30 October 2008

this parallel place we occupy

Life has funny parallels sometimes.

Living in Johannesburg, we often remarked on the gunshots we heard. It was not uncommon to hear multiple shots in the night and hearing them on our street was unfortunately a similarly regular occurrence. Stefani and I had a habit (that we shared with Tiffani while she lived with us there) of hearing the gunshots and then looking at each other and simply asking, “Firecrackers?”

The answer would be a nod of the head and an affirmative “Firecrackers.”

It wasn’t so much denial of what was going on around us as it was a way to acknowledge what we had just heard without giving it any power to induce fear.

There was, of course, the night when the Indian festival of Diwali started and we thought an epic gun battle was raging until we figured out that Johannesburg’s immense Indian population was setting off fireworks to celebrate. That really was firecrackers. But I digress…

Our residence in San Antonio isn’t exactly in the most posh suburban neighborhood. The homes are old and small. Graffiti abounds and we hear the names of streets around us mentioned on the news regularly as sites of violence and gang shootings. It doesn’t matter to us. We love where we live. It is charming and wonderful and, besides, we knew what we were getting into when we chose the area. Yet we do hear gunshots from time to time.

On Tuesday night, we were watching TV with Tiffani (who again lives with us as the occupant of our little guest house) and we heard those all-too-familiar pops of gunfire.

“Firecrackers,” she asked.

“Firecrackers,” we responded.

We all smiled and went back to enjoying the evening.

It only occurred to me later what Tuesday was…the first day of Diwali.

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