Soldiers and the homeless and the things which they have seen which make them similar
The look on a soldiers face after war would make even the oldest of men feel like a child, like he needed to live longer, suffer more to even begin to understand the torment behind the eyes.
I have seen this look many times, in faces of my friends, my enemies and even myself. We are all old men now, though I occasionally see the look I know so well in the eyes of such young men and women. Though they have fought in a very different war to me I know they struggle with the exact same problem; the guilt of mindlessly killing so many people because it's kill or be killed but then after, you remember what was whipped out by the adrenalin-they're still people even if they're bad people, but every time you serve you see all the people they have killed unlike you they killed the innocent.
Yes, I have seen that face many times but no face has ever looked so torn up, so dishevelled, so scared at what they have seen that they will never be able to trust anyone again. It was the face of a child curled up in a corner, not in Bosnia or Rwanda but the streets of London, this was a face I had never wanted to see again, but I can't ignore her for another day even though I'd seen enough of it. All the men I served with, the pain has faded for them and me just like a scar which has had 21 years to heal, since the beginning of the Rwandan Civil war in 1994. This young girl she looked like someone has just given her the same wound but there's no one there to bandage her up and start the healing process, just a lot of people walking past trying to get on with their day without this reminder of the darker side of life obstructing their view.
I can't take it anymore- I have to know; what has this girl seen? What has happened to her? Why is she on the streets alone? You see a lot of people on the streets of London but not children, not on their own.
I walk over and sit next to her sliding down the wall so my back doesn't hurt; this gets a few odd looks, a middle aged man sitting next to maybe a...12 year girl does look creepy.
"What happened to you"? I ask, sure she knows what I mean.
"Something that you could never understand" she says, her voice cracking, sounding bitter and young at the same time.
"Something that you could never understand" I say wistfully after a moment of peace. I remember when I was telling my wife the exact same thing. You weren't there you didn't see hundreds of innocent people get massacred, you can't tell me to act normally I screamed. Memories of Rwanda flashing through my mind, seeing children die all over again, seeing their confused faces, wondering what was happening, knowing nothing but the undeniable pain they were feeling, whilst I watched on unable to do anything, but wonder what kind of person could do such a thing to a child. We're in the job to stop these things happening but we couldn't do anything, not in Rwanda, no one had the orders. I sometimes wonder whether it would have been worth being discharged if I could just save some of those people, even just one person.
"I said that to so many people including my wife after the war ended, I ended up pushing them all away when I really needed them, I regret that so much. Don't push people away who want to help you; you'll only end up hurting yourself".
She just stared at spot between my face and the wall, her eyes glazed over, listening to the echoes of the past. I know that I just have to wait for it to pass; bad memories are like echoes; small things can trigger them, and once they are triggered there is no stopping them, they repeat in your mind sending you crazy.
Even though this is just an echo, a memory of my past, I can still feel the coldness radiating from her, how I didn't even know what to feel when I came back to that street corner the next day, not to find that little girl sitting there like every other day; the optimistic part of me thought she could have found help, but the realistic, sceptical part of me somehow knows, has known since that day that it wasn't a good Samaritan that pulled her away from that corner.