Because I Can’t Write a Novel – Day 18
I hate turning on the TV and seeing news reports of suspected terror attacks happening around the world. I’m sure the same can be said for a number of other people, but I have a slightly different outlook into the whole war on terror. I’ve been to a war zone. I’ve been to a place where I was in grave danger every day. I was closer to the action than I ever wanted to be, than I ever expected to be, yet I was fine. I didn’t die. I wasn’t in danger. Well, I was, but I survived it.
I wasn’t in the military before you ask, but I do have a medal. The details aren’t important but I feel the story is. Or at least, it is to me. The war zone changed me.
I don’t really know what I was expecting when I found myself on a plane headed to Camp Bastion, Afghanistan. I don’t really know what I was expecting when I signed up to it all. I just wanted to do my bit. I didn’t want to be the wife that was sat at home every night, crying my eyes out for a man I wasn’t so sure would come home. And if he did come home, would he even be the same person? I wanted to DO something. So I did. Not that those WAGS didn’t do their bit – they did, and they deserve all the praise in the world for being a wife to a serving soldier. I just wanted to do more.
I’ll never forget the day I felt my first mortar attack. The ground shook and my heart jumped to my throat as everyone fell to the floor around me. I followed suit, assuming the position I’d been taught during my training, and I waited. I didn’t know what we were waiting for. I couldn’t remember anything I’d been taught in my training. I knew I wasn’t in real danger, but I knew I was closer to the danger than I ever was at home. It was close enough for that memory to stick in my mind, and to affect me for the years since.
I’ll never forget the day the mortar attack was so close, it shook me from my cross-legged spot on the top bunk. I found myself hanging on to the thin metal bar of my bed, trying to maintain my breathing, all of a sudden seriously regretting my decision to go back to the room I’d shared with four other people alone. I’d never been so scared. The boom – that boom – it roars through your body unlike anything else. It’s such a deep boom that it stops your heart beating for just a second, and for a moment afterwards you just stand there dumbfounded, a little deaf, wondering if you’re actually still alive.
As soon as the all-clear alarm sounded, I ran to the phones and called my mother. It would only be a matter of time before the communication blackout would hit, and I desperately wanted to hear her voice. I’d acted like such a big girl, the brave soldier, yet I was more scared and fearful for my life than I’d ever been before.
I’ll never forget the day the mortar attack was so close, I heard it above my head. I heard the whistling sound as it zoomed right above me, Big Love shoving me down to the ground as we desperately scanned the night sky for whatever it was that was going to hit. A few seconds later that boom came – the biggest one, one that actually shook me off the ground for a split second, I’m sure of it. We weren’t quite close enough for the shrapnel to hit us, but it was terrifyingly close. If he hadn’t been there, I don’t know what I would have done. Or how I would have reacted.
I’ve hated fireworks ever since. The screaming, whistling fireworks remind me of that mortar that whizzed above me, landing too close for me to ever be uncomfortable with. The deep and booming fireworks shake me to my very core, each one reminding me of how close I once got to the action, and of how very scared I was. Of how sure I was that I would die at any moment, that whatever was being fired at us would get closer and closer still.
I didn’t die. Obviously. Despite all of that, plus coming to within four feet of a suicide bomber, and regularly driving right by a loaded minefield, I didn’t die. I survived. Better than that, I flourished. I stayed for over twice the length of time I’d signed up for, and I loved every moment of it. I especially loved the feeling of pride I had in my chest when I saw my mother’s eyes well up as I was being handed my medal. I also loved the feeling of relief I had when I closed the door of my home for the last time, saying goodbye to my abusive marriage and all the unhappy memories that went with it.
Why am I telling you this story?
Well, apart from being incredibly proud that I went there and did that, I’m annoyed. When I went there and did that, I chose to go there and do that. I knew it would be dangerous, not as dangerous as it turned out to be admittedly, but I knew it would be. I agreed to that when I signed on the dotted line.
I do not choose to do that now. I do not choose to be in a place where I am scared. I do not choose to feel anxiety every time I head into London because I’m nervous about what might happen while I’m there.
Am I overreacting? Perhaps a tad. But I lived in Germany. I visited the German Christmas markets. I drank gluhwein and sang Christmas carols in a language I didn’t fully understand and ate Bratwurst. I marveled at the pretty lights, and at the effort that the German people put into making things as magnificent as they were. And I’m annoyed again. I’m annoyed because those people didn’t choose to be scared. They didn’t choose to be in a place where they could be killed at any moment. They didn’t sign on the dotted line. They didn’t line up to get on a C17 plane that would take them to a place they probably couldn’t even pinpoint on a map – a place they knew was a war zone.
I hate the world I live in. I hate the fact that I’m scared of going to London’s Victoria station because of what might happen. I’m scared of going there because one of the last times I went there, someone threw themselves onto the tracks and I was locked in the underground with no warning, no explanation, and everyone else getting increasingly frightened. I’m scared of going to the Christmas markets. I wanted to go to Germany this year to visit the Christmas markets. I suggested that to Bestie at the beginning of the year. Imagine if I’d gone … if we’d gone.
When I went to the war zone, I chose to go there. I chose to be scared. I’m not choosing to live in that world now, yet I’m scared. I’m scared of getting on a plane, of going to a shopping centre, of going to the Christmas markets. And this annoys me. In fact, it doesn’t annoy me at all, it damn well pisses me off. I never used to be this scared. Who has the right to make me feel this way?
I don’t know the solution to the problem. I have no answer to the riddle. I have no clue how to solve the ‘war on terror’. I just know that I don’t like it. I don’t like the weird feeling of dread in the air, or the feeling I get in the pit of my stomach when the Sky News notification goes off on my phone and I see that some ambassador has been shot in front of the press, or a truck has careered into stalls and people at the Christmas markets. I feel like I want to do something, but what can I do? So I do what I do best. I write. And I feel sorrow for the people dying in Aleppo. And I mourn for the people who died in the German Christmas markets. And I’m selfishly glad that I wasn’t there like I wanted to be. I pray that the injured get better. And that future terrorists get caught before they have the opportunity to injure a single soul. I’m not a religious person by any means, but I pray that the world gets better. That we learn to love each other. Because that’s the problem, isn’t it?
There’s just not enough love in the world.
- Expected word count: 30,006
- Word count today: 1523
- Word count to date: 24,340 (Well … I’m massively behind!)
Find the rest of the ‘Because I Can’t Write a Novel’ story here.