The Sky Is Falling

The Sky Is Falling

A Story by Gee Roughin

            I feel like a soldier, shell-shocked.  The sky is blue, the buildings old and long in their suffocating beauty, the cute shingled caps on sixth-storey windows casting triangular shadows on illumined grey and taupe rooves.  The end of March, this city is at its most enticing, and the sun soothes my numbskull.  When do you become a soldier?  When you first run your fingers along a cool metal barrel?  An experience I have never even wanted to imagine.  When your brain begins to calculate weak points in the human frame, potential bones to fracture or organs to puncture?  In theory, I have defended and defend the legitimacy of self-defense, but never have I trained or even opened up my mental capacities to this end.  I've been lucky�"you could say I've been lucky�"my body has never been threatened such that would warrant it.  What about secondary trauma?  I've never witnessed an aggression in person�"or like that army psychologist in Georgia or wherever who lost it and shot down 15 comrades or however many.  He never went to war, the stories were enough.  Though they were gonna send him.  I guess he was a soldier already cause he signed the papers.  So what could that have to do with me?

            The sky's turned white and the shadows are gone.  Little change in my inner weather, the absence of temporary pain relief, the numbing fingers of the sun on my chest cavity.  The city is enchanting for the tourists, but the mood is down.  For me, it's like release from a virtual prison to find people around me a little depressed.  But that's not what I wanted to talk about.  When do you become a soldier?  You may wonder what I can possibly mean, you who see me every day, who say hello to me in the street, who nod or scowl at me when I'm waiting for the bus.  I will try to explain.

            Inside of me, I am numb.  Numb and passive, like Hemingway's soldier.  He liked the pattern of the girls, but couldn't do the work.  I am frozen on the inside, like a soldier coming out of battle.  What about when your heart becomes an iron cage?  What about when you say, this person can't be trusted, or this one, or this one�"I want to let in the ones I can count on, not this one, not this one�"and you end up with a handful who are tired of you by now because they don't understand why you can't even get a f**k.

            If you can't get a f**k, are you a soldier?  Or if the only people around to f**k are your enemies, are you a soldier?

            Now I'm a vulgar queen, I've lost all the nice readers, and the rest of you are wondering why I should worry about whether or not I'm f*****g with the enemy.  Are you a soldier when you've lost all the nice readers?  Or when you have enemies significant enough that you don't want to f**k them?  But I'm really confusing things now.  Let's try again.  Are you a soldier when the world is divided into enemies and allies, good guys and bad guys?  I don't think that's right.  I think you're a soldier when your enemies want you dead.

            POW!  That was a good one.  That one was profound.  When your enemies want you dead�"POW--you're a soldier.  But don't be so fast, stupid.  If they wanted me dead, I'm sure I would be dead.  Are you a soldier when your enemies want to make you suffer?

            The weather outside's remaining constant, though the clouds are moving.  It's a static, stifling, suffocating sameness.  People put their trust in technology to create change, the illusion of progress, but technology only acts like four virtual walls closing in on your future, surrounding you with more iron and steel and concrete always being dumped somewhere their advertisers forgot to point their cameras at.  Somewhere in one of our shrinking forests or on a melting mountaintop, the camera crew mar the horizon, zoom in on a happy 25-year-old hiker alone with his laptop, forget where he had to dump his first 5 laptops or where he will dump the 30 more he will buy if he keeps up with the Joneses.  But I digress.  It's stifling how I digress!  Talking to myself like a broken record since we can't get past the same damn thing!  Since everyone wants to change the subject to talk about anything at all except the endless f*****g wall.

            That's not fair.  It's not fair to talk like that.  It's not fair to talk like it's me versus everybody else.  They haven't succeeded in making me believe THAT�"I haven't lost THAT battle, THAT'S  A LIE!  They lost that battle and they lost the one where I trust people I shouldn't trust, but they won the part where I feel isolated.  So I'm ahead 2-1.

            When do you become a soldier?  I took a coffee break, the weather's still cool and heavy but people bubbling over it, winter is over hurrah-hurrah.  The sense that I am an observer of their bubbling, that I'm a soldier on leave, that I can't enter into any bubblingness unless I know why.  I want to abdicate�"go AWOL, enter back into the mainstream of the current of living like when I was a young student, a tourist in this city, just barely surviving but back then I could abandon misery completely for one moment of happiness�"I want to go AWOL but who am I fooling??  Once a soldier always a soldier, you can never walk back into life the same carefree way with abandon�"can you ever look at the world that way again?  Is it my fault?  Even if their violence is crushing, their victims are too many to count, even if the end of nature itself is on their head, isn't it better to grab one moment of pleasure and abandon before the ship goes down?

            I hate to be so apocalyptic, it's really not cool.  I am so uncool.  When I was younger, I tried hard to be cool, sometimes I failed, when I managed to be cool that was great�"what a great feeling to be young and free and to feel cool every once in a while!  But you can't go backwards.  A soldier is not cool.

            Now wait a minute.  No one will believe me there, that's no excuse for not being cool.  A soldier is cool if he has fans.  A soldier is cool when he wins.  A soldier is cool when he's going off to war and he's cool for a couple hours if he comes home in one piece.  A soldier is cool if he's at war, but when there's no war, a soldier is not cool.  One more time.  A traumatized soldier is definitely not cool.  Is it because she is weak?

            Deeply dissatisfying.  I am not happy with the traumatized soldier being weak, and I am not happy with her being the victim of a plot to make her suffer.  You are not a soldier because someone tries to make you suffer.

            You may not understand this, of all the things I would have thought of being, for me too a soldier is the last.  I hate soldiers.  I hate war.  Soldiers are what my enemies do.  Soldiers are the fodder of the war machine, me I want to stop it.  The war machine I wanted to stop it.  I could be weaving my monologue of trauma around the experience of resistors instead of soldiers�"how we always find ourselves torn apart�"how the machine does everything to clog us up�"but this discourse is not a pamphlet.  It's a digging into a moment of feeling�"a moment that seems to keep going on and on�"a word that keeps popping up when I try to explain to myself why I am in pain�"the word I keep finding to explain the pain�"that I am a traumatized soldier.  Not a victim, but a soldier�"a tired, closed, numb, isolated, miserable soldier in the rain just trying to find a company who will take me, that isn't rotten to the core, that I believe will watch my back for the simple reason that they're fighting for the same cause, and they know it.  I'm sorry to the faithful pacifists who will be disappointed by the worn-out image�"it's an old worn-out icon but I don't think I ever said I wanted to kill for a living, I don't even want to know how�"it's just the only image I can find to explain how I feel�"as if I am in psychological warfare with an unseen enemy because one day I was wandering around in cyberspace and I saw something�"I saw something I didn't want to see, I didn't ask to see�"one day I stumbled on the virtual scene of a crime everybody knows about but nobody wants to know what to do about�"I stumbled upon the scene of a crime and decided that those people are my enemies too, and I want to bring them down.  And yep.  When you designate a State as your enemy, well (one State, two States, eight States or the State) that's it.  You designate a State as your enemy and decide it's the job of your lifetime to try to bring them down, well then that's when you become a soldier.

            The clouds have stopped moving but I saw a bird fly off a rooftop and disappear behind the windowpane.  Out of my view.  Felt good to get that off my chest.

© 2011 Gee Roughin

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Added on October 20, 2011
Last Updated on October 20, 2011


Gee Roughin
Gee Roughin

Cairo, Egypt

Before spending seven years writing Paranoid Wasp, I studied literature at Wheaton College (IL), Yale University and the University of Chicago. I moved to Paris in 1999. In addition to ten years in Fr.. more..