Nadia Stevenson – A War Monologue

Because you expect me to speak about it, too, I suppose. Because if I have the medal, then there must be the stories to tell too, right? The stories; come on then, which one is it you’re hoping to hear? The ones packed with tension, the kind you like, where you’re ooching forward in your seat, wondering if they die or not in the end? Do you really want to know about that kind of tension? Go and watch a film …

Or do you prefer them stories about heroes? Thing about being a hero, is it’s all a bit personal. One person’s hero is usually someone else’s nightmare, right? All a bit subjective, if you ask me…

So you expect me to speak about it, and then folk can ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ and go ‘isn’t he brave?’ or ‘just think of what he went through’. And if I don’t speak about it, you look for the weirdo-code, the tell-tale signs that I’m keeping it in, I’m ready to explode – like one of those landmines you maybe read about … The twitch, or the ‘inability to maintain normal relationships’ any more.

There are none; the stories. Twitches neither. And if there are no stories, if I come back acting just the same … your assumption, I imagine, is that it didn’t leave a mark. Or that I dealt with it well. That I’ve put it behind me in a nice and healthy way.

Did you ever look into my eyes? Did you ever … really? Really into them, I mean. Recently, have you?

I … do … not … speak about it …

I just don’t. I don’t twitch and I’m all right; and I even maintain normal friendships. I laugh when I should. I tell jokes too. I am not a hero and I am not the devil either.

But do you never see ‘it’ … in my eyes? You expect your stories, or nervous twitches, don’t you?

Here’s a story. The same week I signed up, my friend Lee started working down the road at the supermarket. We were eighteen. He got a contract and I did too. First job for both of us. Both of us on a wage. Jobs that we’d both chosen to do.

It was work. I chose it. I got paid for it. I know. Nothing valiant in it. Just being a lad, that’s all – it made sense, not much to think about really. I was eighteen.

So Lee started on the checkout on the Monday and the day after I was shipped a bit further away. Nice and hot. A quick tan too – one of the perks.

Tell me I knew what I was letting myself in for. Tell me it was my choice. I was eighteen. Eighteen, understand? What did you know about yourself then? Thought I knew bloody everything, ‘course I did; I was eighteen.

Did you ever look right into my eyes? I laugh, don’t I? And I tell jokes too. I don’t tell you the stories you want to hear, but I don’t twitch either, so that’s okay. But did you ever look right into my eyes? Didn’t you ever wonder what that missing piece was?

Something missing, something gone. That window in there, where if you stand, you only see … this empty space. A ghost of someone, I won’t ever know his name.

He lives in me these days, and something else is gone.

Nadia Stevenson

Nadia Stevenson writes and takes photos. She is fascinated by the immense beauty of the small, frequently ignored details in the world around her; these often become the focus of her words and  images. She is also enchanted by thunderstorms, nostalgia and sad music and considers herself a pacifist.

 

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