June 29, 2004
The two men who had come to the lecture hall were
there to speak about peace. They were from the two countries that
were at war. It happened that the larger
country had attacked the smaller country because there was something there
that it wanted, but okay, let's call it a war.
The old man stood
in line along with hundreds of other people of the city who
had come to hear about peace. The war was halfway around the
were tired of it, even though it did not involve their own country directly.
They were tired of seeing it in their newspaper each day. They were tired
of the pictures of people hurt or killed by bombs and missiles.
The old man was talking to the young man ahead of him in line,
a young man who was black-skinned or brown-skinned or yellow-skinned,
who was from one
places in the world, in other words, that had a little bit of an understanding
of what the smaller country was going through. The old man was telling him
about his life.
It was all right, he was saying. Sure, he was divorced, and
his two sons were divorced too, one in Ohio and one in Rhode
Island, but he played tennis two
times a week, sometimes three. Had his regular group that he'd been playing
years. And he was going to visit the son in Rhode Island this summer. They
were going to take the train together to Montreal. Never'd been there, but'd
it was a nice city. They were going to go see for themselves.
He'd heard about
this thing tonight, the two men speaking together. Thought
he'd come down and hear what they had to say. He was interested
know if it was going to change anything, but he was interested. 'Course
he'd seen a lot of things in his life. But then this one had
been going on for
fifty years now.
The young man listened respectfully. It was good to listen
to the old man while they waited in line because it was moving
very slowly. He didn't know if the
lectures were going to change anything either. But he was glad to have come
tonight because he had not yet been born when his own country had been going
Two young men who were students at the university were walking
among the crowd, passing out flyers. One of them wore the scarf
of the people of the smaller
Most of the people he knew weren't all that interested, the old man was
saying. He wondered about that sometimes, that maybe it was easier just
to not think about the whole thing. He'd known some people like that. Maybe
it was easier.
The young man listened and did not say anything about the people
who did not have a choice whether they could think about it or
not. It was pleasant standing
outside in the evening and listening to an old man who was still wondering
about things like that. It was pleasant when he did not compare it to the
could not afford to do that.
His sons had not been very interested in this stuff. They were
interested in computers. Didn't know what to make of that himself.
Hadn't raised them that
way, just'd turned out like that. Anyway he was divorced now. Guessed it
didn't matter too much.
The students came up to them and held out the flyers. The young
man took one and folded it and put it in his pocket to read later.
It was a flyer with information
about the smaller country of the kind that did not appear in the newspapers.
They held one out for the old man. He shook his head.
"No," he said. "I'm a warmonger."
He was smiling and the young man knew it was a joke. It was
the saddest kind of joking but it was still a joke.
The students did not know what to say. The young man looked
at them and did not know how to tell them that it was a joke,
that the old man was a peacemonger
who did not know what he had to show for being such, and that there was a
feeling in the way he had said it that he wanted to be what he
had something to show
for. Talking to the students, he had the last seventy or seventy-five years
show something for, and in that time there had been war and there had not
been peace at home, at least not the lasting peace.
The one with the scarf spoke up. "Why are you here then?" he said.
"Here?" the old man said. "I'm a warmonger. I'm here to hear about
He smiled at the young man. The young man smiled halfway. He
was wondering if the old man had once been the students. Somehow
they had looked very similar
for a moment, and he figured that the old man probably had not been exactly
same, but that he'd been close. It was a little sad, but at least the old
man was still joking.
There was a feeling among the crowd that what they were going
to see tonight was peace. It was in the way that the speakers
were from the two warring countries
and in how they were not there to debate, but instead to talk about
common goals and how to reach them. The young man participated in it to the
that it was a good feeling to participate in, but he also kept in mind that
just two men talking. He had studied the matter too much to participate fully,
in the form of books he had read and stories he had heard from the elders
of his own family about their country. And he knew how easy it was for the
that had gone through it to keep going through it after they had thought
that they were finished with it.
The line was moving faster and soon they
were standing inside. It was bright
and they could see the people filing into the lecture hall and taking their
seats. It was looking like a place where something was going to get done.
The old man
"Look at all this," he said. "This is great, this is great." He
was talking to the young man and to anybody else who would hear. He gave his
ticket to the woman at the desk. Just before he went into the room, he turned
to the young man and said,"What do you think? Maybe this is it, huh? Maybe
this is it."
The young man looked at him and thought he looked like a kid,
and could not disappoint him same as he could not disappoint
"Maybe it is," he said.
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