True Stories

Random memories mesh together to create a character. This one happens to be real; a 26-year-old Israeli boy studying film in NYC. (As with anything, it's best to start at the beginning. Go to the archives...) Copyright 2006

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

A true story about people and god

One of the few rewards that accompanied the rank of sergeant was a slightly lighter load of guard duties and an upgrade to the gate post. Unlike many army rules and regulations this one actually made sense both for the base and its weary sergeants; two years into their service they were preferred over youngsters for manning the gate since their time on the base had rendered most faces familiar, and by then they were usually sick of the extended isolation of guard towers and enjoyed the way human interaction helped pass the time.

Two soldiers were needed to man the electric gates leading in and out of the base. When incoming and outgoing traffic died down to a slow hum the two soldiers would meet midway and talk; conversation was a luxury when it came to guard duty. During the days when I was at the gate my bored
soldier would come out and spend time with me and whomever I’d been paired up with. He wasn't officially allowed to hang out at the gate but he couldn't really be caught either, since he could always claim he'd just been passing through. As his commander I could always corroborate his story and say he'd been sent out of the base on some mission or other. And so my guard duties were often shared by him, even on the hottest of days.

On one of these scorching hot summer days, as sweat-spiders crawled down my back under my battle-vest and dripped into a pool in my underwear, I complained to my soldier about the long painful stretch of last days. I was closer than ever to freedom, but angrier and more miserable than I’d ever been before. The sergeant I was paired up with for the shift was a religious fellow, and he hopped up and ran over when he heard my ranting. "What choices do we have?" I spat. "We can either let go and lose years of our lives, or open our eyes and mouths and wade through the shit and let it fill our stomachs. What is this? This isn’t life." My soldier laughed.

The religious sergeant questioned me about the quality of my faith. My soldier grinned, expecting to hear my cynical response. I let him down with a shrug; it was just too hot to argue any point except for misery. The religious sergeant would not let go. He pulled out his cellphone in broad daylight during our shift and dialed his brother, who was an ultra orthodox Yeshiva student.

After a few discreet words with his brother he handed me the phone and I could not say no. My soldier smiled at me.
“So.” A deep voice spoke to me over the phone. “You don’t believe in god?”
“I don’t know.” I said, apologetically. I was strangely void of any fear of being caught breaking the rules with a phone in my hand.
“Where did you come from?” He asked.
“I don’t know.” I admitted. “I don’t have the answer to that one. I’m just a twenty year old kid, that question’s too big for me.”
“Ah.” He said. “But you’re searching for the answer?”
“I don’t believe anybody has the answer.”
“So you’re not searching for it?”
“No, I’m not searching for it.”
“Ah.” He said. “Alright. Well, when you start searching for the answer, you’ll understand.”
“Okay. Here, here’s your brother.”

I handed the phone back to the religious sergeant, whose face glowed in childlike anticipation. “So, what did he say to you?”
“He convinced me.” I nodded solemnly.

The religious sergeant reciprocated my nod, and my soldier laughed. The religious sergeant, who was obviously dimwitted, laughed along with him. I'd spent enough hours in guard towers, alone except for that possible presence of god, to appreciate the sound of other people. It was all so meaningless that it made me perfectly cool and happy.


  • At 8:58 PM, Blogger Mistress Regina said…

    Have you ever listened to any John Prine music? He has some very interesting songs related to whatever form that entity may take.

    I was pleased to find your comment related to the link exchange. I will be adding a link to your site now.

    About your friends, I understand about people not wanting to comment. Should there be any mention, we DO accept Anonymous comments. So they needn't be shy.

    Will look forward to working with you.


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