The last few days I’ve questioned the value of freedom. What if it meant giving up the woman I wanted to spend my life with.
I had a Romanian student last semester who lived under the reign of Nicolae Ceausescu before he was executed in 1989. She said, “It was a diseased society, where the inmates had taken over the asylum. Neighbors were encouraged to spy and report each other. So were children about their parents.”
Growing up in that country, she realizes the value of freedom in ways some don’t in the U.S.
Perhaps something in our childhoods keeps us from moving beyond the dark part of ourselves that wants to sell our freedom short. The voice must be the same, we say, the voice of the person I come from must be the same voice of the person I become. My future rises out of my past, and I cannot empty myself of it.
I will be something else one day, but not now, not now. I must be the same thing I was born into, the empty room where I had no name and waited in corners for morning to come so that I could open the door and leave the room again.
Somewhere the lost tribes of the earth keep walking. Somewhere the lost tribes of our world live alone and die and wait to be born into a freedom they can only watch others have. What things, they ask, could I have if only I had freedom. This is the opposite of me, they say, but how can I change it.
From each of us this desire sets out in life. It is born in us and lost, and the lost tribes come. We look for them and they are gone. There is no tracing them. They have clung to promises that never come and now they have no way to recognize their dreams.
I lay in bed the last few nights wondering how I could keep my soul alive without freedom. I lay listening to people stand outside my window, wondering if they would leave or what I would do if they tried to enter my room. If they leave, will they come back, I asked myself. And if not tonight, what about tomorrow.
Even now as I write this, they are above me and beside me. They are home tonight.
I know the walls that listen. I know a place that listens and watches me walk out my door and across a parking lot and through the streets so there is no place I can walk without being seen.
This is something I thought I would always have, the freedom to stand in my own home without being heard. It’s difficult not to sit as still as possible so that no one hears me.
But tonight I type these words. Not even you tonight beyond those walls can keep me from typing, not you who stand on street corners and take photos of me from cars and ride past me on bikes.
You think you have my heart. You think you can walk beside me and fly out like birds from every bush, but even in the stillness of these rooms I grow. I grow and keep on growing. Freedom is the only image of me you can never take. It doesn’t come and go from rooms at regular hours, it doesn’t stand or sit in certain places on the street, it doesn’t open doors or close them at specific times. It lives inside me.
You have your own stories. You look around for someone else to become, but there is no one else. What we have inside is all we’ve been given. Freedom is a dream that’s born even in animal’s eyes, and there’s no use looking for it in someone else’s face.
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