Friday, May 14, 2010
“Make love, not war.” She would tell anyone this mantra of her long-ago youth as they tried to give her coins, which she refused. She, in turn, would hand out little slips of paper imprinted with a drawing of the peace symbol and smile whenever I took one, though I never stayed to hear the music. All I wanted was to look at her face before I went to work. I could not explain why but her serene blue eyes offered a cooling antidote to the anxious start of my work week.
On a day I was to leave for vacation, I stayed and waited for her to finish her song.
“Here,” I tried to press money into her hands. “I really want you to have this.”
She shook her head and tugged at the tie-dyed cotton blouse she wore.
This upset me. “Don't be crazy anymore. Please. There are other things to worry about. Vietnam is over. There is no war!”
She lifted her guitar and strummed the opening notes to a Bob Dylan tune.
“There's always something,” she said, and sang her song, blowing out the message to the wind.
Not many weeks later, she was dead. Mugged by someone who most likely thought the frail woman wearing the colors of the rainbow and singing of peace and love was an easy mark to rob, though he must have been surprised to find papers of the non-monetary kind in her pockets. The person did not even take the guitar – just left its splintered remains next to her body.
For several days, the community placed wreaths at the site of her last breaths and made plans.
It's my turn to join the neighborhood watch group that will patrol the streets tonight for several hours - veritable soldiers in the fight against crime. She might be pleased to know this. Though it probably would sadden her that we were not making love.