Ears ringing. Cacophony engulfs me. Everything is dim and smoky. The temperature outside is cold—nearly freezing, yet I am excruciatingly hot. Sweat beads down my face. My underarms feel swampy. My skin almost feverish. I can feel my body pulsating. My hands shaking to the rhythm of the thumping bass line all around me. Pa-pa-pa-pa-pa. Pa-pa-pa-pa-pa. Pa-pa-pa-pa-pa. Each note an attack that you never can get used to. What failed experimentation! I can barely breathe in this environment. I yearn to drink fresh air. My mouth is insufferably dry. I cannot make out any intelligible sound. I can just feel the beat and hear the noise of hysteria: the screaming and the yelling and the battle cries. I am surrounded in a sea of sounds. If this was not so abhorrently horrid I would think I was dreaming. But this is not the stuff that dreams are made of. This is not a nightmare I can wake up from. The nights are all the same. The noise blends into the same gray groggy mornings, but I force myself to get up and move on. The noise comes again every night without fail. I do not know why I keep coming back to this unbearable loudness associated with my youth.
I am living in a constant state of white noise. It is making me mad. It is drowning me and depleting me leaving me devoid of emotion. White and black bleeding together with flashes of reds-oranges-yellows. And the noise. And the ringing. And the bass line ever throughout. Pa-pa-pa-pa-pa. Pa-pa-pa-pa-pa. Pa-pa-pa-pa-pa. I cannot take the noise. It has a seemingly magical power of turning men into ruthless savage animals. Even the ones you would least expect become possessed by this demon. You can see the flame in their eyes. They could just tear you to pieces mercilessly.
Cigarettes have become the main staple of my diet. It’s weird but I don’t even have an appetite anymore. I lost it a long time ago. In the beginning, I used to dream of homecooked meals my mama made, but I have come to terms with the fact I won’t be eating them again. My home no longer exists. My family no longer exist. The past no longer exists. When this is all over it’ll all be rewritten. I smoke to breathe. Relax. I smoke to calm my shaking. Relax. I smoke because I am angry. Relax. I smoke because I suffer. Relax. I smoke because I am alone. Relax. I smoke because I am losing. Relax. I smoke because I am a failure. Relax. I smoke because I was fooled into believing ideals could be made possible in this lifetime. Smoking is my only confidant here. She understands me. The best part is we don’t need words. Finally I have something silent amidst the noise.
I am with her right now, my little cigarette. It must be the oldest untold love story of all time. We were forced together because of circumstance, and now we will die together. I know it. I can feel it imminently approaching. I take a puff, breathe her in and blow out her soul. She dances for me in the night air. BAM! BLAST! BOOM! There she is again dancing in the reds-oranges-yellows. I wish she had more befitting dulcet music than just the bass line and white noise melody. She deserves that much. She dances into the night air rising and rising until finally fleeing becoming a fading evanescence before the miscreant smoke can overtake her.
There they are. All those men dying. Dying. Here I am behind this mutinous bramble leaning against a brittle rock. Some call it hiding, but I call it smoking. Some may even call me a coward. They are wrong. I am not a coward. I am afraid, but I am not a coward. What type of man is afraid they say? A human I respond. I barely see that anymore—humanity for fellow man. That is why she dances off disappearing into the night. She cannot be among this savagery for too long. She cannot let it corrupt her beautiful soul.
Civil war. UGH! What is civil about it? I have seen my friends die besides me. I received news of relatives being killed back home. I heard of the pillaging, the raping, the torture, the outright butchering. Neighbor against neighbor. Brother against brother. Countryman against countryman. I can’t even tell you what this war is about anymore. When I enlisted it seemed noble at the time. But now, but now I just want to go back home. I want to go back to the way it was before.
I have thought about it you know. Putting an end to the agony. Not a single day goes by without that thought crossing my mind at least 48 times. Yes 48—once every half hour at least. But let me repeat: I am not a coward. Sure, I could just take my gun and end it now. It would only take a second. But why? I can never follow through with it. But no, no, I am not a coward. I just can’t make myself believe that the other side is better. If the other side is not better it would all have been in vain to take my own life, right. In this world I have seen beautiful things—the blues of the morning sky, the selflessness of the giving to people in need, the vastness of the oceans, the breathtaking mountains, and the twinkling stars. And I have seen this. Civil war. Civil war in all its coldness and cruelty. If this much evil can exist in a world so beautiful, what about this so-called heaven? Wouldn’t a place better than here, more perfect than here, have the potential to be even more evil than here? I just can’t do it. I have always heard that you should get busy living or get busy dying, but lately I cannot distinguish the difference between the two. What even is life in this circumstance besides the ability to keep on breathing?
Gasp. HUH. Gasp. HUH. Gasp. These small quiet bursts accent the background of the unbearable loudness associated with this youth of mine. Ears ringing. Cacophony engulfs me. Everything is dim and smoky. The temperature outside is cold—nearly freezing, yet I am insufferably hot. Sweat beads down my face. My underarms feel swampy. My skin almost feverish. I can feel my body pulsating. My hands shaking to the rhythm of the thumping bass line around me. Pa-pa-pa-pa-pa. Pa-pa-pa-pa-pa. Pa-pa-pa-pa-pa BAM! BLAST! BOOM! There they are again. The reds-oranges-yellows. Something jerks me forward. SHHHH! BAM! SHHHH! BLAST! SHHHH! BOOM! SHHHH! Whiplash. I catapult back onto the rock. Red. Orange. Yellow. Black. Luminous incandescent yellow. Lustrously glowing welcoming white. There I am. I am with her. Two souls dancing in the cold night air blissfully disappearing. Pa-pa-pa-pa-pa/ pa-pa-pa-pa-pa/ pa-pa-pa-pa-pa. Vanishing slowly via diminuendo over the baseline as we become weightless. SHHHHHHhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!