AFTER THE WAR

After the war had ended, after the excitement of youth and personal commitment had faded into the age and attention turned to economic problems, twelve people gathered one week-end at the house of Nadia Shaw who had planned the occasion after reading a rather satirical article in the newspapers about the "failure of the sixties to generate momentum into the seventies," written, she imagined, by a man who during that period of tine cultivated his own ambitions and planned his own personal salvation in the newspaper business.

She clipped the article and pinned it to a board she had hung in the hallway between the kitchen and living room. All that day she remembered how it had been and painfully tried to reconstruct in her own mind the meaning that activity had had for her. Remnants remained with her as personal objects. On the bookshelf stood a picture of a local band on the steps of Sproul Hall behind which fluttered like the flag on the moon, a banner reading in large letters: Seize the Time. Various wall hangings she had bought from street vendors on Telegraph Avenue were prominently displayed in the living and bedrooms.

Now she felt depressed as though it had indeed been for nothing, as though the newspapermen had been right and that the joke had been on her all the time.

She had not experienced it herself but had seen as only a woman could how the larger society seemed to be closing tis various doors to every active participant during the war. It was subtle. People who had not felt an ounce of conscience during the time were now in positions of authority and had decided to dump their consciousness on those who had been involved whether they were a veteran or an activist. The larger society was seeking a defensive revenge to protect itself from itself and its own future. These thoughts further depressed Nadia because now she felt a part of that larger society and no longer felt the desire to see it collapse on its dry as dust foundations. She had articulated this thought to herself as, "what can one really know about these things?" and went about cultivating her own life style, manifesting her inner self in as many objects as possible.

But with these thoughts came the memory of nine people she had met along the way and for no reason could she reason with she decided to collect as many of them together as she could and for a week-end enjoy the presence of good consciousness again.

After the letters had been sent and telephone calls made (from the office where she worked) she figured on a gathering of a few dozen and so made preparations to feed and entertain the brood.

The man she lived with helped too. At first he had thought the idea foolish and was skeptical that many people would enjoy getting together to see how they were after ten years. "A high school reunion," he had called it. And besides, he had asked, what would people talk about now? The man she loved and lived with was now working at a high tech firm that had been started to work with alternative sources of power like wind. He had been liberally active during those years but always aware that he was, after all, a practical American and that youth ends. Unlike others he had been cheerful about the transition from the dream to the reality and without any problem entered the business world with conscience intact and resolution in his blood. He had no time or sympathy for nostalgia and suggested to Nadia that she leave well enough alone.

But Nadia was adamant. She suddenly lashed him with what she figured was a truth. "You live off the dreams of others. You are like a spoiled seed which germinates under a sun you don't even recognize. A spoiled seed that dies before it blooms."

He stood in the living room and threw an arm out toward her. "I try to apply the practical dreams of others to solutions…so they….become real…rather than…stupid talk."

She laughed spitefully. She held her hands firmly on her hips and searched his eyes out looking for something. "What happened during that period was more than you know. Something was coming into being which was real and is in people everywhere." He shrugged his shoulders. "Why do you think I got into solar energy?" "Yes, you're right but before long the idea that promoted solar energy will fade away and we'll left again with your real intent which is to milk it for all its worth."

"Oh Nadia, you sound like a kid again." He wanted to go up to her and kiss her tenderly but held himself back. He hadn't seen her look this way for a long time and wanted more.

"And then it'll start all over again. The children will grow up, understand how everything has become corrupt and then turn against, not just their parents but everyone connected with the corruption. Even those who don't deserve it."

The man clinched his fist and pounded it three time against his forehead lightly. "Nadia, Nadia, we'll be a little wiser with our children."

She had turned her head and now began picking up around the room. "It won't matter. A little wiser won't matter at all. Not when you see what has happened."

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"It's horrible to see the truth when you're young. Especially the truth of what lies you have to overcome. The spirit gets exhausted before its time. And then it begins to want its exhaustion. It's useless to describe. But I don't want my children to hate me because of people like you."

"Like me?" and he pointed a finger to his chest.

"Well, not you personally Robert but…in general….I don't know. I don't know."

This argument went on for a few days. Nadia became more convinced that a gathering of the old crowd would being something back that was now lacking in the general atmosphere while Robert insisted that she wanted to relive the past and other psychological persecutions that Nadia resented until at one point she was ready to tell him to leave.

They lived in a renovated Victorian off of Durant Avenue, a mile or so from campus. They had rented it from an old man who retired to Grass Valley near Lake Tahoe and who had carefully scrutinized the potential renters until he found the right couple. Nadia had charmed the old man with stories of how Robert and she had met.




David Eide
January 24, 2014