The fall of 2001 was not a particularly good time for anyone, but it was a particular kind of very bad time for those of us who are pacifists.
I taped a peace sign to the front window of my apartment with masking tape that night; it stayed there till I moved out two years later. It was a patched together thing, uneven, hopelessly hippie-ish, a sign to most, I would guess, that I could not be taken seriously. But I did it anyway, and I kept it up.
But we met and we marched and we stood in silence, shielding lighted candles, and we wrote letters at a pizza joint downtown, because we cared about stopping the war, but also because we cared about each other. And so sometime that fall when some people started talking about going down to the SOA protest that year, I decided to go along.
We had a few meetings, rambling affairs held on the porch of the coop house in town, where people would half talk politics and half strum guitars, and then we took off in caravan. My friends Meg and Erica and I took my car, Steven and our friend Karly and a WWII resister whose name Iâ€
The times were awful, and the cause was deathly serious, and the drive was long, but it remains suspended, as some drives do, in a magical, out of time place. Meg and Erica and I lost track of the caravan at some point because we got so dreamily distracted singing along to â€œRocky Mountain High.â€ None of us had cell phones yet, but we found each other again somehow. We drove through the night, taking turns, and pulled into a Waffle House in Georgia just at dawn. We stood in the parking lot, dazed, exhausted yet awake, blinking slightly, and Steven — of course Steven — insisted we all do a sun salutation, which he led us in, right there in the parking lot: nine pasty white Midwestern hippies doing poorly formed yoga in a deep South Waffle House parking lot as the sun rose. That was Steven all over.
That night we settled into our rooms at the motel, and Steven — of course, Steven — organized a group to go watch the Leonid meteor shower, and of course I did not go. I donâ€
We rolled our eyes and sighed, certain we knew better, sure this was going to end in more heartbreak.
We were wrong, of course — or if we were right about the heartbreak, we were wrong about its cause or its timeline. Meg is dead now, and the School of the Americas is still there, and we are still at war. And now Steven is dead, too.
But we were wrong about their relationship, which started that trip and carried on. We were wrong to doubt love and faith and strength, which are the only things, ultimately, that keep us going — the things themselves, and the memory of them. Meg and I talked about that a lot, when she was still here, and writing now I feel her chortling with me still — chortling and then weeping.
This has ended up being more about me, and about Meg, than it is about Steven, which is wrong for Steven but reflective of him, too, and the ways in which he cared for others above himself at all times.
I knew him very little, really, and I learned very little about him. It is my loss. Iâ€
That story is one part of Steven — the part we all know that loved social justice, the part that, as another old friend of our said, was â€œat odds with a world at odds with justice.â€ But as Iâ€
We live, I think, by these moments of grace that come in the midst of chaos and tragedy and fear and boredom and nitwittery. Mostly you work and grocery shop and pay bills and do dishes. Sometimes you drive insane distances to protest human rights abuses and donâ€
Steven lived more of those moments than anyone else I know, and he was better at creating them than anyone I have ever met. I wish I had paid more attention and shown up more.
At the last hootenanny I remember going to before I left town, or before Steven and Karly did, we sang Phil Ochsâ€