Photo: a patrol through marijuana. Today’s subject: events that guide my writing.
Some bad stuff in the past exerts a strong influence over what I write today. The weather has me thinking about this right now.
It was in these sunny days of late September that some tough experiences went down.
The sky was azure, perfect. Beautiful weather. The temperatures during the day were warm enough to work up a sweat, but not stiflingly hot. The nights and early mornings were cool, cold up in the mountains. The Milky Way was on full, glorious display as I sat behind my machine gun.
You can’t adequately describe how electric and deadly it all felt. Combat.
Beneath the azure sky, the pinprick stars, the ghostly dawn. The cold shock of water as I waded through it at 0200 hours. The reek of marijuana. The radio calls. The brute weight of gear, shortness of breath.
My teeth chatter thinking on it, my hand shakes.
And that’s the problem.
In the quiet hours the past comes to visit me, it pads up behind me like a sneak thief. You can run as much as you like, but sooner or later you tire, you slow.
And there it sits, waiting.
For how long, I do not know.
For decades, generations. Long after the last shot, the pain remains.
Maybe my M-4 has been re-tooled at the arsenal, maybe Anniston, and has been handed back out. Or perhaps it slumbers in a crate, placed in reserve status. It could also be that nothing was done to it and it was given to a Basic outfit, to be used until entirely useless. All these fates are possible for the weapon once named after my oldest child, a chunk of steel, aluminum and plastic carried into some of the worst places on Earth.
The weapon and my body escaped.
I have not. There is no Anniston for old soldiers. The fleshy part of the weapons system can’t be re-barreled, have a few springs replaced, or get hosed down with Cerakote.
No, we have what we have. Memories best left alone. Experiences no one understands. Wordless gaps of knowledge.
This. This is why I write. To communicate, to share. To illustrate.
To let those we left behind know what we did over there. Even if it’s in a science fiction format. Maybe better in a sci-fi format because then you can distance yourself from the words.
Words are a record, an echo, Plato’s shadows on the cave.
They are what we use to transmit the knowledge of good or evil.
I heard someone say once that it’s better to learn from someone else’s mistakes. This is true, and there is no better reason for why people should read and write. We can’t predict the future, but we can look at the past and draw appropriate lessons from history. This is why I write; I have a duty to entertain, but also to inform.
What am I getting at?
I guess what I want to say is not to go to war unless you have a damn good reason.
Why? Everyone involved gets a life sentence. Men, women, children, the guilty and the innocent. Everyone remembers.
I do, and I shiver.
Especially on these crisp, sunny days.