YOUNG AND MARXIST
Oh, to be young and Marxist. It is the dream; to have dark, tousled
hair hanging above my olive-drab collar, my face bearded and shaggy,
with a pistol in one hand and a copy of Das Kapital in the other. If
I often watch the young Marxists from my sitting room window, hanging
their propaganda posters on the wall across the street; the boys' faces
inflamed with seditious fervor, their eyes like knives penetrating their
wire-rimmed glasses, fixated upon their task; and the girls - oh, the
girls - their full, rounded breasts jutting out from beneath their plain
shirts, their simple, unadorned hair falling in wisps upon their obstinate
lips. And if you stare at them long enough, you can make out the curved
figure of their bodies hidden under the shapeless fabric of their dresses.
I spend a great deal of time watching them.
I'm afraid that, for me, it is too late. I cannot join the Revolution.
I have spent too many years living my life as a conservative to change
now. And would they even have me? Several weeks ago, I was walking down
the street, returning to the office from lunch, when I found a beautiful
angel standing before me on the street corner. She could not have been
older than nineteen. She was handing pamphlets to passers-by. The street
corner was littered with discarded pamphlets, dropped by other conservatives,
like myself, who did not care for their rebellious message. As I approached
the girl, she gazed upon me with her deep, soulful eyes and uttered
one sentence. "The Revolution is for the people," she said,
and she stretched out her arm to hand me a pamphlet. I took the offering
and paused to read the headline crudely printed on it. "We can
no longer tolerate the government's deplorable treatment of the every-man,"
it read. As I looked down at the paper, my glance fell briefly upon
the young rebel's feet. The leather sandals half-covering them did little
to protect them from the dust of the city street. They were layered
with a thin, yellowish film. Then I continued to walk.
When I had reached the next corner, I stopped to look back at the girl.
Through the crowd of pedestrians, I saw that a young man, also holding
a pile of pamphlets had stopped to speak with her. I knew at once that
he was her lover. I knew that when the couple dispensed the last of
the pamphlets, they would return to their small, stark hovel of an apartment
and make a meal of wine and bread - and perhaps some inexpensive meat
- while discussing the philosophy of Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and the
inevitable dissolution of the bourgeoisie. And then they would make
love, and afterwards she would caress the back of his neck and ask him
if their noble cause would ever be realized. And he would say yes, the
despicable upper-class will eventually fall, even if it took their own
deaths to make it happen. And then they would make love some more. I
turned around and walked back to my office.
I keep the pamphlet the girl gave me in a bible in my night stand drawer
(although I'm sure that she would not like that. I'm sure that she is
an atheist, like most Marxists. "Religion is the opiate of the
masses," she would say. Still, I don't want my wife to find it,
and the bible is a good hiding place.) I made a point to cross that
same street corner on my way back from lunch for the next several days,
but I did not find the girl. One day, instead of eating, I wandered
into a small bookstore and looked for the writings of Marx and Engels.
The bookstore clerk asked if he could help me find anything, but I pretended
I was browsing. I did not find anything by the men. I do not suppose
that such seditious literature is legal to sell. Besides, I don't believe
I would have purchased any books I did find. I'm far too old to become
a radical now.
Eventually I ceased looking for the girl on the street, but not of thinking
of her. She occupied my mind in much the same way the revolutionaries
sought to do with the capital building. I was hostage to her memory.
"The Revolution is for the people." Was I not one of "the
people?" Was it not looking after my best interest as much as the
next man's? Was I any less worthy of protection, of happiness?
I longed to remove her sandals and, with soap and warm water, rinse
the dust from her feet. And afterwards I would raise a soft, petite
foot to my lips, kiss it tenderly and console her that all of her worries,
all of her preoccupations with rebellion were unnecessary and that under
my watchful gaze, no harm would come to her.
As luck would have it, a few days ago, as I exited the stairwell to
leave the building, I found the young activist being forcibly removed
from my office building. A burly security guard had her by the arm and
was handling her quite harshly. The officer led her to the main entrance,
while she shouted contumacious comments, and pushed her into the street.
I slipped out after her and caught her about a half block away. I told
the girl that the way she had been treated was deplorable and asked
of her well-being. She told me she was not hurt, but that the bourgeois
businessmen inside had better learn to treat the proletariat common
man with more respect, for soon they would be their supervisors. I agreed
and asked if she remembered me from several weeks earlier. She didn't.
I told her that she had given me a pamphlet and that I had been greatly
"enlightened" by its message. Was there a way that I could
learn more of the revolutionary cause? I asked. Just before a policeman
arrived to usher her away, she gave me the address and time of the Party's
next assemblage. I wrote it down on the pamphlet in my bible.
For the days preceding the meeting, I considered how the young revolutionaries
would take to my attendance of a Party assembly. I'm sure that there
would be at least fifty Marxists packed into a hot basement, only large
enough hold twenty comfortably. Heated arguments of politics, sociology,
economics and religion would fill the air, stale with the smell of perspiration,
like a din. Now and again, an individual's voice would rise above the
others and he would slam his fist onto a tabletop and say something
like, "You obviously know nothing of societal margins!" Through
the throng and the haze of cigarette smoke, I would see my young rebel
leaning against an unfinished brick wall, engrossed in a discussion
on the apathy of the middle class. Upon seeing me, she would smile and
motion for me to join her. "I'm glad you decided to come,"
she would say. Her companion would sneer, "What is he doing here?"
But once the meeting was underway, I would show him. I would show them
all. I would bide my time and wait my turn, and after one of the activists
gave a particularly rousing denouncement of the middle class, I would
rise and say, "Look here, can you not see that your accusations
are unfounded? Not all of the middle class is heedless of the workers.
Am I not standing here as proof? The Revolution is for the people. Am
I not one of the people?" With that, a silence would fall upon
the room. And then applause; it would start slowly, but gather momentum
and culminate a roar of acclamation. And I would look to my young rebel
and she would be applauding the loudest.
I didn't attend the meeting, of course, for reasons I have previously
explained. Since the time I'd seen the girl, I had been anticipating
it the way a child does a holiday in which he will receive a new toy.
I looked to my calendar and counted down the days. The mere mention
of the particular day, by one of my business companions, would send
a tingle through my stomach.
Instead, on that particular date, I attended an associate's dinner party
with my wife. We ate cheese from fine china and sipped wine from crystal
glasses. As I looked about the room, the guests seemed to me obscenely
obese beneath their finely tailored apparel. Their conversation seemed
vapid, a hollow batch of stock figures and societal gossip. I spent
a great deal of the evening sitting by myself, in an antique cushioned
cathedra. At one point, I considered the repercussions of my sticking
a silver fork into a particular gentleman's neck. My young rebel would
wretch at the sight of the company.
I had a vision of all the young Marxists departing their assembly, arms
in hand, and marching through the city streets toward that very dinner
party. Suddenly the doors would burst open and fifty hairy proletariats
would descend upon the awestruck bourgeois dinner guests. With one thrust
of a bayonet, one of my business associates would go down. A quick spurt
of machine gun fire and ten of my other businessmen and their wives
would be decimated. "The Revolution has begun!" a young man
Amidst the carnage, my young rebel, brandishing an automatic rifle,
would find me in my chair. Would she be able to turn her weapon on me?
Would she be able to pull the trigger? She would have to, for we are
from different worlds, we are star-crossed. Her covenant with the Party
would obligate it. I would understand, and I would forgive her.
Dennis DiClaudio is an editor for the yet-to-be
published journal Ducky.