The Book of Accidents: death and Soviets
I sat up with just the light of my computer screen illuminating the tent. I was drunk. That disquieting drunk where things seem clear to you. I checked the clock compulsively. In London, people were out and doing things. They were not thinking that the man with a beard across from them on the tube might be planning to kill them and everyone around them.
Some men did that. Some men with beards and foreign names. Some men who changed their names from ‘nice’ ‘normal’ ‘British’ names did that. But people let that go eventually. It faded into the stuff of washed out nightmares. Something that happened in a horror story once. A plot point on a TV spy show. I was living the plot points.
The day before an IED had exploded and devoured four men from the unit. They were just red mist and splatter now. I remembered talking to Grimes about his wife and children. He kept a photo of them in his wallet and touched it frequently as though it were a relic, a piece of shroud. I had been trying to write a letter of condolence to Sarah – his wife – and George, Thomas and Elena, his children. But what could I say.
I just wrote: “I am sorry. We should all be sorry. He did good.” That was all I could come up with. A professional writer and that was all I had to say. How many times can we say we’re sorry? It’s hollow now. If we were truly sorry, we would stop. We would think of another way to make our moves in the Middle East.
A giant chess game with human pieces stains the board red. The black squares are multiplying. The black flag of Islam flying in Syria. Iran cracking its knuckles and limbering up. The Soviets on the march again.
Fuck saying “Russia”. There is no Russia really. There is the Soviet kleptocracy in new, more expensive suits, stealing from the people like they always have. And the people cry: “We love you Vladimir, we love a strong man. Fuck us again. Fuck us harder. We deserve it.” A strong people crave a strong leader. Russia is the world’s most masochistic nation. It is a people that does not know what it is without strife. A people that knows only the feeling of suffering. The Nazis lost not because of supply lines, the wrong clothes or the wrong oil – they lost because they could not match the Soviets willingness to suffer.
I sort of love suffering. When Kurt Cobain sang “I miss the comfort in being sad” I took it like a mantra. Happiness feels like being drug. It’s too giddy for me. Too like a helium balloon let off by a careless toddler, soaring up into the blue and destined to crash in a field somewhere outside Milton Keynes. Sadness, melancholy, all the rich strains of misery have a solidity too them. They are weighty. They lie on your shoulders like a particularly bold cat. They stretch out and claw at your back. I have been sad in my life far more than I have been happy. I am happy to admit and submit to my sadness. To fight it is a waste of time. It comes with many more resources than me. It gives me a treat in return: the endless, nagging need to do better. To keep buggering on.