Thursday, January 13, 2011


By: N. Boat

As I look up into the sky today it looks much like the slate boards that I once washed with water and a sponge after the school day ended and my students left to return to their parent’s homes, the rosy cheeked boys anxious to once again go out into the streets to play, as boys do all over the world.

This dark sky that I look up into now pushes down into the pavement, and in turn the pavement reflects the metal color back up, creating the dour prison that surrounds me and the vehicle that I drive for miles around this city day after day, week after week, a prison that matches my mood today exactly.

The school room that I now see through my minds eye no longer exists, it was destroyed, my Mother says; the school shattered just as my brother lays shattered in the medical ward in the hills outside of the war ravaged city of Beruit where he and I were raised.

Feelings of helplessness overwhelm me, “Mother, I cry, I want to hold you in my arms again and alleviate your fears, brother I want to make you whole again, give you your sight back, let you walk in the clean air once again as we did as children.” Unfortunately, the only thing I can hold in my hands this day is this hard steering wheel and the only thing I can alleviate is some of the hunger you feel with money sent home every month.

Those strangers who set in my backseat day after day look at me with angry eyes when they read the letters that make up my name. They then turn their heads and pretend I do not exist in their life. If I do not exist, then my world, my mother, my brother, also do not exist. For those strangers this world, the world that I know so well, is only real to them on the ten o’clock news, which they can turn off with a flick of a switch. Wouldn’t the world be a wonderful place if we could just turn off the wars, the conflicts, and the hatreds with a flick of that same switch?

A car door slams and the vision of my war-ravished city vanishes from my mind, and in a flash the gray prison returns to engulf me as I steel myself for the hatred and anger that I suspect I will see setting behind me.

I look into my rear view mirror expecting once again to see the hardened faces, eyes that turn away, lips tightened into a grim line, instead I am blinded by a light as bright as sunshine, eyes that smile at me, a soft voice that asks questions of my family, “where are you from, is your family there, are they okay, are they safe? I have a family also, children, a husband, brothers and sisters, people I love too.” A face filled with concern, and something else, a look that I can’t quite read.

I tell this face of sunshine “you know, in my Country a Muslim man and a Christian woman could not have this conversation.” As I look into the mirror once again I see a look on her face that tells me that what we are talking about, this dialog, is much too important not to continue in spite of our differences. This may just be the most important conversation either of us will have in a long time, maybe in our lifetime.

As our discussion continues, even as the meter runs, gentle questions are still asked, questions from the heart.

Finally the door opens and sunshine exits my taxicab. As I start to pull away from the curb there is a tap on the window. “Just one more thing, this ray of sunshine says, I will pray for you, your family, your country, and for the end to this war.”

Sunshine was shining in my rearview mirror today, and the world is a better place for it.

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