The Creative Non-fiction Corner//

Immigration

In the dank corner of the kitchen underneath sagging ceiling tiles, her wrinkled hands dunk plate after plate into murky dishwater. She stares at the sink’s uncanny resemblance to a swamp filled with geese shit, some kind of glutinous green gunk clinging to cups and lodging underneath her fingernails.

Her balding manager wags his podgy finger, spitting from yellow teeth. Profanity spews from the pierced lip of the latest teenage server. A customer spits his food back onto his plate. For 12 hours their squawking and squalling of complaints suffocates her ears in a garbled language she can’t understand.

Bones like lead, she trudges along the crumbling sidewalk and up the stairs to the SkyTrain. Engulfed in the shadows of towering downtown buildings, she’s caged by sickly warm air that smells of rotten eggs and some kind of drug illegal back home.

She shuffles into an empty compartment.

It shudders. Her feet stumble like an unbalanced ballerina. The muggy air, the flickering lights, the dried gum stuck on the tacky floor — her body shrinks into the beaten-down seat like she belongs here and doesn’t know how to escape it.

Head down, a hand flies to her mouth.

A sob blocks her throat.

Her eyes crack open.

Then she gasps.

Strong wind rattles the compartment, blowing off the roof and sweeping her into the air. For so long her joints have ached, but now they shrink and strengthen and morph into skinny legs wrapped in tight, scaly skin.

The frayed threads of her blouse unravel and twist into feathers that coat her flailing arms until they become wings. Her calloused toes transform into gleaming talons that slice through her secondhand shoes.

She launches upwards, just as the sun slips out behind clouds, splashing the sky with streaks of glittering amber, swaths of magenta, bursts of tangerine, the sun melting into a liquefied egg yolk somewhere in the middle.

She zooms toward the line where the sky bleeds into the ocean, chasing rippling waves of colour, lighter, faster, sharper than anybody in the cityscape blurring beneath her. Engulfed in the chilly air and watercolour clouds, she finally tastes what she was chasing across the Pacific:

Freedom.

She blinks.

She sways, her body molded to the beaten-down seat. She breathes heavily, tasting the sour air of the SkyTrain.

Light spills into the compartment.

At her station, she descends toward the sunset, heading home.