It happened again. That funny question that irks and tweaks the underbelly of self-identity. “What are you?”
The snark rises and I stutter, “Ahh…huu..man?”
The smirk flashes annoyance, “No I mean like where are you from?”
“Oh I am Canadian – born in Ontario. Not far from here…”
Interruption arises, eyebrows raised, “No I mean your people where are they from?”
“My parents were refugees, fleeing tyranny. And…”
A spark dawns and interjects before I can finish, “Oh you are Middle-eastern. Turkish?”
Now I am annoyed, and I can feel the emotions brush across my face and furrow my brow.
“How about I finish. They came from Europe. 1956. The failed Hungarian Revolution made my father realize he couldn’t stay because he would be arrested and tortured again. And my mother had just had a baby. So when the river froze in December of 1956 they walked across the ice to what is now Croatia.”
A nod. I see they are listening.
“My mother’s brother was in Toronto, so he sponsored them to come to Canada. And in July of 1957 they arrived in Quebec on a refugee ship. And…”
I can see the question coming before it becomes sound, “So you are European – cause you don’t really look white. Kinda Asian actually. Your almost black hair, and skin with a hint of colour and your eyes are almond which is why I said Turkish…”
My turn to speak up and over, “Yeah. Hungarian-Croatian. Well actually Croatian-Hungarian is more accurate. The village was mostly Croatian, but in the Hungarian side of the border. That part of Europe is a mix of people spilling between tribes and blending. I hear there is some Gypsy – Roma – ancestry in my genetic makeup. And some of the tribes that settled in the area had Asian and Middle-eastern origins.”
The other listens, and nods. And summarized my label, “So you are white then..huh. So hard to tell.”
I sigh, and reply, “Nope I am not white, but I’ve been mistaken for one before. I am human. And while my skin has a lighter-tone, my attitude is universal. The place of my birth, and the colour of my skin has nothing to do with how I have experienced the world, or how I think. My advice to you is top labelling people based on outward appearances. You cannot judge a book by its cover; Nor can you see the human inside the body if all you see are the shape and colour that they wear. Yes indeed we are each unique individuals; but close your eyes and open your ears! And you will be surprised to learn that we are all more alike, than we are different.”
I can see my words have offended, as they turn and move away. Truly they meant no harm in asking such an innocent question. Yet it wasn’t innocent at all, merely unthinking and presumptive. As I watch them leave, I can hear my mother’s voice in my head, “This is why you can’t have nice things – you always break them.”
Yes Mom, I do break them. Because I expect them to be better than that to begin with…
It is strange how we create a routine out of the obligations of life. A pattern is shaped from necessity and reluctantly overlaid. Eight years ago my father died, and my mom asked me to come see her more often. At first it was every other week. Somewhere in there it became a weekly visit. Usually on a Saturday, I’d be up by 6am and on my way. The 2-hour drive a quiet pleasant meditation through lovely Ontario country-side. A stop for a coffee. Sometimes a pause for walk on a trail.
There are words inside me. And no one to hear them. They float on the tip of my tongue in swirling poetic tones. Waiting for the moment to arrive and launch their crisp sonorous meters into the air. I stay silent because I do not dare to break the silence when none are near to hear or care.
The ticking clock winds down past the hour into the next and then around again, clicking into the sunset crawling across the eastern walls of my living room. Gone gone gone much to soon is the charm of my youthful truth spilling out from my pain into the wounded evening light bleeding from behind the clouds.
And there it is then. The finality of the moment breaching the infinity of our progress into some other tomorrow we never imagined happening. It is always just there. Out of sight and out of mind. Lurking between here and the garden gate.
And so now I sleep. Deeply. Forlornly. Avoiding my fate. Avoiding the light. Avoiding the dawn that will rattle me awake,
Some days are better than other days. And some days are more bitter.
Here I drift within the doldrums of darkness. I am creatively unsparked. Where my writer’s heart should be playful beating out a cadence for each line – there is only the flat-lined hum of cardiac failure. Does anyone even read this blog anymore? Why would they? There is nothing new here. No new words and thoughtful inspirations. Just the ongoing recycling of hunger unfulfilled.
I need a new shtick. A new gimmick for a new audience. I could write about food and beverage. Indulge in fine craft beers paired with exotic hand-crafted local cheeses. Spew sensual sentences about the tantalizing tastes teasing my tongue with balanced tones of esters and glucose exciting my hunger for more. And no I cannot do that. I would be lost in my enjoyment of the food and forget to write my thoughts.
Oye. Sports? Ick. Music? <yawn>
Book reviews – oh wait I would have to start reading again. And I find I get side-tracked by wondering why the writer decided to branch the story away from an enticing side-quest into the normal well-worn plot points of what sells books. Ah yes – I guess that answers that thought. I have a dozen books strew around my house partially read and bookmarked inside and beneath the dusty dust-jackets. Award winning books I was told I should read for their current cultural relevance and revelations. Oh god they read like re-warmed shit strained through pompadour to mask the unpleasant stench of plot banality and the de jure unexpected plot-twist de jour….
Oh I would pluck mine eyes from my head if I am forced to read another word crafted by Joseph Boyden.
Yes I know he is renowned and regaled and endowed with awards. I cannot stand how he writes. But I guess that is why there are a thousand other writers waiting to be discovered. Oh my god – I actually wrote a review? What? An unintended and unenlightened review! I must also admit I hated the movie Titanic – so that may be a sign that you should go read Boyden!
Enough for now. I just felt I should force myself to write something. ANYTHING!
And I did.