, 101 tweets, 15 min read
As an expat living in Canada, the more I live here, the more I'm convinced I'm actually stuck in some kind of cryptic horror nightmare country that's subtly and slowly eating away at me.
You've been to America. This place also feels like America, but something is fundamentally off. You want to ask about it, but you know if you do, it sends the locals into a frenzy.
People speak of Calgary. You know people in Calgary. They speak of Edmonton, but no one outside of Calgary speaks of Edmonton. You're not sure Edmonton is a real place.
The roads in Canada are wide. You never see much traffic. The locals say that the roads need to be wide, though, because of what happens in the mornings. You decide to take night classes.
People speak about festivities in whispers. The days shorten. They begin setting up decorations and lights. The night grows longer and longer. They talk about how they look forward to "seeing their families again". The darkness and cold begin to grow uncomfortable.
You pass by a store. It's called Canadian Tire. They have many things, you've never seen any tyres. You realise they spell it differently here, and everyone thinks you're strange because of it.

Canadian Tire. You feel the same.
There are names in French. They look foreign, because they're in French. There are names in Algonquian. They look foreign, because they're in Algonquian. There are names in English. They look foreign, but they're still English.
The Prime Minister is democratically elected. You've heard of elections from other countries, but for some reason, never this one. People refer to him by last name but his first name sticks out in your mind. If he had a predaccessor, no one has ever mentioned them to you.
The Premiere looks like the President of America. He talks like the President of America. He has the same views as the President of America. People hate him like they do the President of America. He is not the President of America, though.
You want to move in. You ask someone about what the electricity bills are like. They ask you if you mean "hydro". You say you weren't talking about water, but electricity. They insist it's called "hydro". You accept this.
Many times you've been to the shore of Lake Ontario. The horizon seems very close and the water is the same colour as the sky. There are ships docked on the shore, but there is never anything sailing when you go.
You tell someone you've studied near London. They are confused, as they don't know any places near London. You realise they are not talking about the same London you are. No one talks about the same London you do.
People praise the coffee shop. They joke about the coffee shop. They say the coffee shop is central to their collective identity. You mention that you have been to the coffee shop before, and you liked it. The people are horrified. You decide not to visit the coffee shop again.
You tell the people, avoiding mentioning London, that you have studied in a town in Surrey County. They are still confused. Their Surrey is also not the same as yours.
You think about your time in England. You think about places you've been to you can speak of without confusing the locals. You've been to Westminster. Surely, they will know what you mean when you say Westminster.
There is an alarm in every room. It shrieks and screeches loudly every time you bake food or make toast. Your neighbour says it's normal, and it's to keep you safe, but they presume you already know what the alarm is keeping you safe from.
Everyone says the other language everyone speaks is French. When you walk down the street, though, you notice all the signs are in Chinese. You ask them again. They still tell you it's French.
You made a friend in the North. She is also an artist, but only draws in pink highlighter and ballpoint pen. She speaks of mind control. You find it amusing at first, but you realise you're incorporating her work into your art now.
You make a friend in the West. He has a Japanese name your recognise, but you've never met him before till now. You invite him over, and he brings a lot of bags for a one night stay. He never tells you what is in them, but you know better than to ask.
You make a friend in the South. He has told you, many times, what this place South is called, but you can never remember. When he tells you, he is always closer than you expect.
You look outside and the sky is a deep orange. The smell of barbecue beckons you out the door. When you take the step, you choke, your eyes burn, and you barely escape indoors. The barbecue smell is gone.
The lady on the train repeats, "Union, Union station". The train slows, but the tunnel is still black. No one around you reacts. You can't see the end of the train down the hall.
You speak of the Middle City's name. Before you even reach the next word, everyone knows you're not from around here, and they give you suspicious looks. One of them says you will say it like them if you stay here long enough. You double check the Middle City's name again.
You visit a friend, in a town far, far to the west. You travel for hours, but you are still in the same place. It never ends. Why does it never end?
The bird is dangerous. It will kill you if you approach. But you may not attack the bird, as the bird is protected. Harm the bird, and the humans will pass judgement on you.
You leave Toronto in the summer. You return to Toronto come autumn. You swear that tower building was not there in the summer.
Someone invites you somewhere. You ask if it is far and inconvenient, but they assure you it is only a short trip away. They give you the address to check. You learn that it is very, very, very far, and ask them again. They insist, please, let me. It is closer than you think.
The city is filled with tall buildings, rows and rows of towers. But you have been here for over a year, and you still don't know anyone who lives in one. None of the people you know, knows anyone who lives in one. Their warm lights at night have stopped reminding you of home.
It is late at night, and the locals are deciding who will get to work in the Capital. You watch them, but you do not know what is in the Capital, aside from the Leaders. The locals advise you from learning. You forget about the Capital, at least until the next disaster happens.
The snow and biting cold has ended early. You step out in relief, and look at the loclas. The locals are not relieved; they are terrified of what this holds for the future, and speak of how the times have changed.
Many men drive cars here. Many cars these men drive have large containers at the ends for carrying things. You do not know what they are for, nor have ever seen them hold anything. It is unwise to provoke the men who drive the container cars.
No matter what it is, no matter where you are, red, red, bright red, is a good colour.
You speak to someone. They make a sound at the end. You nod your head and agree. You never disagree when they make the sound at the end.
Mosquitos don't exist here, but in some places there are flies. The flies are far more numerous and far more terrible.
Men dig up the streets and roads. They systematically move from neighbourhood to neighbourhood. You never ask what they are searching for or why they do it.
You spend an evening driving through the city. The red lights atop the towers pulsate ever so slowly, their gaze warning you of something, but you don't know what. The red lights atop the Spire, the tallest tower, never blink.
The winter is dark and harsh with stinging cold. They spread salt over the roads. It poisons water and eats metal, and they tell you now it is safe.
Photos speak of the East City, inviting you to its nestled shorefront location beneath blue skies. Ask people if it's better there, they mumble about rent or the economy, and change the subject.
No one else lives so near downtown. Everyone lives so far away, and they boast about how far away they live. When you ask how they can stand it, they look at you with concerned eyes, and tell you it is better to live as far away from downtown as you can muster.
When you were in your hometown, everyone wishes to go to Vancouver. Everyone dreams of Vancouver. When you arrive in Canada, no one mentions Vancouver again. You do not know anyone from Vancouver, nor what happens there. Locals say it is good you are not in Vancouver.
The locals reassure you it is better here than in America, but everyone you know lives so close to the border. The border control is quick and seamless. They say it's also better that way.
The water is cheap here. The Water Company makes the electricity. Water falls from the sky, no matter season or year. All the cities are near the water. You can drink the water from the tap. The government insists.
Everyone knows there is a regular furry meetup here, but no one ever knows when exactly the next one is, just that it is soon. No one ever mentions it to you. When the photos of the event come, it is always full, and the people say they love going. Oh, god, they all love going.
You can't read any of the French, but you're curious, so you ask your friends from France if they can translate for you. They say they can't read it either.
The Lake-Shore Expressway is full of cars. None of them move. None of them driven by anyone. You look away, and then look back. All of them have stepped forward, yet all are still stationary.
You have been to Saskatchewan and it is very flat indeed, yet the horizon is never in sight.
The open-top tour buses are a frequent sight, yet you never see them in the Fashion or Entertainment districts. The people on top stare down at you with a heavy gaze. You remember hunting rifles are unrestricted here and avert your eyes.
They will gather in the SkyDome tonight. The SkyDome has a great atmosphere. It doesn't make sense. It is not called the SkyDome. It never has. Has it?
They speak differently here, they say. It is easy to tell from someone who is from here and who is from America. It is unmistakable, and obvious, surely you can tell the difference. They reassure you with smiles, but their pastel blue gaze remains unmoving. Can't you tell?
They let you try poutine for the first time . The platter is uniform in spread and colour, yet a chaotic tangle of condiment all the same. You take a bite. It is piercing salt on your tongue and weighs heavy on your chest. You say you like it. It is wise not to upset them.
The tap water is not clear like at home, but white and hazy. It stirs after landing in your cup, then disappears into nothing. The government insists it is harmless to drink. You believe them, but some part of your mind is always unsure.
You have seen the two other airports, Downsview and Bishop, on your maps many times. They are as old as the Earth they rest on. You have never questioned why they are there, or why you do not know anyone who uses them.
The pedestrian crossing audio sounds like the ones they use in Tokyo. You joke about it with the locals, but they don't know what you're talking about. You are in Canada. You have not been back to Tokyo in many years.
You are on the way back from your South friend's home. It is an elevated expressway, bordered on all sides with glass skyscrapers adorned with blinking red lights. You still have not been back to Tokyo in many years.
Your friends took you out on a trail one day in Alberta. The hiking is leisurely, and they say it is healthy and bracing to be outside. You nod and try not to look behind you, for the forest reaches high and out across the mountains.
It is a beautiful leaf, bright red and bold, with eleven points rhythmically arranged in stunning beauty. It is everywhere, and people wear the leaf as a sign of community bonding. It feels so familiar and friendly. You have never seen a tree that bears this leaf before.
You find an old Canadian animated film, with a funny premise and story. When you start the film, it blares an angry note at you, as the symbol of a man encapsulated by an all-seeing eye appears dead centre of the screen. It leaves, the film starts, and you forget about the man.
I am here to study. I am here to work. I am here to live. Life in Canada is never finished.
Do not speak of Vancouver. Do not speak of Montreal. Do not yearn for those other places. You are safe here, here in Toronto. It is for the best you are here, with us. You must be confused for thinking otherwise. The City of Toronto will now run an art festival to calm you.
The Canadian people hate Winnipeg. They slander Winnipeg. They have written a song about unlikeable Winnipeg is. They chant, turn back, turn back from Winnipeg.
Is it The Bay? Or is it Hudson's Bay? It could be either. You glance over your shoulder. For now, it seems, it is simply The Bay. It is time to rest, for it will all resume tomorrow.
Legends say the train goes to Finch, but everyone you know from Finch has never taken the train home for reasons undisclosed. On the day you need to go to Finch, the line is closed for service.
You may have been warned about the Canadian winters, and how they are cold. This is untrue; as a matter of fact, Canada is so very cold, all the time. It will never stop, no matter rain nor shine, but I promise you will learn to love it.
The construction site has been there for all eternity. When you visit it one day, however, all the workmen are gone; replaced by a cold, gleaming skyscraper. They assure you it is not haunted, yet also advertise its suspicious lower-than-average rent.
You have met a lot of Americans online when you were back in your hometown. When you arrive here, you learn that one of those Americans is actually a Canadian. All of them are Canadian. They always have been.
You meet new people, and they think you are Canadian. You insist you are actually Japanese, born in Hong Kong. They do not believe you. No, you are Canadian, they say. You start to doubt yourself.
Do not jaywalk, for there are fates worse than being fined or struck by a car yet.
You bundle up and head outside. You see your neighbours, walking on the street with no more than a cotton jacket and jeans on. "What cold?" They do not feel anything, and there is nothing you can do to make them feel anything, as soon you will be the same.
"You're not from around here," one of the locals points out. You agree meekly, but you know they aren't as well. Hardly any of them are from this land, yet they remember a false history. They will realise soon, though, it's just a matter of time. Just a matter of time.
It bothers you how, when it comes to Canadian post-secondary institutions, everyone outside is only aware of the University of Toronto. Surely they have not done enough research. The other universities and colleges are real.
Your friend from the North complains of the basketball fans crowding in the street, making terrible noise, screaming, and wrecking things. You have never seen a photograph of these crowds, encountered them in person, nor spotted a basketball fan in Toronto. You go to bed early.
They are all new buildings downtown. They are all built by different companies. The sky is filled with them. You swear you've seen this one four different times on the same street. You swear that was one different yesterday. You reload your Presto card.
The skyscrapers of Toronto grow taller with each year, yet the Tower always looms ahead, regardless of the ambitions of the construction below. When you walk under the Tower, you keep your eyes pointed straight ahead; it is too risky to glance upwards for even a second.
Are there eleven provinces and territories? Twelve? Thirteen? You think it's thirteen, but you keep scaring the locals who swore there were only twelve. You have long stopped asking them.
Your friend invites you to ride Calgary Transit. The train is stuck at the station for minutes, and he lets out a defeated sigh, joking about how Transit is unreliable. You don't believe him. Something else doesn't want you to go to downtown Calgary. No one is leaving the train.
The people of the West Province refrain from speaking its name in full. They are ashamed or frightened, only mentioning it with its two-letter shortening. Sometimes, an individual suggests a name change, but not long passes until they are never heard from again.
Winter is coming, but the trees are still green. Suddenly, one day, on your daily commute, you notice all the trees are bare. There are no leaves on the street or in the bins.
No one knows what Labrador is or where you can find it. All they know, all they can tell you, is that it showed up suddenly one day, not long after you were born.
The bus is nearly empty. The windows and panels rattle loudly, you can hear it through your music. The lady who announced the stops is gone, and you can't see the driver. The rattling grows louder, angier.
The ground is either Ice, or it is either in Deep Snow. You must tread carefully on the Ice, but you must never go into the Deep Snow.
"Sorry," someone says, passing by. "Sorry," another one says. You do not know what they are sorry for. "Sorry." You do not know what they did to you to make you apologise. You hold back tears.
You attend a convention in America. You meet a lot of other furries who happily greet you and say they're also from Canada. When you return to Canada, you never see or hear from them again. If you ask the people you know already, none of them know who you are talking about.
You visit a park one summer day. It is pleasant and scenic, and you feel relaxed, save for the yellow signs with symbols whom no one understands.
The light turns green. Cars pass under. The light turns red. Cars pass under. Nobody listens to the light before it is too late. The light flickers, a silent scream of agony and woe.
There is a street you frequent with a large metal drainage grate. On a number of occasions, you've peered down walking over it and have accidentally made eye contact.
Trudeau. You know of him, Justin Trudeau. You do not need to know your local representative. You do not need proportional representation. You do not need to know his policies or controversies. You need only know Trudeau, for he knows all of us.
They all speak English. Why do they all speak English? You're a foreigner in a foreign country, they're not supposed to speak English. You can understand what you overhear...actually, why do you speak English?
You ask the locals what this upcoming foreign holiday is about. They say it's for costuming, sharing scary stories, and having sweets, and they beckon you to join them. You ask for more info, but they say there isn't. You decline. They're clearly not telling you everything.
You are busy working with an idea that came to your mind last night. When you post the idea, someone laughs and points out how you are doing a lovely revival. You force a laugh and try to continue, avoiding the implications.

(This is called the "gothic horror meme", apparently.)
Different names, different people, different names, different people. There's more than just Rogers and Bell. There must be. There are different names and different people. They can't all be the same. You're not going mad. They can't all be related. That's impossible.
You were certain they were spelt "Mississagua" and "Geulph". You double check the map, while the thought of moving to work in the United Kingdom lingers once this is all over.
Everyone speaks English, yet no one knows what you say. To the locals, your words invade their minds, twist their consciences. They say you are lucky you have not visited Quebec. You are far from ready.
Turn signals are orange, but here they are increasingly red. More and more of them are red. The change is slow, but steady. You look online for information on driver's licenses in Alberta, but quickly close out after spotting the national flag in the corner of your eye.
They are called the Sails of Light. But for there to be light, there must be darkness, yes? Luckily, you do not know anyone who lives in Vancouver.
Sometimes you consider travelling to the top of the CN Tower, but those who have warn vehemently: You must never, never go up there, lest you will regret it for time immortal.
Locals online complain you need to see more of Canada: Vancouver, Halifax, Montreal, Edmonton, Yellowknife. These "other places". They are fools. Only in Toronto, can you reach true salvation. You should check flat listings on Bungol, you know the rates go down in the wintertime.
Canadians often go on road trips. They drive between towns instead of fly, and though these trips can take days, no one gives you a clear answer as to how they pass the time. They never explain what it's like to be on the road for so long. You wonder if WestJet Dollars expire.
It is always too cold in your room, but you prefer it as it forces your head under the duvet. Your face could be spotted, otherwise.
Ah, but what is a Den, you ask? Aye, come hither, for the Den is what enthrals a many of this land. It is a reflection of yourself, the Den may equally expose both the best and worst of your being; it is whatever you shall wish to make of it in this One Bedroom unit.
Encircling a plane of ice, they chant rhythmically, under command of the sun, of the approaching rise, and how they stand guard of the True North fervently. It is a haze of emotion. How many will be hurt tonight? How many will turn on their families and siblings?
It seems you have found the end. Congratulations. But of course, this is not the true end. The true end is Toronto. The Middle City. Your home.

You must come to Toronto. If you cannot come to Toronto, Toronto will come to you.

Pour la fin en français, veuillez appuyer sur 2.
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