I'm not raising my glass to anyone that anybody wouldn't raise a glass to if they knew their real story
August 1, 2006
Everybody else would go out drinking, and as the alcohol mixed with what was already inside them, their feelings would come out either toward the women in the bar in a loving way or toward the men in the bar in a fighting way, but for Saman Sayrafianpour, those feelings would come out to all revolutionaries everywhere, in a comradely way, so that when they went to a place out in the Avenues, some time a little after midnight, he would raise a glass to Michael Collins, and the Irishmen in there would wonder if this was some kind of mockery, but not for very long because they could see the sincerity on his face, which was a drunken sincerity, but sincerity nonetheless. Nobody would touch him because it was clear that there was a revolution going on inside him, the whole story of it, with the question of the use of violence, the effort to win the respect of the common people, the struggle of what the true meaning of freedom was, and it was the same thing when they went to the Mission District, to one of the Mexican places, with Emiliano Zapata, or when they went to one of the Vietnamese restaurants, with Ho Chi Minh. He would drink and then he would want the people in there to know that Ireland and Mexico and Vietnam were foremost in his mind, and Collins and Zapata and Ho were foremost within that, because they were the ones who made the distance between him and those places into nothing. They were the ones who helped to make the distance between him and his own country of Iran into nothing, because his own grandfather had been one of them, his grandfather had been one of them in stories, not in real life to him because he had been put before a firing squad before Saman was born, it had only been in stories his father had told him, and sometimes at his worst, when he came back down from the revolution, he almost wished that he didn't know the stories, he almost wished he didn't know them because they were so far and so near at once, stories of torture and execution, not as anything melodramatic, but as something that men did to other men, and he wanted to turn to the fellow next to him at the bar and say, "My grandfather was a political prisoner. My father owns a laundromat. What does that make me?" Though he knew the answer - "It makes me drunk. It makes me drunk for right now, but tomorrow morning I will go to the library and I will get a book about Michael Collins or Emiliano Zapata or Ho Chi Minh, and at the moment that I begin the book, I will have the cleanest purpose of anyone in the city. Even at the moment that I walk out of the library holding the book, I'll have the cleanest purpose of anyone. A toast in a bar is good, but I'll show them that I have something more than just alcohol. Maybe they think that that's all this is. Maybe they think I'm going to wake up tomorrow and forget about those guys. As if it were possible to look at the world and forget about them, as if I didn't see them when I looked at people in the street, because that's who they were doing it for, as if that wasn't who my own grandfather was doing it for, and as if that wasn't who I was reading it for. And I don't know where the reading will get me, but it's a hell of a lot better than anything else being the thing that connects me to everybody in the street, because they love those guys too even if they've never heard of them. They love bravery, don't they? And they love honesty, don't they? Well then. I'm not raising my glass to anyone that anybody wouldn't raise a glass to if they knew their real story. They can think that it's just alcohol all they want. They don't know what I will be waking up with tomorrow." And he would make one last request before another day of seeing everybody on the street came to an end, and the important thing about the request was making it, not whether anybody joined him in it or not, because he believed that they joined him somewhere inside themselves, just by being alive, just by being alive and coming into a place with people, which seemed like as comradely a thing to do as anything, and as much the beginning of something as an end.