One grandfather soared in the air and dropped death on Germans. He screamed in his sleep until the day he died. The other was from a village in Ireland. He spent his youth braving U-boats, sweating and shovelling coal in the bellies of war ships to get his children to England. His wife held broken bodies from the war as a nurse, and later started a driving school – something as a woman she wouldn’t have been able to do in Ireland at that time. She sent both her boys and girls to university, and cheated on her taxes. We’re all trying to get somewhere. We’re all immigrants.
My mother and father worked with the bodies of drug addicts and many, many children. They ran a youth club for kids from West Indian Families and ran interracial discos. She started the UK’s first girls’ football team. He cheered for Liverpool Football Club’s first black player, while others threw bananas. He was on the wrong epilepsy drugs his whole life and drunk too much to quiet his head. She was a nun and ate the body of Christ, until they met. I joked with my dad he was no saint. He’s been dead a year now. I imagine his stooped body in a more peaceful place – though he was an atheist. I’ll scatter his ashes on a mountain this weekend. We’re all of the earth, eventually.
My cousin and dearest university friend both ended their own lives. I carried her body for a long time. I lit candles for them in Jerusalem, in the heart of a foreign religion. Sometimes, lighting a candle from another flame is all you can do. I dance with her often now, and fight with him from time to time. Bodies go into other bodies. Our dance passes on.
I married a girl from Ukraine. We met because of another war. Cousins break each other’s bodies there – just like in Ireland. My best day’s work was teaching ex terrorists from both sides, in Belfast – at the barracks my uncle was a soldier in during the Troubles. There, people ask you what side of the road you’re from to see if you’re friend or foe. I travel the world, I’ve sweated in aikido dojos and yoga studios on five continents, and people of all nations come to me these days too. I joke with my quiet Finnish student that my grandfather said they were good people to have on submarines. I flirt in Russian with a woman who lived through communism. My grandfather used to sneak food and weapons past Hitler, from the USA to her parents in the USSR. I train the first teacher in our system from The United States. Someone is speaking German and smiling. I imagine the beautiful children of a heavily mixed-race couple on the course. They’ve got more shades of lush brown between them than the fertile farmland soil where I grew up. Who knows what colour eyes their kids will have, or what land they’ll play in?
I cry the same sea tears as all of them, thinking of family sacrifice and pain. I fire the same red blood, like my grandfather in the furnaces. I think of the eyes of a sick mentor – ‘the same Jew eyes’, Shakespeare might have said. We need to keep learning this over again it seems. But eyes and hands can meet across the divides. We breath the same air. Our feet all walk on the same earth. Until we enter it.
We’re all from the body. We’re all from the big body. We’re all from the same place. Enough division.