Thursday, February 20, 2014


The story had started out simply enough. A friend of mine was telling me of having gone home to visit her parents, an intercontinental journey that required planes, trains and automobiles to complete. She was still a day's travel away, she told me, when the accident occurred. The way she explained it, it was sudden, and severe. The sort of accident where your first inkling that something is wrong is the sound of squealing rubber and rending metal, and by the time you understand just what is happening, it's all over. The sort of accident where the line between walking away unscathed and being borne away in a body bag is narrower than you care to realize.

When she arrived home, and told her friends about her trip, and the close call that she'd survived while making it, they told her that "he" must have been responsible for the accident. Even though "he" had died several years before. It's his ghost, they told her. He wants to be with you, they said, so he's trying to kill you, so that you can finally be together.

The last time they'd seen each other, they were in school together. They'd encountered one another in the morning, spoke, and then parted ways, promising to speak again that evening. By the time she'd found him at the end of the day, rushed to his side by friends who'd been frantically searching for her, he'd bled to death. They'd gone their separate ways to participate in anti-government protests, and sometime that afternoon, he'd been shot. When she said her last good-byes to him, she knew how he had died. What she hadn't known was that he had loved her. He'd never told her. And until then, their mutual friends had kept his secret. Her tale complete, we lapsed into silence for a time.

I remembered the protests she'd spoken of. I'd been a student myself at the time. We'd seen them on television. From our vantage point, they seemed like a lost cause. "Oh, those poor, poor fools," I'd said aloud, to murmured agreement. It was my one clear memory of how I had reacted to the news. It hadn't occurred to me that I would ever be relating it to one of the participants.

This story comes back to me with every new protest movement that slides into violence and chaos. And every time, I remember the hopelessness and the courage that leads people to fight, and die, for something they believe in. And I wonder, when the violence subsides and some normality is restored - how many more ghosts, lonely and bereft, will there be?

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