"Some of us judge without knowing a man’s inner
And some us find fault in the sin, and not the sinner"
I really do have to stop planning so far in advance. It will more than likely avoid the need, like now, to apologise for retreating on earlier promises.
Alas, my much muted, maligned and essentially unfinished Legion Alphabet will remain exactly that, at least for now. I had intended to finish it before flying off to Afghanistan (honestly!!). That’s what I love about chronology. It’s scientific, it’s proven, unchangeable. Seconds turn to minutes turn to hours turn to mush! Mush is what became of my best intentions and emotions as the air-strip grew unstoppably larger, like a creaking shadowy mud-slide. I now find myself recounting not the letters ‘R’ to ‘Z’ in all things Legion, but instead the final few hours before I get on that plane. That plane. That plane that broke my mother’s heart, that wore away the fingernails of famously faithful friends, that drew these Da Vinci circles beneath my weary eyes. That plane that growls and whines like a hungry, soggy mongrel on rusted chains. The links will shatter, inevitably. The dog shall run free, coughing and spluttering our merry band of soldiers into the gutters and gullies of Afghan mountains decorated by countless watching eyes. Ah yes, that plane.
Since passing through the gates of my regiment for the last time this year, the rhythms resonating from beneath my green t-shirt, camouflage vest, have been carnival-esque at their most tranquil. Torturing myself with mp3 play lists that’d bring John Rambo to a state of semi-pensiveness didn’t help, of course. But as the bus rattled and rolled down the Alpine hillsides tonight, towards the shimmering lights of civilization, night-time hum and that plane, I looked around me for the first real, true and clear time since this mission landed on our calendar like a stray drop of blood from a sudden nosebleed. There I saw, in the bobbing heads, concentrated expressions, slow trance-like movements to their own private play lists not just fellow soldiers similarly dressed (if a little cleaner shaven!!) but real friends. True camarades in the sense the Legion has always intended but perhaps forgotten to chisel out of the increasingly harder blocks of marble dragged in from the streets of the new millennium. Confidantes that could listen to your every gripe and moan on subjects from the food in the regimental restaurant to problems with the public transport back home during holidays. And then, of course, those topics that little bit more personal that tend to trickle out of the end of golden glasses and clouded, volcanic wine bottles emptied into pits of loud music and matching sports gear well in to the early hours of a new day breaking.
Surveying all this on a silver, twilight carriage carting us all off to destiny, all fear and anxiety suddenly departed. These shoulders decorated with the flag of a foreign nation, of depictions of velcro warriors clinging to the walking gelatine versions found themselves miraculously relieved of such crushing weight. Perhaps it was the trip to McDonalds (haha, mood killer I know, forgive me), but I tend to be more philosophical than that, as well you might know by now.
In the toughest of times, you need the best of friends. In the next 6 months I imagine I’ll discover the true meaning of both. The frequency of this blog may suffer, but the clarity and force will not, I should imagine.
It’s been a long ride to get here, but this is just the beginning. The beginning ends with that plane.