We meet our elderly guide in the late afternoon,
the graying skies adding to the somber atmosphere
overlaying the double-named London/Derry landscape.
The scene of much violence during that period called “The Troubles,”
we will circumnavigate a small piece of the quieting city
walking the historic walls built for community protection between 1613 and 1619.
Dressed in a blue, brass-buttoned suit that makes him look like a military band conductor,
he has time to offer each of us a welcoming, warm handshake pump, and we proceed,
attending to a quite detailed discussion of various sites of shootings and bombings.
At the end of the walk, he tells us that he’s been awarded London/Derry Guide of the Year
for the past two years in a row, and pausing his speech,
he takes a moment to make eye contact with each of us.
Then he says, tears in his eyes, in a voice we’ve not yet heard, “Please, please
tell all your friends to come visit us, that it’s safe here now,
and that we badly need the income from tourism to keep recovering.”
Content to leave us with these words, he turns and ambles slowly away into darkness,
leaving us alone to contemplate this settled peace. while the sun sinks,
struggling to comprehend what it might have been like to survive amid such violence.