Canada Line: A Short Portrayal of Anti-Immigration & Racism in Canada
“Alright, take the seat. Don’t offer it to me or nothin’. Fuckin’ Chinese.”
The construction guy, sunbaked and skinny with wiry muscles, shook his head at his taller, pudgier coworker. They looked like they were in their mid-forties or early fifties, aged by weathered skin, stained cargo pants, and baggy work shirts. The floor of the skytrain rumbled beneath my feet as we sped through a tunnel. I kept my eyes on my phone, even though the men stood so close I could smell their sour sweat.
“Don’t give me, a senior, a seat. Why don’tchu go back to China or wherever you came from?” the same guy sniggered.
He didn’t address anyone in particular. Most of the people in the crowded train car were Asian, I noticed. But no one looked up from their phones or their conversations. My hand tightened around my phone; my thumb scrolled resolutely on.
“These fuckin’ rude cunts think they can just invade our country, take all the jobs. Bunch of chinks. We really have an immigration problem, y’know?”
I studied the man’s face. Crepey brown skin wrinkled across sharp cheekbones and framed a pair of beady black eyes. He wore an easy smile, directed at his friend, as though he were simply commenting on the unusually warm weather. I wondered what it might be like to have those black eyes meet my gaze, to stare into them unrelentingly and see if he had the balls to call me a chink to my face.
Instead, I pursed my lips and lowered my eyes back down to my Facebook feed.
“It’s all that bitch Justin Trudeau’s fault. Letting immigrants in left and right, welcoming them with open arms. Well, we don’t want you here! Now, Donald Trump, that guy has the right idea.” Beady Eyes elicited a short chuckle from his coworker.
My jaw ticked. I imagined punching Beady Eyes in the face. Would his crooked nose crack under my fist? Would his cheekbone bruise my knuckle?
The guy rambled on for another few minutes as the train pulled in and out of Broadway City Hall Station. A middle-aged white guy in thick-rimmed glasses rose from the seat behind the two construction workers. The strap of his satchel bag cut across his checkered blazer, and he clutched a folded newspaper.
“You wanna take my seat, since you seem to be hurting for one so bad?” the guy asked Beady Eyes. He didn’t sound friendly, but he didn’t sound unfriendly either.
“Nah, it’s okay. I don’t need a seat. Nice of you to offer, though.” Beady Eyes turned back to his friend. “Isn’t it interesting? Nicest guy in here’s turned out to be the white male.” They guffawed.
My knuckles whitened. Maybe a punch in the face would hurt my hand more than it’d hurt him. I contemplated kneeing him in the balls. Kicking those twig-like shins. I narrowed my eyes at the white academic guy. He looked away. I didn’t hear another peep from him.
“The next station is: Vancouver City Centre,” a robotic voice announced. My stop was coming up — I saw my chance to act on my fantasies slipping rapidly away. I peeked up at Beady Eyes again. I couldn’t help but daydream of screaming at him, or slapping him, or spitting in his face, before I debarked. The images played out in my head like a movie montage. Adrenaline coursed through my limbs, electrifying my fingers and toes.
Before I knew it, the train’s momentum ebbed away and we swayed to a stop at the Vancouver City Centre platform. The doors glided open to reveal the crowd of would-be passengers, parted through the middle like the Red Sea to allow us unfettered passage onto the platform.
I gritted my teeth, shook my head, and stepped off the train.