Thursday, October 13, 2016

A Mennonite ending



Monday morning I woke up to my new life. I had one more week of work and that was it. After that all I had to do was go to school and pass all my classes. Thinking about my conversation with George, about changing and growing, I felt relieved and accomplished that I had actually made it this far.

I put on my favorite brown pleated dress with yellow tulips, white socks and black strappy sandals and off I went to grade ten ready to face whatever came my way. I was the first one to show up in my class. I picked a seat in the back row  the second chair in, and put a notebook on the table at the first spot to save it for my friend Steve. I closed my eyes and inhaled a deep breath as I remembered my Mennonite school back home. As doubts and fears began to surface, I thought to myself, “I chose to sit here! This is my choice.” I quietly said all my memorised prayers in my head for Steve to show up. I relied heavily on his notes to make it through grade ten.

While I sat there with my eyes closed wishing with all my heart that Steve would show up, I felt someone walking in and sitting down beside me on the chair to my right. I slowly glimpsed over moving only my eyes to see and all I saw were these snow white hands with black polished fingernails. I slowly moved my eyes back to my spot thinking what a relief, a woman is sitting on my right side. As I exhaled a relieving breath, a deep voice asked, “Is this seat taken?

My heart stopped for a second while I searched for words and said, “Ahhh no.”

“Wicked,” said the deep voice.

I turned my whole head to see what could be happening and I saw the whitest man I had ever seen. He was dressed in black from head to toe. His hair was black and spiky. Before my mind took over thinking all kinds of what-the-hecks, he said, “Hi, my name is PJ, do you mind if I sit here?”

“Ahhh okay, sure.”

As he moved around and dug books out of his backpack I noticed a familiar scent that surrounded him. He smelled like Christina’s friend Josh’s apartment but mixed with smoke. He smelled like he had smoked a lavender cigarette before he came to school. It was the oddest experience.

I got so worried as the class filled up quickly, the teacher started writing on the blackboard and Steve was nowhere in sight. When the teacher said,  “Welcome to grade ten math class, everyone,” I realised that I had assumed that everything would be exactly like it was in grade nine only a level higher because that was how it was in my school back home.

By the end of the class, I was relieved when I realised that math was a lot easier for me than English and that I just might be able to do math class without Steve’s help. I had hope again that my friend would show up for English class.

I ran to my English class. I looked for Steve, everywhere on my way there and again I was the first one in that class. I picked the back row and sat down in the second chair in and put my books on the chair to my left to save it for Steve. I closed my eyes and whispered all my prayers in my head for Steve to show up. When I opened my eyes he was standing next to me, and I yelled “STEVE!”

My heart sank when I made eye contact with him and saw how depressed he looked.

“Hey girl,” he replied in the most depressing voice I had ever heard him speak.

“What’s wrong, why are you so sad?” I asked.

“Anna, I really hate this, I don’t want to be here,” he said as he sat down next to me.

I thought to myself, “Oh shit! What do I say to him? I didn’t know what to say,” and said, “Well, I am so happy that you are here, I looked for you all morning. There are so many new people here, it's kind of scary. I haven't seen anyone that I know from the last term, not even Chung.”

“I know, eh? Anna, you were actually my motivation for showing up here today. When I thought about how excited you were about learning and how far you came in just one semester. I realised that I have never valued learning like you do. I have taken all of this for granted my whole life and now I am paying for it. That’s why I am so far behind and I have to do this while I watch my friends get promotions, make good money and live their dreams. Anna, I am such an idiot.” 

I thought,” Oh crap! What do I say?” and it came to me.  I told him what George told me when I thought that I was a hopeless idiot.

I worked up the courage, knowing that I couldn’t look at his face and concentrate enough to say what I was going to say him. I looked down at his hand and in a shaky voice, I went for it, “No Steve, you are NOT an idiot! You are smart! And you are just doing your life in a different order then your friends are and there is nothing wrong with that.” I looked up at his face and found him staring at the pleats on my dress again. Then I realised that I was wearing the same dress that had caused his accident on his way to school the first time I met him and I felt bad about it all over again. 

As he looked up at me with a smile on his face about to say something, a beautiful tall young woman with curly red hair half way down her back walked into the classroom and said, “Good morning, my name is Marla and I will be teaching this class.” The whole class stared at her as she so effortlessly began writing on the blackboard.

At the end of the class, Steve handed me his notes from the class and said, “Thank you for encouraging me to keep going. It helped a lot.”

“You’re welcome and thank you for these notes. I would never be able to do this without your help.”

“Anytime girl, I don’t think you will need my help much longer, you are doing great Anna. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Okay, see you tomorrow,” I said and off I went to my first introduction to computers class. This was the class I feared the most. I had only used one once after Steve typed everything in for me when I was searching up information about my recurring dream about Posen Land. Again I chose the spot furthest away from the front of the class. Now that I was able to choose where I sat, there was something familiar and comforting about sitting at the back.

As I sat there and stared at the computer wondering how the heck I would turn it on, a tall woman dressed in baggy jeans, a plain plaid button up shirt and a baseball cap with her long blond hair pulled back into a ponytail walked up to me. The way she was dressed reminded me of how the men back home in my colony dressed on the weekdays. She sat down beside me and said, “The button on the bottom of the screen.”

I looked up at her and asked, “What?”

“That’s how you turn it on, push the button.”

“Oh, okay,” I replied.

“Hi, my name is Tony, are you saving this seat for anyone?”

“No.”

“What is your name?” she asked.

“Anna.”

“Okay, nice to meet you, Anna,” she said as a woman walked in and sat down next to her. They hugged and talked for a while and Tony turned to me and said, “Anna, this is my girlfriend Hillary. Hillary this is Anna.”

All I could think about was “What? I am so confused, I thought Hillary was a man's name.”

“Hi, nice to meet you, Anna,” said Hillary.”

“Hi, you too,” I said awkwardly as a group of guys walked into the class talking about how they were going to party every day for the next whole year because the world was coming to an end. They were talking about something they called y2k. I forgot all about the girl named Hillary as I watched those guys search information on y2k.

It didn’t take long until the class was full and everyone including the Ken the teacher was talking about the world coming to an end. It got me thinking to the point that my nerve problems were waking up again. That class discussion brought me back to a time when everyone in my colony was worried about it soon being the end of the world. I didn’t really understand it but we heard bits and pieces of this story that people in the colony talked about how this would happen. That there would be two groups of people, one group would have something with the numbers 666 on it and with this they could get anything they desired, but having this meant that they would belong to the beast, the devil. And everyone that didn’t have this thing with the numbers 666 on it would suffer until they would die of hunger and thirst, but only they would go to heaven.

By the end of the class, I had learned how to turn on a computer and a whole lot about y2k that I didn’t understand at all. I couldn't stop my mind from wondering how to make sense of what I already knew and what I had learned in computer class. I couldn’t help but think back to my SIN card and how I couldn't do anything in Canada without it. It was starting to make me think that this just might be it.

On my way to work, I thought, “When I get home tonight I need to check my SIN card again. I need to make sure that there are no combinations of the numbers 666 anywhere on this card.” The more I thought about it, it all began to make sense and it scared the pleats right out of my dress.

I couldn’t help but feel very depressed about the whole thing. I thought what good is all of what I have been doing if the world is going to end in a year? And it hit me when I walked into the factory, that that would be the last Monday that I would work there. In a way my world as I knew it was coming to an end. I sat down in the cafeteria and just felt all of that weighing me down and it only got worse as I watched George walking toward me showing me his teeth while he smiled at me.

I thought, “Oh no, what if George’s card is marked? I can't keep this important information to myself, I need to warn him about this.”

“Hey sweetie, what’s wrong you look worried, how was your first day of grade ten?” he asked.

“Hi, George, it was okay, there were a lot of people that I have never seen before. How was your day?”

“It was scary, like most Mondays here, you know, I couldn’t smile at anyone because I didn’t want to get beat up.”

“Oh yes, I know. I remember. Hey, have you ever really checked all the numbers on your SIN card?”

“Ah… I’m not sure, I think so, why what's going on, whey do you ask?”

“Well, I got all worried about it today in computer class. When people were talking about the world coming to an end because of something to do with computers and y2k.”

“Okay… yeah, I have heard about that but what does that have to do with my SIN card?”

“Do you know about the mark of the beast? You know, the numbers 666?”

“Ah… yes, but no Anna! No, that’s not… ah… that wouldn't be on your SIN card, wait, what? Oh f#ck.” Click here to continue reading my story.


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