Brainwaves

I know someone, somehow, is picking up my brainwaves, and therefore, she will be able to put these into words.

 

It is my last moment. I stopped hearing the monitor’s constant beeping, registering my pulse, the yelling of the nurse struggling to revive me using defibrillators and such, then asking, shouting, for a doctor to come quick and see me. And then the doctor checking my eyes and pulse and body and all, and finally pronouncing me dead.

My husband’s sighs and my daughter’s sobs appear to be more distant as I start losing consciousness. Weird how it feels. Or better said, weird how it doesn’t feel.

 

The cause of my being in a hospital bed for a few weeks is that enemy or ours we’ve been unable to defeat. Cancer came to me at earlier times, but chemotherapy and drugs took care of it. For a while anyway: this is my last relapse after surviving two previous hard-fought battles, knowing it would beat me in the end.

 

I don’t feel anything except peace, a strange peace, the physical pain is gone. Something tells me I was a good wife and mother. Not perfect, but good enough to complement and please Jim to the best of my abilities, and providing a good example to Nadia, who’s always been a good daughter and friend. And to Jay, who I’m pretty sure is receiving the news right now. He’s spent so much money coming to see me on those false alarm previous times, that for this one I asked him not to make the trip. He’s got a family of his own to raise, and I’m too old to cause him any more trouble.

 

Time is irrelevant now, I have no idea whether this last moment is lasting an hour or a second or a nanosecond. All I feel is a strange easiness, but on top of that I feel lots of regret. Not about many things though, but about the decision I never made.

I know now that everything is binary, yes or no. Then, whichever answer you choose takes you to another one, yes or no again. And then it bifurcates once more, metaphorically it becomes like the weeping willow tree branches. In my case such branch is long and flowery.

 

Just one regret. That’s it.

I was too young, and it was a different time, so my mother insisted that I had to keep my dignity at all times. And I’ve never mentioned anything to Jim about the love of my life, this is, my eternal love, that got away.

I met Manu at summer school. He was a shy guy then, not because his coyness was natural, but rather because he was poor. It was obvious he didn’t feel comfortable among us, middle-class students who could easily afford the tuition and all. He needed to work in order to eat, let alone attend such classes.

At the beginning I was surprised to see someone wearing cheap clothes in my classroom, and then as time went by, I got curious, once I realized he answered all the teacher questions correct all the time. He was good-looking, despite his origins. I got closer to him physically, because I started seating in different chairs each time, in order to get close to him for good. A couple of times I noticed he would write what looked like song lyrics once he was done answering the quizzes, or when the lecturing was boring. Only to realize later on that it was poems he was crafting.

Despite my friends’ advice not to, I started to talk to him a few times after classes. He turned out to be very funny, and his smile was heaven. I couldn’t help but feel like kissing him every single time he smiled, it was a normal smile, everybody would say, but the shape of his lips and his sad eyes turning into deep dark slots promised adventure.

 

As I got to know him better, it occurred to me to talk to mom about him. She was interested in knowing more about this friend of mine, who was a poet, a funny guy, and that belonged in a different kind of societal class. She asked me about him every time she knew I saw him, and insisted in getting to know him.

The weird thing is, I realized he liked me. So, I waited for him to ask me out on a date, not to the ice cream shop or to take a walk on the park, but a real or more formal date.

 

For a few years after that summer we continued to see each other, although not very often. His college was just a few blocks away from my high school, and sometimes I would walk in that direction hoping to see him at least from a distance. He did the same. So, we crossed paths many times, but didn’t talk to each other much, he being busy with work and school. Even so, I felt that eventually he would ask me out, or say something to start something that would define the rest of my life.

Such words or actions never came.

 

I was a popular girl then. At that age I didn’t realize most of the boys wanted to approach me and ask me out not because of my fair face or personality or education or smarts. It was my hips that attracted them. Nothing else.

Even so, I was selective. I would say no to all of them, I was waiting for Manu to make a move, but after waiting for more than two years I started to feel disappointed and hopeless. It was likely he was waiting for someone like him: a smart woman that was also an artist of some sort, kind, and funny. I had no such qualities.

 

At least five times during those years, I felt like I needed to start the relationship, but mom, after seeing Manu only two brief times, determined such type of person would damage me for life. Believe me I know, she said, for she had divorced from his first and second husbands, deciding to continue her life unattached.

She explained about how sometimes wolves disguise in lambs’ clothing, and emphasized how difficult it would be for Manu to make a life after he finished college: most companies would not give him a job, due to his origins and lifestyle. Even if he got a job, trying to get out of the place he lived in, start a family of his own, knowing his current one needed the money he would earn, and all those scenarios, would stretch him so thin that whoever was his wife would never be happy.

I didn’t understand everything she said then, but I got the idea.

 

Therefore, because of all that advice and the fact that Jim had insisted a few many times, I said yes to Jim to everything. Everything. Trying to forget about Manu.

 

But that never happened.

 

Manu disappeared from my life for a few years. Turns out, those were his three or so years after he finished college. I was already engaged to Jim when Manu started looking for me again. I saw him twice: the first time I wanted to see him and know how everything was going. Turns out, it was going well for him: he had found a very good job in an energy corporation, going to many countries for weeks at a time, and often.

His fine clothes, watch, shoes and all that, made me realize money had helped him be way more attractive than what most of us had initially seen. He was attractive all right, but good clothing made him even more. His car was an expensive type, I didn’t know anything about cars, but it was obvious his was a good one. He had joined a gym or something, and his muscles were now very, very noticeable.

Best of all, with all that exposure to the world, his smarts seemed to have exponentially multiplied: his flowery and extended lexicon was ever present, not in a way that anybody else around him would feel diminished or ignorant, but rather enriched by his way of expressing himself. He told me then that he continued writing poems, and that when he felt he had enough “good material” he would publish them.

We were supposed to meet and talk for an hour, it was four that flew by when I noticed I needed to leave. When we hugged and kissed each other’s cheeks to part ways, I had the impulse to turn a little more to touch his lips with mine, but he was a gentleman, and he didn’t allow that to happen. He gave me a small sealed envelope and asked me to promise I would read the contents at night, when I was in bed, before going to sleep. I promised.

The rest of the day felt like an eternity, I just wanted the night to come to read what he had written for me.

Yes, it was a page-long handwritten poem.

 

How to describe my birth?

The very lines you finally read:

From trembling hands and rushing ink,

my growth so swift and only for your eyes

to see.

 

My entire body, one page:

the one you hold in front of you, oh your face!

 

As he was writing, he was decreeing,

his voice so eager, so firm, so longing,

to see you again, to touch your hands, to hug you,

to give you me. A testament to what you soon will hear.

 

His gentle voice commanded what his hand inscribed,

not as an order, but more as ascertaining,

of love so deep, so great, so real

he can no longer hide it: his pulse I am retaining.

 

He wants to give you something,

he wants to take you somewhere.

One thing that lasts forever,

he wants to be your lover,

but not like those who pass,

but like he dreams and wonder.

 

His daily dreams of loving you, hurt so good, he cries most mornings.

 

He adores you, he’s set.

He needs you, confessed.

He loves you, he’s ready

 

To pledge, to make up for lost time, to stand for you, to tell you all, to lay down his life, to kneel to you, to be yours

 forever.

 

I cried all night.

 

And the next one.

I was like a zombie for a month or so, living by inertia, waiting for that second time I would see him again. I have no real recollection of anything that happened those days, all was a blur. I started wondering whether he had written that page exclusively for me or not, in a state of disbelief. I knew he did, but my circumstances imposed the doubt.

 

That second time we met, I wanted to explain that I was already engaged, and that it would be better to try to put some distance between us.

Jim had heard a few times about Manu, and although they never met in person, I have the feeling Jim was always jealous of him. Even now I don’t know if it was me who gave myself out, or somehow, he found out through mom, or who knows who.

 

So, I crafted a plan to tell Manu that, although I liked him, it would be close to impossible to see each other again. The truth is I felt I loved him, but would not use the word Love. ‘Like’ would be the verb. I practiced in front of the mirror.

 

And even so I could not do it well.

“Manu, there is something I need to tell you.” I said right after we sat down, not even waiting for the waitress to offer us anything to drink.

“I know,” he said smiling, “I have something to tell you too.”

And his smile got me again. “I need to tell you, to ask…” I lost my train of thought.

“That you didn’t like the letter, I know.” He kept smiling.

“No, not that. I mean, I didn’t like it, I love it! But it’s not about that.”

“What could possibly be more important than–” The waitress interrupted, and after we ordered coffee and tea, he told her something polite and fancy that made it clear we didn’t want to be interrupted anymore, and retook the conversation. “What was I saying? Oh! Yes… about the lines.”

“Manu, you need to know I’m engaged.” I had forgotten my carefully crafted ideas and snapped.

“What!?”

“I am engaged. I thought somehow you knew.” I was whispering everything, leaning as close as possible to him, so that nobody else would hear me, and inviting him to approach me and speak softly too.

“Well, that’s shocking.” He was harsh. “I didn’t, how could I possibly–?”

“I don’t know, I just thought…”

“You never told me anything.”

“I kind of did, right? Always gave you hints.”

“Hints? You’ve been smiling all the time every time we talk.” He started to sound disappointed and confused.

“Yes, because I like to talk with you.”

“Talk? You just like to talk with me?”

“Manu, that’s the only thing we’ve ever done! You and I, talk. There’s never been anything else.”

“Yes, but I was waiting for you to give me an opening so I could… I was going to…”

“Yes?”

“Oh, Becky! You know I have feelings.” His voice was now trembling.

“We all do, Manu!” My voice was trembling too.

“I mean I have feelings for you. You know that.”

“I know, but you never went beyond… what kind of feelings? Was that letter really for me? Only for me?”

“Becky, please. I know you have feelings for me too, maybe not as strong as mine, but I can see it in your eyes.”

“You never told me anything.”

“I didn’t have to use words, did I?”

“So, what were you doing then, all those times we met and went for a walk, and even when we stayed after class talking?”

“That was some years ago.”

“Well, even then I would have loved… I wanted… I was waiting for you to tell me something.”

“Something like what? I was so poor I could not even invite you… anything.”

“I was not asking for that, or anything related to money!”

“Becky. I was struggling to live, what would you have said if I asked you out? Didn’t you notice I was wearing the same pair of pants all the time? How could I then ask you anything?”

“It didn’t matter to me!”

“It did. You were in a particular group of friends I had no way to join.”

“So, then, what was your plan and ideas? Do you think I was going to wait forever?”

“No, but you knew I was studying. Once I made it, it would be different. It is now.”

“Now is too late.”

“No, it’s not. Cancel everything!”

“Are you saying you love me?”

“I’m saying we can start something.”

“But you don’t love me.”

“I love you, Becky. But we don’t know each other well enough to make any kind of rushed compromises.”

“See?”

“Well, how about you? Do you love me?”

“I… wouldn’t be engaged if I… I don’t know.”

“Why did you come to see me then?”

“To tell you I’m engaged.”

“And the last time?”

“I couldn’t tell you.”

“Do you love him?”

“Manu!”

“Do you?”

“I, I, already said yes.”

“Do you love him?”

“Yes, I do.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“Manu, please, I’m confused. -sob- You never told me anything!”

“Perhaps. I am doing it now.”

“It is too late; the wedding preparations and invitations are all done and–”

“When is the wedding?”

“Two months.”

“Becky. Cancel everything. Please.”

“What if I do and we don’t, what if it doesn’t work?”

“Really? After all we’d talked and felt you think it won’t work?”

“So many times, I waited for you to say something, something related to commitment, I was waiting for just a few words from you. I, I was–”

“You don’t have to wait anymore. I’m here, and I’m asking you: cancel everything. Please?”

“How can I hurt him? He’s so good to me.”

“Do I know him?”

“I don’t think so.”

“What’s his name?”

“Jim.”

“Does he know me?”

“How could he?”

“You.”

“I’ve never mentioned your name in front of him.”

“Not even in dreams? Or when you’ve been with him call him my name?”

“You don’t believe those things, do you?”

“I’ve called your name being with someone else. A few times.”

“What? What did she do?”

“‘What did they do.’ It’s been a few times.”

 

I looked down to the cup of tea that would never be touched, blocking everything else he was saying. I wanted to tell him it had been many times I had spent the night with Jim. That I made him happy, but that I was not satisfied. It was one night, only one time that Jim told me he had for once felt me opening entirely and enjoying the act. That particular time I closed my eyes and was pretending I was with Manu.

 

And now? Manu kept talking saying that if I married Jim, I would make three people unhappy for life. After a long time, he finally realized I was not going to change plans. It was a different time, and women were treated differently, and we needed to feel safe, that kind of safety society dictated. We kissed goodbye, and this time I didn’t dare do anything, simply lightly touched his cheek. The last words I heard from him were No matter how it goes at the beginning, look for me when things go bad.

 

Manu was wrong, I didn’t make three people unhappy. I had a good family, and I believe Jim was very happy with me.

Manu probably was happier with whoever he ended up with, I hope an artist. And I didn’t have it bad either. At least that’s what everybody around me says, despite my self-imposed lonesomeness.

Through the years, I knew about how everything was going for him from people that didn’t know we knew each other, and from the news. He was there constantly. At a particular TV show, the interviewer asked him about something missing from his life despite his success. His face was shown in a close-up when he answered. He said something about a girl he could never have, and I had a shiver feeling his eyes penetrating the transmission waves looking at me, as if imploring to look for him. I could have easily found and contact him, but I never looked for him when things went bad. Or ever.

I hope it is then only one unhappy person.

 

It’s not precisely the Cancer. It’s been time, and the weight of my weeping willow tree more than anything, that at last broke me. Decades of longing for something I could not get, didn’t know how to, didn’t dare to when I could. Even now, right now, I wonder what could have been. My tree of possibilities is huge. So heavy, that it is precisely it that has broken my spirit. Finally.

 

That pulse and beeping that disappeared a moment ago from the screen? That was just an echo: many years ago, my heart had already died.

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Black midnight run

I have thought about it for months now: to run 5 km by myself in the middle of the night. Mundy Park is the place. I had wanted to do it any winter night sometime between 12:00 and 2:00 a.m.

On the 1st of December, I planned everything carefully and selected the day: December 13th. I wouldn’t tell my family but until last minute, because my wife very likely would be opposed to the idea if she knew ahead of time. I had everything ready: thermal clothing, warm gloves and toque, LED armbands, headlamp, and a borrowed and light phone. The moon would be full that day, so there would be some natural night light on the trails.

However, as it happens, Mother Nature was the one opposing my plans, and let the first big snowstorm of the season fall a week before my set date. I had to postpone my midnight run for later.

I let the holidays season go by without thinking much about it, yet at the start of the year I selected a full-moon night once again, January 12th, but snow fell one more time, so I changed it to February 10th, and yes, it happened once more, as if on cue with my plans.

March came, so I chose Monday the 13th, thinking that with Spring so close there would be no more snow on the ground. It was so, and although rain was constant during those days, most of the snow was gone by then. However, that Monday I had had to do a lot of physical work because of sudden situations at work and at home. I was exhausted, and yet again had to postpone a simple run which seemed to have been planned ages ago. The following days the workplace was chaotic… one of those weeks.

Early morning, I read a post mimicking the Nike slogan: “Just do it!”

Right then I decided it would be tonight, no more waiting, no more planning, no more excuses. While everybody was having dinner, I took my running gear and hid it in the garage. At around 10:00 p.m. I was about to tell my wife about it, but decided not to. Shortly after 1:00 a.m. I went to the washroom and left a note on the mirror: “Went for my midnight run. :)” and then to the garage. Made sure the armbands and the headlamp worked and the older, smaller phone had enough charge, and dressed up for my run. It wasn’t that cold: 4C, so I wore shorts instead of tights, and left my house quietly.

I started running 500 meters before getting to the closest park entrance, planning to do the Perimeter Trail, which is 4,014 meters long. There was no traffic, save for a couple of speeding cars. I felt excited and nervous at the same time. As I entered the park, the streetlamps light quickly vanished, and only at that moment it occurred to me that I never checked for moonlight. There was not any. New moon probably. I was not going to turn around though.

The place was pitch black. I quickly realized that my headlamp light was not as powerful as one might think. Yes, it helps when running in poorly lighted streets, but more than anything, both the headlamp and the armbands allow drivers and other people to see you, they don’t really light the way as much as one would like them to.

The path seemed narrower. When we run with daylight we clearly see where we are going, no matter how windy the path is, but with such weak lighting, I could only see a few steps ahead of me. I found myself constantly tripping on the unevenness, and veering from one side of the path to the other.

The only sounds were those of my steps, my laboured breathing, thousands of critters, and the rapid water stream that runs alongside the paths in some sections. I noticed that the armband lights were useless in there, and rather distracting, so turned them off.

I know that trail very well, I mean, I thought I knew it. When I believed I had run for a kilometer or so, I checked my watch, the “indiglo” light button didn’t work, pushing on it all I saw was a blurred blank screen instead of numbers.

I didn’t know where I was, a few fallen and bent-by-snow branches covered with green, almost fluorescent musk, were barely visible when my headlamp pointed up, but other than that I could not see anything but the very immediate area ahead of me. Looking up I could see the stars trough he trees if I turned my headlamp off, but nothing else.

I then got to a crossroads, and slowed down -if that could even be possible- for a couple of seconds, decided to go in a different direction to run only 2 km instead because it was very difficult to continue in such dark conditions. Besides, the temperature inside the park was lower, I could feel it in my numb toes, nose, and even my toque-covered ears.

This trail I didn’t know very well, all I knew was that I would get to another crossroads and that I should turn again, in order to complete roughly 2 km, and get to the street. At one point the only sound I could hear was the water stream and my steps. It had been a while already, and I was supposed to get to that crossroads. Did I miss it? Was I close? Could the GPS in the borrowed phone pinpoint exactly where I was, despite being in the middle of the park? Besides, most of those phones have a flashlight function, right? I continued my shuffled running while fumbling with my thick glove inside my jacket pocket to extract the phone. Got it!… sort of. I had just pressed a key and looked at its time at exactly 1:37 when I felt the brush.

A lowered branch hits my left eyebrow, sending my toque and headlamp flying, I fall to the side and in doing so my right foot slips into the water while my left knee hits a rock and cracks quite at the same time I hear the phone’s “fzzz zap!” in the water, despite my loud yelling due to the knee pain. I turn to see my headlamp also in the water stream, slowly being carried away. I try getting up to go get it, barely a meter from arms reach, but my knee forbids it. I’m certain something is broken, but my kneecap feels whole. It is probably my femur or tibia. I can’t say because the pain is in the general joint.

My headlamp is moving slowly, its light beam pointing downwards, which means the strap is being pulled by the current. I lay on my chest with the intention of crawling to get it, but I can’t. There are many rocks and broken branches where I am, so the best I can do is to try to find a branch long enough to rescue my lamp. I touch a few, some very short, and then finally a long one. Yet too long and thin, according to my hands. I manage to reach the headlamp strap a few times, but I can not pull it closer. Each time I try the light moves but then goes a little bit farther away, as if jumping in slow motion. I finally manage to hook the strap and retrieve it. Too late though. The light is diminishing, barely there now, so I sit down, take my gloves off, start trying to open the battery compartment with the intention of drying everything as best I can, but my fingers are cold, wet, and numb.

I can not see anything and on top of that, my knee is in excruciating pain, my right foot and my sweaty head start to feel really cold. Feeling something sticky in my left eye I touch my eyebrow to realize that the cut is big, and blood is running down my eye. I can not open the battery compartment. Damn! If at least I knew where my toque is.

So, think. Think, think. 1:45? Probably. Which means the first morning runners will come in more than three hours, if they come this way. If not, the dogwalkers will be here around 8:00 a.m. The only other and remote possibility is someone needs the washroom and notices my absence, and probably before 6:00 they call 911.

I stay there for 20 minutes or so, just feeling sorry for myself, listening to the water running, trying to identify if the noisy critters are insects, or amphibians, or anything else. The cold I will survive, the eyebrow will heal in days, but one of my knee bones is cracked. I don’t think I will be able to participate in the Vancouver Sun Run, less than four weeks from today. That really hurts.

Some 30 or 50 meter from me a heavy branch falls, breaking the twigs on the ground. 3 seconds later another does the same coming from that same direction. Then I grasp it’s not branches falling, and focus my hearing over there. Something is slowly moving in my direction. It’s not coyotes, neither racoons. A sudden shiver and cold sweat swell. I reach for the long branch, now my staff, and I manage to stand up, facing the animal.

It is a black bear, yes. I cannot see anything, but the massive and stinky body is in front of me, with noisy breaths that resemble someone blaming a female: “her, her, her…” I try to remember everything they suggest one does when encountering a bear. But I cannot make noises or make myself appear bigger or turn sideways slowly walking away from it; I can barely keep my balance! So, I’m there in front of a bear I cannot see, but I perceive to be two meters close, its eyes faintly reflecting the stars above. I wonder if turning the armbands on will be better or worse. My staff firmly in my hands, as if suddenly I’ll become a Samurai who all he needs is that long stick to defeat the beast.

I’m petrified, my adrenaline at the max, my heartbeat above 90%, my breathing is a series of muted fast sobs, I am ready to get down in a fetal position covering my face and head. The jacket and clothing on my upper body somehow will help there, but my legs will be mauled and destroyed. Do I fight instead with a dysfunctional leg? Do bears attack without provocation? Do they possess good night vision? Do they eat human flesh if hungry? Did it find me by blood smell? Shouldn’t it be hibernation right now? A million questions cross my mind, time stands still, I don’t know how long has it been since he (or she?) arrived, and I don’t know why it doesn’t go away, neither gets closer to me, or attacks me.

I’m so paralyzed with fear that abruptly I realize it’s gone around me, and I didn’t notice it. It’s approaching me from behind now, his heavy steps sweeping the floor. How can this be? I debate trying to turn around and face him. Then it produces a growl as if saying or asking something. The bear in front of me responds.

I black out.

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The book of his life

It was the book of his life.

Metaphorically and literally. He carried it everywhere, it didn’t matter the weather, or where he was, or what kind of place he ended up sleeping in, the book was by his side.

Strangely, it was one of the few things he had in a box just before bidding farewell to his house forever. Somehow, from thousands of books, that particular one was among the three that had survived the demolition of his patrimony and marriage of 25 years.

His life resembled a Gauss Bell curve. Surviving infancy in an abusive family and a horrid neighbourhood. Having to begin working when he was 11 by delivering take out to offices and nice houses, which provided him not only with tips money, but also free food. He was able to save, buy school items, and books. As many as he wanted. Since then, he worked hard at school and then at the job sites. It was relatively easy for him to climb the company ladder. A self-made man and very successful person in every sense. Until everything came crashing down.

First, the problems at work multiplied when his performance levels started to suffer. His own kids could not understand that alcoholism was an illness, and in his case, a genetically transmitted one. Then everything spiralled down in a vicious cycle right from the day he found his wife with someone else in his own bedroom, she blaming his general abandonment. The drinking increased and the problems became insufferable, the debt mounted, the social relationships changed drastically, and one thing led to another, until he found himself with no friends, no family, no money, and only a box in his hands, containing a photo, three books, miscellaneous things such as a ring, some pens, a t-shirt, and some other stuff that didn’t really make any sense, neither it appeared to belong to him, and a few others that apparently were valuable, monetarily speaking.

Everything in that box started to disappear as he moved from one shelter to another. Some things he gave away, others he sold or exchanged for a jacket, boots, or anything he thought was needed to survive the cold nights, when he was not in a shelter.

A grey beard grew quickly and abundantly, which he liked because it was like a mask. He barely spoke to anyone anymore now. His reading was slower due to the eyesight getting worse, on top of whatever affectation alcohol causes to his brain.

Years came and went, and sometimes he woke up to find his plastic bag full of cans and bottles gone, but his book he kept in a sealable bag inside his jacket. His most precious possession, the only thing that reminded him of his childhood and his successes. Although the novel’s plot, place, time, and the hero were off by a long shot, there were so many similarities that he considered it the book of his life. A few times he confided to some very specific people, like the lady at the soup place, or the volunteer doctor that checked on him every so often, that his wish was to be buried with that book, please, please.

 

This morning he woke up not on the bench, but by its side, and to the realization that the book was not in the bag, and it’s practically destroyed for being so battered, and now wet with pee, cheap vodka, and who knows what else.

An adult man weeping inconsolably, to whom nobody pays any attention, because everybody passing by thinks he’s under the influence. He’s saying he’s done, he’s saying that’s it. That is the last page. He’s made up his mind, and he will be gone, most probably today.

The book of his life. Precisely.

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What do we do, General?

“General?” My young major asks again. I’m still silent, the officers look at me as if I’m absent from the room. I realize I cannot provide a quick answer, the exhausted group of captains and majors also look at each other as if it’s time to replace me, or ignore me, and have their own consensus on next steps.

 

How did this happen? We were so close to victory. Defending our turf took so long, the invaders were first kept at bay, then pushed back. And all of a sudden, they’re at our gates.

They have our own weapons, I got reports they concentrated their attacks on my best units. All my experienced colonels and majors are dead or missing in action.

I still have no answer on what to do next, what for me seems like a few seconds, is minutes to my quarters, what’s left of them: I start to realize the enemy knew what to target, who to eliminate. They located and found the way to get to our armouries, they know how to use our weapons, and they knew our weak spots and even our attacking plan.

I’ve been betrayed.

 

They say the biggest emotional pain one can experience, probably worse than rape, is treason. At this point I’d rather been raped by the entire enemy’s army than to be betrayed. Physical pain would pass, this I feel is unbearable.

If we surrender, the enemy will take our cities, rape our women, and kill our children.

And it is practically children the ones in front of me. How could my army became so young? My colleagues of decades and our best adult soldiers have paid the ultimate prize, all of them. And now their own kids are the ones asking me what to do. Outside my tent, I glance at mortified teenagers that should be dressed in bright colours, playing sports at school, rather than wearing fatigues, being dirty, demoralized, and hungry on a battlefield.

They all sense we’re doomed. They hang on because they know if we falter our entire nation will be finished, and the suffering of our people will be way too much and lengthy.

They will torture us in front of our families, or the other way around, or both.

 

What was the motive or the reason? How could my closest people do that to us? I’m so tired too.

A quick flash of thought suggests suicide, but how could I just leave everything as it is? What do I do? I’d give my life one thousand times over if that would stop the carnage and we could live in peace, but I know vengeance and misery infliction are our enemy’s only goals.

 

I feel numb, my mind is a whirlwind, my mouth is open but no sounds come out. I want to provide a good quick pep talk, but my face and body language don’t help. I have no plan and feel so stupid. If I ask them to fight, most of us will die. If I choose to surrender, most of us will die or loose limbs and be made a slave, suffering a long agony.

Retreating and evacuating would be a long runaway, in which we’ll be eventually caught up…

 

Is this the end?

 

“General?”

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Why do we volunteer?

Our last game of the football season and championship round-robin tournament took place this past weekend. When we finished the game and I was picking up the players’ cards, cones, vests, and balls, I was excited and glad thinking to myself:

Finally! For a few months now, I will have some free time to focus on my personal stuff.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy coaching the boys, it’s just that coaches invest between six and ten hours every week between practices, games, reporting, planning, communicating, and so on. I was very happy for the team, not only we won that last championship game all the way to penalty kicks, but also because we ended up taking silver.

At the end of such game, one of my most challenging players was very talkative. He seemed to be blocking my path while we all were leaving the field, offering to carry the balls or my backpack, and mainly looking around as if searching for something. I was about to tell him “come on, hurry up and let’s go, we’re the last ones to leave the bench,” when he gazed around and noticed the two of us were alone, he showed me a broad smile, and said “you’re the best coach we’ve ever had.”

Man! I will never forget that face and words.

I could only reply with a broken “thank you.”

 

We don’t get any money, any fame, any kind of civil recognition, anything other than the satisfaction of seeing the players grow as individuals and develop as players: helping our own kids, and at the very least, have fun in the process.

 

Why do we volunteer?

I’m not sure, but now I cannot wait for the start of the new season: words like those coming from a boy’s mouth keep us doing it.

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A good trophy.

So, in order to catch the creature, I have to set a trap in a place that she feels safe about. That means to have it setup in a place far away from any settlement, road, building, and where not even planes or any flying vehicle goes above it.

 

I had read long time ago, that some specific specimens never go anywhere near human environments. So much so that it is until recently that some species have been discovered only through the use of powerful cameras and newest technologies. They avoid any and all contact with humans, and had been doing it effectively for centuries.

 

I thought about a simple snare first, but then decided if there was pain and blood loss, the subject would be shocked, tortured, exposed, exhausted, and therefore more easily be at ease. I chose a big, powerful, sharp steel-jaw, metallic trap that snaps shut quickly, and that can get a moose or even a grizzly, and keep the beast in place for days, even if she is strong and well fed.

The anchor mechanism goes deep in the ground with a contraption that once nailed down, expands and forms a series of Vs that keeps it in place, no matter how powerful the pull is. It’s necessary to use a heavy hammer to fix it, but once done, it stays put. The trigger spring is sensitive only to big or heavy bodies.

I tested the trap a few times, using different sticks and applying sufficient pressure to make sure it worked well. Most stick were broken in two in a split second. It was obvious an animal would really be trapped, with no possible way to escape.

 

It was a beautiful day, so I had a quick big breakfast and went there early. Once I left the road and headed toward the place I had preselected for the trap, I started walking carrying just water, a few granola bars, the trap, the mash hammer, and a compass, in order not to get lost. I was not sure my GPS unit would work in such a remote location. It took me five hours to get to the spot, through not-too rough terrain, but yet difficult nonetheless. I fixed the trap to the ground, and then marked some close-by trees around it, so that when returning there I could find the way easily. My plan was to leave the trap closed for a couple of weeks, in a way that the local fauna got used to it, and only then return then to set it up and have it ready to catch the beast.

 

And so it was.

Exactly three weeks later, the day turned out as beautiful or more than the day I went to set the trap up. I used the same road spot where I had started my walk, trying to remember the way, and at the very least not to deviate much from my previously taken path.

This time it took me six hours to get to the spot, but I found it and felt a lot of different emotions, some very difficult to express.

 

I found out that although the GPS in my smartphone is off by probably 500 meters or more, and the reception is spotty, I still can send and receive messages.

 

I waited there for a couple of hours, which seemed like an eternity: thoughts came and went fast, and yet somehow, I was not sure on whether to start walking back home or wait way more time and spend the night in there, or just wait some more while meditating about life and all.

 

Then I wrote this message, sent it, made sure that it showed as “sent,” turned the phone off, stood up, and proceeded to set the trap ready. There was no need for bait.

It’s very likely my phone is lying many meters away from where I am, because part of the plan was to throw it away, as far from me as my arm allowed.

 

I stepped on the trap.

Snap!

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Dream on dream

I had a dream in which I had a fantastic dream… then I woke up, but was not sure if I was fully awake or I was only awoken from the inside dream.
So, I turned and told my boss she was an idiot. She stood up and started putting her clothes on, saying that it had been my idea to go home, ignore my six kids, and make love in front of my wife. I replied saying that in her case I was not making love, but having sex. She said I was fired, and slapped me in the face. Which was what I needed in order to fully wake up.
Now I don’t have a job, my wife left me, and my Asian-looking sextuplets tell me that they are hungry and would like me to cook them some Ogbono.
But the absolute worst is that, no matter how hard I try, for the life of me I can’t remember what I was dreaming about.

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