The Poisoned Ink Well

Monday, April 07, 2003

Great Expectations and Iraq

Every now and then the façade crumbles, the face cracks, and you’re in the here and you’re in the now. You tolerate no amount of failure in your life; you are not allowed to burn the birthday cake, or dinner, or fail to meet even the smallest of goals.

And then something goes wrong, several things at once, and you become aware of yourself, and your environment, and life becomes achingly real again, and you feel guilty for dwelling on intellectualisms, like educational or career goals.

The carpet beneath your feet feels twice as soft, while dimly viewing television news about villagers in stone dwellings with dirt floors, and you watch women dipping water from mud puddles, while your own faucet runs clear.

Children on news channels cry for soldier fathers and mothers, and entire families are incinerated in boxy sedans with babies in their arms while trying to find safety. And then you feel guilty for feeing bad at all, but you feel guiltier for feeling good.

You dip strawberries in white chocolate, and watch it set, and the sofa cushion beneath your butt becomes twice as soft.

It’s spring and you’re planting flowers; pansies, petunias, and begonias, white, yellow, pink, and purple, just outside your door, and the dogwoods are blooming behind your house.

People are laying without limbs in makeshift hospitals, and some of those soldiers aren’t going to make it home to see their children.

You boil headless tiger shrimp with limes and hot red pepper, and you ponder friendship as the shrimp turns pink, and you meet someone new, but you fail to meet all of your personal goals, but they don’t seem so important today, and you feel guilty for feeling at all, emotional excesses, don’t really matter, as long as your roof isn’t leaking, and your cupboard is full, and life goes in spite of it at all.

You argue with your new male friend about whether it’s OK to kill snakes if they’re not bothering you, and he says, “NO, you catch them, and let them go.” and you think he’s crazy, because you always kill the poisonous ones.

And then you remember laughing at a king snake last year, sunning in your garden, oblivious of the neighborhood tomcat creeping up, and you remember shewing away the cat , and saving the snake, and then you feel guilty for ever caring about a snake.

You tell your friend (a gulf war veteran) that, yes of course, if they are poisonous, you must kill them, or they may come back, and crawl in your house some summer night. He disagrees in a slow Texas drawl, and laughs at you for arguing your point so hard.

And you laugh at yourself, and then you feel guilty for laughing, and you both go back to eating double dipped white chocolate strawberries, and watching the TV news; he watches the coverage like a hawk, and you know he can still taste the sand and dirt in his mouth, and you think about killing the king snake if he comes back to your garden this year .