Monday, February 2, 2009

I wrote this yesterday after watching Why We Fight [a documentary on the military industrial complex]

In the darkness, he wanes. A lone and standing figure, gun in hand, helmet strapped securely under his chin.

There’s something great about the way he stands – the blood-streaked reality that is his livelihood falls away under the thought that maybe he would be a good marriage candidate, maybe he would be able to protect me if anything happened. But then the questions come and you forget about it. Look on him with both your eyes questioning: there is then no turning back.

I was not a young girl when I realized that it was all a sham. That the crisp blue pants and fitted shirts were not the mark of a young boy running around under his father’s strict wishes, no. They were his. And he would walk formally through the reeds and try to find the other boys in their eternal game of hide and seek.

“Bang!” he would shout. Then he would dodge to the side with galloping strides. The four horsemen could not measure up. “Bang!”

I watch him now on the crest of the hill as the valley sinks low in the evening light. I send up a prayer for his safety, but the listening party sends him down into the darkness and I back into the warm glow of the lamp as it flickers.

“Don’t worry about me,” he had said. Almost an adult now, he could make his own decisions. He didn’t need anyone to tell him that he was making the right decision – he knew that with all his heart. I just couldn’t understand.

I would make lines in the flour as it dropped from the open bag, spelling his name in spilled ghostly letters. My fingers would come away chalky, but usually they were cleaned by the time I had finished crying. Cookies baked in sorrow are nothing but disgusting lumps.
I wrenched myself awake after he parted over the lip of that hill, onto a place where no one knew his name or his favorite comic book or the girl he had asked to prom. I was dripping with sweat, looking to see if I’d bothered the empty space where his father used to lay. I sighed.

Every morning was a new headache as the neighbors asked me whether he was coming back or where he was. I tried to make my life not all about him, but somehow every scarf I knitted and every phone call I made were in hopes that he would come back and tell me that he loved me and what was going on with Auntie or Mo?

I still saw him behind my eyelids. Even as the TV went black and the phone rang ominously, I could still see him there. Waving his fingers around like a child. Then he smiled brightly at me, drew his L-shaped hand up next to his face and shouted. “Bang!”

When I answered the phone there was a strange man on the other end of the line.

“Ms. Rojan?” I nodded, but then caught myself and answered “yes?”

“I am sorry to have to inform you, ma’am, but your son was killed in combat.”

My mind blanks out after that point.

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