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Why Vancouver? Why You?

Honorable mentions

7 essays that came close to making the top ten
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Why, Vancouver? Why You?

By Daniela Elza

I have crossed many borders to come to you, Vancouver, and somehow I knew I have come closer to home. The highways shrank from six lanes to two, green as far as the eye could see. A display of low hanging clouds. Wild flowers even. Your views of the mountains delight me, and still remind me each day to look up, think big, as I traverse your salty edges. The smell of the ocean gives me that sense of being away and at home at the same time.

Vancouver, you are as close to home as any place might ever get. I came here after I was not Bulgarian enough, nor Nigerian enough, definitely not English enough, and not American enough. I have lived in too many places for a sense of home to come easy. Home meant people I love, and distances I will cover to get to them.

After six years in the States I was still as alien as the day I first crossed those borders. No, no, my skin is not green. But I danced on the edges of immigration letters, on the double-edge of fear, daily reminders of how much I-did-not-belong. You, Vancouver, did not make me feel this way. Your first question was not: where are you from? You asked me that much later. (You still think I am from Montreal). Instead you offered me water, mountains, friends, a home. You reminded me of what I love and I will always love you for that.

Your tree-lined streets still feel as if I am walking through the cathedrals of Europe. Your overpasses, your sidewalks, your skytrains and seabuses make me feel like you keep me in mind at all times. When I lived in Columbus (Ohio) we found only one place with sidewalks to rent. Even *playground* dropped below *sidewalks* on our priority list. It is the simple things, you see: to step out of your front door and not to have to walk the fine line between a street and another’s property. This little strip of common ground we can share in a sidewalk. Ok, maybe six years living in the US were the groundwork for such sentiment. Yes, I can take the bus here. I can talk to strangers on the bus. I can make eye contact here, and that is ok.

Living in different places is a cure for narrow mindedness, for sure. *Patriotism* has become a threadbare word that does not hold water. This is a beautiful place to be in, but harder to live in in my day-to-day.
Yet, so many people here are from somewhere else. This makes from-somewhere-else not my primary identifying feature. I like you that way. This shifting of home becomes home. And you, Vancouver, with your vibrant multi-culture, feel just right again. You welcome me that way too. Home is not just something we embrace, but also what embraces us back. What captures the imagination.

Vancouver, I love our conversations in coffee shops, in bars without multiple TV screens, where we get drunk on wisdoms and woes. Where we break a bad case of void in your orange cone construction zones. (You can still cut down on some of those TV screens, ok, Vancouver?)

I know, on somedays, you are sore with me. When I feel my way through the dark toward you through one example of everything.

I have seen you in your thermal under statements, in your sharp indifferent blazers, in your cut-me-shorts, in your blue overalls.

I have seen your gaze dissolve in streetlights, so small on vision, so big on words. 
Here, Vancouver, the mind takes multiple detours, and the infinite escapes us daily. 
Here the streets swallow hard in your alleyways. And on some days they cannot stomach their own shortcuts anymore. 
These are the places where a hundred kilometres of your alleys can lead me through defeating spaces to a pharmacy with no painkillers. In your downtown stripped to asphalt, glass, and concrete, you know somedays we measure time with the panic in a street’s throat.

Don’t dress up for me, Vancouver, hope is naked.

Let’s lose the self-consciousness of your urban circus where someone is writing your an-eye-for-an-ipad philosophy on cue, from a boardroom with a million-dollar view. Where there is no choice, but to perform on a constant backdrop of grief and loss. Let’s re-write the world once more, refuse our daily crucifixions.

You will find me in the *while* and the *with* of your beauty and your disfunction. A coffee shop sentinel armed with pens, books, paper. I know, it’s an illusion who I appear to be, to be who I am. And so are you. But I am through with being perfect, and I think you should be too.

Vancouver, you have seduced me. You make me come out and play with your *what ifs,* and *why nots.* You make me naive with desire. You have found poetry in me where your land and waters meet. I write under the watchful eye of your crows. You give me more time to be genius. A woman is too many examples, after all. Vancouver, I come home to you, and I come home to myself.

I will marry you again, naked as hope. Together we will parade in your streets till they know us by the rhythm of our footsteps, till they acquire a muscle memory of us. Will remember us on their darkest nights. I will always keep your small birds in me singing.


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