We all enter this world as part of somebody else’s story, and we always arrive in the middle of that person’s story. Perhaps we don’t come on stage at the exact center of another person’s narrative, but our beginning is not the same as theirs. When we are born, we are confused and disoriented, and we often stay in that condition until we die, at the end of our particular saga. Everybody else on the planet continues to play their part in the glorious, chaotic show. We leave as we came, in the middle.
My friend, Ken, writes fiction. I don’t, mostly because reality provides me with more than enough material. When Ken writes a short story or a novel, there is a clear beginning and a satisfying end. As Chekov said, “If in the first act, you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise, don’t put it there.” A writer, particularly a fiction author, strives to tell a story with very few loose ends. Most readers prefer it that way.
Life is not like that, not at all. Every day of my life there is at least one WTF moment, usually several. Often, these confusing events get resolved. Sometimes, there is no quick answer. Sometimes, there is no answer at all.
As an example, yesterday my wife came home from spending time with her knitting group. When she arrived here, she was dizzy to the point of losing her balance. The vertigo did not go away, so we went to the ER. The people there gave her numerous tests to rule out the possibility of a stroke. The CT scan and the other tests showed no evidence of a stroke. However, my wife is still having dizzy spells. Why? We don’t know. We don’t even know if we will ever know. At this moment in time, we are stuck in anxious uncertainty. We have no idea how this chapter ends.
A reader often enjoys a thrilling story, a cliffhanger. They want to keep turning the pages of a book to find out what happens next. However, the person also wants to know how the tale ends. It doesn’t much matter if the ending is happy or sad. They just want some kind of conclusion.
Books have conclusions. Life does not. Even death is not really an end. I have been to a number of funerals that were frustrating because the deceased left so many things undone and so many questions unanswered. The person is no longer in the physical world, but his or her messy, incomplete life will echo in our memories for years to come.
A good writer would end this essay with a summary that tidies everything up.
Frank (Francis) Pauc is a graduate of West Point, Class of 1980. He completed the Military Intelligence Basic Course at Fort Huachuca and then went to Flight School at Fort Rucker. Frank was stationed with the 3rd Armor Division in West Germany at Fliegerhorst Airfield from December 1981 to January 1985. He flew Hueys and Black Hawks and was next assigned to the 7th Infantry Division at Fort Ord, CA. He got the hell out of the Army in August 1986.
As the Voice of the Veteran Community, The Havok Journal seeks to publish a variety of perspectives on a number of sensitive subjects. Unless specifically noted otherwise, nothing we publish is an official point of view of The Havok Journal or any part of the U.S. government.