I’m in DC for a conference. I can see the monument from my window. Last night there was a full moon in the clear sky, and it cast a glow over the Potomac. There is a McCain “Victory 2008” bus parked outside our hotel since Sunday. I find this ironic since my conference is for “bleeding heart liberals” who serve the public interest. Being in my nation’s Capital so close to elections is special. My hotel is nice but one downside is that free wireless is available only if one sits in the lobby. This results in inevitable reflections as I look around me, some interesting characters that give me pause for reflection.
The young Indian waiter where I type, watches me each day trying to catch my eye which I in turn, actively avoid. Finally, three days later he walks up to my table, clears his throat and tries in a lighthearted voice to strike up conversation. “You from India?” I glance and smile, “No, Pakistan.” His face goes three shades pale, “I am SO sorry.” I bit my lip to keep from laughing. How many times has someone asked me that question followed with “Ah well, y’all look the same ya know?”[For the record, if you think I’m Indian, I’m okay with it, really!] [Also, why are desis supremely fascinated with spotting other desis? In DC we’re like butterflies in the rain forest, yet we stare at each other like small babies encountering another counterpart for the first time!]
A group across from me drink cocktails engaged in casual conversation. Politics, I think until I hear them. A meeting of those with missing family. One lady with a page boy cut and blue jeans talks about her father. He went to Nepal and never returned. The other, a son in Iraq. “Do you think we’ll ever know what happened?” Ms. Page asks as she takes a sip. A lady with coke bottle glasses shrugs as she looks at her nails. I’m amazed by how neutral they seem. They could be discussing the weather for all the emotion revealed. Maybe time heals? Maybe it numbs.
“Mind if I sit here too?” asks a fellow conference participant, tall and lanky with glasses and sandy brown hair. He slides his laptop on the table and sits down in front of me. His loneliness is palpable, a parakeet perched on his shoulder announcing itself to the world. His face drops a little when I quickly mention a spouse. As we talk, other participants join until there are eight of us. Today, he told me he has a date with one of them. His face looked full of hope and I saw him smile off during sessions. His hope is tangible. I hope it works out for him.