I remember hearing or reading the phrase “The opposite of love is not hate, it is onions” once. I have searched for this, but been unable to remember where I heard it, or something like it. If you have any idea where I might gotten this from, please let me know. If not, then it very well might be something I made up years ago on one of my rants and found it so profound that I forgot I said it. It is profound. Take my word for it; I know these things.
This story is inspired by a cluster of onion seedlings that I found in the path between two of my garden beds. When putting in seeds a few weeks ago, I must have laid down a package on onions which spilled without me realizing it, because the seedlings were all tightly together right where the seed packets had lain.
I hate onions. You might be saying, “Kitty, if you hate onions, then why were you planting them?” This is a reasonable question. I am glad you asked. Mostly I plant them because my partner likes them. But there is another reason: they are good in their absence, such as in a mirepoix or broth. You get some of the flavor out of the onion and then remove it, so the memory of onion remains, but you don’t actually have to eat it. No crunch of fresh onion assaulting your mouth, little landmines of anger. No slimy bitter corpses of onions broken down by the heat of culinary battle. Only the spirit of the valiant onion that once fought here remains.
I am not a big fan of hate. Hating does not feel good; it does not make things better; it does not bring joy (or at least I hope not). But maybe, like onion can enhance the flavor of a soup, little doses of hate from time to time fuel our passion for life and justice. Knowing what you hate might give you clearer focus to hold on to what you love.
“You hear that Danny G. is shipping out next week? You know, Jenny’s older brother, he got called. How many guys we know been drafted? Let’s just enlist. Come on, Frankie, you know we’re going to get drafted anyway. We ain’t in college. We ain’t rich. What ya gonna do, Frankie? Just wait…”
No one knew Frankie like Tony. They had grown up in the same neighborhood. They fought side-by-side in the war. Tony had pushed his wheelchair through the crowds of hippies when Frankie got sent home. He had known Frankie when he was a scared kid. Tony had seen him at his best, and at his worst. He had known Frankie with two legs, with one leg, and with a shiny plastic leg. Tony knew the sins that pushed Frankie to do good, to make the world better. And he knew the hero’s soul that would pull a buddy out of danger. He knew that kept Frankie going when so many others would give up.
He should’ve spent more time with Frankie, had more courage. One more should’ve to add to his collection. Frankie was the last one of the guys to die, except for crazy Tony, still unaccountably alive. Tony would be the last one to be planted in the endless field of identical, equally-spaced headstones. No one and nothing to remember him, but a single dot on a field of thousands, a tiny speck of cold white.
“Yeah, I know man. I used to feel that way. But I got to thinking. If they came home now, no more would be in chairs like you, or ugly as sin like me. We’re not disrespecting the guys, but wanting to protect them, you know? Wanting to pull them out of the fire. Since we can’t protect them there, we have to try to do something here,“ said Tony, behind bushy beard and hippie hair, grown to cover his burned face and missing eye. “We have to change the world, Frankie. We have to make it better. That is our war now, man. Our enemy is the fucking war that is killing our friends. You might have kids someday. You don’t want them sent over there to die, do ya?”
“Me, kids? I don’t know Tony. What lady would want to marry me? And kids…”
“..run away, go up north and be a lumberjack? Our number’s gonna get called up. Might as well volunteer. Sign up now, get better assignments that way. What ya gonna do, Frankie? I’m gonna go. I won’t shirk duty. I’m no coward.”