I tell lies in taxis all the time. Instead of trying to explain that yes, a single Canadian woman is living and working alone, it is simpler to nod along to the assumption that I am happily married
I knew things would be different, however, within three minutes of getting in a recent cab. Instead of focusing on the rain drenched street, the driver turned around to stare at me and abruptly asked where I was from. When I replied Canada, he let out a exclamation of delight and clapped his hands again the steering wheel. “It’s a sign! It’s a sign! The Lord want me to move to Canada!”
I should have got out, but I didn’t. In response to the next question about my marital status, I went with my normal routine. If I told him I was married, I rationalized, it would be less awkward. The questions will stop and I can play Candy Crush in peace in the backseat.
For one hour, all with way through heavy traffic to the airport, I fleshed out the details of my Colombian romance in response to Miguel’s never ending questions. My husband’s name is Carlos Lopez Ramirez. To Miguel’s dismay, he is from Bogota, which means I end up defending him against all of the accusations most Colombians outside the capital hurl at Bogotanos. No, Carlos is not bitter or boring and his legs are perfect and his ass is most definitely not flat. Someday, we will have two children (one of each, I knew it! exclaims Miguel), but we are waiting for the right time (don’t wait too long-children are life’s biggest blessing, warns Miguel).
Next, Miguel wants to know about my religious beliefs. What would I do if God called me to be a pastor? I tell him that is not likely and he launches into his own story, of drinking and womanizing, of God pulling him by his ears from Choco all the way to a megachurch in Bogota. “If God wants you to be a pastor, if can’t be stopped,” he tells me with all seriousness, before slapping the steering wheel again when he notices that my eyes are green.
Between questions about Carlos and my religion, Miguel asks me about Canada. Isn’t the Canadian government adopting people, with open arms, from all over the world? How hard can it be, really, to get there, to build a better life for his daughter?
I don’t want to dash his dreams, especially as I seem to be his sign from God, another pull on those ears. So I hem and haw, telling him that I would rather not say anything false about the application process than give him poor advice that could hurt his chances. I try to subtle. People don’t eat rice three times a day, I tell him. He assures me that he loves bread. I try to be more direct. What about no more sweet bread, flavoured with bottles of caramel and butter essence? How would you feel eating dry baguettes or rye bread every single day for the rest of your life? I tell him about Colombian friends whose families descend on panaderias every trip back to Colombia, sweet pan for 500 pesos with every meal.
After an eternity and an entire last discussion about why I’m not wearing a wedding ring, we finally arrived to the airport. I said goodbye and wished him luck on with future plans. He wished me all the best in my life as well, with my marriage, and the hopefully soon birth of my two beautiful children. I left the taxi without little hope that either of those events would happen. Miguel will never make it to Canada. I will never have two beautiful babies.
Instead, we both have Colombia. My experience is vastly different that his and will never be the same. I don’t know what it is like to grow up poor, to live in the Pacific nor to feel a call to a life of sobriety and faithfulness. But I do know enough to understand why he thinks my fake husband is probably boring just because he is from Bogota, the context that leads him to believe that I may very well be playing with unfaithfulness without a ring, and the unshakable love that Miguel holds for his daughter and warm, sweet, artificial butter flavoured bread, straight out of the oven.
The longer I am here, the more the lines between in and out blur. I am not sure how to represent myself, my job, or my country. No matter how uncomfortable I am in his taxi, our lives are intertwined, my county a maple-leaf dream, his country, my reality, whether I understand his context or not. I may be a Colombian resident, but nothing can change my ability to get back on a plane with one last adios. I don’t want to construct my identity solely based on the opposite of his, Colombian versus Canadian, yet denying national constructs is as false as my two babies in a way that I am still unsure how to reconcile.
Can we really live as if we are part of the same whole? How do our actions change if the world belongs to all us in common, simply because we are in it together? This stumbling quest, full of mistakes and sometimes even lies, is part of the reason why I stay.