Tuesday, November 11, 2008

After Candlelight Vigil

Tonight we were three. Franklin Pham, Michael Walsh, and myself. Plus Michael’s two dogs.

We held a candlelight vigil. Said prayers. Took pictures. Fell quiet. Spoke to a homeless man who was a veteran back in 1983, and an old wandering woman. Two passing workers on their way home also took flyers.

As the moment’s ticked by, I felt a strange pressure building up inside me. When I said the Lord’s Prayer, my voice halted after, “Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” For some reason, I couldn’t go on. I was very calm, yet very caught up in a sense of pressure. My back felt all tight, as if I was carrying a great weight. I began to grow emotional. It wasn’t precisely sadness. It was some immense lacking. I suppose, if it was a fictional movie, I would have felt a “disturbance in the Force.” Yet it was a real night in Mountain View. Two candles burned at the bottom of a flagpole. Our flyer was laid out beside it, reflected barely in the low light.

We retired to Michael’s to eat a late-night meal. In the quiet conversation, Franklin just told me of a friend’s father who died in Bosnia. He died in service as a UN Peacekeeper when his vehicle went off the road into a ravine.

Michael and Franklin are discussing matters quietly in French. If I close my eyes, it could sound like a discussion between two soldiers in the pre-dawn of the trenches. Tonight, though, we are inside and warm. We have eaten well. After reading the sections of “All Quiet on the Western Front,” it is apparent to me we are not as deprived and hungry as the troops of that war. Yet the soft French, mostly alien and inscrutable to me, is transformative. Every now and then I can make out a few words. “Machine de guerre.” Thus 1918 and 2008 sound suddenly one and the same.

It is 4:45 AM. My colleagues shall get a few hours’ sleep and then set up for the morning at Rengstorff Park. For me? There is more to do before the dawn.

Good night to all.


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