I learned about broken waves in Donegal, felt the aftermath of a rock slide in Victoria.
On my knees in prayer for the first time in so long.
I survived floods in Griffintown, learned how to fish in the St. Lawrence while mourning the relatives of my neighbours as others stepped over them. We collected coal from the tracks to heat our tiny, shared spaces – a scene straight out of Angela’s Ashes.
The truth is, my fists cut teeth in Verdun. I have an amazing left hook. The starch in my pants itched but that only lasted a few hours on the first day of each week.
I know how to sidestep quickly because my mother screamed her head off each time I came home with blood on my clothes.
The railway sponsored my family’s immigration. They bought muscle cheap back then. Brute force was easy, but they needed brain and brawn, too.
They gave us big black boots. We threw in the crosses for free. Why not. They’d never see it coming.
Always keep something up your sleeve, he said. It was later amended to ‘in your back pocket’. And then, farther down the line, it became ‘Fuck your obscene screens’, whatever that means.
Fog. I could not stand the fog in Delta. It hid the majestic mountains, which were the only thing that grounded me so far from home at seventeen.
Now I run beside what’s left of the aging system like a rogue deadhead ducking the bulls.
Am I destined to pilgrimage forever? We are gypsies without the sacred blood.
Tree sap, lying stagnant until spring, until a man’s hands tap to our cores with steel teeth.
Cursing our roots as they rotted beneath the cement far from a sea.
How did we get through the famine when we weren’t landlords? If we ate the lambs we raised, how did we pay our rent?
I want to own a home one day. To make a space for myself on this earth where it’s safe for me to love out loud.
Some mornings I imagine I’m headed in the right direction.
They said we didn’t do enough to resist the English invasion.
But they weren’t on the front lines. They could never imagine the battles we had to fight in the streets, in our rented rooms. They could never know the battle some of us still fight decades later. Within ourselves.
I am the offspring of the union between oppressor and oppressed. And it has taken me out at the knees more times than I care to admit.
This seems like a stupid way to end a story.