Stranger – Jason Emde

I’d wander its cosmopolitan winter streets in a trance, thinking of my own future, and imagining all of us doing great things and finding happiness in different ways.                         John Lent, “Matins 16, February 7, 2016”

Vernon was a valley’d childhood goontown of dissimilar yelling kids
vastly different from Gifu now as my own kids grow up, Gifu
with its waves of school uniforms & uniform hair &
everybody using the exact same words & Gifu
loudspeakers telling them all to go home at 5 P.M.
Vernon had stranger swarms, we goofed
from dark to dark with neighbourhood gangs, half-Chinese brothers
up the block, white kids, weird religious kids, anybody,
in the snow or forest fire afternoons, building
jumps in the street for our banana-seat bikes & clambering
in the dusk over everything. Anybody. It’s true.
Those we then called East Indians, the family
down the street, satiny flash of a sari in a split-level doorway.
Or those we then called Indians, the First Nation kids,
some scary, one time one angry
boy yelling in the playground, yelling
at the white bitches, meaning all of us, tough in those jeans,
his resentment radiant—or a girl
named Julie, I kissed her at the dance, went once to her
house on the reservation, vast mysterious area outside
of town—or Tommy, oddball First Nation kid
down the street who named his cat Stranger. Loads
of Ukrainians, Yablonskis, Yakimovitches, rumours of Russian Gangs
later, & the Germans across the street, old & gruff, I accidentally
shot an arrow onto their roof. Asians, Vietnamese,
those two no-English brothers so ropey with muscles & feral
eyes nobody’d fight them, or Lan D. I liked,
held her hand in the Towne Theatre watching 2010.
Gary American & Jewish, Geoff adopted, Stan Polish,
Jed Russian, me German-English, & Stewart rich.
Delicate essential exchange students from Spain, South Africa,
Sweden, Finland, New Zealand, Zimbabwe. Who else?
Magnet-throwers of the lightning storm, heroes
of the roller rink, victims of the corner store. Also poor
kids, botched kids, the kid who ate
a dog turd at the bus stop, bike-stealers, bullies,
liars, the frothing gang that stomped
Jed in the Surplus Herbies parking lot,
the sullen kid who slugged Gary for no reason at the
mall, various small-town psychopaths,
that one family with the doberman & the dope,
jerks of many kinds. I could be a jerk too.
The manners & textures of the times, the days, Vernon days,
innumerous the colours & shapes, weird to think of it now, it was only after all
backwards backwater shitkick Vernon, myriad distinct. Everything there.
And everything was mostly ok though we had our vile & shameful
moments I guess, jokes, unexamined hang-ups, snickering principles,
secrets in the air, densities, sidewalk punch-ups. Nobody
was gay though, nobody at all, though they probably are now, can’t say,
haven’t been a kid in Vernon for a long time.

Jason EmdeJason Emde is a teacher, writer, amateur boxer, and graduate student in the MFA Creative Writing program at UBC. He is also the author of My Hand’s Tired and My Heart Aches (Kalamalka Press, 2005) and the co-author of the parodic action novel The Crunch Gang Meet the Deadly Zombie Ninjas of Japan (Amazon e-book). He lives in Japan.