I have resolved not to drink again, and although the last 4 days have been difficult, I have managed to stay sober. I practise boxing and read, thinking up different ideas and so far I have managed to stay away. Moreover, I have made some friends here. Last night one of the girls I am friends with (she is Ghanaian) had her birthday celebrations. There were just 6 of us, including a Spaniard who was in the Army for a couple of months. Owing to my respect for the army and the fact that I am well versed in the Army’s ways (I was in a Paramilitary youth wing when I was in school), the two of us got on really well. He too is a philosopher, and the evening was made livelier by intense discussions on Ethics, morality, religion, women and girls. The two of us were the guys and the others were girls. The girls are older than us, but they are positive people.
After the party was over, I dropped off the girls to their apartments and made my way to the town’s centre because I was not sleepy. It was 2 in the morning by this time, and the sky was dark, but the streets were empty and well lit. I sat on a bench and watched the couples walk around plausibly in romantic bliss. I was happy. My friends knew that I was alcoholic, and they applauded my being sober for 4 days. It takes an effort and I am glad that they have been understanding. At times like these, you need a support system and I am glad that I found it.
I sat on a bench feeling benign and awake. A few minutes later, my solitude was interrupted by a tired woman who just collapsed on the chair, exhaling heavily. She asked if I minded her sitting here with me, to which I replied in the negative. She was welcome to sit. A minute or so later, I drew out a bottle of juice and offered it to her. She took it gratefully and as I turned to look at her, I recognized her. She was a waitress at another restaurant that I frequent nowadays. She looked at me with pleasant surprise and smiled.
Now, this woman is very pretty. When I say that she is pretty, I mean it. She looks like a pleasant mix of dark hair and green eyes, a sharp nose that looks sculpted but what is most striking about her is her smile. She smiles widely and her eyes seem to glow from within. Even in the dark Centre, I could see her glow. She shines and even while I eat at the Restaurant (Viktor’s), I can feel her infectious happiness. She serves me all the time and I have come to admire the woman. Rather, she is a girl and not older than me by much.
Tonight, I decided to ask her name, I was curious. I asked and she told me her name. I asked what she was doing now in the wee hours of the night.
“I am the Projectionist,” she said, “at the Theatre”.
The Projectionist looked at me squarely, she enjoyed her work but tonight was different. She was tired tonight. It had been a long day at Viktor’s and to top it all, her brother was wounded in Afghanistan. He is a corporal in the Army. “He’ll be fine, they say,” in her voice the panic and grief is present, just discernible under her optimism,”I told him not to join”. We sat in silence, each in our own thoughts. What platitudes could I possibly give her? What impotent words of comfort would escape my lips now, as I sat, a recovering alcoholic and a foreigner?
So I just listened.
Sometimes all that is needed is an ear, and I am surprised the Greeks and the Romans didn’t have an Ear as a God. I listened to her talk about her brother who went to the Army, was at the top of his class and was a Rifleman of sorts. He was just a month away from being promoted to Sergeant. Now, he is badly wounded, probably in pieces and would return in a month due to his injuries. He will spend a month in Germany to get fixed up. All this time, she would have to work, expecting the worst when he returned. Something about him would be extinguished. His fiance was in pieces anyway, but she was glad that he would come back alive. He would be a shadow of the man he was once, but that is for later. I realised that the tangible victims of war are also those who stay home, waiting. Sometimes they wait indefinitely, sometimes they find that they don’t have to anymore because Duty calls men and takes them forever.