Living in Washington, DC at the time, I soon had a sizeable list of lawyers from which to choose my potential dates. I thought I might try the one option that was different—Basyli* worked for the CIA.
Different was the key word. A liberal Democrat, I was quickly at odds with Basyli’s extreme conservatism, including his passionate support of President Reagan and his policies in the last days of the Cold War. Still, I couldn’t resist breaking the routine of a typical Saturday date, touring a museum at the Mall while discussing the merits of tort reform, by accepting Basyli’s invitation to visit the CIA, reputed in those days to be hidden in a grove of artificial trees off the GW Parkway in Langley, Virginia.
The CIA, like Basyli, was disappointing. Expecting an ultramodern fortress with a science-fiction flair, I was disheartened to see that the hub of our international intelligence services was a drab government building, a gray-flannel suit of a structure housing bespectacled analysts rather than dashing James Bonds.
Basyli seemed oblivious to my disillusionment, and drove us back towards DC with an intrusive enthusiasm about our future together. Commitment-friendly seemed to quickly become an understatement. At a red light, Basyli turned to me and said brightly, “I want to know where you are at all times.”
I gagged on my coffee and could barely eke out a “Why?” This was getting far too close for comfort.“Because when the Russians attack, I want to be able to come get you and take you to one of our safe areas.” was the matter-of-fact answer.
I looked at him aghast for a few moments. The Russians...?! I peered out of the windshield at the crisp blue springtime sky. The sun was shining brightly, and the few white puffy clouds seemed soothing, holding no hint of a threatening thunderstorm of Soviet ICBM's to drench the lovely spring day. I turned back to Basyli, then, after one more glance at the beauty outdoors, I said, “No. Take me home.”
Basyli did try to convince me that my future and my safety would be greatest in his protective arms and armory, but his words formed a leaden weight on my heart and my soul. The golden rays of the sun, the azure sky, the emerald leaves on the trees beckoned to me from a world of natural splendor—while Basyli’s images of darkness filled me with hopelessness and dread. Yes, Basyli, I avowed, I will choose to walk among peace and beauty rather than live as a prisoner in an emotional bunker, hiding from optimism, trust, and joy.
I hadn’t thought of Basyli in many years. The Russians never did attack us (to my knowledge) and I returned to filling my lovely spring afternoons with strolls by the Reflecting Pool, pretending to be interested in the challenges of jury selection through voir dire. I finally gave up the charade and moved to the left coast, where I soon found love, marriage, and parenthood--surprisingly in that order--and a world blessed with sunshine and warmth.
Until 2001. It was the return of that long-gone sensation, the grip, the weight, around my heart, that brought back Basyli’s memory on 9/11—a grip that has tightened with every step in the march to perpetual aggression and war led by the current neo-conservative regime. The scenario that I had perceived to be the irrational ravings of a paranoid fanatic twenty years before had not only come to pass, but, to the political advantage of the Bush administraton, had served as a trigger for the interminable emotional "bunkerization" of our populace.
As I did years ago, I want to get out of the car, slam the door, and tell Basyli Bush and his cronies to leave me in peace. I want to flee back to the daylight where I can breathe the fresh air, smell the gentle scent of blooming flowers, and feel the warm rays of the sun soothing me as I smile and reach out with kindness and love to my fellow renters of this Earth.
I try the “door handle” to escape this nightmare—and it is locked. Basyli Bush tells me that he is keeping me safe. I do not wish now, as I didn’t twenty years ago, to be “safe.” I hope and pray that Barack Obama can unlock the door—and make me free.