In the Realms of Light and Darkness: eight letters from war

Evan Guilford-Blake writes plays, prose and poetry for adults and children. His published books include the comic mystery novelNoir(ish), the short story collection American Bluesand the novel Animation, as well as the forthcoming middle-grade novel The Bluebird Prince and short story collection Love and Loss and Love. His work has also appeared in some 60 journals and anthologies, winning 23 awards; his plays have been performed internationally and won 43 playwriting competitions. Thirty are published.
He and his wife (and inspiration) Roxanna, a healthcare writer and jewelry designer, live in the southeastern US.

In the Realms of Light and Darkness: Eight Letters from War

The wars that are the settings for what is described in the letters that make up In the Realms of Light and Darkness, the women who describe them and the incidents to which they refer are, all, entirely fictional. The time line is spread out across centuries, and the physical settings are willfully indefinite. War is not a thing of time, place, generation or specific circumstance. It is, and has always been.
And, regretful to say, will always be.

1. AZIZA

My dearest,

Sometimes I don’t know what to write. I know I babble on about little idiocies that cannot possibly have any meaning, and even as I write them I know that is true, but it makes me feel I am somehow connecting to you, through this pencil to this paper, across the hundreds of miles, the days, into your hands and your eyes.

Another day without you. That makes 310! And each one seems longer than the last. My life is invested in this routine, when it should be invested in you and Jamila and Rahma.

But things happen here, all the time. You know that. You knew that before I left. I’ve told you about some, you read about others in the paper, I’m sure. Thank God I don’t. I see enough that reading about those other things I know happen, is too much. I do not want to think of all this although, of course, I must. I try to supplant it with thoughts of my past, our future, but everything “now” intrudes. I stopped listening to the radio last week — the reception is terrible and the news is never anything I want to hear, even though everyone says we’re doing well — can anyone do “well,” in war? — but they say we’re doing so well that this may be over in a month, or a few months at most.

What’s a few months? I used to think. At home, with you and the children, tomorrow was comfortably inevitable: waking slowly at sunrise, chores to do, breakfasts and lunches to make, kisses goodbye, being sure of the next hello. And laughter, always laughter. The time passed and I never even noticed. Now, a few months seems like forever. If there’s going to be a tomorrow it will come suddenly, in the sound of guns or bombs, in scrambled clothes and swallowing quickly whatever’s there but tasting none of it because what I’m thinking about is what’s going on around me, the noise, the flashing that lights the sky like lightning but isn’t, the fires. And the smells: sulphur and sweat and dead animals. The last time I laughed was too long ago to—. Wait — kisses.

Now, as I think of kisses. You should have seen me laugh as I wrote that.

I can’t even remember kisses. Except when I bring a letter to my lips and touch them to it, before I seal it. Even then, my lips are dry as this paper.

Today, though, hasn’t been like that. It’s been quiet, so I have time to think. Too much time to think, I guess. I think about my nightmares. And my dreams, and I get lost in the longing. I always miss you, but when we’re in battle, or preparing for battle, I have something I have to think about. Killing, or not getting killed, and how I’m going to do it. And after a battle there’s finding the wounded, tending to them, tying the stumps of their legs so they won’t bleed to death, or bandaging their faces while they scream or moan and I hold back my screams and moans, something I am getting better at each day.

Getting them on stretchers. Or mourning them… if they’re ours. Spitting on them if they’re theirs — I know you don’t like to hear that but, Baruch, I swear to you: When you’ve been out here this long, seen this much, watched so many die, friends, women and men who have fought with you, for your life, who have saved your life, when you’ve felt your heart beat at ten times its normal rate and your stomach fill with bile and your throat with puke three hundred times in three hundred days, and you know it’s because of  them, it’s all because of them that those friends lost their arms or eyes or legs or will die because you cannot keep them alive, that it’s because of them that I’m here instead of at home with you and Rahma and Jamila, that I sleep alone on cold ground instead of in a warm bed inside your arms… I must spit. If I did not, if I did not, the acid in my mouth would burn the flesh away, burn the tears from my eyes, burn whatever soul I have left into more scars neither time nor you would — will — ever be able to heal.

But you warned me. You have gone through this, already, I know. And I know, now, why you would not talk about it. I do not want to write you of these things, but I cannot keep them inside me. And those around me are as helpless as I am. The day will come, I hope, when the need will have been vanquished. But for now, at quiet times like these, I take up my pencil and this is where my mind wanders. I am far from home, but my mind is farther. And while I pray to God and Satan in turn that I will return home safe and sound, I wonder whether it will ever find its way back to that.

I love you, my darling. I will write again soon. Please lift the kiss from this paper and place it on Rahma’s lips, and Jamila’s, and your own.

Yours, always. Aziza

2. YASMINA

Dear Rikki —

Good news at long last. They’re sending me home! I tried to call you but I got the goddamn voicemail — we have got to get rid of that message. First thing we do after I walk in the door. After you kiss me, of course, for what will probably be the thousandth time since I get off the plane. That message sounds sooooo sweet. So instead of me — live from 5,000 miles away — you get this. E-mail isn’t the comforting sound of your voice, and I’ll try again later, but I’m so excited I couldn’t wait to tell you. And, besides, I need to practice my typing. Ignore the errors: This keyboard is really small and no way I’m gonna let anyone proofread it.

The other good news, I suppose, is that you won’t have to come. And I’m grateful for that. I mean, it would’ve been awful goddamn hard for you to get in here, let alone just get here, and we couldn’t’ve afforded for you to stay long enough to make the trip worth it.

And besides, I figure I still don’t look so good. I don’t know if I’m ready to have the world see me like this — however this looks. There’s still some pain — the doctor says there will be some pain at least a few more months, maybe now and then after that, because of the nerves. You remember.

But, really, I’m a lot better. The bandages came off this morning! For good! When they said they were going to do it? I kept thinking: The nurse is gonna gasp like in that Twilight Zone show. I’ll never know if she did. I thought they’d let me be awake for the unveiling but, no, I was under. And groggy as hell when I woke up. But now I get to feel my face again. Rik — there are lots of scars. Lots. More than I guessed there was. I mean, I knew there’d be scars, it hurt so much, it was like my skin was getting tore up again and again, but God, I’m so afraid of what I look like. I’m afraid for you to see me. I know I’m ugly, and they can’t do anything reconstructive for years, maybe never, and I don’t want to look like this, I don’t want to look like someone little kids will scream at when they see, like someone you’ll have to hide what you’re feeling when you see. I know you didn’t want me for my looks in the first place, and 19 years is a long time, but, you’re so goddamn beautiful and hey, how people look, it’s always made a difference to me.

I guess it won’t any more, huh?

I guess it’s good I never had kids.

Anyway. I’m making progress in Braille. I still can’t read much, but I got through a whole page today. Took me an hour, I had to go over some of the words 3 or 4 times, but there’s what the therapist calls context: If you figure out the first letter is e and the last one is t you can figure the one between them is probably an a. If it’s a 3 letter word, anyway. I get confused on the longer ones. I forget what letters I read. It’s probably good I’m reading Stephen King. I think the longest word in Salem’s Lot is vampire. And feeling that word — it conjures up lots of images. All of them having to do with darkness. Different kinds of darkness.

I think a lot about darkness. Like being in a tunnel that’s too long to know there is a light at the end. Before I came here, before the explosion and the pain and the wanting to die, I loved it. Lying there with you, late at night, pitch black and all the sounds magnified. Every breath you took, every rustle of the sheets, the tiny tiny sound of my finger tracing the circle around your areola, the licking of your lips before you kissed me. It’s true, you are more aware of sounds when you can’t see. Here, I hear planes, footsteps in the hall, the other women crying, crying out. Sometimes I hear people die. I’m not going to die, Rikki, not for a long time. The doctor says I’m in surprisingly good shape. I oughta be, You can’t train other soldiers for 16 years if you’re not. But it’s gonna be hard to live, I know that. For both of us. When I get back? we should go right away, someplace where they’ll let us really tie the knot. You think? If you’re still willing. And I believe you when you say you are. That’s what’s been keeping me going the last 4 months, knowing there is a light at the end of this tunnel. I might not be able to see it, but I can feel it. It’s warm and it feels safe. I love you, Rik. Thanks for loving me — not because of, not in spite of. Just loving.

I’ll see you soon.

Yours, Yasmina

3. VANESSA

We came upon the camp this morning. Blundered onto it, actually. Someone saw something that looked just out of place enough, a sort of trail. We followed it — these people follow trails like hounds follow the scent of a fox, like you and I follow the hounds — and lo and behold, there we were, in a pool of bright light in the middle of rafts of shadow.

Bloody awful. Awful, awful and bloody. Everyfuckingwhere you turned. It’s as though this was a forest where only dead trees existed. But what has fallen here, that is not trees. It is children, mostly. The rest were wizened. They have been cut in halves, in quarters, into unrecognisable fragments which all the Queen’s horses and all the Queen’s men are helpless before. Wild animals have fed on that which these uncivilised animals — I will not lend dignity by calling them human — have butchered. A forest, did I say? It is an abattoir.

We buried those we could. A mass grave: There were far too many. Foster spoke the words over them, but the “soldiers” did not listen. They wailed. Only I, and the other officers, stood in stoic resignation and tried not to think of how little meaning Foster’s words — the church’s words, God’s words — had, to them.

Now, at last, it’s night. The darkness has overtaken most of the horror but as I sit here, writing this, I can still hear the keening. I can’t quiet them. These are their children, their relatives’ children, their grandparents. They are not mine — I would thank God for that but that seems mere selfish cruelty — and, even if they were mine, I would not be permitted the luxury of display. These “soldiers” are not at all like me, at all events. They’re just women and men who have been given uniforms and guns and told to fight. Bloody bastards don’t even know how to wear them or use them properly. I’m supposed to “command.” What an honor: the first woman to command a troop in these parts. Well, I issue my commands, and then I watch them slog through this terrain, like machines, not talking, not laughing, not even stopping to drink or piss or kill until I order them to. All they will do without my command is weep.

I’ve learnt a few of their words and can understand a little amid the cries. They talk of their ancestors. They wail prayers for their souls. I can’t tell if it’s the ancestors’ souls, or their

own, or their children’s.

I have no soul left, Roger. None at all. We have been scourging this territory for months now, years actually by my predecessors, and what have we to show for it. This. This  monstrosity. That Yank general, the one who said “War is Hell,” hadn’t any idea. War is the bowels of Hell, and we are all in shit up to our noses. We can’t smell, or see, anything else, and we are trapped in it. I will never escape this. How can I: Escape requires forgetting, or at least relegating the conscious to the unconscious forsome periods of time. This is so embedded in my mind that it will endure even through the loss of every other memory, of every other experience I may ever have. I was not made for this. I am a woman: I was made to make life. When did I forgetthat? How did I.

I want to sleep, though I know I shall not. Even if the sounds did not keep me awake, my anger will. When I came here, I believed in the “right” of what we wanted to accomplish. And, much as I hate it, I still believe that it is right. Finding constant death and horror is not losing belief. It is finding stronger belief. Tomorrow we will leave this place, weakened by what we will remember but with resolve strengthened. We will find those who did this and we will execute them. One by one, or en masse. I shall take no pleasure in watching them die, but I will in giving the order. An eye for an eye. But, my God, how many eyes must be torn out until we are all blinded.

I wish I could weep. I wish words meant something. But I cannot, and they do not. Only blood does. Blood and death. I am immured by them. If I survive this, I will need the kind of solitude every other prisoner requires. Much as I have loved you, you cannot help me. Truly, I do not know why I write this, save that, perhaps, I will not go mad.

And still, there is crying! It will last, until morning and beyond. I think there is no sleep, no peace, anywhere in the world.

Vanessa

4. HABIBAH

My dear daughter,

I must write this sad news, though I cannot see the paper through my tears. They have knocked at our door today and told me. Ayyub is dead. Of fever, not a sword.

It was only three months ago he was here, a proud groom, standing beneath the canopy with Esther, both of them filled with laughter. What a lovely day. It seemed there could be nothing but joy, for everywhere in the world, for all life to come. The song, the hope, the laughter. There was no war, then. Only happiness. How beautiful she looked, how beautiful they both were. Children of gold, gleaming. Only the old women cried, through their smiles. And the old men held their hands and smiled as well, just as Ayyub held Esther’s and smiled at her.

Today her tears flow, as mine. There is no comfort to give or to take. We hold each other. We try to speak, but words have no power to heal. I look in the mirror and see I am not whole any more. A part of me has vanished.

He was kind, the man who came. I saw him from the window, on his horse, riding slowly up the street. It was a clear day, the sun was bright behind him and his face was lost in the light, but I knew who he was. He has come often in these times. Yesterday he stopped at Sarah and Daniel’s door. I watched him dismount, straighten his trousers and coat, remove his hat. I watched him step, silently as possible, to their door, knock, wait. When the door opened I looked away, with sorrow and relief. Today, I watched him, with fear. There are so many in our little street, so many who have sons who fight. I prayed: Adonai: Let him go past my door. Let him stop at Noam’s or Anya’s, any door that is not my door. I am ashamed to say that, but it is true. My son, my only son, Esther’s husband. I would trade his life for another’s. That is wrong, but I am a mother. I can be wrong, but love cannot be wrong.

When he knocked, I knew. Esther was in the barn, I was alone. I stood. I could not go to the door. He knocked again, a third time. Then he called, in a quiet voice: Habibah. He opened the door and stood there, looking at me. I did not look at him. Habibah, he said again, gently, and he came to me and took my hands. I am sorry, he said, but Ayyub…

I did not weep, then, nor cry out. A fever, he explained. He was brave.

Brave or a coward, sword or a fever: He is just as dead. He is just as dead. If he had not gone to fight he would not be dead.

Many soldiers have died from it, this fever, the kind man said. We have buried him, as we did the others, quickly. He asked that you have his mezuzah. And he gave it to me, put it in my hand. And he left.

I am an old woman now. I was young, this morning, now I am old.

I am sorry, my daughter. I am sorry I must tell you these things, I am sorry I must know them. I am sorry I am old. And I am sorry for my tears. They do not help me, they cannot help you. They are just stains on this paper. And on my heart.

I hope you will come, if you are able. Esther will need us both.

Sadly, Your mother Habibah

5. GORDAFARID

My dearest Son,

Your uncle (whose name I cannot write here, of course) was very understanding. He left the decision up to me, he did not apply pressure. He is a good man. He explained how a woman would not arouse suspicion, as a man would, entering such a place. And he urged me to discuss it, with him, and with you and your sisters, because you are all old enough to understand. But you, my Son, are too far away and it was not something that could be discussed by letter. Even this I must leave with someone whom I know you will think of when you hear what has happened, and that person will place it where you will think to look. Your younger sister would not understand why I would do this. She has babies herself and a husband who is alive and good to her, and who cannot go to war because he cannot walk. She only feels, not thinks. She did not come to see me today. Uncle said it was best if no one entered the house today who did not enter it every day.

Your other sister remains in the hospital. Her wounds are healing but she will, I think, never again be well. She has nightmares every night about the bombing, wakens screaming, her husband tells me. Of course I have not talked to her of this. She sees people die every day and to know her mother has planned her own death would be more than she could bear. Please explain to her when she is well enough just to weep.

Uncle fears the authorities will punish the rest of the family. I fear that too, but they will claim they had no knowledge of my act. Now that I have made the decision he said it would be all right for me to write this for you to find later, but he cautioned me: Do not use anyone’s name.

I write this with both sadness and exhilaration in my heart. I have prepared myself, with uncle’s wife’s help. She too is sad but she understands things the way I do. It is the way men must understand: This is war and, in war, we all must be soldiers. There is more at stake than one woman’s life. There is what we believe, what we live for. I will leave in a little while but it is important to write to you, to be able to say these last words to you, my Son, so you will remember that what I do is done from belief in our cause, and faith, and love.

What, after all, is death but an opportunity to join God? I am fifty — that is not old, but I have lived a full life, loving and being loved by your father, giving birth to my children and watching each of you grow. You are my legacy, as you are your father’s. He will be proud that I have chosen to serve God and our people, just as I am proud of you for the service you perform in protecting our nation.

I know there is much to say that is important, yet it is the weather that impresses itself on my mind. It is a warm day, but not so warm the bindings are uncomfortable. When we put them on it felt odd, to know I was dressing for the last time, that these would be the garments in which I would say my last prayer, that the photograph uncle’s wife will take of me will show me in this unobtrusive clothing in which no one will notice me. Few people have noticed me in my life, except your father, and I have not minded. I have lived a simple life, as God has willed. This is good. I come to my death with my eyes and my heart open, in clear conscience, despite the deaths I know I will cause. I believe those, like mine, are the will of God.

It is bright outside, a beautiful day. I am grateful for God’s kindness in granting that.

Walking where I must go I hope I am not so absorbed that I fail to notice the sun, the sky, the children, even the scarred streets and buildings. There is so much beauty even amid the rubble their bombs and soldiers have left.

I recall when you were a baby, how I nestled you to my breast and you drank of it. How I loved that! My breasts are dry now but still, whenever I think of you I think of that, your lips gently suckling, your eyes closed, your tiny hands reaching out for me. It is I who reach out now, to you, to the rest, asking for your prayers. Heaven will be a lonely place if your father is not waiting for me, if you and your sisters do not join us one day.

I am not afraid. Uncle assures me there will be no pain, I will hear nothing. The passing will come too quickly for me to even notice. I will close my eyes, take a breath in which I will pray and speak your name, your sisters’ names, your father’s. Then I will press the button and go to meet God.

Goodbye, my Son. Pray for me.

6. ANGELA

Antonio —

You want to know if I’m happy. I know you wish I could say I’m not, but there’s a certain, I don’t know, placer* in it, and I know some doctor would say I’m psychotic. But I’m not. At home, I would not do anything like this. And I do not kill. I have never killed. I have, siempre, tried to live my life according to the teachings and the precepts of “Right” and “Good” and “Godliness.” I still do. It’s just that, here, those precepts are in a whole different context.

Sure, they are human. But there are two kinds of humans: There’s the “you and me” kind, and there’s the other. The “them” kind. Maybe they are as good, as loved by God, as everyone else, but I do not think so. And every time one of them tells me something we need to know, something that will save one, ten, a hundred you-and-me kind’s lives, I feel good. I feel I am a servant of man and God.

It’s about that, the greater good. I get up in the morning — and I sleep dreamlessly, like un ángel — I cleanse myself and I pray, I put on my uniform, have my breakfast and I go there. I actually look forward to going in. I smile at everyone I pass, they smile back. And then I am inside, where there is little space and less light, and there is just me and one of them. They often stare at me from the chair, especially the first time they see me. I am una mujer. They think: A woman cannot possibly be cruel. There is defiance in their eyes but there is pleading in them too, there is fear. I always say “good morning,” and smile, and introduce myself. Of course they do not trust me. They ask for water, and I give it to them and offer them more. They thank me. And I nod.

And then I ask a question — something simple, something they must know the answer to. If they answer truthfully, I thank them, and I ask another. But if — when — they do not answer, or they lie — yes, I slap them. I ask again, they do not answer again, I slap them again. Each time a little harder, across the face, the chest, with my hand or the leather strap or my stick.

You ask me, Antonio, how I can do that. You are a man of God, and you believe Life is sacred. You will be surprised then, when I tell you: So do I. I am of God too. As was my brother, whose life meant nothing to them. It is of him I think each time I ask a prisoner any question, and it is of him I think each time I strike one. The cries I hear, the tears that fall, the blood that bursts from the nose, seeps from the chest, each mark, each scar, is a disfigurement that matches the disfigured soul beneath the skin. They plead for mercy, just as Francisco did. I heard him. Some, after hours, plead for death, just as he must have. I did not hear that. I was unconscious. But I will not let them die. That would be merciful, and I have no interest in mercy, only in saving the lives of you and my family and my people who suffer the dangers of this war. These men I interrogate, they too are soldados, they understand the dangers and the risks, they — as I am — must be willing to give their lives. But one life is small, muchas vidas son grandes.

Their one life is little to give, to require of them, and so I ask them for more. I ask them to save our lives and if they will not, I require them to endure. Pain, fear, loss of hope. Antonio, their silence allows our friends, our loved ones, to suffer and die. That cannot be allowed. ¡Yo no debo permitirlo!

Yes, I grow tired. But, as today, when I secure secrets they have sworn to withhold, when I leave them, certain I have helped us and helped deny them, I am exhilarated. Last week I saved a regiment with such a secret. The man who revealed it was wrought with shame. He choked with his weeping. I dried his tears, salved his wounds, gave him water, unloosed his bonds. It is the greater good you have served, I told him. If our positions were reversed, you would seek to have me do the same. He wept, but he nodded.

We are at war, my friend. And we must survive. No matter the cost. My brother’s death was a little price. Their pain, their deaths, is a smaller one. But Iwill make them pay it. And I will leave them, their debt partly filled, and return to my barracks, where I will cleanse myself, and say my prayers, and sup, and sleep the sleep of angels.

You ask, Angela: Are you happy? And, Antonio, I can answer: Yes, I am.

7. DEANNA

My darling Leon,

It is quiet here tonight. The only things I can hear are the sounds of anticipation: pages turning in Bibles, the rustling of letters being pulled from envelopes and reread, the susurration of prayers.

We know, all of us, the children as well as the women, what the next few hours may bring. We want to bring ourselves to readiness, with God and those we love. If it happens as I fear it will you may never read these words. But I will trust to God that you do, that even if I cannot send them they will be found and delivered, and you will know what I thought on the eve of my death.

It is of you, mostly. Of the many days and years we have spent together, of what we have shared and learned from each other over all that time. I know, as I write this, you are as alone as I am, facing what I face. That is something we share, too.

Earlier, before we heard the guns, there was dancing. Ancient Victor played the fiddle, Maddy Ann got her pipes and Sandra tapped her dulcimer. Pretty music, lively music. Music like that reminds me so much of life. It can be storming but it will feel like there’s not a cloud in the sky, anywhere, that the whole world’s sunshine. You say I’m a Pollyanna, thinking like that. Maybe I am. But sunshine’s beautiful, you can see all of creation in it.

Someone just began singing.

“The shield of faith do Thou bestow
When trembling we must meet the foe.

When earthly help no more availeth,
To sup with us Thou wilt be nigh”…
But it’s the last two lines that I love so well.

While earth is fading from our sight,
Our eyes behold the realms of light.”

Light has always been my realm, hasn’t it. I remember the day we married — that’s often in my thoughts, these days we’ve been apart. How the light sparkled on the white of my dress. And in your eyes. Silly and romantic me, I thought it was the light, didn’t realize it was tears. And I couldn’t imagine why you’d be crying on the happiest day of my life! Till you were about to kiss me, and you whispered: I am so happy. And the tears, they were pouring down your face! I knew then I’d married the best man on Earth, that no matter what came, I could be happy.

And I have been. I am. All the blessings God has given us, children and grandchildren. Even though we have lost Michael, to this same cause for which you are fighting in your way, and I in mine, and Charity and Faith and their children are far away — safe, thank God — we are blessed. According to our pact, I have risen each morning and thought first of how much I love you and, I know, your first thought is the same. We are, for that moment, as inseparably together as we were on our wedding day, as we will be in Eternity.

The sound of guns is growing nearer. I know they will not show mercy; they haven’t before. I wish we could have shown them mercy, perhaps it might be different. The children are frightened and I must go and comfort them. I would try to take them and find a place where we might hide. But there are too many, we have few horses, and the country is too flat and too open. We might have a few more hours’ escape, but would it be worth it, to spend what may be my last earthly hours running yet again from death instead of thinking about life. About you.

Abide with us, the day is waning. But there is no darkness. I will come to you, Leon, in the light, and

With all my love, Deanna

8. CLORIS
Hey, Paulie!
There are lots of stars out tonight. They make me feel silly. Like when you and me’d get in the car, go way out into the country, and just lie in some field, listen to the crickets, drink and smoke pot and tickle, and all the rest. Tonight, before we got ready for bed, Mita and me sat on the rocks outside and looked at them. The stars, I mean. They’re really cool, out here. I mean, like there’s no lights, well, except for the ones around the base. But you can see, it’s like a
hundred miles across the water, across all the boats — ships, I mean. I still call them boats sometimes, the officers get real p.o.ed. Mita thinks it’s funny. Sure not like the city. Or the county. I never seen this much darkness back home.
I wonder if it’ll be like this, there. They keep showing us pictures, but I can’t tell nothing from pictures. I guess I’m excited about going. I mean, who ever thought I’d get to go somewhere on a different continent, on a plane and all. Some of the girls are scared. I mean, all the stuff you see on TV, that’s in the papers. Mita’s brother tried to talk her out of joining up. He comes here every week, and he always tries to get her to sneak away. What you wanna do this for? he says, you’re gonna get your sorry ass killed. Mita just laughs. Maybe, she says. But I know she doesn’t think she will, get killed I mean.
Me neither. I mean, I know I ain’t the sharpest crayon in the pack, but I been paying attention, real careful attention, to everything. For the life of me I can’t remember that boats are ships. But I do remember the stuff that counts, and I know how to take care of myself. Hell, Paulie, I always took care of myself. War’s just a different way of having to do it. You know. I been banged around. You get good at banging back.
But right now I’m lying here, waiting for them to turn off the lights. Lot of the girls are doing their last minute packing. Mine’s done. The plane leaves at six o’clock — whoops, I mean zero six hundred — and I don’t want to have to get up a minute earlier than I got to. I’m used to it, though, finally, getting up real early, I mean. Last week when I wrote? I was only complaining cause I was sore, from all the marching and stuff. I feel good now, now that we’re about to do it. Finally.
Hey! Before I forget. Thanks for the present. I love it! I am      21      as of yesterday. Mita and a couple of the girls bought me my first legal beer, at the commissary. Mita said she would have took me out for a big celebration but, of course, we can’t leave base. But first leave we get? we’re gonna go paint the town. If there is one. In the pictures, it don’t look like there’s much there at all. Kinda dull. Have to get our excitement from the shooting, is what Mita says.
Hey, Paulie! Just got time for one more thing before lights out. You know I love you. And I know you’re scared for me. Thanks for working at not showing it. Jeez, when you was in, I was only 12, 13 years old! I’m glad there wasn’t no war then. I’d of been scared for you, if I’d known you then, I mean. And thanks for understanding how I had to do this. I loved my Daddy, and he’d be scared for me, and he’d be proud of me, too. And when I come back — and I am coming back, you can bet your ass and mine on that — when I come back we are gonna get married and have us a dozen kids, live happily ever after, cause there ain’t never, never gonna be another war.
Gotta go now. I’ll write you from the plane.
Love, Cloris

End

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4 Responses to “In the Realms of Light and Darkness: eight letters from war”

  1. Jacque Mccoy Says:

    Wow! So moving and heart wrenching. And , unfortunately real.

  2. Lorilyn Says:

    Uber-human, raw and compelling… write on, Evan!

  3. eatstuf Says:

    Right-on, indeed. Thank you for your comment, keep surfing through.

  4. Blade & Soul Power leveling Says:

    I was be there for you.
    [url=http://www.eurotrip.com/content/can039t-share-quests-blade-amp-soul]Blade & Soul Power leveling[/url]

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