I just got off Skype. I was talking to someone I love very much. She is going through a difficult time in her life and I have been of very little help. My heart knows. My breathing knows. The clinch of my jaw knows. My mind races when I don’t talk to her for a few days, when she doesn’t answer the phone. It’s as if I’m walking alone at night and I’m in a strange city, empty streets, blank faces. I’m lost in the city and the wind is cold, like the east coast or up north somewhere, and I feel worthless, alone.
Earlier today I talked to Leland in Jordan. He told me about sitting on a panel discussion in Cairo about child soldiers in the Central African Republic. He’d gotten 108 released from a training camp and as he addressed the audience, he offhandedly gave a compliment to the commander of the camp for letting the boys go. Someone interrupted him and said, he was speaking favorable of a terrorist, an evil man, and how could he say anything good about someone like this particular commander? My friend responded, that it had taken him a year’s worth of communication to earn the confidence of the commander so the exchange could be made. He’d arranged for a token gift as payment for the boys. This set off a further uproar from the audience, how could he give anything to such a man? My friend had to leave the conference and return to his hotel. This was an example of letting one’s guard down. When the uncommon seems commonplace, when it makes sense to give something of value for kidnapped children, when one can no longer see the dead all around, only a chance for the living.
My friend who is always on the verge of dying, my friend who got the boys out of a training camp … and all of that reminded me of Moung. We would go out to where they kept the child soldier camp on the Torit road, there in the Sudan, but the commander of the camp always knew we were coming and so the boys would be moved. One night Moung came to my tent and woke me. “Duke,” he whispered. “Let’s drive out to the Torit camp.” I said, “We’ve been there a hundred times and they never let us see them. They always move them.”
“I know, I know, that’s why we have to go at night. We’ll catch them by surprise.”
“Moung, I’m not going out there at one in the morning. They’ll shoot us.” He left and went back to his tent. Three months later Moung was dead. He had unexpectedly come across a group of child soldiers being marched on the road and they shot Moung and his driver and two others. A German went up to get their bodies and I always think about Moung and I think about Leland and I think about my friend who is on the edge of dying.
I am waiting for daylight now, and my heart is skipping around and I wish for things that I do not understand, but I can feel them, and they are near me, they must be, they have to be, and they will be illuminated by the light of day.
I have to believe in something.