By Jenny Ferguson
Issue Three: April 1, 2020
I’m watching him at the bus stop. Smells like piss, but this is the only place out of the rain, under here. It’s bright too. The pixels of the advertising screen glow. Next to me, the trashcan’s overfull.
He’s the come back kid, so they say. The man whose hair went early-to-grey. The man who didn’t care to care about a thing like that. He wears blue more than any other colour. A closet full of azure, cerulean, cobalt, midnight ocean blues. Silks and linens and poly-cotton-blends (for weekends) in the river of his closet. His eyes, they pop, someone once said in black on newsprint, when he shrouds himself in blue. Someone, a woman, of course. Someone, a woman, he slept with her, of course. Someone, his wife didn’t need to know about. His lucky charm, his lucky colour.
I’m watching him under this canopy, my nose okay with the smell now, watching him on the full-length screen on full sound. Too loud, for sure. But the rain mellows it. A ticker bar runs along the bottom of the screen, whatever news
they can distill into numbers and three and four letter codes some people know how to make sense of. A pretty blonde lady sits behind a desk in front of a big logo, telling us what we need to know on our commute home. She’s not telling us it’s raining.
But in blue, the votes flow in. As long as he stays first past the post, he wins a salary, a seat, another all-expenses paid trip to Ottawa, making money in his sleep. He’s never sold his six-bedroom house in the suburbs around that capital because he doesn’t believe one round out means he’s down for the count. Round two leads to round three, leads to elections, leads to a few weeks of back and forth, a few weeks of jabs and underhanded moves, a new blue shirt, leads to a vote of no confidences, leads to the counting of the votes. Ring the bell. Three times. My cousin joins me, his braids long and wet now. I nod at him, then at the screen and snort. He laughs with a big wide-open mouth, one front tooth just gone.
Yeah. One thing never stops for them. Government, their democracy, the smell in the room when the speaker tries to slow the party down and can’t, with his will or voice, stop the men gathered there from clapping. Burning plastic and oil slicks in the nose. And still it pushes, at a constant forward drive, low-gear, high-gear, or reverse. Direction doesn’t matter in government. When the public tries to slow the machine down, when settler-citizens write letters, when the issue gets press coverage, when you generally agree with the asshole commenters on news articles but can’t tell anyone other than your too-blonde wife, when Rick Mercer has something to say, when they tie red ribbons to the lattice work on bridges, when the river runs red, when red dresses litter the steps in front of the parliament buildings, when a women they’ll call nothing more than a beauty queen thinks she can influence policy, when it’s laughable the money we’re wasting here, when government is a boxing metaphor and the people are on the ground.
It’s going to happen again. Knockout. Care of the come back kid. The bus is late again. The rain’s not stopping, never really stops, and the oil in the gutter two feet ahead of me almost looks like stained glass. Almost.
I know what he’s thinking. It’s not hard to know. He wishes we’d just stop complaining and join the twenty-first. Don’t walk around asking for it, drunk, if we don’t want it. Don’t think it’s personal, when one of us is taken down, left for shame, naked atop a pile of rotting leaves because graves take too long to dig, because burying bodies is what we do in ceremony for those we call ours. Don’t consider it a personal affront to our dignity, he thinks, he wants you all to think too. It’s the nature of the beast, just as is kindness, and goodness, and love, and good government. He says all this on stages across the land for weeks. He thinks all this in his bed at night, since he was a little boy.
All this colonial nonsense, his blue, his deep blue.
The bus arrives. The rain arrives harder. The news will be his in the morning. But tomorrow, and tomorrow after that, and all the other tomorrows, one thing I can tell you I know is braids keep growing longer. I read somewhere, once, maybe at a bus stop like this, along that ticker bar, that blue’s a modern invention.
We didn’t used to have blue. We won’t always.
Jenny Ferguson is Métis, an activist, a feminist, an auntie, and an accomplice with a PhD. She believes writing and teaching are political acts. Border Markers, her collection of linked flash fiction narratives, is available from NeWest Press. She teaches at Loyola Marymount University and in the Opt-Res MFA Program at the University of British Columbia.