Sunday, October 12, 2008

Am I here, am I gone? 

This is my desk. It's in the basement, along one corner of my library. All the books in the picture, over and around my desk, are part of my psychology thesis, now to be part of the research for the book I'm writing. They consist of most of the books I own about combat, the psychology of killing, and the processes by which veterans reintegrate into civilian society. The binders on the desk (middle of the picture) hold most of the paper copies of research studies I've read. On the left side of the desk, on top of a tiny bookshelf, are copies of the American Psychological Association journals Military Psychology, Psychology of Addictive Behavior, and Psychology, Public Policy, and Law. The photographs stuck to the shelves are
  • Dave from the movie 2001
  • Cameron from Sarah Connor Chronicles
  • River from Firefly, looking frightened and psychotic
  • a Michael Yon photograph of a Marine in Iraq seen from a church window
  • a fresco from Herculaneum, of little angles and tall bottles of wine
  • me in front of a temple in Hong Kong
  • Wat Arun in Thailand, a photo I took on a pale cloudy day
  • my husband and his brother sparring
  • a cousin trying to knock down my brother (who is at least three times as tall as this cousin)
  • my parents (my dad's reading Fortune and my mom looks like a high school girl with her first love)
  • my husband pretending to be eaten by a crocodile (long story)
  • the obligatory wedding photo
  • a female Israeli soldier
  • a fractal (a red, orange, and yellow depiction of a piece of the Mandelbrot set)
  • me making a wish as I drop single baht coins into each of several dozen bowls at a temple. My mom took the picture when I wasn't looking. I was making a wish on every coin. Actually, the same wish, to give it more definition. The image is blurry from a slow shutter speed. The light from a window in front of me combined with the motion makes my face and hands glow. I'm wearing a favorite shirt, long sleeve purple silk. I was not wearing short sleeves at that point in my life. My green camera bag is over my shoulder and the strap is across my chest. I am completely intent on my hands, the coins, and a wish. The frame reads, "Believe in the beauty of your dreams." My dreams then were not beautiful. They aren't now, either. Too full of sin. I don't remember what I wished for.

    Also, there's a small collection of frogs made of ivory, glass, wood, plastic, and rubber.

    I've read most of the books. Many made me cry. Many horrified me. Some combined with fatigue or medication to inspire hallucinations. Scanning the spines, I see many words repeated: trauma, military, war, combat, soul, honor, PTSD, stress, psychology, hell, killing, obedience, aggression, hero, violence, death, warrior. I'm trying to discover what a warrior is. I am studying killing. I study killing like a virgin studying sex - through books and imagination and the experiences of others. This corner of my library is devoted to figuring out what killing means. What trauma means. How a human being can act to hurt another. What torture does to the torturer.

    There's a little American flag in the pencil holder. There's a silver box a Turkish shopkeeper gave me. There's a red silk box with squirrel bones, a .22 casing, and a flawless one inch sphere of quartz. There's a stuffed bunny I sewed.
    The chair is more comfortable than it looks.

    I'm sitting there now with a Pottery Barn catalog, a Lisa Frank notebook (with a fairy and butterfly and lizard in neon pink, green, blue, and yellow), and my two cats. Dr. Phil is telling me "Monsters and Ghosts work in the dark." A half-finished poem and a notebook with doodles of the flow of a website I'm designing are among the mosaic of paper to my right.


    I suddenly realize I'm blogging to avoid a writing task that involves a couple of books on the minds of Adolf Eichmann and Franz Stangl. Damn it. Okay, back into the darkness I must go)

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