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ASH WEDNESDAY

 


ASH WEDNESDAY

-         John Tavares (Canada)

Gabby didn’t have anything to prove, like his brilliant, smart sister. He didn’t need to change the world, or improve the lives of others, or reform the criminal justice system. He had no illusions: he was overweight and belched and farted loudly. He moved slowly and deliberately, but he was rock solid steady. He worked five days a week, eight hours a day, excluding overtime, at the university library. He had free tuition to attend university as an employee, as a work benefit, if he wanted, but he was happy working in his position at the university library instead of studying. The library system rewarded his hard work, organization skills, and loyalty by eventually promoting him to the position of a supervisor.

 

Gabby spent his free time reading science fiction, fantasy, and horror novels and watching movies based on his favorite novels and books. He also loved gaming, board games, war games, especially computer and video games. He administered and moderated several online gaming forums and groups. He even organized events for gamers and gaming enthusiasts at Toronto cafes and restaurants, so when his sister called him a wanker, who would never find a woman because he was so self-centred and preoccupied with his video games and comic books, Gabby took offense. But he didn’t move from his mother’s house where he lived with his sister and mother then: his move out didn’t come until later, when the income from slaughtering chickens provided him sufficient money to afford his own apartment.

 

Gabby complained her sister took out her anger and outrage on him because she had everything to prove to the world and her family. Then, after the life changing incident, she became like Gabby, whom she called mediocre. At first, she became a recluse, and friends claimed she no longer looked after herself. She didn’t style her hair fancy, or polish, buff, or paint her nails, at least not until she started visiting Terrance in prison. Gabby complained she didn’t care; she became apathetic about her femininity; allowed her looks go to waste.

 

After the incident, Fatima started visiting Terrance in prison; prison officials even allowed her to make conjugal visits. He made her feel like a woman again. He told her how much he loved her looks when they first met on a subway train.

 

With a reputation among her peers and friends for intelligence and rigor, and a logical, analytical mind, Fatima originally trained and worked as a criminal lawyer. Overpowering arguments were her forte.

 

Later, though, Gabby became her supervisor, after Fatima started working as an assistant librarian in the university library. Like her, when he first started working in the library, she retrieved, returned, and organized books in the stacks and bookshelves. The administrators in the library system wanted to transfer Fatima to the law school library, where they believed she could better apply her knowledge and talents, but she adamantly refused. She insisted her memories of law school and of her work in the legal profession were too fresh and painful. She would face constant daily reminders of her former aborted career and life in the law library, from her former colleagues and professors.

 

Ironically, soon after she graduated from law school, Fatima saw her younger sibling struggling. So, she decided to help Gabby find a job at the university library. She helped him write and rewrite a resume and complete the job application form. She even found a mutual former high school teacher who would write Gabby a letter of recommendation. She visited their Portuguese parish priest and convinced him to allow them to use his name as a reference. Then she personally dropped off Gabby’s resume and job application with her friend in the human resources department and another acquaintance in the administration offices of the university library.

 

This happened after Gabby refused to show up for work at the chicken processing plant. Gabby had also been working extra long shifts and overtime operating a forklift, which carried baskets and cages of live chickens, in a second job at the poultry factory. His main job was on the killing and bleeding line.

 

Then, after a horrible case of nausea, which Gabby couldn’t explain, and which he suffered for weeks like the worst case of morning sickness, the thought of chicken, raw chicken meat, cooked chicken meat—the thought and memories and vivid images of chicken entrails, innards, guts, feathers, and decapitated chickens made him nauseous. Gabby could no longer tolerate watching chickens being slaughtered and killed. While he recovered from his condition, he even started to read books about the Holocaust. He started to feel personally responsible for the mass deaths of poultry, thousands and thousands of helpless birds. He surrendered to his despair, and he stayed at home reading, gaining weight, watching porn movies online.

 

That was before Fatima helped him find work in the university library. Then, after Fatima recovered from her personal crisis, she reprised his journey and started working at the same university library where she earlier helped Gabby find work.

She believed her legal training had gone to waste. Gabby urged her to return to the legal profession, but she merely shook her head. Then Gabby encouraged her to return to college and try to obtain a medical degree or work in another profession, for which she was suited—but she no longer believed her personality and disposition was suitable for white collar work, even if it was clerical—and again she shook her head.

 

Meanwhile, Gabby started reading books about the sightings of the Marian apparitions at Fatima, in Portugal.

 

After their mother died, Fatima finished law school, and became a practicing criminal lawyer. But she lost confidence and felt uncertain about the direction her life was taking. Gabby could not act in the role of their mother, but he reminded her she spent a decade acquiring an education and training to become a lawyer.

 

Meanwhile, Fatima felt as if she failed in helping their mother, failed in care giving for the matriarch, as she aged and grew seriously ill. Fatima had hoped to become a better daughter to their aging mother. She simply could not shrug and shake off this disappointment. 

 

That fateful work morning, Fatima, still new to courtroom procedure as a criminal trial lawyer, felt a familiar sickening, nauseating feeling in her stomach, a sensation she understood well from experience. She revealed to an associate and law partner she once suffered from a public speaking phobia. In the past several months, though, Fatima, managed, as a newbie trial lawyer, to orate, argue, discuss, debate, and cross examine in the courtroom without too much self-consciousness or nervousness. Having learned from her past experiences, she believed she had outgrown the condition; she was simply too mature to experience a haunting by these past demons.

 

In times past, this fear had struck her whenever, in high school and college, she had to deliver a speech and make a public speaking presentation as part of an assignment. Moreover, now the rock and stabilizing force in her life was gone. In her youth, their mother always managed to calm her through recurring past episodes of apprehension and dread.

 

As Fatima fretted and nervously made certain her notes were properly prepared and organized, and at the ready, their mother gave a helping hand, cooking her favorite breakfast, pancakes and milky coffee, making certain her wardrobe was clean and pressed, doting over her. Gabby couldn’t help noticing the special treatment his sister got from their mother. Then again, Fatima had beat the socioeconomic odds faced by the daughter of first-generation immigrants. Despite her neurosis, including that of public speaking, which she shared with her brother, who she regarded as a loser, because he liked video games and porn, his only true-life connection to women, she had acquired her undergraduate degree, an honours degree in economics, summa cumma laude, and then attended Osgoode law school.

 

Gabby remembered once she had been complaining about anxiety prior to oral arguments in a mock courtroom setting at law school. He got so tired of hearing about her nerves he pulverized tranquilizers, sedatives, leftover from a prescription his family doctor gave her. He mixed the crushed tablets into her coffee. He even offered to brew her decaffeinated coffee, but she insisted on drinking cup after cup of full-strength coffee, which he supposed helped her read through the reams of papers, briefs, and law books her academics and profession required, but probably contributed to her jittery nerves. On that occasion, Gabriel thought the medication helped, since, apparently, she aced in the mock courtroom at her law school seminar.

 

Because of her nerves, he warned her she should only drink decaffeinated coffee, so she wouldn’t get jittery or wired, but she didn’t appreciate the advice. She started arguing with him, calling him a loser, who did nothing but watch porn and jerk off all day.

 

Meanwhile, this having occurred before Gabby went to work at the university library, he even worked overtime operating a forklift, which carried baskets and cages of live chickens, in a second job at the poultry processing plant. His main job was on the killing and bleeding line.

 

After that argument, when she told him he was a loser, he decided to move out of his parents’ house, where Fatima continued to live. He found his own single bedroom apartment, whose rent was paid for with the blood of eviscerated chickens, further down Bloor Street West from Little Portugal.

 

Now, after their father passed away years ago, from a heart attack, their mother was also not around to assist Fatima through what could turn out to be the most important moments of her life and career so far: her first arguments as a defence attorney in a murder trial. Within an hour, Fatima was scheduled to defend a client against criminal charges of homicide, in her first murder trial. Under normal circumstances, she would have already been in the courtroom. The trial of her client, widely publicized, was followed by thousands of the rapper’s fans in the newspapers and local radio and television. Her law partners, all of whom shunned the limelight, encouraged her to bask in the media attention, joking she was even in danger of becoming a celebrity. Becoming well known was certainly not her first goal and aim, though, and this only seemed to cause the pressure to build.

 

Early during that fateful day, an hour before her case was due to begin, she found herself taking a subway train to the provincial superior courtroom downtown, late by her usual standards, since she had rehearsed her opening arguments and double checked her looks and wardrobe. She also kept returning home to make certain she hadn’t forgotten anything.

 

Her law partner, knowing of her propensities and inclination to take the transit system wherever she travelled in the city, became outraged. He advised her to take a cab, so she wasn’t delayed by a gridlocked subway train or a gawking member of the public. Anxious about potential delays or her even getting mugged on the subway, while she carried confidential legal briefs, he even offered her the use of his car and his wife to drive, but Fatima, preoccupied, declined the offer.

Thrust into the rush and turmoil of early morning rush hour traffic, she found most of the passengers and commuters looked alien to her. Under ordinary circumstances, she wouldn’t have minded the commute; it would have been something she embraced, since it allowed her to catch up on her reading. The train ride would have given her time to clear her mind, to meditate, and to browse over opening statements to the judge and jury in the courtroom. But the commute on the subway train was something that now filled her with fear and dread. Instead of getting off the train at the next stop, and, emerging at the street to catch a cab, she felt trapped. She wasn’t certain she would be able to make her initial opening arguments. She feared she would freeze and be rendered speechless in front of all those courtroom spectators, the prosecutor, the judge, the family members of the accused, the accused, and members of the media.

That had happened to her in college and high school several times before. Each time the physical symptoms, shaking, tremors, profuse sweating, a quavering voice, and a red face, had been embarrassing. Having gone through the wringer of this stress, each time she vowed she would drop out to avoid ever putting herself in a position where she would be required to make a public presentation or speech again. But each time she had somehow managed to rally back, to fight back in a certain sense, usually with her mother’s assistance. Without her aide and encouragement, she certainly would have never overcome the personal challenges required to succeed in university and law school and now at her law firm.

 

Now Fatima’s eyes welled with tears, and she started to cry, as she thought about her mother. These emotional associations she could no longer control since her mother’s passing. While she presented, argued, and questioned in court, defending her client, how could she control her emotions and potentially any crying jags, when she remembered her mother and her recent death? Nothing could be done about the absence of maternal support but keep a brave face and possibly be inspired by her strength.

 

Fatima took the subway from Ossington station on the Bloor- Danforth line, heading downtown. She started to again read the book about the Marian apparitions and The Miracle of the Sun, published by a Catholic press, which she had picked up in a book sale bin of their local branch of the Toronto Public Library. Her attention was diverted again from the upcoming trial.

 

After Fatima disembarked in the crowd at St. George station, she hurried up the stairs to the platform to catch a southbound train on the University line. Realizing she couldn’t take a chance on staining her dress for courtroom presentation, she remembered to stand as she rode the train. Then, when she reached the platform for the University lines at St. George station, at the junction of the two cross town commuter lines, she saw the woman she felt confident and certain was her mother, with the same black shawl and head scarf. Her mother was alive, or what she saw was her mother’s ghost, an apparition.

 

When Fatima thought about it, she realized she might have been another member of the Silva family, one of her mother’s numerous sisters. But she became convinced this woman was her mother. She was dressed similarly, same dark, modest long black dress, which left no flesh uncovered, including a widow’s black and a head scarf covering her thick long jet-black hair, with only a few strands of grey. And wasn’t that a rosary and Catholic church program she carried in her hand?

 

But, sitting on the bench, close to where she stood was the lean, curly-haired handsome man she believed was homeless. The homeless handsome man, she mused, but, whereas in the past she had noted how handsome Terrance looked in jeans and a leather jacket, now she noticed his musky body odor.

 

Fatima remembered years ago late one night, after she had been partying and bar hopping with university friends, she stood in the crowded subway train alongside Terrance. He had pressed his hand against her buttock, but instead of slapping his hand, or pulling it away, she backed herself against Terrance’s crotch and felt his groin grow hard. Remembering their encounter, she felt embarrassed, but she justified her indulgence in transgression as the antics of an intoxicated university student, returning home from a pub crawl. Her jean’s size then was several sizes smaller. The incident happened at a time when she passionately desired a man, after she started watching adult videos she found in the browser history of Gabby’s gaming desktop computer.

Back then Fatima thought Terrance looked fine when he dressed for the nightclub, and she thought he smelled nice, with a fresh scent of an appealing cologne. Over the past several years, she still blushed when she saw him, usually on the subway train, but sometimes she encountered him trudging along Bloor Street, muttering beneath his breath, sometimes angrily, usually at night. She felt a perverse satisfaction when she noticed that each time she saw Terrance, he looked grungier and more weathered and worn. It seemed to confirm her belief she was upwardly mobile, climbing the rungs of success.

 

Fatima still felt an interest in Terrance, even an attraction. She remembered with longing the electricity of emotion and sensation she felt when Terrace planted his hand on her buttock and pressed down and how she backed up into his crotch, with the smell of spiced rum on her breath and cologne around his neck and chest.

 

Fatima was still intrigued by the titles of the books he read, including pocketbooks by Noam Chomsky, or Bertrand Russell. She remembered another student at university said he was a mature student in her social psychology tutorial. He made so many insightful comments and asked so many probing questions an awe-stricken classmate thought he should be teaching the class. Now, as a lawyer, she supposed the best attitude towards the man was to avoid him.

 

She took the escalator from the platform of the cross town trains. Instead of heading south to the courthouse, she boarded the northbound train to the suburbs, following the apparition of her mother. Even with an important case to argue, her first homicide trial, although she should have been travelling south, she boarded the same train as the elderly woman and headed northbound, even shouting after her through the chaos and jammed packed crowds of the morning commute.

Curly-haired Terrance, in blue jeans, black t-shirt, and striped running shoes, also seemed to have his interest piqued again by her this morning and followed behind. She boarded the same train, but not the same car, she discovered. The northbound train was less crowded since its destination was the suburbs. In the morning, most workers were headed south, downtown, as she should have been.

 

Fatima lost sight of the woman she was confident was her mother in the crowd of commuters and subway passengers. At the next station, Spadina, she quickly got off the car and reboarded the train one car further up. Ahead of her she spotted the woman, but the narrow car was so crowded that the best she could do was catch a momentary glimpse of her face. She had the cross smudged on her forehead and carried a church program in her hand.

 

A lapsed Catholic, Fatima realized it was Ash Wednesday. Her mother had probably gone to an Ash Wednesday service at a Portuguese language church on Rua de Azores or in Little Portugal.

 

Fatima continued to travel northbound, even as it became caught up in a traffic snarl of subway trains. She sat restless, wearing a dress that probably revealed more of her cleavage than the judge would have liked, staring at the woman she considered her mother across the aisle of the crowded subway train. She stared at the Portuguese widow and looked deeply into her eyes.

 

The thin man in black with whom she had done a bump and grind left her distracted, remembering a fleeting time when she wanted to be bred by a virile man, above all else. Terrance’s attention, though, shifted between her and the science fiction paperback book he was reading, a worn, weathered, tattered paperback, Stranger in a Strange Land.

As Fatima’s work cell phone buzzed and vibrated in her handbag, she checked the caller identification feature. Calling from the courtroom was the prosecutor of the case, who had wanted to chat with her that afternoon before the trial began. She checked her wristwatch and saw the trial was scheduled to start in a few minutes. About to miss the start of what would undoubtedly be the most important criminal trial of his career, she still took the train north along the subway line to the northernmost station on the University line.

It was at least an hour-long subway train ride and walk to the courthouse downtown. She was getting further and further away from the Ontario superior courthouse downtown on University Avenue. She stepped off the train when the woman disembarked at the last, northernmost station. Fatima followed the woman down the escalators, through the concourse, their footsteps echoing in the emptying corridors. She strode behind her to a terminal for buses taking the local neighbourhood routes, which would take the rider deeper into suburbia. The lean, weathered man with whom she had shared a single moment of physical intimacy on the subway train followed behind from what he considered a safe distance.

 

Fatima approached her mother as she stood waiting to board the bus.“Mom, I’m sorry.” Fatima wanted to tell her mother that she was sorry she didn’t see her more often before she became ill with a rare blood disorder that finally killed her. She was sorry that she wasn’t more proactive, that she hadn’t intervened on her behalf with medical specialists and doctors and her brother, whom, she judged, seemed happy and complacent to watch her die in the ward of a hospital ill equipped to treat her, with her complicated illness, who seemed more interested in reaping the profits from her estate, than in her condition improving. She didn’t think it fair and caring and loving that their mother was allowed to languish in the suburban hospital, which Fatima considered substandard, while she suffered in pain and the nurses pottered about helplessly. She had even asked Gabby why their mother hadn’t been sent by ambulance to a teaching hospital downtown. She complained Gabby avoided making important inquiries with the suburban hospital doctors, who never made the rounds on her ward and visited her. Fatima protested Gabby was complacent, happy to sit in their mother’s hospital room, drinking takeout coffee and eating doughnuts, waiting, on a death watch. Fatima said Gabby didn’t believe in “rocking the boat” or “making waves” with the medical professionals.

 

Fatima wanted to apologize to their mother for not paying more attention to her condition, not realizing how she had aged and become more vulnerable to infirmities. If she had known how grave her condition had become, she would have visited her more often. She would have referred to the best specialists who would have been able to diagnose and treat her condition.

 

When Fatima called out for their mother that day on the subway train, the woman with the ashes on her forehead gave her a withering look, a cutting expression that delivered a reprimand equivalent to a slap in the face. She felt the same as she did when her mother punished her corporally or rebuked her verbally. Now she rode at the back of the nearly empty bus, under belated scrutiny by arrays of tiny closed-circuit cameras bulging out of the ceiling, and the coarse-haired, wild-eyed man, with whom she had a brief torrid physical fling. The man looked at her as if he had something important to say, but she avoided his gaze and turned away whenever they made eye contact.

 

Fatima checked the caller identification when her law firm smartphone rang again. She saw that the prosecutor had called her work cellphone again. Her expression desperate, her eyes watering, she gazed from the back of the bus where she sat on the hard rigid seats, facing towards the woman she believed was her mother. Aside from the dark-haired woman, her acquaintance, and the driver of the bus, she was the only passenger.

 

There was an emptiness aboard that she wanted to hear filled with the sound of morning conversations over bread, cheese, and milky coffee. The morning rush hour traffic brought many commuters who rode this bus through the suburbs in the opposite direction, except for the woman, who took the bus and the subway early to attend early morning Lenten mass in her native tongue at a Portuguese Catholic church in the inner city, near Little Portugal and Rua Acores.

 

Fatima’s second smartphone, her personal cell phone rang again. Instead of merely ignoring the call, frustrated, annoyed, she checked the cursed cell phone. This time the call was from the head of her law firm, calling from his personal residence no less. After debating with herself as to whether she should return the call, she returned the cell phone to her handbag. She hadn’t even wanted a work cell phone—they were a nuisance and a bother—but her partners and associates insisted. Now she carried three cellphones, two smartphones and a flip phone, a burner phone, which her client had given her for attorney-client privilege communications, which invariably turned into personal calls.

 

The city transit bus drove and manoeuvred through the suburbs, the bus operator alternately suspicious and curious about her courtroom attire, checking her out in her rear-view mirrors, looking back occasionally, when she stopped at traffic lights. The woman looked back at her with her own brand of curiosity and puzzlement and a muted apprehension, even taking out a rosary to pray. Terrance also had made her the object of his attention.

Fatima’s work cellphone bleeped and buzzed again. She reached into her handbag, breaking her fingernail when she impatiently snatched the electronic device. This time she saw by the tiny slab of green screen that showed the caller’s name and number that it was a reporter from one of the big daily city newspapers. When Fatima thought she heard the last from his cellphone, her personal cellphone buzzed. She saw the name of the judge officiating at the trial flash on the caller identification. Realizing the trial judge had her personal cellphone number, she gulped. Then, the flip phone, the burner phone, which her client had given her, so they could communicate, when he needed someone with whom he could chat, rang, from inside her handbag, but she ignored the telephone. She decided she had more important issues that concerned her. She thought she had turned off her smartphones and cellphones and buried them beneath notebooks, pens, pocketbooks, and her feminine accoutrements in her handbag.

 

When the bus arrived at the end of the route, the woman stepped off from the front. Fatima decided to make her move, to follow behind.

 

The bus driver saw her following literally in the woman’s footsteps. The woman looked at her in fright, pausing momentarily, indecisive as to whether she should keep walking or return to the bus, until, contemplating the risks of the situation, she decided she would be brave, move forward, and continue striding home.

 

In her passion and zeal, Fatima inadvertently frightened the woman, but shetried to console herself with the knowledge that wasn’t her intention, and now she needed to reassure her. The bus driver made up her mind to radio the police.

 

Returning home from a night of bar hopping and coffee shops, Terrance, with whom she had once done the bump and grind on the subway train, when she was a mildly inebriated university senior, stared at her, with the open paperback book in his lap. His unrelenting, restless gaze followed her out the bus and down the street through the bus windshields. He figured she was having a profound emotional experience.

 

Dressed in her courtroom attire, Fatima followed behind the woman. She even called after her in the Portuguese language.“Mom, I’m sorry I couldn’t help you. Forgive me, please,” Fatima begged her.

Fatima could see she could understand her use of the Portuguese language. The women uttered a few words in return, in exasperation, which she couldn’t perceive. She hurried to position herself in front of the woman, got down on her knees, and reached out to hold her hand.“Senhora,” Fatima begged. The elderly woman glared at Fatima, and, in disgust and distaste, she flung her hand back at her. She reached out to hold her hand again, but this time she merely walked around her.“I’m sorry I argued with Gabby. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to help you when you were sick. I’m sorry I didn’t help you around the house after I started university.”

 

Fatima’s mind burrowed deep into her past, into her childhood and youth. She wanted to tell her she was sorry about the arguments and anger and begged for her forgiveness. Then the woman, having attended Ash Wednesday mass on an unseasonably warm day, walked along the curving sidewalk lining the suburban drive and finally stepped into her red brick home, with vinyl siding. She called out to her son, who had fallen asleep on the living room sofa after his night shift at the meat processing plant, where he carved up carcasses.

“Listen, dude,” the husky young man said, scratching his balls under his boxer shorts, positioning himself in the middle of the front doorway, preventing Fatima from entering the house, “what the hell are you doing bothering my mother?”

 

Fatima wished to express her opinion a mix-up and confusion had occurred. She had to clarify the misunderstanding and allow the young man to realize there was a connection somehow. “My name is Fatima Silva,” Fatima said.“I am a biological relative. Your mother—I’m certain she’s related—I’m confident she’s my mother—I mean, a sister to my mother, or at least a cousin of my own mother, whom, I wish to inform you, passed away recently.”Finally, Fatima realized her grip on reality at that moment was tenuous.“I just wanted to inform her of my mother’s passing.”

 

“No, dude, we’re not related.”But Fatima insisted they were related; they were first generation Portuguese Canadians. The young man said he didn’t know how she knew but he didn’t care. She said she knew Senhora was from the Azorean Island of Sao Miguel.“I don’t care how you know. Now go away before I call the cops. Better yet, go away before they get here.”

 

Fatima thought she had turned off all her cell phones, her law firm cell phone, her personal cell phone, and the cell phone her client had given her, but the flipphone her client had given her bleeped and vibrated again. Checking the caller ID, Fatima determined that another mother—the mother of her client was calling on the flip phone her son had given her. Fatima needed to get to the courtroom, even though it was probably too late, and the case had probably been remanded.

 

Noting a definite physical resemblance, which she couldn’t explain and needed to understand, she tentatively concluded this woman had been her mother’s cousin or, yes, even her sister. She knew they had other relatives in the city—plenty of them—but she was also a Silva from the Azorean island of Sao Miguel, a member of a branch of the clan, the family, her father and uncle had once explained to her, which had never gotten along, who, when they should have celebrated family reunions, bickered and argued over petty rivalries, jealousies, and trivial disputes, blown out of proportion. These differences made for estranged relations with grievances that grew over the generations within the extended family.

 

Fatima started walking towards the last stop on the suburban route, but, as she stepped in the direction of the bus, the driver closed the flappy doors and pulled away from the bus stop sign posted outside the transit shelter. She turned around and started walking towards the next traffic intersection, expecting to reach a busier bus stop. But she didn’t get far.

 

A police cruiser prowled from behind a leafy intersection in front of her. The marked cruiser did a full looping turn and stopped abruptly, blocking the street. She shouted to the police officer that she was a lawyer. She needed to be in court at that very moment to defend her client and argue her first homicide case. When she uttered those words, the police officer thought she was potentially violent and mentally unstable. From behind the protection of the passenger side of the cruiser, the police officer pulled out his revolver and aimed at her. He shouted to her to lie face down flat on the ground, asphalt, with her hands above his head. Raising her hands cautiously, she stared at him incredulously, wondering, as a lawyer, why the officer was resorting to what she construed as an egregious use of excessive force, since it should have been readily apparent that she was unarmed, compliant, and cooperative with authorities. What justifiable grounds were there for the suspicion she posed a threat of violence, she demanded afterwards?

The police officer handcuffed Fatima, forcing her arm into an awkward position, pinning her down, so she feared her arm was broken or dislocated. When he raised her from the cement and pavement and forced her into the back of the cruiser, she felt shame and glowed with the heat of outrage. This manhandling convinced her she was injured.

 

When Terrance, with whom she had done the bump and grind years ago on the subway train saw how she was being treated, he intervened and started to fight with the police officer. He punched the officer who handcuffed and man handled her. A battle of hand-to-hand combat between him and the police officer erupted, as they flailed, grappled, grasped, grunted, wrestled, and punched one another. Within minutes backup arrived and Terrance was tasered by the police.

 

When Gabby received the call from the police that his sister had been arrested, he laughed and thought it was a joke, but then he was warned. When he was told he needed to visit the precinct before the police would release her on her own recognisance, he realized the situation had turned gravely serious. Because of the severity of the assault charges against Terrance, assaulting a police officer, assault causing bodily harm, obstruction of justice, the case against Fatima was regarded as less serious and charges were eventually dropped. But Terrance was found guilty and received a prison sentence. The aspect of Terrance’s background that intrigued Fatima the most and caused her to fall for his roguish, renegade charms: he had no previous criminal record or charges. Fatima started to visit him, in prison, after she discovered that he wasn’t homeless, but a messy person with poor grooming. She was also surprised that he worked as a freelancer, creating advertising copy for small businesses in Toronto and annual reports for startup companies listed on Canadian venture stock exchanges. He said he had been fired from his job at an advertising agency, which had some of the nattiest dressers on Bay Street, for having such a sloppy wardrobe, but Fatima later learned the true reason; he maliciously messed up an important ad for a big pharma company. Anyway, he worked in a living room office from home, in a house in East York he inherited from his mother. In this house, overlooking the Don Valley Parkway, Fatima ended up living with Terrance. Later, the couple often invited Gabby to their home in east end Toronto, but he passed with an apologia, saying he was worried the automobile emissions and atmospheric pollution from one of Canada’s busiest traffic thoroughfares would exacerbate his asthma.

 

 

 

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