The New Man

A young woman made a space available inside herself for the New Man


The New Man
by siamak vossoughi

The New Man sat over the proceedings like a kind and friendly ghost, like somebody who was not only new but also old, because of how the people were like children before him.  And maybe he was old, because the thing they were there to talk about fighting, the thing that the man whose face was on the tee-shirts had fought, the face that was staring at all of beauty and tragedy at once, which everybody in the room was staring at too, even if they didn't do it all the time like he did - that thing that they were all against could seem like it was what was new sometimes.  It had been growing over their lives, for one thing, or trying to at least.  And it knew how to present itself with a shine and sparkle of the kind that wasn't there in the room, with its plain walls and plain chairs and plain food and plain clothes on the people, though there was a different kind of shine and sparkle in there, one that came out slowly and broadly and deeply.

The New Man sat and listened along with everyone else as the speaker spoke of the man whose face was on the tee-shirts, how he had not wanted his struggle to be a struggle of death, he had wanted it to be a struggle of life, he had wanted it to be so much a struggle of life that one small country had not been enough for him, one large continent had not been enough for him, it had taken the thought of a whole new man to be enough for him, one who stared at all of beauty and tragedy at once, and who said that whatever was to come was in his hands.  The New Man sat and nodded, and the people felt him nodding.

A young woman who had just graduated from college made a space available inside herself for the New Man, but she did it begrudgingly, because of how it was the man again same as always, and she was beginning to feel more and more that it was a new woman who was going to have to come along for the world to be what it could be.  She didn't even know what it could be, but she still knew that.  And she didn't intend for the new woman to be walking alongside the New Man.  She would be leading sometimes and he would be leading sometimes and sometimes both of them would be and sometimes neither.  What she felt begrudging about was the way the story was already about him before anything had even happened yet.  And even a great man like him hadn't looked around and said, what can I already learn from women and what they have already been doing before I go off making declarations about the New Man.  As far as she knew at least.  As far as the story was told.  And she could hear the voices of men saying, this isn't a matter of 'what can I learn from,' this is a matter of guns and bullets.  And she said to them, who made it a matter of guns and bullets?  I am just as unafraid of guns and bullets as you, but I know how to be unafraid without letting my own language be the language of guns and bullets.  Be glad that I am making a space inside myself for the New Man.  Be glad, and make a space inside yourself for the knowledge that I knew the New Man before he knew himself.

A middle-aged man who had come to the place by himself and would be going home by himself bowed his head as he listened and thought of how much he had lost on account of the New Man.  He had lost a family and friends.  He had lost a country and a sense of home.  And still he felt a great gratitude towards the New Man, as he thought of how much worse it would have been if he had never known him, if he had never known the need for him, if he had never known that he had a right to believe in the need for him.  He could have been like all those men he had worked side-by-side with who had found a new man in a bottle each night for years.  He didn't know if it was pride or sorrow that kept them away from rooms like this, but he wished they could see how it was, how it didn't matter if the room was full or if there was just a couple of people, either way there was a newness there that was something lasting, not something to wake up with a headache with the next day.  And he couldn't shake the feeling that all those he had lost, people and countries, were going to be among the last to know.  They were going to be the last to know about the New Man, and in a way he was one of them and in a way he was not.  But he knew that when he listened to talk of him, he felt like he was on a bridge to somewhere.  He couldn't tell where the bridge was going, but he knew that he had left the place where he was and that he had an honest view of the world that a man could have from up there.

An elderly woman sitting in the back smiled and felt very happy during the whole of the speech.  She felt a great affection for the New Man, without a concern for the specifics of his presence or lack thereof.  He had come and he hadn't come at all.  The whole thing was poetry to her either way.  It was beautiful to have lived as long as she had and walk into a place where poetry was at hand like that.  It was beautiful to see all the different people there and to think of them engaged in the same efforts that she had been engaged in.  She felt good about what she had achieved in her own life, and she felt glad to still have some people to remember those days with, not for the remembering itself, but for the being who she was.  It had gotten easier as she had gotten older to be who she was, and she knew that that was not necessarily how it always was.  It could have gotten harder, and if she had not been thinking of the New Man, it would have been.  If she had turned away from the world, and tried to see only what she had to see, she would never have even known who she was, and she could listen to the speaker now and silently thank the New Man and not miss a word.

The young man listening and thinking of his father was a writer, and being a writer, he thought of a book.  It was a book written by the man whose face was on the tee-shirts, and it was a book of poetry and a book about guns and bullets.  His father had found it and secretly brought it into their country, at a time when the book was against the law to have.  I would like to write something like that, he thought, something that a man would be willing to risk his liberty to have.  And if I wrote it, it would have the same elements that that book had.  I would have to go to the same places as a writer that a revolutionary went to when he went to guerrilla warfare.  Which was why it was beautiful to sit there and listen to talk of the New Man and think of his father, but it was a beauty that he would have to keep going on his own somehow when the talk ended and everyone went back out to the street.

The talk ended and everyone went back out to the street, where it was the same old Man, the same old Man on a Saturday night, which meant heights and depths, and same as always, he looked new among the heights and old among the depths, but the people coming out of the room were carrying something that could see past that as well.  They were carrying the New Man as well, and whether he was actually New or Old, they were carrying him like a friend.  The young woman and the middle-aged man and the elderly woman felt the night become a little more their own, and the young man who was a writer felt it become a little more his own, though he felt it become a little less his own too, as he looked around and thought of everyone he would never know, everyone who was trying just as hard as he was, whether they were writers or not, whether they were revolutionaries or not, and he only knew that he needed them, he needed every single one of them, seen or unseen, known or unknown, because he could not be himself without them, he could not be who he was without them, and he still had great respect and admiration for the New Man, but he was also trying to have great respect and admiration for himself.

Ernesto "Che" Guevara, he said, I love you, and I love my father, and I love the New Man, but I have to love the old one in front of me.  I have to love him even if it means walking down the street by myself again in order to do it.  It may mean that I won't be making any new systems of government or economics or even society, but I will still be telling man something new about himself, and in that, I am with you, I am with your being willing to die for the New Man, and I am with my father and his being willing to die for him too, and anybody can look at me and say - what are you talking about, being willing to die when all you are doing is walking down the street and going home and writing stories about it? - and all I can tell you is that I love him too, I love whoever is saying that too, because of the way that he fits into the world in front of me, which is the only one I have, and I can't live believing that there are those whose lives ending in that world I should be seeking, in order to make a better one.  Ernesto "Che" Guevara, I believe in the truth of your fight and I love you, but I see the New Man everywhere I look, I see him everywhere in the old one, otherwise I wouldn't be a writer, I wouldn't be trying to tell him each day that I see him, that he is the hardest-working and longest-suffering man I have ever seen, and if he is willing to listen, I think some good will come of that.

Upstairs the New Man stayed until everyone had left, and he was about to leave himself when the woman who swept up came in and went to work.  He sat back down and watched her, and when he saw the necklace she wore around her neck, he knew that if there was any presence that was there in the room with her, it wasn't him.  It wasn't him, but that was all right, he didn't feel the slightest bit insulted, and he felt only a great respect and admiration for how she worked.  He watched as she picked up a flyer with a picture of the face on it.  He watched her stare at the picture, thinking of the man, who was from the same part of the world as she was, and feeling very proud of him, and he watched her be unable to throw it away, putting it in her pocket instead to do something big with it later.


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