Peace and Quiet

by Gabriel Urbina


A continuation of Julie and Alex. Julie, a math teacher and Alex, a librarian have moved in together. Julie now works for a new Principal. Her former Principal, predatory Mr. Manners is gone. Things are going very well for them.

Things were going well for Julie. She loved teaching Math; she liked her students; she enjoyed working with her new principal, and she was happy living with Alex.

School was dismissed at three o'clock, and Alex had to work at the library until 8 PM. She was at home, enjoying her 'alone time,' grading exams, and writing lesson plans. It was relaxing for her to teach her subject. Furthermore, she was getting to teach one AP class, something she didn't have a chance to do before.

She liked all of her students, in particular her AP students, because they never asked "Why do I have to take this course?" Each one of them had his or her own reasons to be taking advanced math. Her Consumer Math students did'nt have to ask why either, because the subject was obviously practical; useful stuff for real life. Only some of her Algebra students couldn't see the purpose of this subject. One of her answers was "Any subject that makes you think is good for you." A shorter answer was "Graduation." Anyway, these were nice kids. There were few discipline problems. This was a well run school. Julie felt strongly that her new Prinicipal's leadership had a lot to do with this nurturing environment.

Julie enjoyed working for and with Claudia Williams, the Principal. Claudia was quite a change, after Julie's experiences with her former Principal, Scott Manners, whom she saw as a sexual predator; and, in her view, a charming sociopath. Claudia, on the other hand, was a happily married woman, who had been a History teacher, and who had served in the Coast Guard.

Julie and Claudia connected right away. First of all, they were both from Georgia. Julie was from Brunswick, and Claudia was from Savannah. They quickly learned about each other. Claudia learned about Julie's love for Math, and the peace it brought to her; and Julie learned about Claudia's love for the sea, and the contemplative part of her personality.

Claudia had never been too far away from the sea. Always no more than thirty minutes from the nearest beach. After high school, Mrs. Williams considered enlisting in the Navy, but chose the Coast Guard instead. She realized she did not want adventure and exploration; all she wanted was to be able to admire the ocean from the shore. This was the way she found tranquility.

Claudia went to basic training in Cape May, New Jersey, and to Storekeeper school in Petaluma, California. Then she was stationed in Miami, where she met her husband, who was also serving in the Coast Guard. With her training and experience in the service, she gained valuable administrative skills. After their enlistments were over, she and her husband went to college together, right there in Miami.

Julie was extremely happy living with Alex. She was comfortable with him. They had important things in common, and they had related experiences.

They both liked 'alone time,' and they needed their space. The difference in their work schedules helped them to have both quietness and oneness. They both enjoyed their chosen professions, which did not preclude interactions with students or library patrons. Both of them had seen suffering; people hurting. Alex had been a medic in the Navy, and Julie had been a nurse in ICU. Both had been in Asia. Julie had taught English in Japan, after leaving nursing, and Alex had served in Vietnam. These were sufficient links for a strong bond between them.

Julie finished her school work, had a snack, and sat down to listen to some light classical music. She didn't want to eat much because Alex was bringing a pizza for dinner. She doze off for a while, until Alex arrived.

"What did you get?"

"An extra large one from New York Pizza."


"Nope. The Works."

"That's a huge one. We'll be having pizza for breakfast too."

"Don't count on it. I'm hungry. I didn't have lunch today. I overslept, and I made it to work exactly at noon. I have to set a good example for the troops, you know?"

"Maybe I should prepare a salad, so we do not feel so guilty."

"Guilt? Let's deal with this alleged guilt with some of the German beer we have in the fridge."

"OK. Good thing tomorrow is Friday, and we have early dismissal, with meetings in the afternoon."

"All right, then. Let's get to it!"

After they had obliterated most of the pizza, Julie asked "What did you think about that documentary we saw last night?"

"About the prosperous contemporary Vietnam?"

"Yes." Alex replied "It was alright. Informative."

"Come on. You were involved in the war. You must have felt something, after seeing those Vietnamese so happy and prosperous. Some mixed feelings,, perhaps?"

"No mixed feelings because these are different people and it is a different country. What I got out of the documentary, what impressed the most, was that everybody was smiling. They were happy. I never saw smiles in the war. It's so obvious; so basic. Smiles in peacetime. No smiles in wartime."

Julie said, "It seems many Americans are fascinated with this beautiful country. A lot of Americans are going there."

"That has been going on for a while. It started with veterans seeking closure by going back there."

"But you didn't do that."

"No. My closure came when I boarded the C130 airplane that brought me back to the States. As far as I'm concerned, there is never a complete closure, because my memories of the war cannot be erased. I admit that initially I dealt with my own situation as a returning veteran by taking trips to Italy. It was escapism, pure and simple. Then I began to realize Italians are not warriors. They love beauty; they enjoy life. Well, Julie, wars are ugly; and to enjoy life, peace is absolutely necessary."

Julie said,"you are the king of the obvious. Sometimes things are so obvious that we miss them. I confess that after a few trips to Italy with you, I had not thought about what you said. Well, we accomplished our mission. The pizza and the beer are history. I'm going to bed."

"I'm going to stay here for a while. I'm going to listen to some of your CD's for a while," said Alex. Julie just smiled to him and retired.

Peace, Alex thought, was recreated by the soft music, the light classical music that Julie liked. Alex associated war with noise, useless, uninspiring and hurtful noise. He thought about all the people that left Vietnam once the war was over. All those who settled in the United States, Australia and France. Why did they leave their country? Maybe because the war was not over for them. They were escaping an uncertain future, and, at that time, they were not sure they would have the freedom leading to a personal peace. That's it. These Vietnamese people, above all else, were seeking peace. The same peace that Julie and I enjoy.

Alex listened to music until midnight, then went to bed. He slept extremely well.

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