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a peaceful protest

I was 16, and the thought of being forced to mention God as part of the pledge of allegiance was too hypocritical an act for me to play along with. Each day of high school began with this mundane recitation, as most people just stood with their hand jutting from a hip, the other dangling across their chest as they counted out the seconds until they could sit back down. They leaned against desks, and talked through it about what party and where it would be, if there would be a keg or a bonfire in the woods. I recited the words, omitting the "under God" part as a sort of half-baked protest. I was raised to flaunt my family's ramshackle atheism, as a choice of smug pride. We knew better, was the prevailing logic.

But one day, I could not stand and say any of it. It felt so rote, so hollow, so devoid of choice. There was no law that said I was required to say it. I knew this was my right, a form of free speech. My homeroom teacher was a legendary drinker, a trash-talking re…

directions


When someone in the street asks for directions I gauge them quickly. When they ask with open, desperate faces I want to believe they want to know which way to go. But, there are some people that use this as a test to see if you are kind, open, if you are trusting. They use this as the first step. There are times when I do not stop, just shaking my head and feeling terrible for judging them but at the same time I have a family and cannot be a fool.

Two times this week people asked me for directions, like most of the weeks in my entire life. In Italy, in New York, in Moscow I seem to bear an invisible badge that suggests I know where places are, and can explain how to find them. So often, this is beyond me but the situation presents itself like a fast moving clock, banging away on every hour.

The first was a woman on a side street close to our apartment, her hands held out as she spoke asking how to get to the metro which is not close. I was with E, and she looked up at me as she always does when I tell people how to get somewhere, with this combination of laughter at my bad Russian and a strange calm as I told them about landmarks, about the simplest way to find the place not using rights and lefts but numbers of buses.

"Just stand here and wait for #20, or walk that way and cross the big street and wait for #11."

The second was a man asking how to get to Park Pobeda on a Sunday afternoon. I asked to make sure this was where he wanted to go because it was quite far from the center. We were less than a kilometer from the White House and could see it from where we stood if the air was not full of mist and snowflakes. I explained to him it was far, and how he should go back towards the big metro behind us. He stared at me with a blank look on his face, like a doctor with test results he does not want to share. I wondered, maybe he did not understand me. I tried to explain things a different way, taking out my phone to show him how to get there on an actual map.

"No, no thank you." The man said, resting a hand on my shoulder in one gentle act. "I'll take a taxi."

He walks away, in front of me because we are both going in the same direction on the same street. I drag my feet under me to create some space. He is not poor. He wears a European man purse snapped to his belt that slaps against him as he makes his way. I think he can afford a taxi. He walks in front of me for some time and at least he is going in the right direction I tell myself.

Comments

liv said…
His brain was probably saying "what? what? what?" I am close to that.
I would be the woman looking lost and on the verge of tears ... no, not really, but I would think you were very approachable...because of E. Hoping you would both say "maybe we should invite her home for tea?"
Hello, I am David Alan Binder and I would appreciate your professional opinion of my website at:
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