I know right now you’re probably marveling over the fact that I have actually posted on this blog twice over the course of only a couple of days.
And yes, it is very unusual.
But something has compelled me to write. In my English class, we have begun reading a novel called The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. It tells the story of various soldiers, written from various perspectives, in the Vietnam War. It’s based loosely on the author’s experiences, because honestly, how can you write an authentic war novel without having experienced war yourself?
But this war novel isn’t like other war novels. It’s written in a really abstract, stream-of-consciousness style, and the narration is blunt, unfiltered, and completely shatters all pretenses.
Anyway, the other night I was reading a chapter. I stayed up pretty late and I ended up reading well past the page that I was assigned to read to this weekend, because I literally could not put it down. I just kept turning the page, turning the page. This particular chapter was telling the story of how the narrator was drafted into the war, but he wanted desperately not to leave his life; he was very smart, set to attend graduate school at Harvard, and had a very bright future. So he wrestled with this for a while, and finally ran away to some empty resort close to the Canadian border. There, this old man helped him come to his decision without the two ever actually talking. The old man took him out on the water one day and they got close enough to Canada that he could see the bushes, and then he decided that he would go to Vietnam. He said he would be a “coward” and go to war.
Well, I was reading this and out of the blue, I started to cry.
Real sobs, too. Not just quiet movie tears. Like chest-heaving, bawling crying. I don’t even know why I started to cry. It just happened. I was reading about this guy and the war and how going to war made him a coward because if he didn’t, he would be embarrassed, and I just got really sad. Something inside me was struck, like a sensitive nerve that had been set to go off for some time. Anyway, I just sat there and cried and thought. I shut the cover of the book and closed my eyes and thought. I thought about war, how the human race doesn’t seem to be able to exist without violence and dispute. I thought about this guy and his life lost because he was drafted into a senseless war. I thought about how completely, utterly depressing it is that he chose to go to war because shame and embarassment were worse than the hell hole of Vietnam.
So anyway. Just needed to write this down somewhere.