The Burning Soldier (Part 4) “Riding the Wind “
Posted on July 5, 2011
The Burning Soldier
(Part 4) Riding the Wind
“I don’t speak the language”.
His words were half defiant and brusque, as if I was trespassing on hallowed ground. But they had also sounded a trifle apologetic, as if his lack of Gaelic somehow put him on the spot. For my part, I was almost relieved, owing to my own very limited skills.
“Oh!”, I said, brightly, in a most conversational tone, “That’s a shame. It’s a fine language…”
In spite of himself, he nodded. Almost ruefully. Quickly seizing the opportunity, I rambled on about my little teacher in Dingle, County Kerry. Again, he nodded, telling me he had been there a few times. Soon we were talking about the Ring of Kerry, and Slea Head. And the local girls, and the local bars. The bizarre dimension was not lost on me. Once again, the Absurdity of Man was richly on display. Here we were, surrounded by the sights and sounds, the smells and the rumors, of a vicious civil war. Smoke and flames were curling up, and burnt out cars and a smoldering tour bus littered my intended route of travel. And here we were, lightly talking about girls and bars…
After fifteen minutes or so, he seemed to suddenly grow brusque. Chatting time was over. A mask had come over his face again. I was no longer a human being. I was an object.
“And where do you think you are going?”, he asked, officiously and almost sneeringly.
“Dublin”, I answered, truthfully, in my best Raheny accent.
The sneer was in ample evidence now.
“You won’t be going to Dublin this way…”
I nodded understandingly. I hoped I sounded approving.
“Surely”, I said, “could you tell me the best way I could be going…?”
There followed a long series of detailed instructions. Very detailed. I had to back up a few miles, turn left, and then follow his exact instructions, to avoid other “problems” as he delicately put it. It was overwhelmingly clear that he knew exactly where his colleagues were manning their own versions of barricades. His route steered me carefully past them. A minor road across the border into Southern Ireland, he assured me, was wide open. I thanked him politely, being careful not to appear too effusive. Then it was time to kick start my Triumph back into life. There was a roar, and I carefully maneuvered the turn on the narrow road. Now I could casually (and disinterestedly) sweep my gaze over my erstwhile Molotov Cocktail targeteers. They had long since lost interest, and stood in small groups, bored and disappointed, gossiping. They hardly gave me a second glance, except one urchin, who was perhaps the youngest of them all. No more than ten or twelve years old perhaps. His scowl, still fresh and pure, seemed to pervert his young face into that of an old man. He alone still gripped his fire bottle, with the oddly white wick standing out strangely against the dark of his ragged blue pullover. Our eyes met, briefly, casually, and in that moment, I sensed the ancient hatred of Ireland. The constant perverting of the young, raised on Granddad’s knee, listening to Irish History from a decidedly one-sided point of view. Black-and-white. Goodies and baddies.Indoctrinated. Implanted with bias and hatred, from the very earliest youth.
I drove the first quarter mile slowly and with a forced relaxation.
And then I drove like the wind…
I crossed the border from North to South, following the twisting side roads, exactly as briefed by my guide. I encountered no further problems.
Once on the main road to Dublin, I rode the wind. Even by my standards, very, very fast. Part of me exulted in being alive, and riding my motorcycle. I relished the wind in my face, and the roar of my engine. I hung low around the bends, and overtook every car I came up behind.
Part of me relished the sky, the clouds and the rain. The music in my head.
And part of me grieved. For the hatred, the bigotry, the violence, the needless deaths, the divisions, and the perversion of youth. The destruction of innocence.
And I saw, as I have all my life, the face of that young lad. A twelve year old, Old Man. Clutching his Fire Bottle. Seething distrust written all over his grime streaked face.
At times I have no hope. At times I am defeated.
And often I have worried. Perhaps it is I.
Perhaps it is I.
The writing , scribbling one who can do no justice to all the troubling emotions. The failed writer who simply does not understand. Who cannot…
Translate into words the whole mess, the whole heart ache, the whole sad, slow Death of Compassion. The torn passions, the sleepless nights, the endless soul searching…
Yes, perhaps it is I, of whom can be said, with justification:
“Poor fellow, he tries, but…
he can’t speak the language…”