What can I say about war that hasn’t already been said? My experiences reflect those expressed by writer’s far more talented the me.
Even the greatest writers admit their inability to fully capture the experiences of horror, the crushing fear, the fury, the odors, screams and silence one suffers in between the disturbing peace. Like making love or the taste of fine wine, words on a page only trigger imagination and illicit a dark sympathy. Empathy without experience is nothing more than fantasy.
I do not make these claims in offense. My own empathy is a rope that over time has become a noose. Random moments are capable of producing the most unpredictable triggers. A playful child’s scream might reveal the man, laid bare beneath a shattered wall, his stomach and intestines uncoiled across the huts dirt floor. A door slamming shut behind me and a memory long suppressed plays in a loop just behind my eyes: our medic bagging a severed, yet still camouflaged soldiers leg. The smell of a rabbit and a phantom smell of burning tire and human flesh lingers for days.
We forget so much of what we see. This is true for almost everyone of us. War is no different. We can’t recall, but we never really forget. These shocking visions, buried just below the conscience, erupt into our lives like films about ghosts. They are insidious magic tricks, pictures from the most evil of theaters. None of us are immune, it’s just that some of the afflicted can overcome the inflicted. Count me as not one.
It’s like my best memories have been erased. I’m like a mixtape that’s been over recorded with the voice of the devil himself.
Where do I go from here?