The following are some of the best internet pics sent to me this week by my assortment of mad friends. Yes Mom… only the clean ones.
Schools across Asia have these guard stations beside the front gates where older men in uniform sit and read the newspaper and swat at mosquitoes nipping the backs of their necks and buzzing people in and out. They’re good friends to make. Easy to bribe with a cup of 7-Eleven coffee or a box of wrapped mangoes. At my old school I befriended such a gentlemen, his English name was Hope.
Hope is a man in his early fifties, divorced with a young son about Kinu’s age. He washes the buses after coming off the graveyard shift. Standing with a garden hose, scurrying around whenever the gangsters in black Mercedes would drop by the school and demand to be let inside. We talked almost every morning for over a year in the cool breezes of the causeways. Usually Asian people just use me to practice their English, but Hope had ideas.
He was always asking about writers, and specifically writers who were philosophers: Kant and Camus, Sartre and Kierkegaard, and I would tell him about camping out on the floor of the university library and scribbling in the margins of Being and Nothingness or underlying passages from The Age of Reason or Fear and Trembling. He loved that I read The Plague in high school and The Sickness Unto Death in college and longed to have an American education. In fact, he longed for many things, he said. Mostly, he just wanted to live again and correct all the mistakes he had made in his life. Hope thought that books would show him how.
Then…well, you know how these things go. Months pass and you’re living your life, worried about the pity farcical things you need to worry about. Until one day there was this female teacher in the school. I didn’t know her very well. We’d met in passing maybe once or twice. She was bland and sweet and had the correct amount of holiday sweaters any elementary teacher should have. I’d been in her classroom a few times and commented on her posters of student work. She was about twenty-five and just starting out, unmarried but had a boyfriend and they were getting serious. Talking to her was sweet.
Then I heard she got sick. After school one day she complained of a headache, went to a doctor the next day and they ran tests, found out she had a brain tumor, and within a month she was dead.
The thing is, that for over a year, nobody had any idea that Hope was this woman’s father. That he had taken a job at the school just to be close to her, to reconcile leaving her as a child. Nobody knew until she died, and only then the stories started trickling out.
It just reminded me of everything I like about the world that can never be contained in 140 characters. The goodness of people who want to do right. A man’s need to reconcile with his past. How empty and sad the world is except for when you know one person who is just and true… and if that person is faithful to you, as a friend or a love, faithful through years of unknowing and doubt… that’s something to feel good about. I think!