There was once a guy who ran away from home to join the army. He had been 17 and disoriented, thin and short, not quite a man, but not a kid either. The last time he had ran away, some restaurant owner who had heard his description on the radio, recognized him and called his family. Once 17 and in the army, his family no longer had any control over him, and he celebrated his freedom by requesting to be transferred to the most remote port in the country—he had bribed some minor officer with a big mustache to make the transfer possible.
He had a third cousin who lived in the port. The third cousin, a former landowner, had lost all of his land to gambling, or land reform, or some such, and had run away from creditors to the port a few years earlier in the hope of starting anew. The port was secluded, far away, barely habitable. The meeting point of the sea, the desert, and the sky. Surrounded by barren land on three sides for miles on end; sheltered by a deep blue sky that rarely saw the trace of a cloud; overlooking a sea that was sometimes welcoming and kind, and sometimes mean and angry; and the heat, categorically unforgiving. Summer lasted from March to October with three digit temperatures everyday. Humid heat made breathing feel like a chore.
Even though the port was right on the water, water, drinkable water, was scarce. Trees and earth kept wondering when there would be rain, and clouds did clutter the sky on occasion, but rain rarely materialized. It rained once or twice a year, and when it did, it literally poured. Menopausal earth was too dry, too leathery, to absorb the gift, and the heavenly father protested the rejection by flooding streets, alleys, basements, shacks. If there is a hell, this was probably it—and this hell, too, was a haven for the misfit, the runaway, and the hiding. And when in a few years there were too many people to fit in the port, and when because of the new factories that were being built in the area, the air quality started getting bad, people moved further up the road to the town.
With the building of the town, the port now had enough room for everyone—and it welcomed anyone who had nowhere else to go. This is where they were granted a new self and a new past. They were put in charge of their destiny.
The legend was that in the older days in this land no mistake was permanent, and that every one could go back in time and correct mistakes—and some would tell you that the port still had the same magic powers. To this day crimes were forgiven easily, and friends were made of die hard enemies every day. If you wanted something, all you needed to do was hope for it, and every wish was granted. And no one ever wished for anything complicated.
The third cousin wanted peace and anonymity, and the guy wanted distance from his family. This is how the third cousin, the former landowner, became a small time employee of a transportation company which he would eventually own, and the guy, the former runaway kid, became a professional soldier. He married the teenage daughter of the former landowner, my mother, five years after he moved to the port, and he became my father. I called him Father, not just because he impregnated my mother four times: he was fatherly to the core. Everyone, even people of his father’s age and the children he coached in soccer, called him Father. I have never liked sharing my father with others, but he was a father to anyone who needed a father, and that simply meant everyone. In a different life he may have been a world leader or the founder of a republic, but in the life I lived with him he was just a simple man.