Author: Arash Farzaneh
Location: Oaxaca, Mexico
Arash Farzaneh strongly believes that war causes destruction and devastation in people's lives. He lives in Oaxaca, Mexico, working as a professor. He enjoys writing very much and hopes to publish his novel soon.
The sun had reached its zenith and was burning mercilessly on the lifeless,
limbless bodies strewn over the blinding desert sand. The screaming and
groaning of the wounded was gradually subsiding; most of them had either died, or, as in my case, had given up to utter futile cries into the hostile sandy wilderness.
I could not move. I had a deep wound in my left leg and one just above my intestines. My left hand pressed upon the gaping sore to appease the pain slightly and to make it stop bleeding. My head felt as if it were about to burst and my eyes were half shut. My mouth was dry and my whole body dehydrated from the scorching sun. We were left to die and nobody would come to rescue us. I had lost all hope and prepared myself for impending death. My life, as they say, flashed before my eyes.
But the images that came to my exhausted mind were a kaleidoscopic mish-mash of whirring sounds and vivid scenes of the past. Certain smells, like the scent of Dorothy’s salty body pressed against mine on cold winter nights, and, oddly enough, the smell of coffee and bacon - all of these I had gone without for over a year.
And then I imagined all the things I would not be able to do and see and experience in life. I had never seen the ocean. I had never taken my wife to Europe. I had never owned a car. I had never told my Dad that I loved him very much. I had never experienced the bliss of having a son, someone to step into my shoes after I left behind this sullen, god-forsaken earth. The will to keep holding onto this life was fading away rapidly, and I was tempted to close my eyes and fall into deep, oblivious sleep. The pain was becoming less and less urgent and noticeable and was causing fainting fits. It would be so easy to just let go and melt away.
And then I made out a young boy crouching down. He must have stared at me for a while, the local boy who had found one of the enemies wasting away in the sand. It took a lot of effort to utter these words: “Hi. I need help. Please. Please.” I did not know if he understood or knew any English, but he seemed to bend over closer for a moment and then to take off as suddenly as he had appeared. He would either forget about me or get his father to come. I preferred the latter because I longed for a quicker death. He came back indeed with his father at his side who pointed an old rifle at me. I made half a gesture with my hands to show him that I was unarmed and would not defend myself, while my eyes filled with tears and my lips and legs quivered in fear. He did not shoot. He just spoke in broken English.
“You enemy, kill people.”
“Yes,” I croaked.
“Please… no! Please!”
He bent down closer to study my face. “You no kill me?”
I shook my head.
I nodded and revealed to him my gaping wound.
“OK. OK. OK.” He said over and over again and turned to his son to say
something to him in Arabic. I lost consciousness.
When I opened my eyes, surprised to be still alive, I noticed I had been carried to his home. I was lying on the floor and the man was watching me intently, his gun not far from reach, while his wife seemed to be preparing something. “Drink!” He offered me a cup of cold water. I drank it in short gulps and it
felt wonderful as it made its way through my whole body. His wife, a
woman that must have been the same age as Dorothy, put some soothing ointment on my wound and bandaged me carefully. I was beginning to feel better and mostly cherished the fact that it was cool in the shelter, in this stranger’s home.
They gave me some bread to eat, which I ate chewing very slowly. The man’s
unblinking eyes never left me for a second. They looked as if they were filled with hate and I wondered whether his hospitality was real or whether he just wanted to torture me some more before killing me.
After a while, attempting to hide a depth of strong, relentless emotions, he said in a rough voice, “My brother dead. My uncle dead. My little… girl. Killed… killed… you. U…S…” I wanted to reply, but refrained from doing so and my eyes grew misty. He turned his pock-marked face the other way and I noticed that his wife put a hand on his broad shoulder.
They took care of me for the next several days. They gave me food and shelter and quite a few times, the man tried to have a conversation with me. We communicated mostly with gestures, but it was definitely helpful that he knew some rudimentary English, which he said he had learned in high school. His wife and kid did not speak a word of English, and I felt ashamed that I would fight in a country where I had no means of communicating with its local people. They were kind and hospitable to me, and I felt that I had no way of showing my gratitude towards them. I wanted to make known that I felt deeply sorry for all that had happened and that was happening and that if I had my way I would change everything. But, in the end, I was as helpless as they were. The man stopped blaming me personally for the loss of his loved ones and the destruction of his country. Once he even uttered that I was a good man and patted me like a friend on the back. I had started helping them as much as I could with their daily chores, as my wounds were beginning to heal and I could limp around carefully.
He introduced me to others of his family and they smiled and treated me more
like a guest than an invader. I felt very moved.
One day I made up my mind to leave them and to try to look for some of our troops. I had no idea how many days had gone by. He regretted my decision and
asked me to stay with him. I said that I could not, that it was my duty to
return, that I was hoping that this war would end quickly and that I could
go back home very soon to be with my wife. “Ah!” he shook his finger playfully in the air with a wide, sly grin on his face. “Wife… wife is good!” It was time to say goodbye to them all. I hugged each and every one of them with tears in my eyes. I tried to tell them that one day they could come and visit me in my country, and they just laughed in good humor. I looked through my pockets and found nothing that I could give them. Then I thought of my watch. It was expensive and had been a gift of my wife. I took it off and gave it to him. He refused at first, but I insisted. He showed it to his son, saying to him proudly, “American watch.”
When I left them I headed to the nearest town they had told me of. I hoped that I would find some of my patriots over there, or to find at least some sort of transportation. The man had given me a handwritten page in Arabic that included useful information about me. He said that I should show this to the people there and that they would help me. I had no idea what it said, but it helped me find my way to another town where I found the means to get in touch with my people.
After my full recovery, I ended up serving for the military again. I realized that an end of the war was nowhere in sight. My experience with the Iraqi family filled my heart with joy and I prayed for them every night, so that God may keep them safe, wherever they may be.
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