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Thursday, September 06, 2007
In Country 2:5
Posted by Liberty
I had lost faith in the "In Country" novel after a series of highly negative insulting comments here. But it is back. Because this is our story. The wounds we have are wounds that will not sleep or be forgotten. Perhaps I'm not the person to write this story, about how the wounds go deep, and were inflicted before we went into Iraq, and perhaps these characters are not the perfect shining examples that people want from fiction, nor are they the kind of blind caricatures that some seem to want. But they are there, and I am back here now, because these wounds bleed, even after the body heals. I'm reposting the last section I did, and then going forward.
Synopsis of the story so far: Christiana "Chryssie" Rutenberg, a nurse who works for the military, met John Hampton just after 9/11, they are both shuffled back and forth by the war in Iraq. Hampton has never been faithful, and Chryssie begins an affair with a military surgeon, Cap. Mercury "Merc" West. Hampton has his hand taken off in Iraq, and is coming home, Chryssie finds out that she is pregnant and is torn between staying with Merc, who is the father, and going back to her husband. Merc is going back "in country," in part to force the decision. Merc and Chryssie begin driving across the US, beginning from San Diego to sort out their lives. They stop in Las Vegas, witness the arrest of a Senator's aide, on charges that he solicited sex in a bathroom, and are trying to get out of town on the way to Yosemite.
The full versions are still on Corrente, or will be posted there shortly: 1::2::3::4::5
For people uncomfortable with how much sex the characters have, or are thinking about having, well, that's people. I can't write about this time without writing about sex. JC's satire, is about the sexual anxiety under the christianist movement. It's ungodly brilliant what he does, and it's not my place to compete with such a Swiftian pen as his. But there are other things to say, and I suppose mine is about the spattering mess that is made between a rank and file that mixes violence with sex, and a leadership that mixes power with sex. The things we do in the day don't go away at night, and the things we do in dark and cover are often where we make our real decisions. Wars, babies, careers are all often made in bed, and they often land there after they are made. This is America's story of the last seven years, how we create a fictional public history, for what is really an intensely private history.
I have faith in this story, and in America, and that means ultimately in Americans. But we must face our heart of darkness, and go to its quiet place. For those who don't "get" this as a novel, I'm sorry, but it is one. The novel is the middle class art form. Drama is from the religion, and fine arts from the palace. We can strike back at media in the blogs, but we can only take back in longer forms of many words, which, fired by bright eloquence, become the porcelain that is sensuous to the touch.
Book Two: The West
Give me light.
I was dreaming and fell through a giant face, like breaking the surface of the water. My cheeks bleed tears white and burned pressed to memory's steel ice.
Give me light.
I fell upwards through into being awake. My eyes open and I am not awake, but only at another layer of the dream. There is white white white, and a giant screaming face. The face of the man I had seen arrested hours before, screaming out of a nightmare vision. On the white on white I see marching figures, in an endless parade. They are ghosts from some other Auden age.
His lips contort and wrap back and forth, over enunciating his words. But I hear the sounds, and they make no sense at all. He scoops and bobs his head and accents the commands. Orders from out of the nowhere, and into the here.
Give me air.
Give me light.
I drown and gasp and gulp for air. I suck in the space and cough. I feel a wave from deep in my stomach, it howls up my throat and discharges like a jet engine that has lost power and smokes into a ghastly whirring death. Yes I remember that sound, and now it is coming from within me.
The burning, appalling burn, becomes a wave of nausea.
My eyes open, truly open. I am staring a the floor of orange carpet, and turn over too look up at the mirrors at the ceiling of the room. The orange cast comes from sunrise. I remember the night. We must get ready to go soon. Our goal is Yosemite.
There is light, but it is fading. I look around, and do not see Merc. I startle and then settle. I hear him getting ready. I roll my feet slowly to the floor and begin to assemble my wits. My insides churn. I almost wish for a moment of shocking violence to bring me out of this sense of roiling helplessness. But alas, we are not in Country.
Some where in a lonely hotel room I am still there, at the moment. I can draw back my vision and see myself standing there. There is silence, but inside there is a swirling siren in my head. I feel a flash of heat that floods down my face and across my body. I feel my stomach drop about two feet. No. That’s going to happen in the future. It didn't happen in the past.
I am spinning, having lost track of past and present, whether I am awake or falling back asleep.
My eyes open again, I am looking at the Merc's face.
"You passed out. Are you sure you are alright?"
"I had a dream."
"So did Martin Luther King Jr."
"It was two dreams. The first part just came back to me. I dreamt that a plane hit the Stratosphere tower we were there. I fell through the floor and into a wave of white. And there was the face of the man they arrested today."
"Did he remind you of anyone?"
"I don't know."
"No one else does."
"It's going to happen in the future."
"You know I don't believe."
"No. I mean our child. My past doesn't matter now. I have a reason to be. It's going to happen in the future, the meaning of my dream."
"You were just reliving that day."
"No, I was pre-living something."
"I'm confused again."
"There is another moment coming, another collapse."
"Shit. Anyone who has been to Baghdad can tell you that. That's what the surge was about, because the city was spinning out of control. It wasn't to accelerate victory, just delay defeat."
"How closer are we?"
"To losing the war? We lost it already. We put the enemy in charge of the country."
"So were falling spiral?"
"So where are we going? Why are you going? Do you have some kind of Rhett Butler complex?"
"No. I'm going back to be there at the bitter end."
"That's what I was seeing. There is going to be a moment. A moment when we see a shadow, and feel it splay into pink mist."
"I already have. There was a friend, he slipped away under my fingers. I knew there was nothing that could be done. So I sat there, watching him turn back and forth against a baked beige wall."
I see his eyes have gone million miles gone. They scream one thing:
Give me light.
"Tell me dear."
"He was a shining light. Brilliant. Tactically, intellectually. He lead us when we had given up on finding people. He had the words. All the words I don't know. All the words I wished I knew. All the words I wish I could say."
"What did he say."
"When I found him, he'd stitched a boy's in place and restarted his heart. A sniper caught him and ripped enough of his mid section out to fill a butcher case in Chinatown. He lolled and smiled. He breathed out of half a lung. And was drowning in the other."
"What did he say?"
"He smiled at me."
He slipped into another voice. He gained an accent I did not know he had.
"The wings have come for me. I stand on the mountain and there is the breath of cold that shrouds my feet. These garments of flesh are not my own. I trade my life for his. Save him from this day. There is light on his face."
"I told him nothing, I had no lies to tell." Pause. "He bled out, still smiling. But he was right, the blood was coming back to the marine's face."
"And the patient lived?"
"Lived through that day. Lives to this day. Though he's due for another tour."
That was silence until we were hauling ourselves out. I looked back at the closing door, wishing we had found some debauchee to share what we had shared there. Not because, but because not. Because what's the point of going to sin city without doing something you are ashamed of?
As I walked out with Merc I saw faces in the casino, pretty faces, once. Handsome faces… once.
Worn by waves of desperation. Staring into the machines. Everyone saying the same thing.
Give me light.
One moment I could feel his eyes on the seam of a long pair of black stockings. I pressed my lips to his in a dangerous flame. That shapely backside and long legged wonder turned around to reveal a haggard 50 year old face, with a long nose and the sunken cheeks of a cocaine user.
Her eyes danced, she was beyond caring. In the background, bells rang and she tossed her peroxide blasted wires back. She had found in decay a reality of happiness. She petted the hands of the patrons and giggled like a girl.
I knew from her walk that she never went to bed alone unless she wanted to.
She was the light.
I could tell that no words would pass between them, that Merc took her in his mind.
We cleared the entrance to cross the street and get coffee. The sun blazed straight down the open pavement. And there was light sweet dry light.
I could not help, I sank to me knees in prayer. To which deity I do not know.
Let there be light.
Instead there would soon be noise. That is what we had been trying to escape, but could not: Iraq.
The Kingdom of Noise.
at 9:41 AM