Anton turned up last night. It was almost the same as last time. A Covid-19 lockdown had been called and Anton knocked on my front door and walked in just as he had a year ago. I told you about Anton and about all the girls we had known and about everything. If you want to go back I have put it all together in one complete story. (HERE)
Already I can tell is that it is going to be as emotionally tedious as before.
“Well, well, well. I am seriously delighted to see you. I might not have told you but I really enjoyed your last visit,” I exclaimed when I open the door.
“And so you should have. I normally charge people for the emotional and spiritual help I bestow upon them. And I never got around to replacing that bottle of whisky.”
“So is it just because of another lockdown that you have deigned to present yourself?”
“Listen mate, I came because I don’t think I could get through another extended lockdown on my own so I will be here for the duration. This time I brought coriander and 25 year old malt whisky and various other delicacies.”
“That is very kind of you Anton.”
I made up his bed and we celebrated his return. There began to appear a few silences, a few stoppages in the chatter, a gentle contemplation of the bottom of the whisky glass. Anton had something on his mind I suggested.
“I’ve been thinking about Becky,” he said quite out of the blue and I wondered how he knew about Becky.
“Because I read your blog. I’ve been reading it ever since I came up last time.”
“And I am devastated by what went on in Bosnia. I have been researching the war and the Siege of Sarajevo and I can’t get it out of my system.”
“What about it is so devastating? I know that’s a silly question but why has it affected you so much?” I didn’t mention that I had been having a bit of a time myself in contemplating these things.
“Tell me this Johnno; are you happy with what you’ve done?”
“You mean posting that story? Of course I am.”
“No. I mean here we are, two old blokes in our late seventies; have we actually accomplished anything? Has all the time and education and money and the influence of our parents actually been worth the bloody effort? And don’t interrupt while I’m on a roll. I, Anton the Brilliant, has taken one or two pretty decent photographs and immortalized a few soon to be shattered into pieces ceremonies of wedded hope and longing and in the great scheme of things that is pretty well nothing. And while I spent my time getting the mother of the bride and the mother of the groom to stop fussing while I took photos some Serbian sniper was trying to kill as many mothers of brides as he could.”
“What could you have done? You couldn’t have stood in the middle of a street and stopped the bullets flying.”
“Of course I bloody could, John. If I had been there I could have taken a hundred photos and plastered them all over the internet and the world would have seen the carnage and some of the countries who could would have done something instead of sitting on their arses and letting it all go to Hell in a basket.”
“Was the internet going then?” I asked.
“Yes I think it was but that doesn’t change things. I could have done something.”
“Perhap you’re right. But we can all do better; in retrospect.”
“That is a total cop out, John. At least you were teaching. At least you were able to influence young people. You don’t have any reason to be despondent.”
He stopped. I stopped. And we both leant over to pick up the whisky bottle. He got there first and poured into both glasses. How did he know what I had been thinking ever since I had posted the Becky story and since I had got those emails from her. Since she told me what it had been like for her since then. About her book that she wrote. Even a second hand copy costs about $200 Australian. And the cyber bullying. How did Anton know, or had he guessed that I have those same doubts.
“Teaching isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be, mate. I don’t think I’ve changed any of my students. Not fundamentally. Most of the students I had who have become successful and have had a positive influence on the world would have got there without me.”
He said I was wrong. He said I should be proud. We argued for an hour or so. He is still here and lockdown continues and we will probably go on like this tonight.
But both of us are thinking the same. Me? I know I could have done more. Actually I know I could have done something. All I really did was to keep a lot of kids entertained for a while.