Reports from Sarah and Saleem

BEFORE 

There’s just enough time to meet Sinead, before the show starts. Sinead and Nina are in the Film Society together.

I’m not taking any notes. I’ll take the chance. I’m breaking my own rule, not anyone else’s. I’ll let it slide.

I wonder if I’ll remember any of this conversation when I write?

(I don’t.)

The lights dim.

I’m in the University Students’ Council office.

I can see the faux-wood of a conference room table, photos of student executives frame the room, for some reason there are wheels on everything. Two students from Israel On Campus sit in front of me. They know the policies, especially the ones that prevent protests like the one that just happened. Don’t I understand that students need to feel safe? I know which students they’re talking about.

I’m standing up when someone from Students’ for Palestinian Human Rights arrives. They’re a late. I’ve been told to care, but I don’t. I remember something about someone having a motorcycle. I’ve seen motorcycles downtown, carrying flags around Victoria Park. They know that the policies don’t matter and that if they do, they were followed.  Do I understand how policies oppress students on campus, especially the ones who hold protests like the one that just happened? I do, but not like the students they’re talking about.

Reports from Sarah and Saleem puts me back in that conference room, thousands of miles from Galway, thousands and thousands of miles from Jerusalem.

I’d like to go, to feel it, like in Belfast, or Derry. Derry, where flags fly, Palestinian in The Bogside and Israeli in Fountain; where resistance speaks from amidst council housing on the walls of a museum of resistance; where it rained, and I wrote about the other side of the wall, in Belfast.

AFTER

I don’t know what to make of the last scene. It bothers me, but I know that I need to think about it. Rightly or wrongly, it made me sigh, a sigh that says, “I think that you’re denying the man his humanity.”

That’s how I feel. It’s okay to start with the truth, I think.

We stay in our seats for a beat or two longer than usual. Sinead and Nina start to discuss. They want to know what I think. I contemplate avoiding the last scene, but I can’t, I don’t want to. How else will I find out what they think?

I’m hung up on the idea of humanity, the kind we faced in Men Don’t Cry. It seems that humanity is harder to understand in the middle of a war. Can we expect Saleem to do anything differently, in the face of death or disappearance? Cheating on your pregnant wife is a jerk move, lying sucks, but did we really expect him to show bravery?

We walk out of the theatre, down the stairs, and into the outdoor lobby. Who builds an outdoor lobby in Ireland? We’re about to part, without exchanging contact information, when I mention golf. Surprisingly, that settles it, there’s more to discuss. We’re going to get a scone and a cup of tea.

The café is closing in an hour, but that’s more than enough time for a cup of tea. “The tourists know that this place is here,” says Nina, “but it’s grand nonetheless.” We order a pot of tea and get to talking. We cover life stories: Belfast until 16, a move to Cork during The Troubles, a family run hotel in Donegal, a Chemist for a father, a Mother who ran the hotel, a brother who works with puppets, a son about my age.

“By the way, they make a good scone here.”

I need to be asked twice, but that’s like once for me. I make my way to the counter and order a fruit scone. I’ve adopted an, anything-with-raisins kind of attitude over the last three months. Objectively, a love of raisins is hereditary, passed down from the father (I think).

The scone is great, the conversation is the kind that you have with someone you’ve just met, and we finish our time together by walking through a part of Galway that I’ve neglected to explore.

I say goodbye to Nina and feel like I could imagine coming back to the Fleadh sometime. It would be different though. I’d know people; not everyone would be a stranger!

As I walk up the cobblestones, eager for a slice of pizza before my last film of the Fleadh, I run through the film in my head.

I remember when he hits her in the face and when he stops, right after, to ask for the cop’s help — jerk. There’s the glass, when the wife comes to his door, that his daughter shatters on the floor. I wonder why that stands out? There’s the iso-shot of Sarah hiding her necklace, with her name, in Hebrew, when she gets out of the van on the other side of the wall. There’s the image of the walls, kind of like the ones in Belfast, out the top of the car windows, from Sarah’s vantage point, in the back of Saleem’s van.

And then, more than anything, there’s the sense of normal life, too normal for how fucked up it is.

I mentioned the play Borderland to Nina, over tea. I think about it again.

This stuff isn’t really in the past, for any of us.

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