(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) LIKE THE earliest American colonials, we came early, seized our land and guarded against possible intruders.
It was July 4, after all, and we wanted an unobstructed view of the fireworks.
The explosives were scheduled to fire after nightfall, but a pair of our friends had set up camp just after 2pm, knowing the crowds that would descend and pack the area chockablock full.
The camp consisted of several adjacent tarps and cloths, in the spacious L-shaped territory we secured. It was plenty of earth for the 20 or so of us.
This camp, and the people encircling it along the Charles River, offered a reminder of what continues to make America so distinct even in gloomy times. To be American in our camp - or on the grass in front of us or the road behind - was to be anything at all. We had come from just about everywhere in the world. Faces, histories, blood didn't matter.
The fireworks were delayed by the threat of a storm. But rain didn't come. At last, they started - roaring, prancing, shimmying explosions. Then, in the midst of the show, with the charred remnants tumbling, so did the rain itself.
Around that time, a tall, thin man broke through the invisible border we had been guarding, stepped onto our camp site and stood a few inches in front of my wife. Now he could see the fireworks, and she couldn't.
She protested to him, and he swiveled around and barked angrily, profanely at her. He would stand where he wanted. Now I stepped in and asked him, gently but firmly, to step to the side of our group, as we had been here for hours.
"Go back to your country!" came his stinging reply. He decided, nonetheless, to move to the edge of our camp. "Why did you even come to this country?" he asked as he slid past.
At first, I tried to follow him, to tell him that, despite my Indian origins, my portal into this world was Cleveland, Ohio, and to ask whether it was there he wanted me to go, or somewhere else. He was a white man, and I felt that my Ohio credentials might impress him. I was, of course, also feeling that I shouldn't have needed to prove anything to him.
He swatted me off and was vaguely threatening our friends with calls he could make to the police. Crime: unspecified.
Then I decided to tweet him instead of fix him. I took photos of him that I could post when the rain cleared and my phone was working again.
Something impelled me to go back to him and extend my hand for a shake. "Sir, the exchange we had is not worthy of our country," I said. "I'm sorry if you felt you didn't have space. And I trust that you're sorry that you said what you said, because it was wrong." He surprised me by melting and reaching out his hand. He said he was sorry.
Then, before long, he had resumed making threats. It began to dawn on us that the man might be unstable, that our interactions weren't accruing in his memory. He continued to point at us and spout disparaging slurs about race.
From out of nowhere, another man stepped forward from the crowd and into the space between this man and us. He looked like the epitome of that mythic being they always speak of on the news during American election years: the white, working-class voter - bald head, tattoos, sleeveless T-shirt, generous belly.
He told the angry man to cool it. Told him he hadn't driven all the way from Dayton, Ohio, to see this tantrum. And then, in a gesture that for me will always be synonymous with the American spirit, he pointed to the many-hued members of our group - as different as we could be from him and his companion- and said to the man, "These are my people, too."
These are my people, too: He didn't say much more. He just stood there, between the angry man and us, enforcing his soaring words with his sturdy body. When we thanked him, the fuss of it embarrassed him.
The fireworks ended and our eyes sought out the angry man. We saw him off to the side. He was shaking, his arm flailing, mouth babbling. Something was wrong. He kneeled and clung to a street sign, muttering aloud, as our group gathered around, wondering what to do. The shaking and flailing got worse. We realised it may be a seizure. We called the police, who anyway found him on a routine patrol.
Medics soon followed. The man was losing control. Our anger became concern and our concern, pity. What a sad man he was. We realised that, unlike most of the revelers, he was, on this holiday he so wanted to celebrate, alone. Where would he go now, and to whom? Lain on a stretcher, he vanished into a hot, wet crowd that looked like the world.