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.

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