Thursday, October 20, 2016

Leery Mennonite


Continued from A Mennonite ending

George reassured me that our SIN cards were not our one-way tickets straight to hell. He said, “Anna, the people that are making all this stuff up are full of crap! Don’t listen to them. No one knows when the world will end.”

“Okay.”

“Remember all the other times when you thought something bad was going to happen to you and it didn’t?”

“Yes,” I replied in a low voice.

He walked over to me, put his arms around me and said, “Don’t worry so much about things that people say or do.”

“Okay, I will try.”

“It’s time to go, have a good night Anna.”

“Okay, you too.”

As much as I tried to listen to George and shut my thoughts down, I just couldn’t. I thought there must be a reason for this to come up now and I was still very suspicious of that SIN card that everyone had to have to be able to work in Canada. It made sense that this could be it and I just couldn’t leave it alone until I knew for sure.

When my shift finally ended I sped home to check my SIN card. I was so relieved when I couldn't find the numbers 666 anywhere on my SIN card.

By the end of the week, I had learned that Hillary was not Tony’s friend who just happened to be a girl. She was Tony’s ‘girlfriend’ and there were a lot more people that thought the same thing as George told me, about the whole y2k and the world coming to an end was bullshit. Still, I had no choice but to listen to people argue about it during computer class while I was learning the keyboard. Some days I was positive that someone was sneaking into the school at night and mixing up the letters on the keyboard because I just knew that the letter J had been in a different spot the day before.

As the teacher explained that we were to type words only looking at the computer screen, without looking at the keyboard. I thought, “yeah, that is not even possible. You’ed have to be an absolute genius to be able to learn something that complicated.”

Going to work at the factory for my last shift was incredibly hard and emotional for me. As I reminded myself every step of the way: This will be the last time you will do this, Anna. This is the last time you will see most of these people, as all of the day shift people left with big smiles on their faces. They didn’t even look back once as they drove away.

I thought, “They must be going to an even better job than this one, they are so lucky” as I looked for George everywhere and couldn’t find him in the crowd, so I just went straight to work and started my sewing machine one last time.

Sam came, sat down on my sewing table during break time and asked, “How are you doing Anna?”

“Sad, weird and I am not even sure, how about you?”

“The same,” he answered in a low sad voice.

I hadn't seen Sam in a while and I was curious to know what he thought about the world coming to an end. So I just dove right in and began talking to him. “This week went by faster than I thought. It's probably because of what I learned in my computer class, you know, about the world coming to an end. People in my class were talking about something called y2k and that this is what is going to cause the world to end. Do you know anything about that?”

“Yes, I do, can you believe that there are people planning for this to actually happen?”

“No,” I answered in my guiltiest voice as I thought “Ah… I was starting to plan, but only in my head so far.”

“I mean no one knows when this is going to happen, so why worry about it so much right?”

“Right.”

“Anna, what are you doing after work?” Sam asked as our supervisor walked by and gave us a weird ‘get back to work’ look.

“We should probably get back to work before we get in trouble,” I suggested.

Sam laughed and said, “What are they going to do, fire us?”

I felt guilty for agreeing with Sam as I gave him a fake smile.

“If he has a problem with me talking to you on our last day working here, he can go and ah… never mind. So are you doing anything after work?”

“Going home to try to go to sleep,” I replied.

“Who can sleep after this?”

“I didn’t say sleep. I said try to sleep.”

He laughed and said, “Yes, you did say that, would you like to come and join us for a drink at the bar after work tonight? I mean, endings like these shouldn’t pass by us uncelebrated.”

“Ah… who is all going?” I asked.

“A few of the guys that work at the back and some of my friends are meeting up with us.”

“Okay, I will think about it and let you know,” I answered as I thought, “I wonder which guys, the day shift guys that think that Mennonite women are disgusting?”

“Okay, I will talk to you at the end of our shift.”

“Great, sounds good Anna, see you later.”

I thought about it long and hard as I fought thoughts about how those guys made me feel after I heard them talking about us like that. I thought, “How can I be in a group with them and not feel awkward? Or what if the Mexican cowboys show up again? And George and Christina won't be there to help me?”

I began to talk myself into going, knowing that I still had that salsa jar in my purse. Sam had been nothing but nice to me, but if he or anyone else tried anything, they would leave me no choice but to pull that jar out of my purse and use it.

As I continued sewing in deep thought wishing that I wouldn’t have to use my salsa jar on anyone, a deep voice behind me asked, “How are you doing, Anna?”

I turned around and saw Hilary standing there, beautifully dressed as always, leaning against the sewing desk with his arms crossed.

I looked at his shiny black shoes as I answered him, “I am sad but I am okay.”

“Me too, I just wanted to come and say thank you for all the hard work you have done here and to wish you the beast of luck with whatever you decide to do in the future.”

“Thank you, you too,” I said as I looked up to his elbow.

“I didn’t have a chance to get to know many people that worked here. But because of your, um, situation that happened here, I have gotten to know you and I can't help but feel bad about leaving you unemployed knowing how much you have relied on the income that this job had provided for you.”

I slowly moved my head up to look at his face and saw a tear rolling out from under his big glasses as I began talking. “When I first learned what a pink slip actually was, I thought that getting one with my name on it would be the end of me. But then George found out that this new Harris government had passed a new law. A law that allows people like me to stay on unemployment while I go to school, long enough to be able to get my GED. I won't even need to look for another job,” I explained, and a tear made its way down my cheek as I realized the this was probably the last time I would ever hear the sound of his deep, haunting voice.

“That is wonderful news, Anna, wonderful! How exciting. I am so happy for you. Thank you for sharing that with me, I feel relieved to know this,” he said and reached out to shake my hand.

As he shook my hand he said, “Anna, it has been wonderful to know you. I wish you the best of luck with everything you do.” All I could think about was something like, “To have gotten a hug from this man named Hilary with the deepest haunting voice ever, would have been THE ultimate hug for a girl like me, but I’ll take his words and a handshake.” 

I so badly wanted to ask him all kinds of questions about what he was going to do after the factory closed. Or if he was moving away too like many people were, but I didn’t because I wasn’t sure it would be appropriate and I didn’t want to ruin the moment. So I just held onto the sound of his voice for as long as I could because I didn’t know if I would ever hear him speak again.

While I continued working all I could think about were the words he said and the sound of his voice when he said them. It left me feeling incredibly sad. I didn’t like that I was losing that many people all at once, people that I had seen every day for so long, and learned to care about.

Hilary’s words led me to decide that I would go out for a drink with Sam. As I remembered when George told me that I needed to go and live the shit out of life. Sam was leaving for Alberta soon and I didn't know if I would ever see him again either. I had grown to like Sam. I considered him a good friend. After all, he had proven himself to me over and over again that he was a good person and that I could trust him.

I thought to myself, I can't just go home and carry on like nothing has happened when such an enormous part of my life has just ended. The more I thought about it, my chest began to feel so tight that it was hard to breathe.

My life in Canada started at that factory. I had learned to speak English there. I had experienced so much at that factory I just couldn’t be happy that soon, it was just going to be another memory. I knew that no matter how much I would learn and even if I would eventually get another job, maybe even a better one, I would never forget how much I learned and loved working at that factory.

I knew I had no choice but to remember George’s words about being forced to change, grow and move forward. That all of that was good for us just to get me through that. I didn’t want to meet new people and do different things. I wanted things to stay the same and keep the people I knew in my life just the way they had been. But the end of the shift bell rang and I had no choice but to turn off that sewing machine one last time and walk out of there.

When I walked into the cafeteria one last time to grab my lunch bag, fighting back the tears that were ready burst out of my eyes. Sam was sitting at the table waiting for me. “Hey Anna, so what do you say, are you meeting us for a drink?”

“Hey Sam, yeah I think so, are you going straight there from here?”

“Yes.”

“I think I should go home and change first.”

“Why? You don’t need too, you look great the way you are dressed, Anna.”

I turned all red when I asked, “Really Sam? You think I look great in this dress?” I was wearing my brown pleated Mennonite dress.

“Yes, you do Anna, you don’t need to go home and change first.”

“Okay, I will go for one drink.”

“Great! I'll see you there,” he said, walked out and didn’t look back.

I sat there for a while and looked around the cafeteria one more time. It was so quiet in there after everyone had left. All I could hear was my heartbeat and the fridge running. It reminded me of my fula’s funeral. I was standing there alone in the silent aftermath not knowing what to do with what I was feeling after everyone had left.

I got up, picked up my bag, walked past the perfect attendance plaques that didn’t have my name on any of them, and the first phone I had ever used, on my way out. I got into the car, started it, took a deep breath, looked up at the door and saw Hilary standing there leaning against the door frame, legs crossed with his hands in his pant pockets. It looked like he was in deep thoughts staring into the distance. I looked at him, smiled and waved as I slowly drove out of the parking lot. Click here to continue reading my story.

Leery Mennonite image courtesy of Nan Peters

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