You've been to America. This place also feels like America, but something is fundamentally off. You want to ask about it, but you know if you do, it sends the locals into a frenzy.
People speak of Calgary. You know people in Calgary. They speak of Edmonton, but no one outside of Calgary speaks of Edmonton. You're not sure Edmonton is a real place.
The roads in Canada are wide. You never see much traffic. The locals say that the roads need to be wide, though, because of what happens in the mornings. You decide to take night classes.
People speak about festivities in whispers. The days shorten. They begin setting up decorations and lights. The night grows longer and longer. They talk about how they look forward to "seeing their families again". The darkness and cold begin to grow uncomfortable.
You pass by a store. It's called Canadian Tire. They have many things, you've never seen any tyres. You realise they spell it differently here, and everyone thinks you're strange because of it.
Canadian Tire. You feel the same.
There are names in French. They look foreign, because they're in French. There are names in Algonquian. They look foreign, because they're in Algonquian. There are names in English. They look foreign, but they're still English.
The Prime Minister is democratically elected. You've heard of elections from other countries, but for some reason, never this one. People refer to him by last name but his first name sticks out in your mind. If he had a predaccessor, no one has ever mentioned them to you.
The Premiere looks like the President of America. He talks like the President of America. He has the same views as the President of America. People hate him like they do the President of America. He is not the President of America, though.
You want to move in. You ask someone about what the electricity bills are like. They ask you if you mean "hydro". You say you weren't talking about water, but electricity. They insist it's called "hydro". You accept this.
Many times you've been to the shore of Lake Ontario. The horizon seems very close and the water is the same colour as the sky. There are ships docked on the shore, but there is never anything sailing when you go.
People praise the coffee shop. They joke about the coffee shop. They say the coffee shop is central to their collective identity. You mention that you have been to the coffee shop before, and you liked it. The people are horrified. You decide not to visit the coffee shop again.
You tell the people, avoiding mentioning London, that you have studied in a town in Surrey County. They are still confused. Their Surrey is also not the same as yours.
You think about your time in England. You think about places you've been to you can speak of without confusing the locals. You've been to Westminster. Surely, they will know what you mean when you say Westminster.
There is an alarm in every room. It shrieks and screeches loudly every time you bake food or make toast. Your neighbour says it's normal, and it's to keep you safe, but they presume you already know what the alarm is keeping you safe from.
Everyone says the other language everyone speaks is French. When you walk down the street, though, you notice all the signs are in Chinese. You ask them again. They still tell you it's French.
You made a friend in the North. She is also an artist, but only draws in pink highlighter and ballpoint pen. She speaks of mind control. You find it amusing at first, but you realise you're incorporating her work into your art now.
You make a friend in the West. He has a Japanese name your recognise, but you've never met him before till now. You invite him over, and he brings a lot of bags for a one night stay. He never tells you what is in them, but you know better than to ask.
You make a friend in the South. He has told you, many times, what this place South is called, but you can never remember. When he tells you, he is always closer than you expect.
You look outside and the sky is a deep orange. The smell of barbecue beckons you out the door. When you take the step, you choke, your eyes burn, and you barely escape indoors. The barbecue smell is gone.
The lady on the train repeats, "Union, Union station". The train slows, but the tunnel is still black. No one around you reacts. You can't see the end of the train down the hall.
You speak of the Middle City's name. Before you even reach the next word, everyone knows you're not from around here, and they give you suspicious looks. One of them says you will say it like them if you stay here long enough. You double check the Middle City's name again.
You visit a friend, in a town far, far to the west. You travel for hours, but you are still in the same place. It never ends. Why does it never end?
The bird is dangerous. It will kill you if you approach. But you may not attack the bird, as the bird is protected. Harm the bird, and the humans will pass judgement on you.
You leave Toronto in the summer. You return to Toronto come autumn. You swear that tower building was not there in the summer.
Someone invites you somewhere. You ask if it is far and inconvenient, but they assure you it is only a short trip away. They give you the address to check. You learn that it is very, very, very far, and ask them again. They insist, please, let me. It is closer than you think.
The city is filled with tall buildings, rows and rows of towers. But you have been here for over a year, and you still don't know anyone who lives in one. None of the people you know, knows anyone who lives in one. Their warm lights at night have stopped reminding you of home.
It is late at night, and the locals are deciding who will get to work in the Capital. You watch them, but you do not know what is in the Capital, aside from the Leaders. The locals advise you from learning. You forget about the Capital, at least until the next disaster happens.
The snow and biting cold has ended early. You step out in relief, and look at the loclas. The locals are not relieved; they are terrified of what this holds for the future, and speak of how the times have changed.
Many men drive cars here. Many cars these men drive have large containers at the ends for carrying things. You do not know what they are for, nor have ever seen them hold anything. It is unwise to provoke the men who drive the container cars.
No matter what it is, no matter where you are, red, red, bright red, is a good colour.
OMG, I went with a school group to Montreal in 1988 and I practically lived in Chinatown when I didn't have to be with the rest of the class because that's the only place they spoke French 😂
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