Is This Just Something I Have To Let Go?

A wooded coast with people walking along the seawall and admiring the sea from an observation deck
Gabriel Santiago / Unsplash

Outside the window, the snow collects like I have never seen before.

Monday morning, as we arrived at the inn, we slipped thrice on the fresh ice. We joked, “evidently we’re not from here.”

Evidently, our bus driver thought the same when he read my features—too “oriental,” too “exotic” to call this place home. He says, “I think I already know who you are,” and stares from underneath thick glasses. His gaze shifts from my face to the crumpled piece of paper. I smile and wait for his guess.

Ironically, he is not wrong. He takes the name from my lips, spitting the Caucasian first name before hesitating on the Chinese last name with a distinctly North American accent.

The “Valerie” feels like a pin-up ginger/blonde girl with Farah Fawcett hair, lips painted red. It feels foreign, but I reply in the affirmative. It is un-me.

I try to reconcile our differences. Perhaps in this town it simply becomes an observation—he didn’t mean any harm. I think, perhaps it’s nothing until I read racism into the lines.

But it weighs in my mind. In the crowd of names I stood out as an “other”—and he made sure I had known it.

Later, when I arrive back at Vancouver, I tell my mother, and she sighs. “I think you’re being too radical, my dear.”

I had to stop for a moment to think about it. Maybe society had conditioned me to believe any speech made that othered my own race came from a place of ignorance and hate. Maybe sometimes it simply spoke out of statistical necessity?

Before I uncomfortably ended the conversation, my mother reminded me gently, “If you believe everything is said to target you personally, you’re going to live an unhappy life.”

I take myself back to Alberta and its icy grounds. Everything is so white and beautiful from a distance, but when the bus doesn’t come for 40 minutes, you start thinking and noticing as you’re waiting in the cold. On the ground, the snow is mostly white, but some are yellowed—perhaps from piss, perhaps from coffee. And after you struggle to remember your hotel name, the bus driver pauses and repeats the question slowly.

I remember three years ago when I first moved to Vancouver, I settled in quickly among different faces and I had thought, this country will save my faith.

I ask myself if this world has turned me against everyone else and myself. TC mark

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