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Joseph E Bird

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friendship

An Iraqi, an Iranian, an Italian, and two Americans.

Not the beginning of a joke.

Not the beginning of a tragic story.

Not the beginning of a world-changing summit.

Just strangers meeting in an Italian coffee shop in West Virginia, of all places.

Joe and Gloria, the Americans, trying gelato for the first time. They take their little dessert cups to the sunroom and wait for their coffee. It’s a cozy little room with seating that’s just right to encourage conversation, even with people you don’t know.

Enter Nadia and Ester. Young ladies in their twenties. We exchange hellos and other pleasantries.

Ester is outgoing; Nadia a little more quiet.

Gloria is outgoing; Joe a little more quiet.

So Ester and Gloria talk. Ester says she will soon begin working at the Italian coffee shop we are now in. Gloria inquires about her accent. Persian, she says, but everyone thinks she’s Italian because she currently works at a local pizzeria. She is from Iran. Nadia is from Iraq. They’ve been in the United States a few years, each coming under different circumstances. They met here and became friends.

Gradually, Joe and Nadia enter the conversation. They all talk about language (Farsi, Arabic, English, and Mandarin), they talk about work, they talk about coffee. They don’t talk about politics.

Until Roberto walks into the room. He can’t help himself. He owns this coffee shop and has worked hard to make it a success. He’s a successful business person. He’s a nice guy and is very, very outgoing. And he has a heart for the less fortunate. He expresses his heart in terms of worldwide political and economic philosophies.

The others listen, the others being the Iranian, the Iraqi, and the two Americans. Geopolitics is beyond their realm of understanding, really. What countries do is beyond their control. They speak of respect for individuals and love and taking care of your neighbor in need. That’s all.

Ester says she is blessed to be in America. Joe says America is blessed to have her.

Roberto would have gone on all night, spirited man that he is. But it’s time to go. Roberto is very pleased with the international exchange that has just occurred. Everyone seems pleased. There are smiles all around. Nadia gives Gloria a hug.

We’re different. We’re the same. We have different perspectives, but we all want the same thing.

Just to live a life with meaning.

This is what the world should be.


Editor’s Note:  This is a true story.  The names have been changed to respect privacy.

my friend, Chuck

The Gang
chuck, first row, far right.  me, back row, center.  so many years ago.

i’m a kid
riding my bike
near my house
and another kid
rides up and says
Hi.
I’m Chuck.

so many years ago.

i’m a teenager
riding in that
unbelievable green
GTO convertible
with Chuck driving
his father’s car
singing old Black Water.

so many years ago.

i’m in college
rooming with Chuck
and he’s up all night
recording music
on his reel-to-reel
driving me crazy
because he’s Chuck.

so many years ago.

i’m at Fat Daddy’s
Chuck is the DJ
and everyone
is dancing
and all the girls
want to dance
with Chuck.

so many years ago.

i’m standing
in the church
getting married
and Chuck is standing
with the others
and all the girls
smile at Chuck.

so many years ago.

so many years ago.

so many years ago.

i have moved
and live near the
very place on
the same street
that i rode my bike
and met Chuck.

so many years ago.

i am older
as is he
and we haven’t talked
in decades
and time
and distance
separated friends

so many years ago.

and then i hear
that Chuck
was in an accident
and his pain is great
and his recovery long
and it hurts
because he was my friend

so many years ago.

i am here
he is there
i’ll send him a note
i’ll say a prayer
and hope he will
dance again
as he did

so many years ago.

i write words
that seem shallow
and inadequate
to try to capture
the spirit that
he shared
with me

so many years ago.

so many years ago.


copyright 2018, joseph e bird

A Dangerous Place

She sat in front of me off to the side, this woman. Her years were twenty-something, maybe thirty, and so she was not yet tainted by the disappointments in life and like all of us at that age, she was the embodiment of optimism and hope. At least that’s the way I read it. But I tend to be overly philosophical and maybe find too much meaning in such things. This is true: she was youthfully and innocently pretty. Not that her appearance has anything to do with what happened. It’s just that I noticed.

And I wouldn’t have noticed had she not turned her head slightly to the right and away from the singer on stage. Something had her attention. My natural reaction was to look in that direction. I didn’t have to turn much, but from my perspective, there was nothing to see. Just more people, listening and watching the young man on stage. None of my business, I thought, and got back into the music.

Still, she stared. Almost unblinking. It was more than a curiosity. She had slipped into a state of para-consciousness, aware of what she was seeing, but unaware that she had become so transfixed. It’s a dangerous place to be. There’s no physical threat of course, but there is a distinct possibility that whoever has created this vortex of cognition will sense that they’re being watched and well, you know what happens. At the very least, it’s awkward, and sometimes threatening. The longer it goes, the more dangerous it gets.

Still, she stared.

I looked again to my right. Again, I saw nothing unusual.

And then I saw it.

A person. A young girl. Six, seven, maybe eight years old, hair in a pony tail. She was moving slightly to the music, but instead of watching the singer and smiling, as a young girl might do, she was looking down to her left, almost pensive. She was hearing the music, but she was also thinking. About the song? Maybe, though it was just a Christmas carol. About something else? More likely. School work? Family? Who knows.

I looked back to the young woman.

Still, she stared.

The young girl contemplated, glancing up every now and then, but lost in her thoughts. It was unusual.

Maybe the young woman saw herself in the little girl. Maybe she too, was a thinker, a sensitive soul who had also wrestled with the mysteries at a young age. Maybe she was worried about her.

Still, she stared.

You know what happened. We all have that sixth sense. Maybe it’s a subconscious observation that’s rooted in the first five senses, but it’s so much easier to claim the sixth sense. That intuition that tells us something’s not right. Or that feeling that someone is watching. The little girl looked over her left shoulder and made eye contact with the young woman.

Hers was a reflex that could have been measured in milliseconds. She immediately turned away, as did the young girl.

I felt bad for both of them. Embarrassed for the young woman and sympathetic for the girl.

But almost as soon as they had turned away, they both, instinctively it seemed, turned to back toward each other. The young woman smiled. The little girl smiled back.

Two smiles that said so much.

I understand. You have a friend.

Thank you.

At least that’s what it seemed to me. But then again, I tend to see too much in such things.


copyright 2016, joseph e bird

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