Monday, June 25, 2007

No 3: Peaceful

The taxi is a sacred space, the windshield a lens into the unseen. The driver steers his car like an over-sized planchette revealing the truth to all who ride. Sixty hours a week he journeys with or without direction, venturing forward nonetheless. From my seat the confinement looks like freedom, the regimen appears timeless and the isolation is a connection to the world.

He is a heavy-set man whose silhouette exposes a history of resistance and fearsome will. I sense his body is in a constant state of recovery. He is different from the others. He is a clear and simple spirit. He was a soldier in the Afghani army. He fought the Russians. “Hello my brother”, he said as I tried to get comfortable in my seat.

Conversation about his geography and mine quickly evolved into an exchange of trust - he appreciated my sincerity and I his gentle honesty. “What is war like? What does it feel like?” I inquired of my friend. He described a life that he grew painfully accustomed to. “You never knew if someone would break your door down in the middle of the night. They didn’t know my country.” Then he spoke in his own way, “…my brother, I have peace now.” I paused to enjoy the calm in his words and I felt compelled to mention, “You know you’re the first person I have ever met who uses the word peace so often in a conversation”. He replied without hesitation “I have a roof, a job and safety for my little daughter and you see this $20 I respect it” He rubbed the paper between his thumb and forefinger as a farmer would the soil.

It was dark leaving the cab, and we shook hands when I noticed the touch of his skin was course and his hand was disfigured. Now that I could see beyond his rear view mirror it was evident he had been severely burned in the past. The sinewy texture of repaired skin on his face, taut and shiny beyond the collar of his t-shirt, screamed of an unimaginable trauma, something we did not talk about. “Peace my brother”, he said finally. It struck me as the car door slammed and we parted, how incomprehensible it is that a man who had suffered as he did could be so content and forgiving. How could this be?

I realized later that my need for justice would never be satisfied and that I would never change.

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