Issue 2: Confession Vs. Mask
A Publication of the USF MFA in Writing Program


The Sympathizer

David Booth

I don't know why I didn't come to the city oftener. It's funny how you want to do a thing but never do it. Once when I was young one of those boys' clubs took a bunch of us to The Museum of Natural History to learn about organisms. They took us to the city in buses. When we finally got to where we were going we walked round and around looking for the museum entrance, only to find ourselves caught up in the middle of a huge demonstration. I remember climbing to the top of a lamppost to get out of the way of everybody. There were more people in the street than I can ever remember seeing in one place together. They came out of nowhere. They blew their horns and waved their brightly worded banners. They chanted in unison. By the time I got to the top I was screaming and chanting with them. I shook my fist. The skyscrapers and helicopters up above were dizzying.

The other day my brother made one of his nonsensical leaps to why I haven't been back—because, he said, the best I'd ever be was a sympathizer. Where does that come from? He was older than me and called himself a partisan. He said that to think up a plan and never act on it was like a thought you never had. Come again? He said that I could see far enough but would never, quote, fix on a position and take action. How do you get there from my day in the city? I was, quote, moving through in lieu of gathering. To each his own, I say, especially if he wants to talk in code. But it made me kind of mad for some reason, what he said, in a way that I wanted to break his nose, maybe because that—he'd figure it this way—was a thought I'd never have.

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