As the fireworks detonate dully in humid night skies across an improbably large, disparate, and yet deeply ardent nation, Canadians gathered in the common spaces. The same ones created by much-debated tax dollars, in some cases on contested land, watched by a police force some are unhappy with, lit by lights powered by unpopular public utilities – or even less popular private ones, having arrived by vehicles that the cyclists would rather not abide, and by bikes that the larger vehicles wish would just stick to the velodromes and parks, and stay off the effing streets.
The Liberals. The Conservatives. The New Democrats. The Bloc Québécois. The Green Party. The unaffiliated. The third of Canadians who didn’t vote in the last federal election but still have loudly held opinions. They all gather to watch the events. To stake out a decent seat with a view. To eat the food. To drink the drinks. To sing the national anthem, lustily or quietly, fearfully or hopefully, longingly or assuredly, bawdily or reverently. Silently, or not at all. To wave an improbable flag.
“Jim,” States a man, happening on a guy he knows in the near-dark of a lakeside park in eastern Toronto.
“Tom,” Says the other man, nodding cordially, grateful for his hat, the brim of which hides his eyes, which are not happy with Jim, whom he considers an asshole.
“Here for the fireworks?”
“Uh-huh. Yep. You?”
“Yeah. Got the whole gang here. Somewhere.”
“Oh yeah. Hard to keep track of.”
The two men look out at the open space between themselves and the lake. It is full of people; drifting and mingling, running and walking, disappearing and reappearing amongst themselves. A churn of differences, a mix of values. Tightly held conspiracy theories bumping into fervent ideals, interwoven with those who couldn’t care less. None of them aware of each other’s politics in the anonymity of the crowd, and unlikely to mention them on a day that is as much a laying down as it is a taking up.
“Saw you on the old Facebook there last week,” one of the men said eventually, breaking the silence. “Believe we disagreed on something.”
“Oh yeah. Yeah, now that you mention it, I think I remember that.”
“Well. Hope I didn’t offend you.”
“Oh no. No. No. No, don’t worry. Important topic it was. Understandable that it might get a little heated.”
The fireworks begin then without any warning. The crowd turns to the display, dark shapes craning necks upwards to follow the tracers of aesthetic artillery. Everyone watches, gasping together when the largest explosions erupt overhead, murmuring wows when the staccato flash-bangs berate the peace of the darkened lake. Then the cheering and whistling when it all ends in a cataclysmic volley, and the night returns to the quiet heaviness of summer.
“Phew. Heck of a show Jim.”
“Yeah. Really something Tom.”
“Well. See you around.
“Uh-huh. Yep. See you around.”
“Happy Canada Day Jim.”
“Yeah. Yeah Happy Canada Tom. We’ll see you around.”