Last night at the Starbucks, a question, an assumption: “You live in Orangeville, right? You grew up in Orangeville?” And then asking for directions. How could anyone presume to know anything like that before even saying hello? Do I really look like I’m from Orangeville? It must have been a question designed to provoke further questions, such as “Where are you from?” or detailed answers, like “No, not really—I’m not actually from here, and I barely know this area, and even if I did grow up in Orangeville this place isn’t more than a few years old, and it’s almost a miracle when I find it, always.”
I couldn’t place her accent—Ottawa/Hull? Calgary? Windsor? Kingston? I have no idea, and my memory bank of accents, Canadian accents, rural accents or the accents of small towns, is decidedly limited. If she were from Jersey, from Nebraska, from Montana or Georgia or West Virginia, I could better place her, but I’m certain that she wasn’t. Something definitely Canadian about her, in I think a kind of softness (softness to what? softness to aggression that doesn’t come?), and in her clothes: fashionable, but not edgy; tame, maybe even boring. Grocery-store fashion. With glasses like mine, and a nose ring in one nostril. No desire to make a statement, no desire to say anything, even though, on another person, the glasses and the nose ring could be statements (the glasses aren’t, on me: only ever accidentally). The anonymity of Canadians. A virtue. It will serve us well.
The Canadian moves quietly from district to district, passing unseen through city streets, through the homes of the rich and powerful, through police stations and army depots. The Canadian is a master of deception: hailing from towns as featureless as the snowy wastes of which she has spent her entire life dreaming, she is blank canvas ready to take on whatever life sends her way. The Canadian will dominate the coming age, dominate from backstage, even as he loses his featurelessness, his Canadian essence, dissolving as sugar in the rain, becoming something else, Canadian no longer.
I hate Canadians. No, I have no opinion about Canadians. I imagine that the lives of Canadians are easier than mine, but I don’t know what that means, or even who counts as a real Canadian. I’m confused. I’m confused and sad and this post doesn’t make any sense and is describing a feeling that I can’t articulate because it’s bankrupt. I am Canadian. I am anonymous. I like how unassuming Canadians are, and yet I also don’t believe in nationalism and would never go so far as to suggest that Canadians are unassuming. I like this culture, generally: but it is a culture different in the Annex and in Etobicoke, different in Caledon than in Toronto, Caledon and Longlac. I haven’t really left Ontario. My country is literature, which has no accent because it is mute.