Standing in the backyard, about 50 of us gather to celebrate my friend’s mother’s 69th birthday, which happens to fall on the anniversary of Pearl Harbor.
Two large tequila bottles sit on a picnic table surrounded by a few older women. The Patron bottle is empty; they’ve just cracked open the Sauza Commemorativo and are cutting more limes. A line of people buzz around three tables packed full of carnitas, asada, roasted chicken and other delicacies. Others grab beers out of ice-filled buckets. Nearly a dozen kids run around playing, dancing and pushing one another across the yard in a plastic kiddie car.
A mariachi band surrounds my friend’s mother. She is completely enthralled, locked inside the gaze of the violinist, singing the songs along with him with all her heart and tears in her eyes. Suddenly, mariachis are momentarily upstaged.
“What’s that flying in the air?” Someone points to a kite-shaped plane that seems to be doing acrobatics in the clouds. The thing seems relatively flat and glides through the sky like a giant grey manta ray, smooth and menacing at the same time. The kids begin shouting, “Batman!” Suddenly everyone’s cameras point toward the graceful triangular object circling the party.
“It’s stealth bomber – the most important plane in the US Air Force!” replies my friend’s brother.
The mariachis keep their mesmerizing presence, never break their intense concentration in singing their songs, never stop looking my friend’s mother in the eye. The stealth bomber keeps circling the sky in a large loop that encompasses the entire neighborhood. It seems our party and the merry band of roving performers is the target of it’s vortex.
As I sit eating the best Mexican beef brisket I’ve ever had and toasting rounds of Sauza with friends while the trumpets of the mariachis play in the background, I feel a nagging discomfort in my belly as the ominous stealth bomber continues to silently patrol the airspace all around us. Those guys flying that thing are on our side, I think to myself, but how scary it would be if they weren’t. It’s a bit unsettling.
As the kids continue to squeal in delight and the band plays on, I notice the bass player look up a few times with a nervous glance. The jets quietly purr over the horns and guitar only when the bomber flies directly overhead. I can’t help but sit there and let my food get cold and my beer get warm. What abject fear the sight of that machine gliding low through a neighborhood in Baghdad must cause! The damage that thing is capable of is immense and frightening. Something in my gut will not allow me to cheer it on.
The stealth bomber, we surmise, is flying overhead to commemorate the 68th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. It seems odd to think of the thing as a symbol of victory and safety. Everyone waves to it as it flies low overhead, but I can’t shake the creepy feeling inside myself until it is gone. Can’t stop thinking about parties in other parts of the world that it could turn into a grease spot within seconds.