Friday, September 2, 2011

Behind the Lines--Oh no they didn't! Get it, Lines/Lines.

Behind the Lines by Andrew Carroll
2005 (audio book)
Weight: 5.6 oz
Method of Disposal: Donating or giving away
I think about my brother often, and I think about him in different ways. I think of him as a child. I remember playing a post office game. There was some piece of furniture outside the door of my room with small drawers on the bottom. We would leave each other letters in the drawers. Is this where I developed my love of letters and of sending/receiving mail? I think about bodysurfing in the ocean and wiping out. Sometimes, I think of the mean sibling antics. I remember crying, as he threatened to “turn me off” with a remote control or key. The taste of batteries after he convinced me to lick them, they taste like candy. I especially like nice memories, like him giving me one of his favorite toys for my birthday. I saw a piece of the truck sticking out of the poor wrapping job, and I knew exactly what it was. I was so happy. I wanted to be just like him, have toys like his, hang out with him and his friends. He once saved up his allowance money to buy me a beloved Aladdin’s lamp, where the genie could come out and go back in his bottle.

 I think about him as a teenager. His massive Kurt Cobain poster and his constant strumming of an electric guitar. His girlfriend, his El Camino, and the Mane and Tail he used to grow his hair out long. We sometimes got in all out brawls. I once threw a tire at his head. Another time, I screamed at him and his friend, silencing them for once, and then walked straight into a shut door with such force that I fell to the ground, taking away all the ground I had gained. I also remember that when my mother told me that her and my dad were going to divorce, I grabbed my cat and ran, crying, to a nearby lake. My brother came after me to take care of me and to tell me it would be o.k.

Before he went away for boot camp, we watched atomic dog and talked about personal things, like my trying to come to terms with my queerness. He thought it was fine, better than fine, and was very comforting. He commented on how obvious I was, with all my Gillian Anderson pictures plastered on my walls. He noted that often the men in my posters were covered. I felt like he had become my best friend but then he had to go away. I wrote him letters all the time.

I often think about him as a soldier. I think about when he went to Iraq and how I had never been (and have not been) so scared in my entire life. The night before he left, I drank a bottle of vodka and had to stop at a KFC on (or near) base to vomit on our hike to the going away ceremony. I hated saying goodbye and could not look at him without bawling, full on weeping. I had to walk away and then run away. Another soldier was screaming at his mom in the parking lot, telling her he wished he would never see her again. I could not imagine it. I was in college dealing with relationship troubles, roommate situations, and ant invasions. He was getting shot at, sometimes I would see him in the local newspaper or on the news.

He is still a soldier, and he is also now a husband and a father. He is still amazing, and I am overwhelmed with love and protective feelings when we get the chance to hang out. The last time I saw him he read me a book while I drove. We learned all about plane crashes and why they happen.

Sometimes, when he is far away, I do ridiculous things trying to feel close to him. Things that make no sense. I buy things I would not usually buy—the consequences of being born into capitalism. Spend Money, feel better. I bought this audio book when it was on sale. I hope that I will never understand war fully. I do not want to know what it is like to lose friends, to have to kill people or be killed. I wish so much that my brother did not have to see the things he has, the things I rarely hear about, because he loved his country and his family. I do not want to know what that pain is like, but I do want to understand and know to the best of my ability. Does that make sense? I do not want to turn my back on one of the many facets of his life. I bought this book and others like it, trying to feel connected or get a glimpse. Sometimes, I would read or watch whatever I bought right away and other times it was too painful, and I would put the items away until I found them again.

The other night I noticed Behind the Lines on my bookshelf, amongst the actual books, and I took it to work. I listened to it while I cleaned out puppy cages and later in my car on a drive to Loganville. There were times when it brought tears to my eyes and once I even laughed. Components of it aggravated me. It seemed to have a Christian bias, didn’t it? There was an attempt at diversity. In some ways it was successful, but not in all ways.  The letters were from soldiers, civilians, people on different sides of the war.  There were men and women.  Some letters seemed to be selected with such an obvious purpose, like the one from a Japanese girl in an American camp stating that she was lucky to not be on the outside. With no other letters beside it I felt like it was such a placating, let us not think about what we did, moment. There were a lot of good things too. I have more positive feelings about it than little critiques. The letters spanned many wars and years. Soldiers of the past and the present were tied together by their feelings of love, fear, remorse, camaraderie, pride, hope. Overall, I liked it, for lack of a better word. They were actual letters and they all contained so much value and so much truth—some truth told through thinly veiled lies.

So many different people. I thought about the letters I received from Iraq and the many I sent. The letters that went to boot camp. The rare Yahoo Messenger conversation or e-mail. The photographs. And, while this book did not bring me closer to my brother in any unexpected way, I did find myself missing him again. That is why I was drawn to it after all. I did remember how grateful I am, despite anything else in life, that he is back, safe, with a loving family, and happy. I wished on every star, eyelash, and penny thrown into every pond from the day he left until the day he came back that he would come back alive, but also happy. How lucky am I?


  1. I love this post so much I cried. I couldn't read it and not leave a comment. Xoxo.

  2. That means a lot to me. Thank you so much.