The International Writers Magazine: Dreamscapes: 1967 - Escaping
Murmurings of Return
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.
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.
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
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
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
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,
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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