The hidden years in Canada 180, countdown

Door San-Daniel gepubliceerd op Saturday 12 September 09:49

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Countdown

The man was kind, he put me in front of a white reflective screen. I had to look to the left and heard a click and I had to look to the right and the camera clicked again. ‘Now frontal view,’ he said. The reverse umbrella containing a spotlight bellowed light on me that reflected off the screen behind me. I sat in a spotlight. Click, .. ‘that was it,’ said the photographer, ‘you can wait for it. He took the Polaroid camera, and a moment later a strip of pictures came running from it’s side. He took a swab from a bottle and covered the photographs. ‘Fixture acid,’ he explained, ‘otherwise they will turn yellow later,’ he guided them through a cutting device and a moment later I received them neatly in an envelope, and I was back outside. Five dollars lighter but with my pictures in my pocket.

It was a Thursday I saw on the receipt, ladies night, it flashed through me. I glanced at my watch, the Queens would be open. Would I go there? A warning bell was ringing somewhere far in my brain..an inner voice asked me whether it would be wise? I pushed both warnings far from me, you've got to do something with your spare time, besides I did not have much to spend, what could happen to me. Again a flash of sanity  broke through, I was alone, I had never gone alone, I'd have to keep a very low profile.

The heavy Pontiac glided through the streets and the early dusk set in and the American sought his way unerringly to its home port, the Queens. I let the old group of colleagues briefly pass my mental eye, Big John and Mamah Fuzz, who was blown away after he had been stabbed by the knives of our Indian expert. Louis lip, George the pigsty and a strange feeling of sadness came over me, I loved in a special way all those people that I had met and I realized it was a goodbye when I left this country, that would be final and I would miss them .’ Not so sentimental’, I thought, they  had not been so nice when we first met, they would have laughed my life away until I was accepted as one of them. ‘So young Daniel,’ I imagined Mr. Boston's voice , ‘ are we're going drinking in a tavern of hell is that sensible Young Daniel? He had been my favorite teacher, he and I spoke the same language, a language that had been intertwined with verse and text analysis and historical literature. ‘Yes, Mr. Boston, sir, 'that's very wise, it's for my own salvation and to close business well. 'Young Daniel, ‘Mr. Boston said in my head, ‘you should know better than anyone else in my class, that every tragic Shakespearean hero falls to his only weakness?’ It is known to me, I spoke in front of me and then realized that I was mumbling out loud.

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The car slid in to a parking bay next to ‘the Queens’ and I got out. The bouncer was waiting and I put a dollar in his hand. ‘Are we going to the little ladies,’ he asked, without listening to the answer, and I walked past him into the smoky den. It was noisy and I looked around me, I did not know anyone. A cowboy band wailed some country western song and the world was the same as six weeks ago. Or six years ago for that matter, or God knows how long ago, everything was the same and would remain the same always, only people would disappear and new ones would come in their place. Life was but a passing station. Men will always seek companionship and drink, play cards and there will always be fights. There will always be scum bars like ‘the Queens’ in existence. Indians will come and pick fights or drunken cowboys will do so with Indians who are rejected by their own tribe because they spend too much time in the white world.

I could have gone back, it would have been easy, just turn around and walk away, but I decided to order and decided to look at everything and fixate it as had happened with my passport photographs. I wanted to preserve this atmosphere because I took it on me that my life would change drastically, I would never set foot on Indian bars with whores anymore. ‘A beer please,’ I asked from the guy behind the bar and he drew two. I am vulnerable, it went through me as I walked over to a table, I've got my hands full. Thank you, Freddy, I thought I learned from you. I went to sit with my back to the wall and my face to the door. All those little details that had become ingrained within a few years.

I took my sip of beer and the door flew open, a group of Indians came in. Pushing and laughing and uttering loud cries. Numbers make you strong and invincible, I thought and I froze because I knew the man who came in last. Our paths had crossed many times, it was the man we had mockingly called the son of the chief shitting bull. I pulled my hat over my eyes slightly and looked with interest at my beer. They stood almost next to the entrance. ‘Yes,’ said my former opponent with a loud voice, we'll have a nice ride on the white squaws tonight, but first some drink. It is my treat. An Indian booing and hollering broke loose. I wished sincerely that I’d been in a pizza bar. Somewhere far away.

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A couple came in an older cowboy with a younger woman. ‘Hey, said the son of chief shitting bull,’ that little woman is mine 'and he walked over to the man. 'Fuck off, ‘he said to the cowboy,’ you are walking with my squaw. Riffraff, I thought cowardly riffraff. Now the man was given a push that send him falling over and the descendant of shitting bull pulled the woman towards him, she struggled violently and offered resistance, which only made the Indian shout that he loved fiery women. The man behind the bar went to the phone and a waiter walked to the door, I assumed, to get the bouncer. ‘Hey,’ I called out, ‘let her go son of Shitting Bull.’ He just threw the lady to the floor and said to a blood brother, ‘don’t let her go. His eyes sparkled and I knew that he had recognized me. ‘So white dog,’ he shouted, ‘here your days will end’ and he pulled a knife. I had a problem, I was unarmed. Two braves joined their leader and covered each  a side of him, they kept a hand beside themselves and in the other they held a knife which was loosely held so that it could move with the wrist. These were professionals, I would be cut to pieces, I was very quiet, strangely enough I thought of Beverly, a kind of farewell. Time froze. The cigarette smoke still curled in a blue haze over the customers and the music fell silent.

I took my glass and broke it on the edge of the seat without taking my eyes off the three braves. 'Nothing needs to happen here, ‘I exclaimed,’ everyone can still walk from here with honor, come closer and I’ll change at least one of your faces so that your mother no longer recognizes you. ‘ I saw the doubt that drew over the faces and then they hardened again. I had a problem.

San Daniel 2015

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