A rebellious Colombian teenager full of dreams finds her perfect shoes during a short holiday in Canada. What she never dreamt of was that she would be forced to leave Colombia and come back to Canada eight years later, in the same shoes, her dreams crushed but not defeated.
They were classic and original; they had the toe cap made out of rubber, white like my first Canadian boyfriend; soles made of rubber, brown, like my last Colombian boyfriend; and the upper part made of cotton canvas, aquamarine, like my beloved Atlantic Ocean. My first pair of Converse All Stars. I scored them at a Value Village in Kamloops in the summer of 1998 when I came to visit my aunt. This trip was a gift for being accepted into one of the best theatre schools in Latin America. No one had these shoes in Colombia, NO ONE. I was gonna be a pioneer in my town. I was gonna be the cool theatre artist in my hood. My new aquamarine Converse would go so well with my activist-anarchist-rebel-hippy-punk-philosopher-I’m-gonna-change-the-world-with-theatre 16-year-old personality.
It was 2005, and I was in my last year of theatre school in Cali. It was a typical hot sunny day that makes everyone sweat and smile. I was at “Mangos,” a green area at my school full of mango trees. My hands were sticky after eating a sun-warmed mango. On that day, there was a protest at the school entrance, so my classmates and I decided to rehearse for an hour then go to the protest. We were doing a scene from “Lady Windermere’s Fan” with the sounds of the student protest in the background. As I was delivering the beautiful words of Oscar Wilde, the sirens started to sound closer. I looked back and saw dozens of students running and screaming. I felt like tiny bees were biting my eyes, and tears poured down my cheeks. I was crying not because of fear but because of the tear gas. As the students got closer, I understood what they were screaming: “Mataron a un estudiante! They killed a student!” “They” meaning the police. Clearing the tears from my face, I saw cops running towards us.
I froze; a poisonous snake was travelling through my blood vessels. One of my classmates screamed, “Corre! Run!” That wasn’t part of our scene. We were rehearsing barefoot, so some classmates ran away like that, but I wasn’t going to leave my dream aquamarine shoes there. While I was putting them on, I heard shooting. Every shot felt like it was going to hit me; I kept looking down at my aquamarine All Stars to see if there was any blood on them. I ran, and ran, and ran. But my aquamarine Converse couldn’t exceed the speed of black leather boots. I hit the ground, my face biting the grass, a heavy boot pressing my sacrum. And a cold gun pointing at my head.
It was the winter of 2006, and I was back in Kamloops, living with my aunt. I was at an excavator warehouse on my knees scrubbing old pee and poop out of a toilet. The smell of Clorox mixed with the reek of a men’s washroom that hadn’t been cleaned in centuries. It was making me nauseous—my first job in Canada. After I finished scrubbing, I flushed the toilet and saw how my dreams were going down the drain along with the old poop and pee. I heard the sound of high heels. It was my aunt coming to pick me up. “Sweetie, your shoes!” she said. I looked down at my dream All Stars. The Clorox had destroyed them. They were not aquamarine anymore, but a mix of yellow, white, and aquamarine. “Let’s go to Value Village to buy you another pair.” I refused my aunt’s offer because my “new” All Stars would go so well with my
I’ve-been-through-a-lot-and-it-feels-that there-is-no-hope-for-me-but-I-am-not-alone 23-year-old personality.
SINDY ANGEL is a theatre artist born and raised in Cali, Colombia. Since moving to Canada in 2006, she has done extensive advocacy and outreach work with refugees from all over the world.