Thursday, May 26, 2016

Jerkish Mennonite


Continued from Homesick Mennonite

I managed to push my nüdelsup cravings far enough to the back of my mind to be able to write my math exam. By the time, I had finished writing the exam, it had stopped raining and the sun began to shine. I decided to go outside and soak up some of that beautiful sunshine. I sat down at the picnic table closed my eyes, inhaled a deep breath of fresh spring air and thought “I really hope I passed that exam.”

When I opened my eyes, I saw a Low German man walking toward the building. As he got closer, I recognized him. It was one of my uncles that I hadn't seen in a very long time. I got so excited to see such a familiar face and said, “I recognized you right away, it’s so good to see a family member around here, do you remember me?”

Jo, (yes,)” He answered in a low voice while staring me up and down with a noticeably disappointed look on his face.

Well jie uck aunfang noo de School gon? (Are you starting school too?)” I asked.
He shook his head and said, “Oba nee! Wie wellen boolt aunfang too schaufen (Oh no! We are starting work soon)” in the flattest, least excited low voice, and he began to walk away slowly.

It was like he was backing away slowly from a vicious criminal, afraid that he might get attacked or something. Then I realized that I was wearing jeans and that was why he was so disappointed and couldn’t stand to look at me or make eye contact.

As I watched him walk into the school, I wondered, “then what the heck are you doing here?” I felt like a total idiot for getting that excited to see him, and even asking if he was starting school. Of course, he wasn't. I knew better than to ask him that.

My feelings were hurt. I thought to myself , “what a jerk” but then I remembered that he was just acting like any Low German man would toward his niece that has shamed and disappointed her entire family.

I sat there and thought to myself “I am the jerk here, for expecting him to be happy to see me” and remembered that this wasn't something new, people never got too excited about much. Not even about seeing a family member you may have missed.

When any family members that we hadn't seen for years come from Canada to visit us, even though we had missed them like crazy, we just shook their hands and said, “Goodndach (good day)” in the same tone as if we said it to a complete stranger. But I was expecting more because I was getting used to people getting excited about things. I had experienced human relationships in a whole different way.

I was getting used to the way Christina, George, Josh, Steve, Chung, Sam, the nurse at the walk-in clinic, and all of my teachers treated me. They had taught me that life could be exciting sometimes and that it is okay to show it, especially about someone like me doing well in school.

I thought to myself, “Oba Anna du bast en schlopmets, (Oh Anna you are an idiot)” for thinking that he would actually be happy to see me. He wasn’t surprised to see me because he knew I was going to that school and also had heard all the rumors going around about me in the colonies in Mexico. 

On my way back into the school building I saw my uncle help a man load school desks onto a thrift store truck. And there was the answer to my question about what the heck he was doing there.

I went back to my class hoping to be able to put my hurt feelings aside so I could focus on writing the rest of my last grade nine exams.

I began to think about the fact that by the time George was going to eat his lunch, I would know whether or not I had passed grade nine. And the butterflies began to come alive in my stomach again.

Everyone at the school was in a great mood and happy to leave as soon as they finished writing their exams. Some didn’t even care to know what their marks were or if they even passed. It was Friday, the weather was getting nicer and school was out for a week. Getting a whole week off of school was a bit scary. Having too much free time on my hands was not a good thing for me.

As the day went on the sun shone brighter and warmer. I wondered where everyone was rushing off to in such a hurry. I thought, “I am going to have to go home and clean my apartment with pine sol.” That would be the only thing that would make me feel better and connected to my family after running into my uncle. My encounter with him brought back all the sad guilty feelings I had stored away about leaving them.

By noon, I had gotten back all of my marked exams, returned my books to the school library, and I was done. I was free to go, I finished and passed grade nine. I thanked and said goodbye to all my teachers and walked out of the school feeling taller than I did when I first walked in, scared half to death.

I forgot all about my uncle as walked home tall and proud with the biggest smile on my face. I felt so good about passing grade nine, I didn’t even have to remind myself to breathe, it came naturally along with the feeling of being taller than I was before. It was a feeling unlike I had ever experienced before, especially remembering my first walk to the school and how sick to my stomach I felt back then.

When I got home I emptied my backpack, neatly placed all of my exams and the notes I got from Steve, into a binder to keep forever and ever. I put the binder on my bookshelf that George built for me. I ripped all the pages of my own mixed notes in English, Spanish, and bad spelling. I threw them all in the garbage and placed the notebooks back into my backpack so that I would be ready for grade ten after a week off from school.

It was not easy to enjoy that proud feeling for long with that heavy pink slip on back my mind, so I just began cleaning my floors with pine sol. Even though it was only Friday, I hadn't cleaned in a while because I had been too busy with school and work.

When I finished cleaning my floors, I made myself a bowl of chicken flavored Mr. Noodle for lunch. It didn’t satisfy my cravings for nüdelsup, but because of the smell of pine sol lingering in the air it made me feel like I was still part of my family. I was able to convince myself that that was good enough for now. Even though I was sad that they didn’t care or feel any excitement about me doing well in school.

I thought of a way I could make myself feel better about my encounter with my uncle and knowing that I would get the same reaction from my immediate family. I thought about how I could get revenge on them without hurting their feelings while I got ready for work.

I put a notebook into my work bag and decided that I would write a letter to my family at lunch break. I would tell them that I had I finished and passed grade nine. All the while I knew that it wouldn’t mean anything to them and that I would receive back the same reaction as I did from my uncle. All they cared about was how I might be changing.

While I drove to work I thought of a way to get back at my family in a sneaky way. I would write a letter to them and not use any punctuation that I had learned. I would write the same flat no excitement in the letter as I was receiving from them. I got all excited just thinking about it. 

At lunch break, as I was finishing up my punctuation-less letter, Sam came over. He sat down on the sewing table and looked down at what I was doing, and said, “Hey Anna how’s it going?”

“Good except wishing that it will be a long time before we get those pink slips. How are you?”

“I’m hoping the same thing, Anna,” he said and asked, “What are you writing?”

I thought “Oh no! I won't know how to explain this to him”. “Ahhh a letter to my family in Mexico,” I answered. 

“May I see it?”

I thought “Oh, no, oh crap. I can't just say no,” and said  “Okay, sure,” and passed it to him.

I braced myself thinking that he was going to think that I'm an idiot.

He looked at the letter for a while and said, “Wow, this is so interesting, there is no punctuation at all in your writing? Is this how your language is written?”

“Ahhh actually no it’s not.” 

“What, then why...?”

“Well, I have never used punctuation in the letters I wrote to my family because I didn’t actually know how to use it. But today I am mad at them. All of them, and I think since they all have such a flat attitude toward me about going to school, they are not worthy of the punctuation I have learned in school here in Canada. I am giving them back what they have been giving me. No excitement whatsoever. No punctuation!”

He laughed and said, “What? Wow, what a way to stick it to them,” and continued laughing so hard that he almost fell off the table.

I was being serious, but because he was laughing so hard I started laughing too and said, “Well, they all deserve this.”

Sam couldn’t even speak because he was laughing so hard. I began to wonder if he was laughing because he thought it was funny, or because he was thinking “what kind of loser does a thing like this?” 

I wasn’t sure anymore.

When Sam finally caught his breath, he said, “This is awesome, I love it. I'm going to try this next time I am mad at someone for doing me wrong. I will give them no punctuation, what a way to just let ‘er rip to lash out at someone.” and continued laughing.

I laughed and said, “Okay” as I thought “I'm not sure what ‘let ‘er grip’ means but I sure hope it doesn't mean he will rip this letter, I worked really hard on it and I was hoping to put it in the mail after my shift ends.”

“Okay, I’m sorry Anna, I don’t mean to carry on like this, but I have never seen anything like this before.”

“It’s okay Sam, I know all about that.”

“Speaking of first experiences, have you ever been to a drive-in theater before?” Sam asked.

“Ahhh no.”

“A few of my friends are going tomorrow night, would you like to come?”

“Ahhh what is it? What do people do there?”

“Well, it’s like a big outdoor TV, you park the car and watch a movie. Some people stay in the car and watch it, others bring lawn chairs and sit outside to watch. It’s a lot of fun, I think you might enjoy that.”

“Okay, I will think about it.”

“Sure, can I borrow your pen?” He asked and started laughing again.

“Okay,” I said and handed my pen over to him. He wrote down his phone number in my notebook.

“Here is my phone number, think about it and call me anytime.”

“Okay,” I said as he got up and went back to work while he continued laughing.

It sounded tempting. Though we had become good friends. I still wasn’t sure about him.

I sat at my sewing station, stared at Sam’s phone number and thought, “Wow watching a movie outside? How amazing would that be?” And got back to work.

I finished writing my “‘stick it to my family by withholding punctuation from them” letter’ at the last break. I sealed it, put a stamp on it and put it in my bag ready to be mailed to Mexico.

At the end of the shift, Hilary stood by the door and handed all of us a sealed envelope as we were leaving. When I got to him, as he handed an envelope to me, I forced myself to make eye contact with him. I saw the saddest eyes looking back at me through his thick glasses. I gave him a quick half fake smile and said, “Thank you, Hilary.”

He looked down as he said, “Have a good night, Anna,” in the lowest voice I had ever heard him speak before. Click here to continue reading my story.



Thursday, May 19, 2016

Homesick Mennonite




“Really, Anna, you are going to marry Josh?” George asked as he walked up to me, put his right arm around my waist, pulled me right up against him, and with his left hand, he cupped my chin, tilted my head up and said, “Anna, open your eyes and look at me when I am talking to you.”

I opened my eyes to look at him when he asked in a deep low voice, “So Anna, are you going to kiss me?” and his voice turned into a song singing “kiss me” that was playing on my alarm clock that woke me up.

I quickly turned off the alarm, closed my eyes in hopes that the dream would continue, but I was wide awake feeling disappointed, guilty and embarrassed about that dream and my thoughts that followed.

I got up, got ready and went to school. I was so nervous, I had a headache and felt sick to my stomach before my day even started. I was worried about what George was going to tell me and I didn’t think I would pass my final English exam. I was the second last one to finish writing the exam. I handed it to the teacher, ran straight to a payphone, put a quarter in and dialed the number to the factory. Hilary answered.

“Hi this is Anna Wall, would I be able to speak with George?”

“Sure Anna, hold on let me page him for you,” he answered in his usual deep voice.

My heart began pounding faster and faster the longer I had time to think about asking him what he wanted to tell me, but I decided that I should wait until I talked to him in person.

“Hello,” said George.

“George!”

“Anna!”

“Hey, can I come and see you at lunch break?”

“Yea, sure Anna, I will meet you outside by the picnic table.”

“Okay, see you then.”

“See you at lunch Anna, take care.”

I hung up the phone, went to the school library and tried to study for my final math exam that I was to write the next day. But all I could think about was this pink slip Bree told me about.

While I was writing down math formulas as tiny as I possibly could, in different colors onto my cheat sheet, my English teacher came to see me. My first thought was oh no! I did everything wrong and I will have to rewrite the exam.

“Anna, I marked your exam first and wanted to give it back to you before you left. Congratulations, you did incredibly well on your exam. It was such a pleasure having you in my class, you should be proud of yourself, and all the hard work you did. Good luck with the rest of your exams and have a wonderful week off.”

“Thank you,” I said and looked down at an 84% mark circled in red on the top of the exam. I felt so overwhelmed I could have laughed and cried at the same time, and as I was fighting back the tears Steve walked in.

“Wow, Anna you look like you just saw a ghost, are you okay?”

“I am not sure yet, I thought I failed my exam but look,” I said as I sat down and showed him the exam.

“Ah, sweet mark Anna! I haven’t gotten my back yet, but if I get a mark like that I will be thrilled.”

“Oh Steve, you’ll probably get a higher mark than this.”

“I don’t think so Anna, I didn’t try very hard, I just kinda winged it. Hey did you learn what you needed to about Posen Land on the internet the other day?”

“Yes, I did. I learned that it’s a real place and that there is way too much information on the internet. I got lost in all that information and gave up. Thanks again for showing me how to look stuff up and always giving me a copy of your notes. I could have never gotten this mark without your help.”

“Anytime Anna, anytime.”

“Are you coming back for the next semester?” I asked.

“Yes,” he answered in a sad and low voice.

“Great! Why are you sad about that?”

“Ah… because I’m pissed at myself for dropping out of high school, but I can't do shit without my high school diploma.”

“Why did you drop out?”

“Well, I had all kinds of reasons for dropping out, but the main reason was because I couldn't stand high school, I really hated it.”

“Do you still hate school?”

“Not as much because now I understand that this is the only way to a better life, so I can manage and get through the day.”

“Can you sit beside me again in grade ten English class? I could really use your help again.”

“Sure Anna, pick a good spot and save me the seat next to you, you are most likely to be the first one here, I'm sure.”

“Okay, you got it, I will do that. Thanks, Steve.”

“You’re welcome Anna,” he said and went to his next class.

I drove through the drive through at Tim Hortons and pick up a coffee for George and went to the factory. When I pulled up to the parking lot he was already sitting at the picnic table waiting for me. When he saw me he got up, walked up to the car and opened the door for me.

“Hey Anna, how are you?” he asked.

“I’m really nervous and a bit scared you know, your note sounded so serious.”

“What? Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you, come here,” he said and wrapped his arms around me hugging me tight.

“Oh that’s okay, this is making me feel a little bit better,” I said as I gloated in his embrace and wished that it would last a lot longer.

He laughed and said, “Okay, let's go sit down.”

“Wait I got you a coffee, let me get it.”

“Wow great thanks, Anna, how thoughtful of you, you are the best,” he said. I turned all red and didn’t know what to do with myself.

He took a sip of his coffee and said, “Okay, here it goes,” I looked down and held my breath.

“Ah, crap no Anna! Okay, I'm not talking until you look at me and breathe.”

I slowly inhaled, looked up at him until our eyes meet and then the butterflies awakened in my stomach again.

“Ahhh shit Anna, I hate to be the one to tell you this, but I think I can explain it to you before it happens so that it won't be so bad for you when it actually happens.”

“You mean the pink slip?”

“Yea, how do you know about it, who told you?”

“Bree.”

“Oh f#cking shit! Of course!”

“But I didn’t believe her, I thought she was just trying to scare me. Then I asked Sam and he thinks it might be true.”

“Really? And what else did Bree tell you?”

“Ah… that she hates her life, this factory and she can't wait to get her pink slip to get out of here to join the military.”

“The military?”

“I asked her that same question.”

“Okay, well, she’s got to figure out what she wants to do with her life and sadly it’s true. This factory is closing down. I wanted to tell you because I know that this job means a lot to you.”

“Oh, crap! I was really hoping that it wasn’t true. This is totally going to mess up my life again, you know,” I said in a really low voice.

“Yes, I know that. That is why I wanted to talk to you and tell you not to worry too much about it, I have some ideas that might work. I will help you figure this out and most importantly, do me a favour and please don’t drop out of school to look for a new job okay.”

“Well, that didn’t turn out so well for me the last time, remember?” I asked and for the second time in one day, I felt like crying and laughing at the same time.

He laughed and said, “Oh, shit yea I remember, those were some memorable times.”

I dropped my head down and asked, “Memorable, or the worst? Are you sure you wanna help me again?” I asked in a low voice.

“Oh no, Anna not the worst, and absolutely I want to do this again. Promise me that you will not quit school or call that tobacco farmer and look at me when I am talking to you, Anna.”

“Okay, okay, I won't stop going to school yet, especially not after this,” and I put the exam on the table in front of him.

He picked it up, dropped it back down on the table and said, “Holy f#cking shit Anna. I don’t even know what else to say,” he took a deep breath and said, “Okay, very good Anna very good. Well, I have to get back to work now.”

“Okay,” I replied.

“I’ll talk to you soon.”

“Okay.”

“Have a good night.”

“You too,” I said and began to shake uncontrollably as I watched him walk away from me. When the door closed behind him, the waterworks began to flow, it just happened no matter what I did to try and stop it. I just stayed sitting there for a good hour and then went and sat in the car until my shift started.

Everything sounded so nice as I listened and watched all those pleasant words slide past George’s perfect teeth when he told me not to worry and he would help me figure things out again. But as soon as he wasn’t there I got stressed and worried sick to my stomach about what was going to happen to me, again.

I just couldn’t stop thinking and worrying about how I would manage to pay rent and buy food if I didn’t have a job. I knew that it was pretty much impossible for me to get another job. In spite of George’s advice, I felt like I didn’t have any other option but to call Frank the tobacco farmer and ask him to hire me back for the summer. I thought maybe if I promised him that I wouldn’t drive onto the field with my cousin's car this time, he might consider hiring me back.

It was a long night at work as I racked my brain and tried to figure out what I should do. I couldn’t shut down my thoughts even after going home at the end of my shift. I tossed and turned while I tried to go to sleep and I had to get some sleep so I could continue writing final exams the next day. Finally, I got up and put my Enigma tape on in hopes that it would help to get my mind off of things so I could go to sleep. But the next thing I knew I was back on the water again on the way to Posen Land. This time, the boat had a hole in it and I was slowly sinking. There were hundreds of tobacco leaves floating all around me.

A windmill appeared making squeaking sounds that sounded like it was saying, “just breathe… just breathe… just breathe,” As I was slowly going down with the boat. I tried grabbing tobacco leaves to keep me from going under, but they just went under too. I took one last deep breath before I went under and when the cold water covered my face, it felt so real that I actually woke up from the cold damp wind blowing over my face. I had left the window open a crack the night before. 

It was a cold and gray rainy spring morning. I got up, got ready and went to school hoping that I would remember what I had learned and pass my exams. But suddenly I began to crave my mother's nüdelsup (chicken noodle soup) and all I could think about was how much missed her.

The little bit of time I had to study for my final math exam before I had to write it, I used to argue with myself in my mind, “I should make nüdelsup, when, at eleven o'clock at night when I am done work? I don’t even have a pasta machine, how can I make mom’s nüdelsup without a pasta machine? Maybe I can buy the noodles in a store somewhere. Yea but when? Okay, I have to stop this and accept that I will not be having nüdelsup anytime soon. Just start studying and when I get home after work, a chicken flavored Mr. Noodle will have to do.” Click here to continue reading my story.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Friends with Mennonite benefits


Continued from Ill Informed Mennonite

Life had become somewhat peaceful, other than missing my friend Christina so much that it physically hurt. I had a routine going that was working well for me. I hadn't received phone calls from my mother, begging me to come in a while. I received an occasional letter from my family telling me that things at home were the same, but everything was changing in the colonies.

My family didn’t have hydro in their home yet, but some of the other colonies closer to the town of Nuevo Ideal already had it. Mennonite farmers were allowed to use rubber tires on their tractors. Those were big changes that were happening in the Mennonite colonies in Mexico while I wasn’t there to experience it firsthand.

During the week, my life was all about school, work, homework and decent sleep depending on how worried I was about passing an exam at school. Whenever George got busy with his tattooing business, I drove to London to Josh’s fluffy, happy white apartment. Christina introduced me to him and missing her kept bringing me back to him, and his enormous bookshelf stacked full of self-help books that I couldn’t get enough of.

I loved Josh so much that at times it scared the pleats out of my dress. I just couldn’t get enough of him, his energy, his personality and the way he treated me. We spent a lot of time together, going for walks through Spring Bank Park. I could ask him anything and not have to feel embarrassed about it. He had a way of explaining things to me that made sense.

Whenever I felt stupid and turned all red after asking him about being gay he would say, “Oh Anna, darling don’t have be so embarrassed when you ask me about that. You can ask me anything, I might not always have the right answer, but I will do my best.”

Josh often worked on weekends, so one Saturday I got brave enough to ask him if I could stay at his place and read while he went to work. He walked up to me, gently placed his hands on my shoulders and asked, “Anna, do you just like be for my books?”

“Ah… no, I like your books as much as I like you Josh” I answered.

He laughed and said, “I am just kidding, you can stay here as long as you wish. Feel free to read all my books and take them home if you want too.”

After Josh left for work, I looked through the books and picked one about the human relationships. I sat down on his fluffy white couch and read until I couldn’t see straight anymore. I felt guilty, ashamed and embarrassed all at the same time about what I was reading. I began understand Arron’s behavior a bit better, the guy from my colony that I had been afraid of ever since I could remember. Arron was a big reason why I was so afraid to be alone with a man.

As I continued reading, I realized that none of us had ever been taught anything about the human body or relationships other than what happens to the female body when eating watermelon seeds.   

Josh was exactly the kind of friend I needed. He was a compassionate man and I didn’t have to be afraid of him, he taught me about different kinds of relationships and how they are important in different ways. He had all the books that I needed to read, and no one would know about it except the two of us. I thought it was perfect, and it only got better. Whenever Josh’s boyfriend Jose came over, he would only speak Spanish to me. That helped me practice putting what I had learned from the dictionary into a real conversation.

The first time Jose came over when I was visiting Josh, I felt extremely awkward and weird. I couldn’t look him in his eyes. I felt like I had done him wrong in some way because I knew that I probably loved Josh as much as he did or maybe even more. But we become great friends and only spoke Spanish to each other. He started calling me Chiquita Bonita and I loved it. Occasionally Josh would say, “Oh you guys sound so romantic when you speak Spanish, I am so jealous but please don’t stop.”

“Josh, why don’t you learn Spanish too?” I asked.

“Oh no Anna, I can barely speak English. Languages are not my strong suit, don’t feel bad for me. You guys keep talking, it's like I’m listening to music that I love only I can’t understand the words.”

“Wow Josh, you have no idea how much I can relate to that, we listened to Spanish music and loved it, but we didn’t really understand the words either.”

Then Jose asked, “So you spoke and still speak German?”

“Yes.”

“Okay, can say something in German to me?”

“Sure, what should I say?”

“How about, ‘I like you.’”

“Okay, ‘Ekj jleijche die.’”

“Now that would be hard to learn,” Jose said and we all agreed that Spanish sounded way better and defiantly more romantic than Low German.

The weather was getting warmer, and spring tulips were blooming everywhere, and I was getting close to the end of grade nine. Though I was all stressed out about final exams I had learned to handle it better. I hadn't dreamt about my deceased fula, talking windmills and drifting to Posen Land in a while.

On a beautiful late spring Monday morning, birds chirped outside my window after spending the whole weekend at Josh’s apartment reading and learning about concepts I never knew existed. I woke up from a strange dream I had about Josh. A dream that left me afraid and wondering about what exactly was going to happen to me. I dreamt that I told my mom I was going to marry Josh, and the reason I wanted to marry him was because then I wouldn’t have to have twelve babies one after the other. I woke up before she had a chance to respond.

My dream about Josh had planted a seed in my mind. While at work, I had plenty of time to overthink and daydream about it and the seed began to grow. I thought from where I am sitting and what I know about how things happen in the colonies back home. I thought to myself “this would actually be a perfect marriage. I love him, he is nice to me, and we are amazing friends. He makes me feel like I can do anything I set my mind to. I can tell him anything that is bothering me,” and from what I had learned by reading his books, I now understood exactly why I wouldn’t be forced to have twelve babies if Josh was my gay husband. It was perfect, I began to feel butterflies in my stomach and thought “now if only he would go for it,” but I knew that I could never tell anyone about my plans and that I would have to keep all of it to myself, or I might get myself into big trouble.  

I was sitting at my sewing station during lunch break at work trying to put my dream about marrying Josh aside so I could focus on studying for final exams. I was secretly hoping that Sam would come and talk to me again, but Bree came instead.

“Hey Anna, how’s it going?”

“Hi Bree, what are you doing here? I thought you were working the day shift.”

“I was, but I couldn’t take it anymore so I asked if I could come back to afternoons and here I am.”  

“Why?”

“Well I might as well tell you the truth, it’s because of George. I miss him so much, and it f#cking hurts like a son of a bitch to see him every day, knowing that it’s over between us. I really messed things up with him this time.”

I felt weird and didn’t know what to say to that.

“I haven’t talked to you in a while, how are doing?” she asked.

“I think I am figuring things out and I am doing okay. I am so happy that I am finally a Canadian Citizen.”

“Good for you Anna, I am glad you are figuring shit out. I f#cking hate my life, and I hate this place more than anything. As soon as we get our pink slips I am going to join the military.”

“What, the military? Why?”

“Yes, because I need to get away from here like I told you before, it is impossible to un-love George.”

While she kept talking, all I could think about was the pink slip. I had heard people talk about getting a pink slip before, but I had no idea what that meant. George had mentioned once, but I always had some crisis going on and never asked him what a pink slip was or why people were worried about getting one.

“When you say pink slip, what does that mean?” I asked Bree.

“It’s a pink paper that tells you that you have been laid off and I know this time it will be for good because this place is closing down soon,” She answered.

I was counting on the fact that she liked to give me a hard time and hoped that that was what she was doing. I could not afford to be laid off again, I was finally moving forward smoothly and somewhat peacefully. I couldn't accept what she was telling me because that would really interrupt my life again.

“What, why is it closing down and how do you know?”

“My dad told me, he knows people who know these things, Anna. I am not sure why because I don’t really care. Okay, I have to go back to work now,” she said and left me sitting there with many unanswered questions.

As I continued working, I thought about what Bree said and got really scared when I realized that she might be telling the truth. Sam happened to walk by so I waved him over and asked, “Hey Sam, have you heard, or do you know anything about these pink slips people are talking about?”

He looked down as he said, “Yes Anna, I have but I am not sure if it’s just a rumor or not.”

“What? Oh no! I really hope it’s not true.”

“Actually Anna, this might be good for you. If this place closes down, you could focus on school. That’s what you what isn't it?”

“Yes, but I still have to pay rent and buy food, you know.”

“Actually, you might not have to worry about that, with this new Mike Harris government and all the changes that are happening.”

“What do you mean?” I asked just as Derek the supervisor walked by and gave us a disappointed look for standing around and talking when it clearly wasn’t break time.

“I should go, we can talk about it more another time,” said Sam as he walked away.

“Okay.”

I forgot all about marrying Josh and began to have a sinking feeling that I just might have to go and beg Frank the tobacco farmer to give me another chance to prove to him that I was perfectly capable of working in his fields. 

When I got home, I thought George! He will know if it’s true or not. I looked to see if his lights were on and they weren't, it was all dark in his apartment. When I got inside I found a note that someone had slipped under my door. It immediately brought back memories of my stalker, but when I actually looked at it, I was relieved to see that it had George’s name on it.

I opened it immediately, it said,


That’s when I knew that something serious was going on and it really scared me. I was tempted to let myself into to his apartment and wake him up to find out what he wanted to tell me. But I didn’t think that I would have the guts to do it. I thought what if he didn’t really mean it the other day when he told me that he would be fine with that. I wondered “should I go over and wake him up?” I wanted to, so badly. I didn’t think I could wait until the next day. Click here to continue reading my story.


Thursday, May 5, 2016

Mennonite Schmuck


Ever since I first started working at the sewing factory, I was tempted to go sit with Felicity and her friends in the lunchroom. She seemed nice and often talked to me while I worked at a sewing station beside her. Most of the time I didn’t understand what she was saying and couldn’t answer her. I just smiled and nodded my head when she said something to me. 

It seemed to me that the people sitting with her always had so much fun. They were always joking around and laughing about something. I often thought that I would love to be part of that but, I was afraid of the tall man that sat across from Felicity. He had medium blond wavy hair half way down his back and many tattoos on his arms. I had only ever seen him from a distance. He seemed like a happy person, every time I caught a glimpse of him, and he had a big smile on his face.

One day while Felicity and I were sewing, as usual, she turned to me and asked, “Anna, why don’t you come and sit me during lunch break?”

My face turned red and my heart immediately started pounding with excitement. 

“I would really like to, but…” I explained to her that I was afraid of that tall man with the long hair and tattoos that sat across the table from her.

“What, George? Oh, Anna, looks can be deceiving, you don’t have to be afraid of him. He does swear a lot, but he is actually the biggest sweetheart I know. When you come and sit with us I will introduce you to him and then you can find out for yourself.”

I understood most of what she said but wondered especially about the meaning of the word deceiving, “Okay, maybe I will, but I’m not sure about it yet” I answered.

“Okay, but trust me George is anything but scary.”

While I worked I thought about it and the more I thought about it the more tempting it was. I thought “how can I tell the Mennonite women I sit with that I would rather go and sit with Felicity and her tattooed friends than them? And if they ask me why, what am I going to tell them? I couldn’t tell them the truth, and say that, ‘I find this to be so boring and I would like to sit with those people because they seem to have a lot more fun and I am curious to know what being part of that might feel like.’”

I felt like I was figuring out the best way to break up with the Mennonite women and felt bad about it. I knew it didn’t matter how I would tell them, they wouldn’t like it and tell me that I shouldn’t go sit with those people. 

It took me a whole week to work up the nerve, finally, by Friday, I decided that I would just to go for it, without an explanation to the Mennonite women. I came to work a bit earlier and walked right past the table I had sat since the day I had started working there. My heart was pounding out of my chest. I felt so brave. My face felt like it might burst into flames. That’s how hot it felt as I walked toward the other table. I was so nervous my legs were shaking as I sat down. I wished with all my heart that Felicity would show up before George. I sat there watching the Mennonite women walk in one by one, feeling guilty for leaving them without an explanation. I smiled and waved at them as they looked over and saw me sitting at the other table. Only one of them waved back to me with a confused look on her face and the rest of them just gave me a side glüps (stare).

As I thought “okay, I’m so glad that’s over new,” George walked in. My heart skipped a beat when he sat down across the table from me, close enough that I could smell how amazing he smelled. He sat his coffee on the table pulled his fingers through his hair and said, “Good morning.”

“Good morning,” I replied in a shaky nervous voice.

I had never talked to a person with tattoos before or a man with long hair like that for that matter. I was so afraid that he might ask me something that I wouldn’t understand and held my breath in hopes that it would help. I just stared at the tattoos on George’s arm. I began feeling light headed and slowly inhaled a breath of air as I saw Felicity walking in toward the table.

“Anna! Good to see that you have finally decided to come to the dark side, George this is Anna. Anna this is George.”

I held my breath again as I watched George’s long, tattoo covered muscular arm reach across the table toward me to shake my hand. I thought “what do I do? What do I do? This will be way worse if I don’t put my hand out to shake his. Just do it, just quickly shake his hand Anna!” and placed my shaking hand into his, barely touching him as he shook my hand.

I didn’t say much and just listened to them talk to each other. I understood that just about every other word that they said was a swear word. I began to feel strange when I realised that it wasn’t even darker at this table then the other one as I thought about Felicity’s comment about coming to the dark side and then reality struck me. I thought “oba Anna, you’re brave move may not have been the right decision.”

I doubted my decision more and more as the day went on. Every Friday Felicity and George would take turns using the pay phone to order food from a restaurant during the first break and the food would be delivered by lunch time. While Felicity and I were working she asked if I could order the food that day. I said, “Yes” without really thinking it through and immediately knew that it would be disastrous but I was willing to try and learn.

She knew I didn’t speak a lot of English but she didn’t know much else about me, especially that I had never used a phone before. I thought “how hard can this be? I want to learn how to do this” and besides I had seen people make phone calls with that phone before, it didn’t look that hard. I once stood behind a woman and stared at her in awe as she picked up the phone put the quarter in and pressed all those buttons with a kind of confidence I greatly admired.

At the first break, Felicity scribbled down the phone number, what she wanted and what George wanted on a piece of paper. She handed me a quarter, read the order out loud to me and handed the paper to me.

I took the piece of paper and stared at it, it was like I was looking at a beautiful piece of art for the very first time when I saw her handwriting, I was fascinated by the beauty of it. I looked up and was immediately hypnotized when my eyes met George’s sky blue eyes. He winked and smiled at me revealing the whitest, straightest and most perfect teeth I had ever seen. I froze and felt a warm tingling sensation in my stomach that I had never experienced before. I couldn’t move, speak or do anything.

George thought that I was confused about the orders and began to explain it to me, “I ordered a chicken burger with no mayonnaise, Felicity wants a poutine and then you order what you like” but the more he spoke the worse it got, I just stared at him. He offered to call in the orders for me. But, I did say yes that I would do it and I wanted to learn, “I think I got it.” I answered.

I got up and my shaking legs could barely hold me up as I walked past the table where my Mennonite friends were sitting. Still, only one of them waved at me and the rest just stared at me with a disappointed look on their faces.

The phone was located in the hallway around the door to the lunch room. I walked by it every day when I came to work. I often stopped and stared at it, until one day when I saw the cabinet with glass sliding doors across from the payphone. In that cabinet were people’s perfect attendance awards, hanging with a light shining on them. I often daydreamed about what it would feel like if my name was on one of those, proudly hanging there under a spotlight for others to admire.

With my shaking right hand, I picked up the phone, put the quarter in and dialed the number. Just like I had seen that woman do, but I was shaking from head to two. My heart started pounding out of my chest as I heard the ringing. I just about jumped out of my skin when a man answered. I began speaking and totally messed up the order. I just said “yes” to everything and order myself the same burger as I ordered for George. When the orders came, Felicity went to pay for hers and learned that I had messed up the order because it was more than all the other times she ordered the same thing. George’s burger had a ton of mayonnaise on it and Felicity wanted a small poutine but she got a large one instead.

Felicity looked at me and said, “Oh, you schmuck!”

Schmuck means “beautiful” in Low German. I was quite pleased with myself and said, “Well thank you!” She looked over at George all confused. But it didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me when George turned around and said, “What the f#ck Felicity? It's fine! Take a chill pill would you?”

“You don’t get it, George, I am on a f#cking diet, I can’t eat all of this” she replied.

“I’ll eat it if is too much for you and besides if you are on a diet, don’t you think a salad would have been a better choice?” George asked.

“F#ck you George!” she replied as she put half of her poutine into his plate.

I just continued to stare at George’s teeth while he was talking, laughing and enjoying himself teasing Felicity about being on a diet and eating poutine. I began to clue in that she was really upset about her order and George was sticking up for me.

George looked right at me and said, “It’s okay Anna, you were brave to do this, thank you for ordering for us today.” He smiled and winked at me as he scraped the mayonnaise of his burger before he began eating it.

I had enough time to take one bite of my burger and it was time to go back to work. I felt like the one bite of my burger didn’t have room in my stomach after everything I had just experienced. I was extremely confused about what exactly happened.

Felicity was very quiet for the rest of the day. I was trying hard to figure out why that might be. Was it because she was upset that I messed up her order or was it because she didn’t want to take her chill pills anymore and wanted to die?

While I sat there at the sewing machine, all kinds of thoughts went through my head. I figured she must have nerve problems too and that’s why she wants to end it all by die-it. I tried to make sense of it all, I began putting all the dots together and remembered all the similarities here. My grandfather had nerve problems and was taking pills for that. But, the pills that he was taking didn’t work because in spite of the medication he was on, he still ended his life by hanging himself.

I began to really wonder what exactly the word schmuck meant in English but I was too embarrassed and afraid to ask. I decided that I was better off not knowing and hoped with all my heart that Felicity could move past it without having to die-it (ending her life).

I thought to myself that I should really be more careful about what I say yes to when I don’t understand exactly what I am saying yes to. I figured especially when someone’s life could depend on itClick here to continue reading my story.

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