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Laura, Toucan Editrice

Monday, February 14, 2011

Suburban Sushi Blues, Cont'd

“Yeah, yeah. Your aunt.” Miguel lifted half of the seaweed salad with his fork and gulped it down. “Well, your uncle Roberto was driving her to the airport. They must have had one of their conversations, because she arrived at Pearson in her infamous foul mood. I can’t fucking stand it when she is like that. That acid tongue of hers. Do you remember—”

“Daddy. Tell me what happened. She got to Pearson and?”

“You know, Alex, when you use that tone, I really see my family’s influence on your kind nature.”

She didn’t know whether to take that as a compliment or an insult.

“So, she gets out of Roberto’s car and waits in line at security. Her scowl, her posture, something made them ask her to see inside her purse. To that she says, ‘What? You think I have a bomb in here?’ And they go and arrest her.” Miguel snapped his fingers at the passing waitress. “More ginger.”

“She is not a dog. Don’t snap at her.”

"This is going to be a re-enactment of last week? Don't be so Canadian. I am going to tip her.”

Alexandra took a deep breath and decided to ignore what her mother called “his Argentinean sense of entitlement.” “That’s the whole story? That doesn’t even make any sense. ‘You think I have a bomb in here?’”

“Have you been listening at all? A police state. They have all the control, these motherfuckers. You can’t say the word ‘bomb’ in an airport to security personnel. There is a list of prohibited words. They are not even trying to mask the absolution of your basic human rights. They are proudly making lists.”

“But you can understand after everything with airports that maybe…”

“Alexandra, wake up. The times, they are a changing, and it is not in your favour. I can’t say a certain word to a person whose sole job it is to deal with that word alone? What kind of bullshit is that? Next thing you know it is going to be illegal for me to say ‘infection’ to a doctor or ‘justice’ to a lawyer!”

“So, explain this to me. She said, ‘You think I have a bomb in here?’ and they cuff her and throw her in Kingston Penitentiary? That is the exact order of events?”

Miguel’s eyes narrowed. “Don’t take that tone, Alexandra. But since you ask, no. If you haven’t noticed, in Canada, we operate under something called ‘procedure.’ To cover the asses of law enforcement and make us feel as if our rights are being taken away lawfully.”

Alexandra knew there was more to the story, since Miguel had a way of leaving the most important facts out. For her grade six public speaking assignment, she was too lazy to go to the library, so she asked her father for a speech topic. This prompted him to go on for forty-five minutes about the benefits of recreational drug use. She edited out the details about his desert acid trips and wrote a speech about the perils of drug use from the facts that he provided, including the point that marijuana was legal. Upon receiving an F, Alexandra stormed home and demanded to know why he had told her lies. Riveted to a program on the mating of bees, Miguel told his eleven-year-old daughter, “Marijuana is only legal in Amsterdam. Everyone knows that.”

So again she asked, careful to watch her tone and not add fuel to a growing flame, “They cuffed her for the use of the word ‘bomb’?”

“A fine lawyer you would make. Always with the questions. Perhaps you should switch from your job to Lauren’s. It sure would pay better.” Miguel smirked. “If you are intent on knowing, no. They just questioned her because of the word ‘bomb’. They arrested her for assaulting a police officer.”

“What?” Alexandra nearly choked on an edamame bean.

“Don’t go telling your mother. She and her sister will start cackling over this one.”

“What happened?”

“It’s not such a big deal. I can’t say she was totally in the wrong. They took her into a room to check her bag and question her. When she refused to take off her sheitel, things got aggressive. A punch was thrown, some handcuffs. Your aunt is planning on suing the Toronto Police Force for discrimination and racial profiling.”

Alexandra scoffed, “On what grounds?”

“Here we go again with the Law and Order script. Or did Lauren practice for her litigator exam with you? Whose side are you on, anyways? Your aunt or the government?” Miguel pointed his fork at her.

Alexandra shook her head. She didn’t understand how he could feel victimized and attacked by corporations he frequented and a government that granted him citizenship. Miguel never suggested the little coffee shop down the street. He craved a mocha Frappucino with no foam from a ubiquitous corporation. And when, at the age of eighteen, he fled from Argentina’s mandatory army conscription, it was the Canadian government that welcomed him in.

Alexandra was losing her appetite. Untying and retying her hair, she said, “It is not about sides. But when Aunt Gloria begins with her manic behavior, I am not going to blindly support her antics. I would rather airport security do a good job of keeping crazy people off planes than safeguarding her mood of the moment.”

“And that is exactly how the fucking government wants you to think. Give up your freedom for the veil of safety and equality. Where the fuck was your government that day in the hospital?”

Miguel stabbed his fork in the air, punctuating each word. Alexandra rolled her eyes. She couldn’t go down this road of conversation again. Here came his Hostility Against Health Care rant, as Alexandra and Lauren called it. A year and a half ago, Alexandra got a blister on the side of her foot from wearing heels that were too high. She hobbled to two general practitioners and one skin doctor. All three told her it was nothing and prescribed some over-the-counter ointment. One morning Miguel called to make plans for lunch and heard Alexandra’s weak voice on the other end of the line. She told him that she had been to three doctors and done exactly as they prescribed, but the blister was worsening. Miguel didn’t bother listening to her refusals and drove over to get her to the hospital. The emergency doctor said that the infection was an hour away from reaching her organs.

The octave of Miguel’s voice rivaled the four-year-old in the booth next to them. “We waited in that emergency room for two hours. We sat next to bums and addicts who leach off my tax dollars.” Miguel threw his fork onto the table. “If I hadn’t caused a scene with that nurse, you would have died in that emergency room. Free fucking health care. We sure are paying a price. And this is the government that you are playing cheerleader for?”

Hostility Against Health Care had not come up for some time. But seeing as this was government-thrashing day, Alexandra was not surprised that it had.

Miguel was now near yelling. His hands flew as he spoke. The table kept knocking against his vigorously shaking legs. “We sit within these borders all polite, not wanting to cause a stir in the waiting room. We pat ourselves on the back for protecting our sick and our poor. What has helping my fellow Canadian gotten me? A daughter on the brink of death because doctors are too busy reviving a heroin addict again. There is indeed a high price to pay for free fucking health care. I am the one who has to protect my family. The government sure isn’t going to fucking do it.”

Alexandra saw two possible ways of proceeding at this point. She could walk away from the table and out the door. She would ignore his calls for a few weeks and then one day, out of the blue, her anger would recede. She would phone him and all would be well. Nothing would be discussed; they would both understand that they had a flare for the dramatic. But today—perhaps it was the way he used her childhood nickname, “Hermosita”—Alexandra opted for a mature approach.

Taking a breath, she said, “Daddy, there is no need to get so upset about that situation. Government or not, God looked out for me that day.”

Depending on his mood, Miguel was either in awe of God’s good graces or cursing the “Supreme Creator of Bullshit.” Alexandra figured that if he was in the mood to side with Aunt Gloria about the airport incident, he might be more sympathetic to side with God’s will.

Miguel’s hands stopped fluttering. He reached for his cup of green tea.

“Ppppfffff. God. You must be puttin’ me on. Show me a single iota of God in this world. Because I don't fucking see it. Your aunt with her candles and her prayers and her mikve. Where has that gotten her? In jail for assaulting a police officer.”

The waitress came to remove the many small dishes with straggling pieces of rice and small pools of soya. Alexandra and Miguel sat in silence.

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