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The International Writers Magazine
: Dreamscapes: 1967 - Escaping the Draft

Murmurings of Return
Richard Meyers

Leah and Reuben dropped the statue of Trotsky on their way to the Young Socialist Alliance office on May Day. Although it was an embarrassing accident, Leah took it as a sign to quit smoking grass. Reuben cut his habit down to four joints a day.

Needing a change they moved across the bay to Berkeley into a Victorian where they lived communally with twenty others. Some were engaged in civil rights demonstrations and went as far as the Deep South for black voters registration. Two of them were mysteriously murdered. The brothers from Baltimore went to Cuba to join Castro in his revolutionary struggle. Others stayed back believing that their destiny lay with a University education. Leah loved the communal house with its twenty-two rooms and thought of calling the house "Gathering Tribes." Reuben said, "But everyone's moving in different directions. If you're going to name this place, 'Dispersion of the of the Tribes' is more appropriate."

Leah felt that time was like a renegade thief running off with her life. She wanted to stop the world; she wanted to marry Reuben. "It will keep you from being drafted into the Vietnam War."
The situation deteriorated and the war escalated. No pardon, not even marriage, saved young men from that hateful abyss of flames. Reuben fled to Canada and worked manual jobs to manage a journey to Europe and later India. Above all else, Reuben had wanted to be a writer and he tried practicing his craft in his letters to Leah. In June of sixty-seven he wrote her this letter.

Dear Leah,
So I have at last escaped direct involvement in the horrors of the war. None of us, I'm afraid, can be unscathed by the horrors of injustice and its wild plots. I have met wandering returnees, the casualties of war, drifting numb or crazed over here, either procrastinating or just fearing their return to the states. Everyone will come out of this American-made bloodbath scarred and deeply wounded. My own story is that I fled and one day awoke to a heat-warped moon over Calcutta. Amid all the rubble and chaos, this city has served as my mad miracle of an outpost. Life here has ancient roots. Everyone and everything is deeply connected and, strangely enough, through centuries of acceptance of suffering, wisdom has endured offering each soul its path towards what Christians call salvation.
I have accepted the possibility that I may never return. I have lost much of my love and all of my respect for America. I have found my lost spiritual breath here in the lungs of India.
Tomorrow I am leaving Calcutta for Benares, the sacred city for Hindus along the Ganges River. There I may find a teacher and the kind of meditation that may help me to dissolve my attachments to America and my friends. I must find respite from this unrelenting cycle
I constantly experience-this feverish cycle of departing dreams and returning ghosts.
Always thinking of you,

Leah always appreciated Reuben's literary style, but she had hoped for something personal, more intimate in the letter. She had taken her own journey through volatile days of rampant changes in America, but her letters had been far simpler than his, modest in language and style, spare in detail. But now that Reuben had been gone almost two years, Leah no longer wanted to hide her feelings.

June 28, 1967
Berkeley, Calif.
Dear Reuben,
Last night I dreamed that we were together and we were demonstrating and singing "We Shall Overcome" in front of an enormous glacier called Mount Injustice. So much time has come and gone. Everyone misses you, but no one believes you'll come back. Jeb, Lou and Leon want you to know that they felt you there in spirit through the days of the Free Speech Movement. We brought the corporate-invested university to its knees. It was a victory, but the aftermath was ugly. The Black Panthers clashing with the Hell's Angels, the Angels and the police clashing with anti-Vietnam war demonstrators. You wouldn't recognize Telegraph Avenue these days. It's like a war zone. Police are everywhere, speed freaks, bikers, hustlers and hookers, bloody battles with rocks and tear gas. I'm frightened sometimes and disgusted all the time. Sometimes I get angry that you are so far away, perhaps lost in some Indian mantra listening to Ravi Shankar or one hand clapping. It's been too long, Reuben.
Sometimes I go to the ocean and gaze far along the rock coast hoping to see a note in a bottle announcing your return. The news would spread like fever among our old friends. Eyes would open awaiting that moment. Hippies in the Haight Ashbury would dance to the joyful announcement. By the way, you should see this wild, free and uninhibited thing that's happening here. I'll say this; it's more fun than demonstrating. It's a celebration of change, not the political kind. It's the ceremony of dropping out of our parents' world. Speaking of parents, my dad wants to know if you ride elephants or know the secret behind the Indian rope trick. Ha, ha.
Seriously, I don't know what circumstance will bring you back here. I am waiting at the ocean's edge while for miles out there lies no sign of your return in the wind.
Hoping someday our paths will cross again,

Their paths, however, never did cross again. In fact, they diverged more and more as time went on. Reuben studied yoga and metaphysics at Benares University and in time became a respected member and lecturer at an ashram in Rishikesh. Leah tried to join the Peace Corps hoping to be assigned to India. Documentation of her participation in leftist politics in the early sixties was cause for her "deselection". She went back to L.A. and married an older blind man who ran a chain of adult film houses. The war finally ended, not with a bang, but gradually with America's protracted whimper. Yes, the war ended, but the chasm it caused was bottomless.

© Richard Meyer April 2004

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