by Britta Reque-Dragicevic
This first appeared in Britta’s blog, “Life After War” on July 14, 2013, and is republished with the author’s permission.
You tell me of how it descended. That first kill. That first death. That moment the reality of war came crashing in and left you… silent.
You expected to feel something. Elation. Joy. Victory. Horror. Disgust. Guilt. Instead, you felt… nothing. And feeling nothing became your state of being.
Except that you knew feeling nothing wasn’t what a human heart should feel, was it?
What a warrior should feel?
They taught you how to kill, professionally. They trained you to be good at it.
They didn’t teach you how to “light up” the nothingness.
They drilled your body to react, automatically.
They couldn’t drill your soul to do the same.
They taught you to value and devalue the same life, on a change of rules of engagement.
They couldn’t teach your heart to understand.
They taught you to endure, improvise, figure it out, get it done.
They didn’t teach you how to undo what it did to you.
The nothingness. It became your space.
Where heart and soul were no longer body and brain.
Hands no longer instruments of death.
Eyes no longer condemning witnesses.
Emotions no longer the effect of circumstances.
Nothingness. It worked then. It helped you through.
Now, you want to remember what it feels like to feel.
Now, you want to remember what it feels like to ache.
Now, you want to remember how it was to be alive, fully, vibrantly, innocently… alive.
Now, you want to know: does nothingness mean you are a good person or a weak one?
What were you supposed to feel?
How were you supposed to deal with it?
Why can’t people understand that tears had no place when death was sneering.
There was no time to grieve the dead, no time to let your guard down,
no time to let your soul catch up with the pace of uncertainty.
Why can’t people understand that “time for grieving” would come later.
Only, when later came, no one understood why you would grieve now.
Because, surely, you had grieved then?
No time. Not now. Not today. Life is moving forward. Running faster than your breath.
The war… what war?… is fading, fading fast away.
Only it isn’t. It won’t. Not yours. Not for you, here alone.
So the nothingness envelops. Calms. Soothes. Smothers.
You have learned to breathe on less oxygen than most. On the vapors of death.
In the stillness of chaos.
And the nothingness has been, and may always be, your saving grace.
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.
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