at the lizard and it was still staring at me. I couldn’t really enjoy the movie. I was restless and nervous the whole time the movie was playing. I had a hard time turning my brain off. I tried really hard not to look at the gargoyles. They looked so scary.

I thought how strange it was that he had a table in the middle of the room and the way he had placed the furniture in his apartment. I wasn’t used to that. In Low German people’s homes in Mexico, all the houses had the furniture lined up neatly and placed against the walls. Most houses had handcrafted shelves, calendars, clocks, ceramic birds, and ducks hanging on the walls. I had never known anyone that had a lizard or ceramic gargoyle statues in their home before.

When the movie was done playing, I hadn’t watched much of it. I had missed a lot of parts because I was so nervous and paranoid the whole time. I was exhausted from sitting on pins and needles and thinking too much again. I had no idea who killed whom and was it with an ice pick or a gun?

I went to the bathroom and noticed George’s cologne on the counter. I picked it up and smelled it. It smelled so good I was tempted to put on a little but I didn’t. I thought, “What if Bree comes over and I smell like George? What will she think?” I quickly put it back, turned everything off, and ran home.
When I got home I had two messages and, this time, one was from my cousin Izaak. He came to Canada every year for a couple of months. He had left a message that he would like to come over and talk to me sometime soon and that he would call again later. This really scared me. I knew the only reason why any family member would visit was to convince me to go back home.

The other message was from Mark again. His voice sounded really strange and bossy, almost angry. It didn’t sound like him or, at least, how I had heard him talk before. I just finished listening to the message when the phone rang. I picked it up and it was Mark again.

He started asking me so many questions: “Why weren’t you at work? I called you at your work and they said you didn’t work there anymore. Why didn’t you call me? If you weren’t at work, then where were you?”  Before I could answer him, he said, “I want to come over right now.”

I told him, “No, not today. I’m really tired and I need to take a nap.” He said,

“Okay, maybe tomorrow then?” I hung up the phone and laid down on the love seat. I thought that watching a movie was not relaxing at all. I was exhausted! I fell asleep and had a nightmare that my teacher in Mexico was chasing me with an icepick. He kept just missing me but whatever he hit was so loud and it got louder and louder.

Then I woke up and that loud knocking was so real that I still could hear it. Then I realized that someone was knocking on my door. Click here to continue reading my story.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Speechless Mennonite

Continued from Mennonite Curiosity

When I woke up the next morning, remembering where I was and what kind of day I had the day before, I got sick to my stomach with worry about what I was going to do.

I lay there wishing I hadn’t woken up. I thought maybe I should just go back to Mexico. Life was not getting better; strangely different, but not better as I had hoped it would. The thought of going back frightened me enough to force myself out of bed. 

Ekj tweeveled  - I waffled about whether or not to go to George’s place to pick up the tape he had promised to make for me. But, I thought my day would be so much nicer and shorter if I had that tape to listen to. It would distract me at least for a little while and then maybe I could start thinking about different things again.

Sure, I had listened to music before. Someone always had a ghetto blaster on the colony streets on Sunday afternoons playing Narco Corridos. Everyone knew we were not supposed to do it but most people still did it anyway. I figured that Alanis Morissette’s songs were no worse than the Narco Corridos I had listened to in Mexico. In a way, it was actually the same. I was listening to music in a foreign language, only understanding about every other word.

I really wanted that tape badly. I talked myself into it and decided to go get it. I could hear my heart pounding as I went down the hallway to George’s apartment. I worried that I shouldn’t go there when Bree wasn’t there. I had learned from a very young age to never put myself in a situation where I was alone with a man. I felt like I was doing something really wrong, even sinful, but I was hoping that it was the right thing to do in my situation.

I walked past his door a few times, back and forth, and took a few deep breaths. My arm felt so heavy when I lifted it to knock on his door that I thought I was going to pass out. He opened the door and when I saw him I almost fell backward.

He was all dressed up in a black suit, a white shirt, and a silver striped tie. His hair was sleek and tucked behind his ears and he smelled really good. With a big smile on his face, he said, “Good morning, Anna. Please come in and don’t mind the mess! I have been ironing shirts all morning and I can’t decide what to wear. Ahh …  this sucks!”

It was really strange, I had never seen a man iron anything before.

“What do you think, Anna? Please tell me the truth. Do I look stupid?”

For a moment, I lost myself in the question. “Anna, what do you think?” I couldn’t remember if I had ever been asked that before.

I had a really hard time concentrating. All the English words I had learned were gone and I couldn’t find them. He was used to getting a delayed answer from me but he always waited, no matter how long I took. Some people would try and answer for me and I often would just nod my head and go with it, even if they were way off because, the more someone would try and say it for me, the harder it was to find the right words.  

“Ahhh … that looks good … what you’re wearing,” I answered.

My face turned all red as I said it. I didn’t know where to turn so he wouldn’t notice it.

“Really? You think this is okay,” he asked.

“Ahhh, yes, I think so.” 

“Awesome, thanks! I will stick to this one then,” he said. 

I thought he looked and smelled amazing, a whole lot better than the Schlaubbekjse (overalls), dark long-sleeved plaid shirts, socks, rubber sandals and the smell of cow poo I was used to.

I didn’t share that thought with George. I thought I would just keep that to myself for the whole forty-four years of life I might have left.

“Oh, before I forget, there is the tape I made for you.” He pointed to the coffee table and said, “If there is any other CD you like, just let me know and I can make a tape of it for you. It’s really easy.”


I asked why he was going to court and he said, “Ahhh, it’s complicated. I will tell you all about it another time, okay?”

“Sure, okay.”

“Sooo, what are you going to do all day,” he asked.

“Oh, nothing but sit by my phone and wish Hilary would call me.” I didn’t know what else I could do. I was so bored.

“You know, Anna, I will be gone all day and I have a VCR and a lot of movies. If you want, you can stay here and watch movies all day.”

I thought that was the best idea I had ever heard. I enjoyed that thought for about five seconds and then my Low German thoughts had to ruin it. I could think of many excuses as to why I shouldn't be alone in his apartment watching movies. What if someone came over and thought I broke in? What would I say?

George knew I would love his offer but I tried really hard to hide my excitement from him. I said, “I shouldn’t. What if someone finds out and tells my mom?”

“Your mom is a million miles away; no-one will ever know! Look at it this way, it is your day off and you can choose to do whatever you want to do and this is what you would like to do, right?”

I was getting really worried as he slowly walked closer and closer to me. He put one hand on my shoulder and said, “Anna, I know you have a lot on your mind. Maybe this will help you forget about everything just for a little while. Don’t you think you deserve one day to enjoy yourself and not be worried about what someone you don’t even know might say about you? I mean, have you ever just done something that you wanted to do just because you wanted to do it?”

Then it happened again. I couldn’t find any words to say. All I could think of was his hand on my shoulder and the sound of my pounding heart. He took his hand off my shoulder, backed up a bit, and put both of his hands on his head and said, “Hell, if I were in your shoes, I would probably kill myself.”

I felt my face turn from red to white in a second and I suddenly felt really cold and shaky. I just knew I had to sit down so I backed up a bit and sat down on the couch. He realized that he probably should not have said that.

“Oh, crap, what am I saying? It’s just a figure of speech. People say it all the time. It’s okay, Anna. You really should learn to relax. Everything is going to be just fine.” Click here to continue reading my story.

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