The Toronto West Detention Centre
A woman walks through the foyer of the Toronto West Detention Centre.
A little bit unsteady on her feet, she’s wearing a Flashdance t-shirt and has Cleveland tattooed across her neck. She looks like she needs a cigarette, like she needs something. Her hair, which must have once been blonde, is now colourless. There’s a small bruise beneath her left eye and a defiant, proud kind of Fuck You, to the way she walks. You can smell her perfume from 10 yards away and later, when she steps out of the washroom the cold water she’s splashed on her face has caused her mascara to run.
Lawyers pace the room. A few talk urgently into cell phones. The one who looks like a Ken Doll records case notes into his Dictaphone– pleased with the sound of his own voice he bends his inflections as if for an audience. A man built to take up as much space as possible, suddenly declares, “This is bullshit!” He sits down beneath a couple of faded posters advertizing the Victim Support Line and begins to tell a story to his small retinue about a Jane and Finch stripper who was deported.
Translators, waiting to be called forth through the entrance into the prison for a hearing, are scattered about.
The Mandarin/Cantonese translator works on a Sudoku puzzle.
The French/Arabic translator, an immense, transgendered man reads a graphic novel.
The Romanian translator talks about skiing in Bulgaria.
The Vietnamese translator makes frequent trips to the washroom.
The Tamil translator looks like my old high school Geography teacher.
A ridiculously huge prison guard, indifferent and sadistic looking, emerges into the foyer like Darth Vader. Keeping the door propped open with one foot he shouts out, “Croatia!” Inconvenienced, he looks around. “Croatian translator!!” he yells again. Nothing happens, there is no Croatian translator present. The guard shrugs. Wordlessly, he returns into the prison, the door slamming shut, the matter no longer his problem.
A man of about 65 sits in the corner reading the Bible– softly, so softly, he’s repeating the verses to himself.
A woman with long blonde hair walks into the place. She’s wearing five inch stiletto heels, a leopard print top and black tights that make her look like she’s been dipped in ink. She wants to look hot for the husband she’s visiting. She has her two young sons with her and they’re so carefully polished and dressed as to appear ready for church or a Tommy Hilfiger shoot. The boys are excited by the vending machines and the older one jams his arm up the slot and begins to try to pry a chocolate bar free. The mother catches him out of the corner of her eye.
“ If you don’t, we will go home right now, dammit.”
The boy comes to her, throws his arms around her neck in a hug, and then they both begin to cry.