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The Canadian Way

The day dawned. The pressure was on. People were making demands, asking questions – difficult questions – and the answers lay just beyond my reach. The opportunity was there for the taking, a classic Carpe Diem moment.

The idea percolated in my head as I went about my chores, slowly, steadily filling my mind with its immediacy like the smell of coffee fills a room. The voice in my head, sensing indecision, seized its chance, “Do it, don’t be a wuss. Just don’t think about it and do it.”

We’ve been here before, this voice and I. It knows my weaknesses, knows all too well that once a gauntlet has been thrown down I find it difficult to walk away and keep my self-respect.I’d considered doing it before, after all, I’m just as lazy as the next person and it’s human nature to look for short cuts. But despite having watched countless others effortlessly – unthinkingly even – do the same with no trace of unease I’d always balked, run away and covered myself, driven by a redundant but enduring sense of propriety.

I moved to the window and looked out, scanning the street up and down with a sniper’s gaze; except the act I was considering would put me in the open, not the other way around. Visually tracing my route, I noted expanses of open ground, looked for signs of activity nearby; weighing the odds of being seen, or worse, the risk of being accosted.

It was coming up for eleven and the sun had burnt off the last of the morning’s mist. The residential road was deserted, empty of activity – no traffic, no one out mowing the grass or drinking coffee on the porch. The air hung still and humid, heavy with expectation – it was the kind of void that, purely by reason of probability, is due some activity any moment now. Was I to be the one who provided it?

My eyes slid left to the four-lane highway skirting the curve of the crescent, separated only by a sidewalk and a green strip of verge. That was a different story. Pick-ups, sedans and 4×4’s nosed purposefully back and forth. Ebbing and flowing, its rumbling trajectory carefully choreographed by signalized intersections, the stream of traffic ceased for no longer than a few seconds at a time.

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Lost in contemplation, the gasp of a mammoth tractor-trailer emitting a loud hydraulic exhalation as it relaxed at the stoplight made me start, and in the subsequent hush the distant anvil clang of the signal-crossing a couple of clicks up the road seemed to lace the air with a cinematic nostalgia. My pulse quickened. What the hell – I’d do it.

Downstairs, modesty made me shrug on a grey hoodie in spite of the summer heat, feet sliding gratefully into yellow Ikea slippers to escape the contrasting chill of the too-cool floor tiles. Damn that air-conditioning! If only it was as effective on the first floor as it is down here.

Opening the coat-closet I bent to scoop a set of keys from my bag, straightened, and faced the front door; feeling the smooth brass curve of the doorknob cool against my palm, I took a deep breath and swung it open before I could change my mind.

A blanket of moist, warm air swathed my skin as I strode off the porch, down the steps and onto the grass – too committed now to risk glancing around and reluctant to meet anyone’s eyes. No sound or movement anyway – even the cicadas were silent. I became aware of a high-pitched thrum that I first thought was buzz from the power lines that flank the road, before I realised it was the blood singing in my ears.

I rounded the end of the wrought-iron fence and cut across the grass in a straight line to my target, fingers sightlessly selecting the correct key from the trio on the ring. It slid into the lock without protest. I turned it and pulled, opening the metal door to reveal the dark interior. Swiftly, I did what I came to do – I disemboweled the cavity and locked the door once again.

Striding back across the lawn, leafing through the stack of envelopes and busy-looking flyers in my hand, I felt a swell of achievement – I’d accomplished that most Canadian of errands: this Brit had just picked up the mail in her pyjamas.

by Aisha Ashraf.

Aisha Isabel Ashraf is a freelance writer and author of the popular blog EXPATLOG – a collection of irreverent observations from her experiences as a "cultural chameleon". It's where you'll find her, strung out on caffeine, humorously dissecting the peculiarities of expat life for her own amusement and the benefit of future generations."

She can be contacted via the usual avenues (e-mail, Twitter, Facebook) – just swing by the blog for directions.

Read Aisha's other Expat Focus articles here or click the button below to view her own blog…

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