The old man shook his head, wiped the tear that was forming at the corner of his left eye, and turned the key. He had built his this little guesthouse, and had put much of his energies into it for nearly a decade. He had gotten to know many of his customers, and liked almost all.
At times, the boisterous group would talk politics, and these were always lively discussions. All sides had their well-spoken champions. He had his own feelings, and wasn’t shy about throwing in his two francs.
With the Germans invasion of Poland, the political discussions had heated up, considerably. He was always surprised at the number of his fellow Frenchmen who seemed not only not worried about the German aggression, but seemed even to embrace much of the Nazi party line. Not surprising, actually given the spread of socialist thinking. But, little of this had anything to do with the day to day lives of himself, or those who frequented his place.
Then came the day when the Germans marched into his City of Lights.
The old friends whom he had known for years, whom he had liked well enough before, even though he didn’t agree with their support of the Germans, now embraced their new German “Partners”, and brought them to his place to relax, and revel in their successes, and plan for the future. But, the Germans were not his friends. They were the enemy of his country, and thus, enemy of his. His old friends had made their choices. They were his friends, and yet they had become his enemies.
He had been struggling with the thought of “friends” being “enemies” for some time. Half of the people he came into contact on a daily basis were in his mind on the side of the enemy. There was no way to know which were which of the nameless strangers al around. The people he knew was a different story. Some of them he knew were trusted friends of both his, and his country’s. Some he knew weren’t. What was even worse, he had family members, people he loved dearly, in both of those same two groups.
The family was simply family. At this point, he wasn’t ready to disown those with whom he found traitorous. He would simply have as little to do with them as necessary. That was an unbelievably painful decision. His friends he would have to look at differently. Rather than try and sort through them, and measure their varying shades of trustworthyness, he simply decided that he was an old man, and it might just be much easier to fade away.
He knew there would be those who disgreed with his decisions. The Germans and their supporters would be a steady source of interesting reactions to the closing of the guesthouse. Their favorite was the, “A bit of an overreaction, wouldn’t you say?” Somehow, the idea that someone would be disgusted by the thought of rubbing shoulders with the masters who were busy enslaving the same people kissing their rings, eluded them. But he couldn’t stand at the door, allowing some and turning others away. There was no sense talking about it. Those who shared his feelings were most likely feeling much the same way. Those who were on the other side would simply cry “Sour grapes!” All of the talking had been done. It was over. So. Time for the old man to go home.
He thought about the chants of “We won!” that had been shouted by many of his friends as the Germans had installed the “new” government that one day.
They had won.