She’s standing at the crossing in Yaletown, slim, Asian, dressed in white like an unlucky ghost. Hair dark and cropped, neck level. From the back it seems as though she is about to cross but getting nearer in the right hand lane I see both hands are over her face. Eyes and mouth covered yet waiting to step into traffic. Public inner moment expressed in the slow springtime rain that my wipers brush slowly aside like tears.
A little over a century ago in Vancouver’s Saltwater City, her Chinese ancestors were not allowed out after dark. Secretively, they constructed an alley of red bricks and rock at the back of Pender Street, in Chinatown, so they could go about their normal business. Many were drafted in to build the Canadian Pacific Railway in the 1880s – the conditions were harsh and the pay pitiful. Of a group of over 5000 sent from China by ship, less than 1500 remained in 1881 as the rest had either perished or left for the more lucrative goldfields.
Glancing in my rearview mirror, I wondered if she would take a step forward onto Pacific.