"There she is!"
I look up. I thought I was alone. Just me in the WWII Memorial, a quiet corner filled with names of Oregonians who have perished. I like to rub my fingers across their names wondering about them and their mothers.
"Go ahead, take our picture, bitch!"
Uh oh. I come here a few times a year. Usually on a run, but today I am on bike. Mainly, because I knew I may need to make a quick getaway. I'm conspicuous on my sweet red ebike, flashy orange rain coat, and my favorite Nutcase helmet. I do not belong.
"It's your right. You don't have to hide. Take our picture, traitor!"
There they are. Big guns and pits on short leash. Armored and helmeted. One holds a Trump flag. They are coming closer and then stop to yell more. I am definitely not hiding. I am holding an entire corner. This is my city. My home. My softness baiting them.
I shout through my mask, "come talk to me" motioning toward my heart.
And one does. With a dog and a rifle to make sure I'm not a trap for a more strategic move. The remaining men stand guard.
"Did you actually have a conversation?" My friend asks me later. I close my eyes trying to find the words to explain. I see them all. Their eyes, angry. Their words, soundbytes. Swinging bats, guns, and signs. Words I know, but a sequence I can't comprehend. A profound poverty of experience, economics, and intellect. The puffery of bullies.
A swath of humanity lost in time. Rudderless. Dangerous.
Where did the cycle begin? How did it compound so quickly?
I see something else. My grandfather. My father. My brother. Yes, I see the generations that time left behind. But mostly I see my father.
Here is the image: my father, Harry, his blue uniformed legs, a scissor kicking hustle. Swift twitches up and down the aisles of his dusty empire.
As a child, he was kidnapped by his mother while on a drinking binge and left at a boys home in the middle of the Mojave Desert where he was beaten and ridiculed until his father found him several years later. His education was left uncompleted and he was on his own by his 14th birthday. His first jobs as a teenager involved used tires and scrap metals. He dreams of having something that is his alone. His. His. His. This dream is realized with the purchase of his junkyard in the middle of the Californian high desert. At first, it's okay. The heavy and hustle yields a life for his family. The thrill of ownership yields pride. But the world becomes more complicated; cars and business become computerized. The darkness of the unknown begins its slow suffocation. The words can't be read. The money can't be made. The purpose dwindles. So he works harder, but sometimes the more you act, the less you accomplish. And then all is lost. And the generation that follows picks and pulls on the remaining threads.
"Yes, we spoke." I whisper, knowing that I won't be able to share what I see. That I've seen this over and over and over again as lives have been lost to ignorance and desperation.
All the stories.
They come to this.
This inflection point.
I can hardly stand it.
I can't stand it.
I can't stand for it.
I'd go back. And never let you go.
I put you on repeat.
"Please come to me." I motion to my heart.