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?”


“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.”  


“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.


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.

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