I had one of the worse experiences of my life yesterday. As I was walking out of my house, I saw an email reminder that my beautiful friend Zully got a blog award. I noticed 3 other emails and began to read one of them as I was walking down the stairs…Caught in the beauty of her writing and truly authentic sharing, I continued to read her blog on my phone as I was taking my walk. I usually only carry my iphone to learn French on my prerecorded itune list…My phone has actually been off for almost 6 months. As I walked to cross the street, I almost walked on the red, but noticed an older man in a car just giving me a sign with his hands to watch out. I know I annoyed him. Every time I am in a car my husband or mom yell at careless people on the street, so I get it… I feel bad, but my limited knowledge of French is not allowing me to say anything and even before I knew it, he was gone out of my sight and I continued reading and walking….
In the background though, I kept hearing this loud voice and had a feeling I was being followed…I kept ignoring it because I asserted someone saw how I crossed the street and decided to put in his few words….so I pay no mind..It’s already over, everyone is safe….But the noise gets louder and finally the man appears right in front of me…fat, Harvey Davidson biker type, with a hat on..kind of looking like a little skinnier Michael Moore type of guy…and I see he is continually talking to me in French…Finally, I take of my earphones (I still haven’t even pressed the play as I was caught in my reading) and told him: “I don’t know what you are saying, I don’t speak French”….The truth, I could have said it in French too, but didn’t think his arrogant attitude deserved it….He went on….and on….and on…yelling and waving with his hands, speaking French ….finally, I tell him: “Man, I don’t get what you are saying, please stop”….then I understood a bit of what he said: “This is Hochelaga–Maisonneuve and you speak French here, if you don’t speak – go”…and he said something about me being on the phone…so I got his point and I got what he meant…And he was right, I could have been more careful but at some point, 15 minutes later, I am still trying to figure out, why the fuck is he still yelling at me in French…Then he said something in English, so I realized, he understood me all along, just didn’t want to give me the satisfaction of being gotten and understood. He went on…I am still walking, trying to shake off an asshole who is trying to bring about justice in my life without any police officer training that I can tell, because if he had it, I am sure he would’ve showed me his credentials….
Finally, I decided to walk into a big store and avoid him. As I turned, he hit me..mildly, but I jerked and yelled: “don’t touch me you asshole”…and he kept going off….So finally, I took my phone and said, “fine, I am taking your picture now so I can report you for disturbing me”….and he pulls for his phone too….I take his picture and he begins to frame mine and I knock his phone out of his hands (with mild force really) and storm into the store….He kept yelling after me…I felt like shit.
I walked inside, with my sunglasses, and felt the heat of anger overcoming me…it was all up in my throat and I was hating my experience…Two minutes later, I brought tofu to the register and as I paid, the young boy who packs groceries addressed me in French…asking if i needed a bag..I thanked him and said “no” en Francais….then he asked something else and I said “I don’t speak French” at this point crying inside…and he asked what the man wanted from me..I said I didn’t know…that he shouted continually in French which happened a few times in the last 6 months I spent on and off in Montreal….then he said, “ok…have a nice day” and the cashier addressed me in English…something that never happens in this store….and I just walked on another exist with tofu in my hands, sunglasses on my face, crying my heart out….and this time with juicy flooding tears…
I cried and cried and walked…afraid of being stopped, asked something, addressed in any way…. I just felt so completely outside of this realm…the ultimate not belonging…And deep inside, I was wounded…seriously wounded that anyone would be that rude…. What if I had hearing issues…what if I had speech problems….what if I was honestly trying to learn the language for the past 6 months, it’s just that it isn’t sticking the way I thought it would and at the pace I thought it could….What if….
For the first time in a while I felt like I didn’t exist. If we create ourselves in language than I was suddenly nobody. I was a criminal who crosses the street without looking and a careless English bitch that people hate because of their history. I wondered for hours….Who am I really? Why am I hear?
Instead of hating it, I felt bad my husband was born and raised here. I knew it would hurt him to know how I felt. I knew he’d be ashamed. I struggled, after all this, to figure out how I became a magnet for the abuse. Did this guy even know that English is my second language? Did he know how hard I work on learning French….did he know that because of my sensitivity, I simply couldn’t stop reading my friend’s touching post…and not because I was an asshole….
I don’t know….and will probably ever know…and life goes on