Anissa woke up in a rainbow. She could write for her. Her training was over, finally. She had two days off before flying back to Montreal, with a comedy gig coming up the next weekend. It was hard to get up. The crystals of the chandelier split the sunlight on the ceiling and the soft, fluffy blanket wrapped her body like a cocoon. She checked her phone: 9:37 am on a clear Saturday. Anissa rolled out of bed and sleepwalked to the shower. Her window peeked down on the waters surrounding Stanley Park: lush green between sky and marine blue. From the sixth floor, Vancouver looked like a living postcard.
Anissa grabbed her laptop and wandered off. The city was breathing creativity. She walked along the tall spruce bordering the path, searching for a café to write her next stand up. By the coast of West Vancouver, the grass was clean cut and the streets clean. People ran, cycled, and walked their dogs. Everyone had headphones on. They were fit and well-dressed. People looked down at their phone as they walked. The few who did not, smiled at her when she caught their eye. Vancouver reminded her of San Francisco, only greener and nicer; a Canadian San Francisco.
Anissa spotted a busy corner café, overflowing with plants. The walls and counter were of glass, giving the interior a feel of space and purity. White tables and chairs disrupted the line of hanging leaves and vines, adding a touch of humanity to the garden. The design was plain, elegant. Anissa ordered a large cappuccino; it had a heart drawn on the foam. She smiled and took a seat in the back, by the glass wall.
From behind her laptop, Anissa screened the people around her. Two students sat across each other, each with the latest MacBook and iPhone on the table. Next to them, a middle-aged couple was interviewing a young lady for a nanny job. Behind them, two old ladies were gossiping, close by two gentlemen in suits and ties. The gentlemen were checking their phones, and their kids, also wearing ties, were playing on their tablets. “Excuse me, is this chair taken?”, interrupted a man with a large hat. Startled, Anissa shook her head. The man thanked her with a smile and carried the chair away.
Anissa stared, fascinated by the diversity and harmony around her. She did not see that level of social cohesion in her family, let alone in her country. At home, her siblings interrupted and yelled at each other for no reason. In the streets of Tunis, the pettiest interactions would often turn into heated arguments. Here, four generations coexisted in peace. Asians, Whites, Blacks, and Latinos shared the same space in a courteous atmosphere, all smiles. Beside their differences of appearance, the people around her had one thing in common: money.
Anissa sank in her cup and watched the street through the glass wall. A man in a dirty black shirt and capri pants passed by the café. He was dark skinned and wore a long thin mustache. His bushy eyebrows stood out on his big, depleted forehead. His hair was beautiful. Long and black, it fell over his shoulders, all the way to his waist. The man staggered in his sockless beaten-up shoes. He looked indigenous.
Anissa watched him stop in front of the café doors. He reminded her of the Mongol villain from the Disney movie Mulan. He looked like him, but gaunter, older, and alone, no falcon or army by his side. The indigenous man walked in and out of the café door, tentative. He stepped in again, approached an empty table, a second one, and turned back. His eyes were red, hazy, his look absent. Alert, Anissa watched his every move. With all the high-tech gadgets on the tables, she suspected a theft. Nobody else showed concern, all staring at their screen.
The raggedy man sat on the ground and spread his legs, blocking access to the café. A group of three men in skinny jeans stepped around him to get in. Anissa went from suspicion to pity. She wanted to buy him a sandwich but was afraid. Anxious, she fished around for a reassuring face, for someone to acknowledge her fear. Nobody. People continued what they were doing, separated by an invisible wall. In their safe bubble, they floated above the world of common mortals, a world where the indigenous man did not exist.
Yet, there he was, sitting on the ground in the center of the café. The man searched his pockets and pulled out a brand-new pair of socks. He ripped the plastic rod with his teeth and tore off the carton. He then took his right shoe off. His foot was dirty. Carefully, he pulled the new sock on his rough skin. As the soft tissue glided in, Anissa caught sight of a grin on his face. The man shoved the other sock in his pocket, slowly put back his shoe, and walked out of the café. The torn off carton laid around in the doorway.
Anissa felt excluded, lonely, morose. Around her, the kids, glued to their tablets, did not flinch. The students stared at their laptop, and the rest of the people at their phone. The man with the hat picked up the torn off carton on the ground and put it in the trash. Anissa left the café, looking back. Life went on in beautiful Vancouver. The staff served the next people in line, and conversations flowed in the refined, glassy space. No one remembered the single sock man.
The plants did...maybe.