05 October 2006

In Which Sarge Bemoans His Temptations...


Chad. Memories flood back quickly, years ago, the French and the Libyans playing dominoes with the land and the cities here, assassinations like practical jokes and the French speaking South just so many bullies on the bloody playground of savanah and encroaching dust. Yes. This was land I walked when much younger, when I still thought you could learn to grow oranges and dates from land little more than thorns and rocks. In the mountains we have developed many contacts, but there is little hope for them, but it is here that I have been tracking the elusive French Separatist, Jean Vigault Mercerier, and trying to update my information about what he plans next and who he plans with. At night, in the mountains, small fires to keep us warm and our hushed voices carried on the winds into the empty sky, our Arabic, mine broken and theirs quick and mumbled, speaks to the confusion of the moment. But luckily, Nwargo is with me, and translates and picks up on things that I miss, distracted as I am by the dreams that persist even with waking, images tangled together trying to weave what should be so out of the sweat of nightmares.

I have not touched the junk in seven months, but alone and without occupation sometimes for days at a time, playing a waiting game with someone who might not even know he is playing it, I feel the mind atrophy and crave after the tribal gatherings that are just so many reassertions of what we already know. Yes, Mercerier is here; yes, he is wounded; yes, he is gathering a group - but for what? Speculation, a miasma of idleness, gives no release to thought or anxiety, and I sweat with my desire to float away in the warm cradle of my former life. What I was in Kiev and Bratislava, the things I had to do, pushed me to places that surprised and disgusted even me, and pained you and the one or two others that discovered it. If Nwargo hadn't accompanied me to that drop in Ostrava, his first time out of Africa, and for what? An informant who didn't inform and me in that cramped alley, spitting blood and helpless, for all the world some hellish spectre of an infant gone terribly wrong: the dead body of that fifteen year old baker's son in a trashbag down by the Oder River fixed in my mind like a Last Judgment. I found the vein so fast and Nwargo down in the Karolina District running through the collapsed skeleton of the Eastern Bloc looking for me, coming to tell me that it was all a set-up and the Baker's son was a stooge, perhaps knowing too well what he would find. The baker's son, too young for that game, and Nwargo hoping to save not just angels and demons that night, but all of us in between, but the only life he would save that night was mine. I felt his hands, cool against my flushed face and how the breath came then, how the dirty air felt clean! The safe house was compromised and we stayed with a sympathetic salesman who lived near the Technical University. Now Nwargo saves me again, we play endless games of "Golachi", an ingenious game of his people in which the goal is to end up with groups of seven, using stones that have similar but not exactly the same paths to travel as pegs on a cribbage board. They travel more quickly and the afternoons manage to slip away. We talk of our youths and he is curious about Canada and would like to visit. When I tell him of the Canadian Rockies, he cannot believe that they are wilder and more rugged than this place. "But more fertile, a celebration of life, not of survival!" I tell him, and he laughs and says that Chad is the forgotten room of God's House. "It is not my home," he told me the other day, "but these people, in their suffering, they are people I understand, and I am glad we hunt Mercerier." He seems to understand that if this area becomes unstable, the French-speaking South will destroy the way of life these tribes hold sacred. I tell him to Ottawa, sadly, they are only a convenience, and that the only difference between the separatists and us is we use them, the separatists try and kill them.

So it's Chad. I fight the good fight, I have not touched the junk in many weeks and everyday we look for something that will take some of the sting out of the failures of Slovokia.

Cpl., I do hope that life treats you kindly.

with warmest regards,


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