The Multi-Faceted Capital of Nunavut
Taqaliq wakes up on the couch to the inane chatter of an early morning news show. Disoriented and still fully dressed, she rubs her eyes and stretches. The apartment is quiet. Kathryn must still be asleep. Taqaliq walks to the kitchen, puts on a pot of coffee, and slowly goes through the motions of her morning routine, getting ready for a long day at work, and dreading the evening that will follow.
She looks outside and checks her iPhone. The weather app flashes, “Iqaluit – Ice Crystals -34°C Real Feel: -49°C”. She’s glad she remembered to plug in the car last night.
Soon she hears signs of life from down the hall and braces herself for a curt greeting from Kathryn, but instead hears the shower turn on. She takes the chance to change clothes in their bedroom while Kathryn is in the bathroom.
“Morning, Babe,” Taqaliq says as Kathryn comes out into the hall. She receives a cold nod in return. They spend the next half hour getting ready in silence. In the car, Kathryn turns to her with a serious look.
“What, exactly, is the point of all the Inuit and women’s advocacy work that you claim to be so passionate about, if you are just going to ignore the fact that our MP is setting all your work back decades? Are you even going to confront her tonight on any of the shit she’s pulled over the last six years?”
Taqaliq sighs deeply, “Kathryn, we’ve talked about this. It is so much more fucking complicated. She’s practically family. And you know I’m trying to rebuild my relationship with my mother. I’m not going to start a big fight with one of her oldest friends.”
“No, you’re right, your homosexuality pisses her off enough. The person who grew you and raised you, can’t come to terms with your fundamental nature. I can see why you are the one who has to work on that.”
“Jesus Christ! What about your family? What about your racist, homophobic grandmother? I didn’t see you jumping up at Christmas dinner and making a scene to yell at her for her values.”
“Yeah, my 85 year old grandmother isn’t affecting national policy and representing my gender and race on the world stage!”
Taqaliq stops the car abruptly in front of Kathryn’s office, looking straight ahead with her jaw clenched and fists clutching the wheel. Kathryn gets out and slams the door.
* * *
Taqaliq watches miserably as her brother, sister and their cousins dress excitedly in preparation for a night of trick-or-treating. Her fever has finally broken, but the chickenpox are itchier than ever and her mother applies cold calamine lotion. She flinches in anticipation of every touch.
The door opens and Taqaliq’s mother greets her friends as they stomp the snow off of their boots on the porch. They’ve come for an evening of tea and cards. The women fumble with their coats, laughing and chatting in Inuktitut. Leona walks up to Taqaliq with a plastic bag held out.
“Aiin! I remember having chickenpox when I was little; it’s the worst. Pua! I got you some chips and your own bag of candies. Don’t share with anyone—these are just for you.”
She smiles and kisses Taqaliq carefully on a pock-free spot on her forehead.
* * *
The Outlook envelope icon pops up in the bottom of Taqaliq’s screen as she sips the last dredges of her bitter Folgers.
From: Stevenson, Kathryn
Date: Wedneday, January 28, 2015 09:21AM
Subject: FW: Communications OPI
“The Nunavut MP said she is now considering legal action against Rankin Inlet deputy mayor”
“Nunavut’s Member of Parliament suggested that scientific observations were not as important as the Harper government’s priorities in its new role as chair of a group of Arctic nations”
“Prime Minister Harper: ‘there is no history of colonialism in this country.’”
“Environment Minister and Nunavut MP, Leona Aglukkaq, defended the Conservative Government’s record on murdered and missing aboriginal women”
“NEWS: Life on the Margins: Poverty, Fear and Violence for Aboriginal Women”
“Leona Aglukkaq reads newspaper in House during debate about northern food crisis”
There is nothing else in the email, just the slew of old headlines. But Kathryn’s message is clear. Taqaliq’s centre of gravity sinks to the floor. She steps out for a break, to distract herself from her spiraling thoughts. She drives to Northmart to pick up something for dinner at her parent’s place.
As she pulls into the parking lot Taqaliq sees her uncle smoking outside of the grocery store in just a jean jacket, hoodie and beat up leather gloves.
“Anga! You’re gonna get frostbite if you stay outside today, you need a better jacket.”
He hugs her with a big smile, “Hi my ujurukuluk! Your mom invited me for dinner tonight. She fixed up your dad’s old parka for me. You got any coffee money?”
Taqaliq fishes in her purse and finds a five dollar bill.
He sticks his tongue out through the large gap in his front teeth, making her giggle, like he did when she was a girl.
“Stay warm Anga, akuluk.” She kisses him on the cheek and continues into the store to do her shopping.
When Taqaliq returns to the office she is inundated with questions from flustered co-workers about an urgent request from the Director General’s office. She works through lunch to prepare a press-release, eats a cold ham sandwich from the deli downstairs, and hears nothing else from Kathryn for the rest of the day.
At 5 o’clock, exhausted and anxious, without checking in with Kathryn, who had been invited, Taqaliq heads to her parents’ place alone.
When she steps from her vehicle Taqaliq sees her parents sitting with Leona through the window. The biting wind stings her face while she watches them from the settling darkness as they laugh and chat inside the warm, brightly lit house.