I was born in Saudi Arabia, grew up in Morocco and moved to Canada in 2005, settling in Montreal, where I lived for nine years. Two years ago, I relocated to Toronto with an aim to further my career in magazine publishing.
At first, Toronto seemed so much bigger — so impersonal, hectic, even threatening. Soon enough, I began to rehearse absurd self-defence techniques just in case I needed them during my daily commutes on public transit. Sample scenario: someone grabs my bag and starts running. I run after them and scream, “The only thing worth anything in there is my permanent residency card, and if I have to renew it, it’s going to be a bureaucratic nightmare; but you can have the cigarette pack and the strawberry-scented hand cream!”
I was constantly on edge. One day, as I was changing streetcars, I heard someone yell, “Go home!” I’m a visible minority, a Muslim, and my immediate reaction was to assume that I was being singled out. With rising anger, I prepared to scream back, “You go home, and read the Charter of Rights and Freedoms!” but realized it was just one traffic controller yelling affectionately at another whose shift had just ended.
More recently, I stepped onto a packed subway train at the end of a long day, found the only empty seat and sat down. I must have seemed exhausted because suddenly the young woman next to me gestured for me to take off my earphones, which I typically wear on the subway precisely so I can avoid speaking to anyone.