10/27/2004

The betrayal

We walked into the jungle, and we spent a lot of time with each other. As happens with any other group of people living together, we got to know the habits of the others. We did not get to know ourselves, we just got to know how we behaved. And as usually happens in groups, I liked some, and I disliked others.

A fellow called Saensi became the person I hung around with the most. He was an Israeli, and had scars all across his back. He had been in the army, he had fought in narrow streets, and after breaking free, had discovered that the only thing he could was fight. He had been a soldier too long, and had become a soldier. So he came out here, and he killed along with us, but killed like a machine, killed like an exterminator would kill insects - without emotion, in silence, and efficiently.

I rather liked Saensi. He did not say a lot, and did not believe in meaningless chatter. He spoke about boring things, but spoke without force, so you could listen easily to him. We chatted as we walked into the bush, and a simple companionship developed.

I didn't yet know it, but Saensi would betray me. Let me tell that story, the story of a man I called my friend, and how he would turn against me.

We walked into a village, and the few villagers put us up. We ate their food and drank their water, and they sat and watched us in resignation. When night merged into the darkness of the jungle, we entered their huts and lay down to sleep. In the morning, we woke up, and there were no villagers there. Three of our men were also no longer there.

We stood up, wondering what had happened, everyone holding guns and dressing up at the same time. I would not call it fear that I saw in the faces of the men, it would better be described as nervous puzzlement.

Saensi was not there either. As we moved, there was accompanying movement in the bushes. Then a yell from the bushes, and the familiar harsh metallic sounds of heavy automatic guns. There was accompanying thuds of bullets hitting objects.

We all ran, a few of us managing to put some shots in the general direction of where the ambush was. I saw at least two of our men fall, but did not stop to look further. I simply held tight to my AK and ran into the bushes. Beside me, other men were puffing and running, one stopped behind a tree and started shooting back. I ran on.

The man in front of me stumbled, fell to his knee, stood up again and continued to run. The back of his shirt turned red quickly, he fell again, stood up again, ran a few more steps and collapsed to the floor. I ran around him, and did not look. He called out as I ran away, and I imagined his arm outstretched towards me.

10 minutes later, I stopped where two other of our men had grouped up. We positioned ourselves and waited. We radioed about, and managed to get one more person in. When night fell, we navigated back towards the village, and saw Saensi and some other guy burying corpses. We walked in, and they came towards us, arms outstretched to greet us.

They told us they had woken up as it was still dark, and seen lights in the bushes. They had known there would be an ambush, and figured out that trying to wake up everybody would certainly lead to discovery and a gunbattle, and so had decided to simply walk away.

After I heard this story, I turned to look at saensy, anger in my face, my hands shivering, and a particular cold dread in my soul. He did not look at me, but looked down at the ground, and kept his gaze fixed there. He was drawing a picture in the sand, a picture of a small girl skipping rope, drawing his daughter, another one of his boring topics.

I hated him, I felt betrayed, I felt anger, but most of all, I felt fear.

10/18/2004

The profound reverence of Mr. Petrus Peter

My home is silent, only the tap-tap of my fingers hitting these keys dares to challenge the morbid stillness.

I am just as silent, my soul stopped moving a while ago. And now, my body is also decaying, sores are opening on my skin, my back is drying up and flaking off, a bit like dead fish. And like a dying fish, when the weather changes I begin to gasp and wheeze. It has been my property for so long, this body, and I have hardly regarded it, I have always worked hard to destroy it.

When my body dies, will I continue to live? I hope not, because if there is a life after death, there will be lot of people who currently are in that 2nd life that I would not want to meet. I hope I just vanish.

It is growing, this pressure in my head. Maybe it is a brain tumour, maybe it is something else. I sway when I walk now, yes, even my instincts have started to decay.

These are not important pieces of information, these words here about my health. There are billions of people, and most could replace me.

Mr. Peter screamed out in the church day before yesterday, he spoke in tongues, he saw god, he met god. Then he collapsed on the floor, and started to cry. I watched stiffly, amazed at so much emotion available for use by such a dull man.

Blind faith, that is the talent he was born with. He is small, ugly, quite stupid, not in the least entertaining, yet he has faith in various and everything. He has a passably goodlooking wife, mostly because he is not aware how unattractive he is.

Petrus will inherit this earth once I have rotted away. He is the meek, and I am arrogant in my need to categorise him.

10/11/2004

Interlude

Beeep. Static on the radio. The camera zooms out, and we see a wretched hut in the middle of a dry plain, on the porch there is a young but frail man sitting and looking out into the nothingness. It is the interlude, the time when you don't just look, but also see (for a short while).

The problem is not about what to do, the problem lies in purpose. As in, why do I do it? What is the point? And even more pressing, why do I not do it?

You fail to understand what I mean in the third question, but it is the answer to the first. Why do you do it, why do you do grind the grind? Well, you don't have to, and then I ask you (and you ask yourself), why do you not do it? Why do you not break free?

Do not ask me, I do not have the answers. But I have a statement: freedom is not somewhere else. It sounds banal, it is a useless intellectual morsel, a piece of meat that the housemaid has already sucked of its nutrients before she puts it in your meal, but it is true: freedom is in you.

I went to the places I thought would show me freedom, and it was not there. How could it be? I knew before I went, I knew as I walked the soil, I still know it. Freedom is within me.

But where! How! What do I mean! What do they mean! If freedom is inside me, how exactly do I get to it? Where do I meet it?

I've worn my rubber slippers thin, dragged them across the cement floor for several hours, listened to the heavy raindrops hit the zinc roof, ignored the creaks and squeaks of the ceiling fan, waited for the occasional thud of a mango hitting the roof, and the sound of it rolling down the roof. The mothers have screamed for their children, the car drivers have hit their horns.

I knew before I started thinking what the answer was. Yet I thought for many hours, through that dreadful storm, thought in the deep silence, thought in the lonely house with a bustling maid and an echoing TV. I thought for long, and arrived at the same conclusion: Freedom is the lack of fear.