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"Allah Hit Me" By John Krich

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Posted 01 January 2004 - 09:53

"Allah Hit Me" By John Krich

Allah Hit Me

On Turkish back roads, the author discovers that the oneness of humanity it inescapable

WE FILED INTO A VILLAGE TAVERN WHERE THE FOOD SIMMERED forever in giant pots. Each of the passengers pointed at the stew of their choice. While we ate, half-dazed, we saw the dim outlines of peasants lingering in the town's one cobblestone square. Hands jammed down their pockets, watch-chains showing from their vest pockets, pancake-shaped caps overhanging flesh-buried eyes, the men were submerged in silence. They seemed to be holding a tor- tuous vigil, waiting for a drawing of lots that would determine the next one to lose his crop, his land, his best mule, or his wife. Or the next man to sneak away in the night for America.
Before re-boarding the bus, while Iris searched out a toilet, I wandered off into the square. The night offered a sweet sheep- herding darkness, though it was lit by stars as plentiful as prophets' oaths. The villagers smoked strong cigarettes; they fiddled in syn- copation with strings of sorrow-polished worry beads. I did noth- ing but drift, circle, and watch. From the way their wide-brimmed caps shielded their weary faces, from their formidable recalcitrance, they could have been Sicilian Mafiosi. Any of them could have been my grandfather, a guarded and suspicious greenhorn, getting off the boat at Ellis Island. And I realized I was wearing my Mao cap from Hong Kong to the same effect; slung over same eyes, same anxieties, same gratitude for night. Hunched over, in their black vests, the Turks were coughing and whinnying and worry- ing. They carried the burden of the stars. In my homespun white vest, I whinnied and worried and hunched over, too. When I tried to turn away from my likeness with them, I noticed how all of them seemed to turn away doggedly from their common likeness. The turning away was part of the likeness itself.
Then Allah hit me. A genetic chill struck, more strongly than it had with the yiddisher mommas of businessmen on the bus. I knew that I was getting as close to my beginnings as I was ever likely to get. In silence, I communed with these brethren of mine, with a peasant's legacy of grieving and furtive strength that I carried in my bones. What difference did it make if I moved up and down these well-traveled routes from one hiding place to another? The planet spun and held me to it along with these crumbling walls and bro- ken men. I would always be found in the village square.
Together, under the stars, under our thinking caps and our planning caps and our working caps and our yearning caps, cling- ing to our glorious separation, my colleagues and I brooded over the unyielding terrain we'd been placed on, and over our identity, which came hard, which also had to be sown and reaped, all of us pondering long journeys, and what purpose we might serve on this earth.

Award-winning writerjohn Krich is the author of a novel about the private life of Fidel Castro, A Totally Free Man, and well as three nonfiction books, Why is This Country Dancing?: A One-Man Samba to the Beat of Brazil, El 136isbol: Travels Through the Pan-American Pastime and Music in Every Room: Around the World in a Bad Mood,from which this story was excerpted. His travel and sports writing, reportage andfiction, have appeared in Mother Jones, Vogue, Sports Illustrated, The Village Voice, The New York Times, and many other publications. He lives in San Francisco.

"Allah Hit Me" By John Krich

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