Late Spring. 1971. I had departed Hong Kong and India less than three weeks earlier and after meeting someone who thought they knew me (in fact, they did know my name), it felt rather strange. It was like what I had read about parallel reality. I thought one of me was enough.
Weeks later. I was a passenger looking out the window of a bus. I noticed two jeep like vehicles pull alongside. One vehicle then pulled in front and forced the bus to stop. The second vehicle slowed and stopped behind the bus. A small group of armed men emerged from the vehicles. One of the men ordered the driver to open the door. The driver and the rest of us stepped down and out of the bus. We were then lined up next to the bus. We were asked to see our passports. Two of the passengers were taken aside. I was approached as was the man of Lebanese descent standing next to me with whom I’d been sitting with on the bus. He spoke to the interrogator. For whatever reason he and I and a woman were let go. As we were walking away cracking sounds broke the air. My body jerked. We kept walking. I glanced back. Small pools of blood formed near two passenger’s heads on the ground. One of the armed men saw me look. He motioned just to keep walking. We did. I never knew why or who or what it was about or what happened to the other passengers. We kept walking towards the next village as the woman walked away in a different direction.
“How was travels in India?” My new friend asked. I recalled the pungent aromas, the heat, the smiles, a conversation with an older woman in her 70’s who had met Gandhi when she was a young woman. He nodded, we talked and after an hour or so parted ways at a crossroad, and I eventually made it into Israel.
A few nights later I was staying at a Catholic youth hostel located in the Old City of Jerusalem. I was laying on a cot like bed. A window high on the wall was open. I was one of three people staying there that night. It was still dark when I was awakened by a distant sound. What century was it my mind asked? I recalled events and people of the past days, weeks, and years. Within an hour I heard a voice – “are you the one that arrived yesterday?”
I looked up at the man near the doorway. I nodded. He said, “Good!” and then departed. I laid my head back.
Who believes experiences outside their own context? Life is an individual interpretation. Later in time after trekking through other parts of the Middle East and Europe I was back in the United States – from academia to work to family, to separations, deaths, agony, love, and intimacy…from odd factory jobs, newspaper writing, to library administration and teaching to consulting, more treks and publishing this e-journal.
My existence has not been sedate. Though real, all has felt existential and surreal. I have been a seeker and became a philosophical libertine who has come to enjoy fine wine, writing, painting and experiencing life. In the process I have come to detest violence in all its forms – from seeing it to experiencing it. There is something extremely primitive – intellectually, and emotionally debilitating about it – an internal sickness and angst. Violence is not romantic. To experience a hostility is different than watching it through the filters of television. One only sees what the camera shows. There’s always more to any story. Merely existing is to struggle amid the absurdities.
I must note – my life to date was not part of the script that I began envisioning as a youth. Still, it’s the only script that I have at present.
How does one write an intriguing memoir? I started and restarted years ago. The canvas of my life has appeared more abstract than real, yet nearing the end. It’s not a tell all. It’s a metaphor and interpretation.