Quitting Time

Evening falls, the buses stay loaded with suburban Yerevantsis who want the full good of Yerevan nights. The sidewalks cool down, stay busy, get dark. What’s new, too, is the intensity of the kissing–on the steps of the Cascade, in Lovers’ Park.


This open passion is new, and due partly to the arrival of diasporan Armenians. They, along with other cultural winds, bring new ways, as they set up shops around the city, seeing opportunity where many don’t. It’s okay now to be at the dance clubs until late.

By 8:00, the swifts have almost all left. There’s a 10 year old hurrying home across one of the pedestrian avenues that wind behind the apartment blocks. All the other children have gone inside. They have played hard, their families expect them home.

When the frisbee was starting to blend in with the grass and the dogwood trees, my mother would call out to me, “Quitting Time, Petey!!!” My friends teased me; such an arbitrary interruption, like being hauled off the stage with a cane handle around my neck. But I accepted her indomitable logic, I ceased, I desisted, I went in. Would they, my friends, go on playing without me? Nah, we’re turning in too. It’s no fun without me, right? So we each retreated from the graying street to our clean, well-lighted places. Dusk with dignity.

Then–what holiday is it now?–fireworks, from over there, in that lot, or from up on the horizon over Nor Nork. Armenians often light up the night sky with fireworks. By 11:30, the lover’s are walking home, I’ve gone to bed.

ICU This infant, un-responsive and unable to inspire effective breath, has been on a ventilator for three weeks now. Bi-hemispheric and brainstem stroke. Would the doctors suggest to the parents that turning off the ventilator could now be a caring gesture? In the absence of any formal “Do Not Resuscitate” or end of life agreements, even for declaring brain death, such scenarios toss a delicate mix of feelings into the evening breeze, as the players guess where they will land–will the parents blame the doctors? Will the doctors know they did all they could? Will the sibling find solace with friends?

Opera Anoush, the female lead, has lost her Romeo. At sunset, she climbs the cliff to jump, her suicide glorified by the music of Armen Tigranian. From offstage comes the voice of her mother: “Anoush, come back home. Where are you, my child?“Anoush seems a bit out of it: “… how suddenly everything has changed. All things in my life are empty and void. Mountains stand alone, barren and ignored, With the shepherd boy, gone so far away.”

As the curtain closes, the audience, seated, claps in rhythm. Curtain call–she bows, the sorrow of The End imbuing her movements. She knows every sinew of this quitting time.

imageOud, Armenian Traditional: Zepuri Neman (Like a Breeze):



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