20 Years

8 Nov

—Come here, you have to see this.
—What is it?
—This is…wowee, come here.
They’re in the kitchen, the two of them. He is sitting at the table watching the small black and white Sanyo. There are dozens of people sat on the wall. Dozens more are chipping at it with sledgehammers, regular hammers, one man throws a sickle at the concrete barrier.
—Look at this, my father says and points to the small screen.
It’s David Hasselhoff with some sort of bandanna singing some awful shit into a microphone on top of the wall. Below him people are giving the peace or freedom sign and smoking cigarettes.
—We’re next, my mum says from the sink. She’s washing cups and forks.
—Wait for me to wipe the grease off them first, my father says, eyes glued to the television.
He’s always had a practical, peasant sense about him despite the unpractical peasant that he is. He is a product made by a country of contradictions.
—Mmda, he says. We’re next.
Although I realize this is a momentous spot in history, I really don’t care. Empires are built. Empires crumble. Whether they’re taken down by financial pyramid schemes, coups, or sledgehammers, it’s the same thing to me.
—We’re next, eh?
—We gotta be, I say watching them all try to dismantle the wall. There’s a weird futility about all this. Little people with cigarettes hanging from their lips running around with little hammers trying to take down a concrete and steel ideological divider. We’re right. You’re wrong. I say something about that. I don’t remember how I phrase it, though.
—Pfft, eh.
And then:
—Let me wipe off the grease before you wash the dishes.
Mum doesn’t pay attention to him.
—It’s all because of Reagan.
Mum agrees.
—Gorby might’ve had something to do with it too, I say.
—Eh, pfft.
I hate when he makes that sound. The Condescending Cock sound. The You’re An Idiot Who Doesn’t Know What He’s Talking About sound.
—Look.
Hasselhoff again.
—That’s that guy from ah…that movie with the car, he says.
Mum looks over at the small screen for a few moments, then goes back to the dishes.
—The grease’ll clog the, uh…
He’s hooked to the images.
Perestroika.
Glasnost.
Гласность
And then there’s the giant graffiti on the abandoned water tower just off New York Avenue, as your train inches into the District of Columbia: Solidarność
Movements and counter-movements. It all seems so silly.
—This is something, eh? This is…wowee, it’s…I mean…just it’s…eh? He looks at me. He looks at my mum. I’ve never seen my father on the brink of tears.
It doesn’t matter to me. Any of this. It doesn’t matter if I am here, there, anywhere. We are stupid. I think this now, even at age twenty. We are all so stupid. So little. So petty.
—Eh?
Yes. Eh.
Within three months I’ll be able to buy chunks of the wall from vendors down on Canal Street in Manhattan. K-Street in D.C.
Capitalism will have eaten Communism.
Will have outspent it.
—The grease’ll clog up the pipes if you don’t wipe…
I leave them both there. The house smells like old people. Mildew or…something foul that only old people give off.

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2 Responses to “20 Years”

  1. Erin O'Brien 08/11/2009 at 9:45 AM #

    “Empires are built. Empires crumble. Whether they’re taken down by financial pyramid schemes, coups, or sledgehammers, it’s the same thing to me.”

    Amen brother.

  2. Matt DeBenedictis 09/11/2009 at 9:48 PM #

    Fuck! Party in my head.

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