Sunday, February 20, 2011

Star Light Star bright

Witness Iraq: A War Journal February-April 2003
Weight: 3.3 lbs
Method of Disposal: Donate?

My brother went to war in Iraq when I was in my junior year of college, and I was devastated. I felt like I lived in a state of panic, and it was hard to discuss it with some of my anti-war peers. My roommate at the time actually got angry with me when I asked to watch my brother on the news one night, because it cut into her ER time. She grumbled something about him killing people for a living. I hadn’t seen my brother in a year, and he would be on television for just a few minutes.
There were plenty of supportive and caring people, more than there were people like my roommate, but it seemed like no one really understood what I was trying to tell them if they hadn’t been through it. I only knew one other person, my dearest Liz M, who had a brother deploy and come back.

When someone you love is at war you become hyper-aware of locations and casualties mentioned on the news. You notice when there are gaps in email and chat messages. You send hundreds of letters, and you may even find yourself wishing on every falling star you see, drinking every shot with a “return home safe” toast, and pleading with the universe every time the clock strikes 11:11.

If you are me, you lack any tools on how to deal with the situation. You might start to do absurd things like purchase random books you really don’t want or watch documentaries you know you shouldn’t. Witness Iraq was one of those purchases. I didn’t want to see it, much less own it, but I felt compelled. I couldn’t stop myself. It was an absurd attempt to get closer to someone who seemed impossibly far away. It would not be the first or last time I would try to buy understanding, time, and proximity with no success. I have trouble letting this book go, even though I can never bring myself to look through it now, because of all the pain it and others like it hold within their pages. It seems important to have a constant reminder of that fear and worry, but I really don’t know why. It cannot be healthy.
My brother is currently safe and sound, with his baby and his wife, in the country he grew up in. It is still such a relief, though I always feel a twinge of dread in my gut reminding me that it could happen again. I find myself, still, quite enamored with and dependent on eyelashes, ladybugs, wells, dandelions, and birthday candles.

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