May 9, 2005


The other day, when a gay man was about to come into the room, the boy, about 17, said "But I don't want to shake his hand."
"Well, I don't know, it could come off his hand. I could get it."
"Get what?"
"You know."
"I could be gay like him."
"You're serious."
"I don't know. How does it happen?"

And then in the library, in the stacks. Talking with a student who had asked my help on her photojournalism project. She said there were no books in the library to help her, but there were. I showed her. There was one especially good book, with a forward by Paul Bowles. A photo album of a young man who perishes in Fez. And then somehow we got terrorism.

"So you don't believe he exists," I said.
She shook her head.
"You don't believe Osama bin Laden exists."
"No," she said definitively.
"Why not?"
She shrugged.
I tried to convince her briefly. I've heard this before. I said, so you don't think those planes hit the buildings?
She extremely sensitive. The very thought overwhelms her. She shook her head. It couldn't be, she was saying, it just couldn't be. To believe that would be too much. Then in this country so full of despair there is no illusion left.
I persisted.
"And what about the suicide bombers in Iraq. Who do you think they are?"
"Mexicans," she said with a straight face.
"They take them over there and they do it?"
I smiled. Of course, I said.
She smiled but ambiguously.
And what about George Bush, I asked. He doesn't exist either?
"He's a metaphor," she replied.
Now I agreed.
"But you believe in his father, that his father was real.
"And Bill Clinton, you trust that he was real."
Oh yes.
But George Bush is a metaphor.
She smiled. Yes, she said and walked away.

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