Walking softly on the other side of the bushes of a pack of Somali soldiers on a hot sunny day over Mogudishu, Alex, my friend was describing how they had to breathe not to be heard. And for sure when the timing was best they would neutralize each Somali soldier, even what they called “child soldiers”. It was U.N. approved to put down anyone with a gun. So Alex, he tells me they do the boys this honor is that they consider them to be as grown men. To die a soldier. Just manipulated and forced to do so and die for an ill cause.
So Alex transfers this to me. I am sitting in his place of work. In fact, I am his customer in a funeral home for arrangements for my loved one. The reason we had the discussion is that he’s teaching ME, how he used to breathe in tight situations with the Rangers in Mogudishu. The breathing has a side effect of lowering blood pressure as well as remaining deadly silent so as to think clearly and collectedly. The funeral after all the hospice my wife and I had done was a fiasco. Alex had our backs. I really appreciated that.
Maybe six months later I was doing some shopping one day with my wife. She went in to the Rite Aid. Come to think of it, we were only 20 blocks from that funeral home I mentioned. Well I stood at the entrance of the Rite Aid and stopped there. My peripheral vision was telling me something was there when it seemed there really wasn’t. So I moved my head left & right until I saw there WAS a person there- a security guard. Oh boy, I already had a good idea what was going on. In Africa, concealment is an art and I figured this guard HAD to be African. As in FROM there THIS generation.
So I walk up to him and very friendly, I say, “I almost didn’t see you there!”. So he kind of smiles and ignores me a bit. I say, “So you are from Africa? A soldier once, maybe?”. He looks at me like, “Hey now, what?”, he smiles and says, “Uh… Yes!!”. So it practically turns into a Las Vegas Mindfreak because I guess down to everything he is.
“So”, I say, “Can I ask you another question?”. “Sure…”, he says. “Were you young, maybe like
… 14 when you were a soldier. By now he’s like, “Omigod, yes, how are you to knowing this?”. I say, “Somalia… city specific: Mogudishu”. Hahahah. He couldn’t contain himself. He tells the clerk at Rite Aid, ” This guy knows my people, man!”. So he says to me, “How do you know?”
I tell him that I was pretty sure, but I knew a lot about child soldiers. In reality I picked up a book at Starbuck’s and it was on a Somali who was rehabed in the U.S. Come to think of it, it could have been the security guard for all I know. He was a PSU student. Well, I put together that Alex said that boy soldiers had an afixed look in their eyes, a gaze going on forever. I would suspect this would make the pupils nearly parallel and I sensed this in the security guard in my peripheral vision. I use my peripheral vision all the time because I’ve been attacked from every direction before. I feel the fear, the radar, all of it and more. I feel like I need to feel the entire block around me, always.
Well, anyway I told the guard, I knew the Somali, conflict, most Americans do not. That I hoped he felt welcome in the States and that I’m not magic… I’m just well-read and I find foreign affairs interesting. So it seemed interesting to me that his past opponent was working 1/4 mile away. Someone who had shot his cousins. Somalis consider themselves all related pretty much. So I just smile and I keep it to myself. I never told Alex. The ex-soldier security guard left years ago. Alex isn’t in town, either.
So why call this “Urban Magi”? Well in war or peace, the city is a 3-dimensional battlefield. It practically takes a magician to navigate it safely and keep up with it. Not only this, but people are plastic. They can kill, stop killing, go to school, move, quit school, start killing, stop killing, drink a coke, smile, yell, be happy, be angry. Its strange to me, but enemy, killer or not, I have found a static safety to connecting to wings on peoples’ personas. If you are careful, it works. For example, never ask someone if they’ve killed someone. Its rude. Its also a neutralization. I personally don’t believe you can erase a life. But in the midst of a tumultuous world, it is interesting how many people you can run into. I’ve had an interesting kife that way!