Sunday, 31 December 2006

Shooting Dogs

(I am taking a few days to view some films and write. One of my favourite things is to allow a film or book to influence my thoughts and draw out a spontaneous reaction. A single image may stick in my mind and then a whole world opens up from that small point. There is something soothing, healing, that happens to me during this process. Not all films have this effect on me. But this one did)

How much can one person bleed? Enough blood to flow down the grooves in a metal roof, collecting leaves and sand? Enough to cause the tiniest wave to form over a protruding nail? To stream off the jagged edge and onto the plain earth, earth made bare by the movement of so many angry feet? To soak into the terracotta dust, even pool into a lazy circle, slowly spreading until it is a thin sticky pancake and attracting swarms of flies that see it as nothing more than a landing pad of metallic sweetness?
Theo, I remember so little about your letters. I remember the feather-light blue paper and your neat handwriting that always leaned to the right, slowly descending until the last few words were minute, falling off the page. You wrote me poems in French that I could not understand. I showed one to Madame Fry. She translated it for me, but I cannot remember what she said. I can only see her, leaning over my desk, mouthing the words, blushing.
There is a photo of you, languishing in a box, stuffed inside a plastic bag with a horde of old correspondence. In the photo you are standing on what looks like the edge of a small cliff, surrounded by green grass and tall trees. The sun is everywhere, shining down on you from every angle. I have erased from my memory any possibility of shadow. There is only the sun. You are wearing a sweater, the kind that were prevalent in the late 80s and early 90s – nonsensical shapes in bright colours. Pink and neon green, electric duckling yellow. You are staring into the distance and you are holding a Canadian flag. I do not think you are smiling. It seems to me that you took being photographed very seriously, holding your spirit perfectly still so it would not leap forward and smudge the image.
I wrote to you after your last letter, the one in which you told me you could not find mother. I was 17. I understood that something was wrong, that your country was in turmoil. I could sense the confusion, a growing feeling of helplessness. After that your letters stopped. I wrote to two or three addresses but I never heard from you again. I rode the bus to and from school, went out with my friends, seethed with teenage rage at the whole world. In short, I forgot about you.
Are you Hutu? Tutsi? Did you run? Did you hide? Did you chase down, lash out? I suppose it does not matter. The pain I feel now for not understanding. I held your words in my hands and I admit it meant so little to me then.
I want to think that you found a place where all the sounds of violence were shut away – like a field so wide it had no edge. It carried on forever, the earth holding you in its eternal palm. You are embraced by a sense of freedom, of deepest relief. And everywhere there is the sun, shining down on you.


kryce said...

yay i can post comments again!

now what was i going to say?

your new best friend said...

thats a very vivid scene indeed