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I am testing fate here. I'm not ready to have a child and neither is she, but we can't fucking help it.

I'm an idiot. Over and over again.

Neither one of us can let go, but I don't care.

This is bad, I'm making the wrong decision, over and over. It's only a matter of time before fate takes hold.

There is something wrong with my head.

It's forbidden and we know it, but fuck it.

So I'd just managed to log off of E2 a few minutes ago, then managed to spill half of my second martini on myself a few seconds after that, when the phone rang. It was my little sister, Molly. "Whatcha doin'?" she piped, characteristically upbeat.

"Throwing gin all over the kitchen and myself," I replied, characteristically self-deprecating. "What's up?"

"Oh, nothing. I was just calling to talk."

We chit-chatted for a while. Mostly about her asking people at school about The Princess Bride, and very few people knowing what she was talking about. Her and her older sister, Savannah, just saw it for the first time recently. As soon as I found out they'd been deprived of that experience, I bought it for them. What the hell is a childhood without The Princess Bride? Insanity.

She had been nervous about going back to school, seeing as how she was starting 7th grade. She haaaates school. I can relate. Her first day was the day before yesterday, so I asked if it had actually gone as bad as she had thought.

"Pretty much," she said, wryly. Little lady is gonna be a handful when she grows up, I tell ya. A handful? I perhaps understate. Maybe a dump truckful. Maybe an oil tankerful. She's a willful little thing, that's for sure.

I laughed. The conversation drifted towards school, and I told her if she paid attention in any one class, to do so in English, that the ability to communicate is honestly universally useful.

"You know what subject I hate the most?" she interjected.

"What?" I said, bracing for her to say math.

"Social studies." Well, that was my second choice.

"Why?" I queried.

OK, right about now is a good time to pay attention. This is one of those "Whoa, that shit's heavy!" type of wisdom-from-the-mouths-of-babes moments, so look sharp.

"Because, we spend years and years upon YEARS going over history and stuff that already happened, and not once, even once! have we sat down and learned about the future! Don't we need to know about that?"

I'll tell you, it's not often that I get taken aback by a thirteen year old long enough to say, "Holy shit, I never thought of that!"

Wisdom from the mouths of babes, indeed. I think, perhaps, we spend too much time trying to teach the youth of this world rather than taking the time to listen to what they have to teach us.

(PS: Martini #3 was pretty good too, and I didn't spill any on myself. W00t!)

I was about half in love with her by the time we sat down. That's the thing about girls. Every time they do something pretty... you fall half in love with them, and then you never know where the hell you are. ~J. D. Salinger

We met a week before work started. I went to a party two towns over, with three of my buddies on my wing. The night was humid; it was the 4th of July. I remember fireworks, bright yellow and red and blue fireworks, lighting up the sky behind the house. I was high as kite before we stepped through the front door, and it would only get worse from there.

A half bottle of rum later, and we noticed that the fireworks outside were building to a crescendo. The house was close to a golf course that was famous for its annual display. We ran outside to get a better look. The dark garden was briefly illuminated, and I saw a pagoda overlooking a hill in the far corner. I didn't see the stone stairway. Running full tilt towards the pagoda, I tumbled down a flight of stone steps, landing in a drunken slump at the bottom. The next thing I remember, she was helping me up.

We walked over to the pagoda, and watched the fireworks. We still hadn't said a word. Blue, red and yellow light played across her face, her eyes bright with possibility.

Next monday morning was the first day of work at a local day camp, teaching theater to children with special needs. I overslept, grabbed an apple, and booked it to my car. The camp was at a local elementary school, so i hightailed it there, and walked in, late, to the first staff meeting. There she was, sitting at one of the tables, in the same awful green uniform shirt that I was wearing. We whispered during the meeting. She was teaching theater as well. Good god.

For the next week, we hold full conversations, albeit cautiously, while playing theater games with a room full of 8 year olds. She keeps me sane. That friday, I ask her out. We go see Hamlet in Boston Common. Neither of us bring chairs, so she sits in my lap the whole show. We walk hand in hand, and we kiss under streetlights in the North End after the show.

I see her every day for six weeks; Eight hours straight at work, then hanging out all afternoon, going out for dinner, movies, fun. Work turns into finding excuses to sneak away with her. We share quick, fleeting touches, shared, secret smiles. One night, I take her to the beach, and we roll around in the sand for hours, before rising, naked, to the sweet black night, and losing ourselves in the dark waters of the lake. When we get out, the wind blows in, tickling, and we repeat the performance in my car.

At this point, i'm playing balderdash with her four siblings, two parents and grandfather on family games night. She is on one team, myself and her little brother on another. We both cheat to help the other win. Secret smiles, fleeting touches.

In three days, she goes to Disneyland for a week with her family. In ten days, I move back to school. This is it. Three days. I could love this girl.

I don't.

But I could.

Today, we went through the woods to a bench next to a lake, crystal clear, the sun high in the bright blue sky. She leaned against me on the bench, looking out across the lake, her eyes bright with possibility.

After we kiss, after some silence, after long enough, the question asks itself.
"What's going to happen?"

I could be buried next to this girl. She wants possibility, to be free, no responsabilities. She tells me that there are people at her school who she has trouble making time to see, so how could she handle the time required for a boyfriend? Neither of us want this to end, but she doesn't want this to go much farther. Forever is a shorter time than I've ever thought possible.

We kiss in the car when I drop her off. The golden edge is gone. I already feel the void between us, and she doesn't even leave for two days.

I suppose this is a summer fling. It's just what I wanted this summer, exactly what I wanted. She was more fun than anyone I've hung out with in a while. I'm glad I had what I did, and I don't have any regrets. It's just... I thought that later, when I remembered her, I would have had something more to smile about. I suppose I'll just have to make do. I'm not sad. If anything, I'm inspired. Life, she is long, and full of possibility. I fell in love in six weeks; I have the rest of my life to keep falling in love. And I don't think I'll ever know where the hell I am. But I really don't mind all that much.

Among the usual deluge of junkmail and bills in my mailbox one day in May, there was a beige envelope with a little plastic covered window on it. In the top left corner, the national coat of arms with the familiar lion clutching an axe told this particular letter meant serious business.

Serious to me anyway. Sort of.

Through the window, my name was visible in laser printer typeface, and by then I hade come to realise that this was no ordinary letter from the powers that be. Usually when I get the beige looking envelopes, they're mass printed and mass mailed to lots of guys like me, ordering us to meet up at such-and-such place at such-and-such time. In the opaque window, my name used to be written in all uppercase, line-printer style. Inside you'd find the tear-off part which you'd sign and return to acknowledge your summoning.

Shortly thereafter - usually a few weeks - you'd suit up in your standard issue fatigues, some not so standard issue gear and go away for some hairy military training.

The letter in my hand simply told me that all this had happened for the very last time. It didn't really say exactly that, but when you're given a date and time which you're supposed to show up at a military camp to hand over all your goverment issue stuff, you know it's over. That's how it works. So I'm told.

I am 37 and no longer a bodyguard/escort trooper with the Home Defense Escort Platoon. They're relieving me from front line duty and placing me in the reserves after 11 years. No more four hour alerts, no more notifying the local lieutenant when leaving the country, no more two week male bonding in some deserted camp far away, and last but not least, no more governmentally sanctioned driving-like-an- asshole on forest roads, negotiating checkpoints in a spray of red fart or hunting down pretend snipers in the middle of the night.

I'm gonna miss the guys in my unit. We've been more or less the same handful of men doing this for the last eight or ten years, although we don't hang out outside of the exercises. It's not the kind of thing you make friends by doing. I don't really know why it came to be that way, but no officer or NCO ever hid anything from us when trying to prepare us for what we were supposed to maybe do one day. I guess it's not the kind of thing you sit in each other's houses and talk about. None of us were of the "gun nut" type either; subscribing to Soldier of Fortune, owning rifles ourselves or spending weekends in the wilderness on "survival". Those types were all weeded out early on, insofar as there was any selection process at all. I don't know that either. One day I just got one of the beige envelopes and found myself as a bodyguard. After all, my military record is what it is. Or, was what it was.

You think that sounds strange? Well, I could tell you a lot about how the military used to be organised in this country, but the lowdown is simply that if you were able bodied and old enough, you became a soldier. It was mandatory. The conscript service dates back to right after Norway stopped being inhabitated by Vikings. Everybody did some sort of service, and nobody complained. It was what you did when you turned 19. Nobody was sent off to die anywhere (excluding to some rather unpleasant and incessant meetings with the Swedes), so nobody gave it much thought.

In 1987 I left for basic training, sitting around in a very cold hangar for the better part of a day before being allocated a bunk in a room with eleven others, carrying things which were mostly unknown to me.

They taught me a lot of useful things and a lot of things that in retrospect were pretty useless. After all, the Russian armoured columns never flooded the northern border posts, decimating everything in their way. But hey, I can still take care of my feet before, during and after a 30 km frisk (military style frisk, anyway) walk, and when I'm in the progress of freezing my butt off somewhere, I know a couple of tricks that will make me a little warmer.

I never found much comfort in knowing how three kilos of TNT feels like when it goes off ten meters from you though, but they spent a whole day teaching me that many years ago. You can think of that the next time you toil away in a warm classroom and decide that maths or biology are useless things to know. I can't think of anything being more useless in anyone's daily routine than TNT.

In an old-style photo album there's a picture of me on a makeshift bed, stretched out with bare feet and some kind of smile. It's taken in November 1988 after I returned from my first ambush patrol in South Lebanon. For reasons that are starting to fade, I volunteered for UNIFIL's Norwegian battalion. It rained the whole evening and it rained the whole night since it was the onset of the Mediterranean winter. It rained the entire next day too. I have never been so cold, uncomfortable and covered in red, sticky mud before or since. This went on for the duration of the winter, only broken up by long hours at some deserted road junction checkpoint or perched in a white observation tower behind a ridiculously large set of German binoculars.

It beat being stationed at the smallest air base in the world though, because that's where I was when I volunteered. The arrival of a plane - any plane - turned out the entire base. Rides in the ops car and aircraft guard duty was raffled out like they were luxurious goods or a couple of leave days. It was a different kind of boring.



After coming back from Lebanon, they took my completely worn out government stuff, gave me some money and told me to have a nice life. A few months later they sent me a beige envelope containing - in bureaucratic parlance - a welcome back, including directions to where I could go and get myself some government issue gear. Again.

The most useful things the military taught me during those 18 years, was how to hang in there while being incredibly bored and how you smell after one week without any personal hygiene. I'm not kidding. The other things a soldier needs to know, like how to hit something with a weapon, talk coherently on a radio set or that without your mates you're nothing, they all became embedded in my spine. Those things are like taking a piss. Once you put the thing back into place and zip up, you don't think much about it. You just go back to whatever you were doing before the tingly feeling in your bladder. But it's all pretty useless now.

On June 7, 2005, I became a reservist. But really, I'm dismissed because of old age. You have no idea how that feels.

Now I'm just another guy with some war stories and a couple more weeks I have to make plans for every year.


Translated from Norwegian. Originally posted somewhere else.

Mystic Disappointment


Phonecalls have gone unanswered
But I want to get out
So I’m off like a rolling stone
To search out who I’m looking for
It’s hot and still.
The sky is overcast, but it must be near sunset, or just past.
Pink highlights in the clouds.
There’s a haze in the air
Making distant figures indistinct,
easily confused.
I reach the pub where I supposed we’d meet
As I enter, the last few working men stamp out
leaving it empty.
Retreating, I investigate a few more streets,
A few more bright rooms,
Before giving it up.
Even the bike racks are empty,
Like everyone was leaving town forever.
A woman stands nonplussed
A bag in each hand
In the open doorway of a closed (closed?)
Shop, lights off, an alarm beeping.
I pass a man slowly walking backwards
Dragging a large suitcase.
I catch a glimpse of his face as I go by
Beneath sunglasses he looks feral.
Behind the clouds, the sun must be gone from the sky;
The streetlights are taking over.
Another street: An open door into a ground floor office, empty
Outside on the street, an empty car, doors and boot all open.
I can’t shake it off.
Everything seems weird,
Perhaps it is.
A man walks past talking in a low voice
Bright green LEDs flicker in the back of the mobile
At his ear.
It makes his head look alien.


Back home, one last phonecall,
To salvage the evening.
Where the hell are you?
Things are getting strange,

I plan to say
The town's full of open doors
And people walking backwards.
It’s like some sort of mixed up tarot show out there
.”
But there is no reply.





A2 Results: Art - C; English - C; Physics - D. It’s not great, but it’s good enough.


Update: 20/08/2005 - I saw the backwards-walking-man again today, about an hour earlier in the day than the first time, across the road from the original place, heading in the same direction. Still wearing sunglasses. Still dragging the suitcase. Still walking backwards.

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