by Grant D. ’16
The following city is one I will never forget. I was packed in with a group of people so tight that the only place for air was when I cocked my head back to look up at the dark sky above me. I was shoeless and all I could make out was the dirt in which I was traveling on. It took countless hours to get out of the mob I was traveling in but when I finally escaped, Nirvana lifted me up off of the ground. I was engulfed in a parched breeze of air, one I had not been familiar with. There were no Brobdingnagian buildings nor sleek sky skyscrapers. Instead, the city appeared to have been built by the ancient egyptians themselves. In the distance, a band played loud music which followed a man and woman who were casually laughing and singing along under a big white textile square supported by four sticks being held by different men. Lengthy, massive yellowish walls protected the city that seemed to be filled with men in green uniforms, guns strapped to their chests.
An unfamiliar language was vocalized throughout the city, one that was spoken quickly and sang beautifully. I happened to be there on a friday which did me no good when an ear piercing alarm sang throughout the city reverberating in my ear. Within the hour, every fruit stand, candy store, building, museum, restaurant, clothing store and mall completely shut down.
My legs went numb from hiding in a long, rocky, dark ally for so long. Blue and white flags flapped around me which came from the upper portions of the ancient buildings. It was nearly an hour after the alarm when I noticed people casually walking about the streets. I questioned whether or not the piercing alarm was to caution the city people to take cover from a nearby attacker or not. Curled up in a ball, I wept until a young boy approached me. He seemed confident, so I took his hand and followed him. When we came out of the black ally, his family was waiting for us to get going. As we were walking, I noticed that the people around me all were wearing interesting clothing. Garments draped over their shoulders, black suits, and the most fascinating was the tall black hats the old bearded men wore. The children seemed to be neophytes to the hat wearing trade so instead they wore circle like caps on theirs.
Walking with the family, I noticed candles glowing in the windows of low ceilinged houses, men holding books, leaning forward and backward in a repetition like movement. We approached an enormous gray wall, where thousands of people were standing, instantly the boy’s sister and mother fled elsewhere as we carried on with just us men. Moving about the masses of bearded men all wearing ridiculously tall, black hats, I took in the scenery once more. This city was unlike any city I had ever been too. In the distance, a massive golden dome stood erect in position, sitting upon a blue and white ceramics tiled building. Cats prancing about the dusty streets and an overall underlying relaxed feeling began to move throughout the people surrounding me. As I approached the wall, I noticed something peculiar, where the cracks diverged the ancient stones, thousands of pieces of paper were jammed into the last possible spot available. I felt out of touch, lost, and dumbfounded, I understood to some degree that the people around me were human but I had no way of understanding them due to the language barrier. After countless attempts of asking the boy where we were, we collectively stopped asking each other questions in each other’s foreign languages. I was swept up by the presence of God and calmly projected to the boy “hello,” just to see if he would magically respond to my strange language. He didn’t understand me, but I think what he said back meant hello in my language too; he replied “Shalom.”
“I never was told the name of that city, but I will never forget it, and if I were to ever return, its personifying life would remind me of my first expedition there. Alike to you and I, unfamiliar language did not deter me from connecting with the souls around me.”