Emma writes a beautiful and precise discourse at the latest article published over at theconversation.com. It’s beautiful because it’s precise, not because it talks about beautiful things.
Embedded in the content itself are two videos of contrasting and yet mutually supporting values. As victims across the globe get the attention of most governments and media, though not necessarily the attention they deserve (if you think you need to bomb me to make my life a whole lot better, perhaps you should consider asking me first …), the first video describes how when considering soldiers involved in atrocity as victims as well as perpetrators – or perhaps victims above all, beyond any condition of aggressor – we turn the arguments and debates upside down.
By doing so, we should lead our politicians and makers & shakers to reconsider their all too casually held opinions.
I am unclear if they will.
But, from my personal point of view, and from what I am slowly beginning to wonder maybe I’ve been through myself, it is the second video which consists of an interview with Jay – a soldier from Iraq, a man I have met briefly and whose intellect is much finer and firmer than any I could ever possess – which most toughly connects with my sense and sensibility this evening.
I wrote earlier in the day today about two meet-ups I had in the summer with a wonderful person called Claire, and how between one and the other, and then again afterwards, I had had to fight back rising levels of suspicion on my part with respect to her motives for wanting to meet me.
After months of internal debate and poetry of all kinds, I concluded yesterday that I was wrong on all counts: that in fact she had only tried to help me in very complex circumstances: that in fact the circumstances – which dated back twelve now weary years – had been wilfully engineered on my part, had affected her nuclear family in a very negative sense, and were entirely my responsibility – as clearly the sanest part of the equation.
The truth is that twelve years ago I had fallen in love with her mother, a woman who had been married at the time; had proceeded to court her madly; had practically coerced her into loving me back (at the time I considered her in full possession of her faculties, but I think my mad ways really left her with no real alternative to breaking her family up) – only for me to then go on to make it impossible for the relationship to continue whilst I still had my own nuclear family to continue bringing up.
The maddest thing of all is that this summer, amongst suspicion and suspicion, I fell utterly in love – on the basis of a bare four hours of truly pleasurable mealtimes – with a woman twenty-eight years younger than me.
I was – still am, have been for most of my married life – an extremely lonely man. You could argue this was simply such a man at the begging bowl of despair. But even a lonely man, even a man outside society, is capable of feeling true love, is capable of having proper sentiments for others.
I think what I felt was truly felt. Claire is a really, wonderfully, good-hearted person.
And I realise, now, that what I had felt for her mother twelve years ago, and what her mother had felt back for me, whilst so grand at the time, was yet almost mortally destructive for us both.
My life was put on hold for over a decade as a result. I have had no satisfactory sex life since whenever I can remember, and this coldness and coolness and and sensory-deprived existence in general has led me to trust practically no one at all.
So when Claire, this amazingly cool second cousin of mine, in love with chips and ciggies to equal degree, aimed to rescue me from this dark place I had burrowed into for over a decade … well … I almost did trust her, almost did sense there was a beastie – no longer beastly – ready to save my soul and heart.
And in meeting her I even began to wonder if the damage to her own familial stability when she had only been thirteen years old, and which surely I had contributed to, was in some way going to be forgiven through her very desire to meet.
It wasn’t quite enough, and we shan’t meet again, and even if we do, we will never have what I imagined – in my sheer loneliness – one day there could have been.
But having just read Emma’s article on the discourse of public remembrance and veterans, and having listened very carefully to both the video voices thus included, I realise I have suffered for most of my life from real traumas, real hurts, real pain, and fears and sadnesses, which in some way replicate those that true veterans have suffered.
And I think before she met me, Claire had worked this out. And think, in some slightly fearful way, she thought she could get past my barriers. And she almost succeeded, bless her cotton socks. And although she hasn’t managed to do quite enough for us to ever sustain or maintain or make real a relationship of future, she has got me way beyond the love I imagined I still felt for her mother.
Even so, I would love to meet up with Claire again one day.
Even so, it would be nice to exchange notes on what really went on in both our heads.
And so I realise that the wars we fight in foreign lands can just as easily be fought within our minds. And when Jay describes the pain of Iraq and his return to civilian life, so I empathise easily with the pain he expresses.
That has been my life.
All my life.
From domestic war zone to street & workplace freedoms, unbound. From being tied down by hardly homely matriarchal dictatoring to the simple joys of just being around humanity outside.
And so it’s only now I can begin to imagine I will one day meet a woman who not just understands the place I am coming from but also – sympathetically, sexily, gorgeously, intelligently, compassionately and wisely – knows exactly where we both need to venture.
You may argue, and maybe fairly too, that I am looking for a chimera that cannot possibly exist: an illusion: a perfection: a person built up by my obviously insane imagination.
But when Jay describes how it is for a soldier to act madly out of their very sanity, I discover how precisely this describes what I have been through. And although part of my mad world has been the woman closest to me, other women have on occasions come close to me too – and even then, even on such occasions, I have kinda gone and rejected them as well.
I fear intimacy, then? Is that what this is all about? No. I do not. I fear people – maybe women in particular – who may have power over me; but not because I fear women exactly – rather, because I fear abuse in general.
I saw Leonard Cohen remembered tonight. I love his music, am getting to know his poetry; realise he has been the auto-ethnographer I never knew I was most of my life.
No longer shall I ever be ashamed of writing in public about my people.
It will not only be my right, but surely my duty.
And in that sense, Claire, you have saved me – you really have.
I hope one day I can repay you. You are a good person; a much better one than I could ever have imagined. A much better person than I am at the moment.
I lost your friendship, but in the madness of that brief time regained my sanity. I am sorry I did not trust you, but on future occasions I will manage to follow your lead.
And even if this is not to be in your presence, in the presence of some much happier time it most certainly is going to be.