I finished Tim O’Brien’s, “The Things They Carried,” today.
I am hit with a sort of solemness and urgency. I want to hold the book to my breast and keep it with me. I want to buy the book and not rent it from a library. I want to carry this book on my person, and feel the ghost of it in my heart.
I have the urgency to join a war. To see death. To be alive for however long the experience or my life lasts. I just don’t know though.
There are things I will never understand about war and being a soldier. Sometimes this book makes me feel things that I probably shouldn’t. It’s all romanticized. I don’t want to kill anyone. I just want to look at death. I want to look at death and feel the giddiness of being alive.
For the author as well as for me, it is very strange to bridge that gap between Vietnam and real life. Here I am, this 23-year-old kid still sleeping in late, with half a college degree and pretty pink lantern in her room. I don’t know anything. Still I am haunted by the mists and valleys of a land and a war I’ve never had.
This book was written in 1990, twenty so years after the war. I had just been born. It’s been forty odd years now since these experiences, true or not, have happened. I wonder if there will ever be peace from the shadow of it.
Maybe it’s just because I have so recently encountered this book; maybe because I’m so inextricably drawn to war, I just can’t help but see the shadows of Vietnam in Iraq and Afghanistan; the homeless man where the bridge overpasses the highway; and the bumper sticker for the driver who says he’s not pro-war, but still declares, “I SUPPORT THE TROOPS.”
I am afraid because I feel grief that I will never experience Vietnam as it was. Ted Lavender shot in the head, mellow with tranquilizers; Curt Lemon swallowed by the sunlight and soaring into the trees; and Kiowa sinking into the shit field, I am afraid because I want that. Who would want that? I will never know; I will never understand; I will never carry the things they carried.
Maybe just this book.