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26 March 2012 @ 11:42 am
The Real LJ Idol: "Time It Was, And What A Time It Was"  
Time It Was, And What A Time It Was
real lj idol | week 20 | 687 words
Open topic

x-x-x-x-x

The hills we climbed were shorter then, less burdened with all our broken stories. We imagined we sang with one voice, our childhood melodies finding their way out of the past. The words were always simpler then, the reasons easier to understand.

From the pieces of our hearts came all the things we forgot to say, raw secrets like, We were and Once and a dream that began with If. Someone should have told us—or were we fated to forget?—that all our certainties were churchyard prayers and the future infinitely harder to define.

Annie thought that college would save her from a life of small-town expectations. Like a caterpillar in a chrysalis, it brought her one step closer to becoming her fullest self. For a while, she had confidence and big-city aspirations, and she said it was the job of a lifetime, the one that took her away from home. I was half a world away, in a treacherous, snake-filled jungle, by the time we found out it wasn't true.

We were too innocent to imagine what a married man might want with a pretty girl like her. Annie's energy and intelligence were so evident that we thought along the surfaces of the obvious, never seeing the coercion and betrayal he would wield while trying to destroy her.

She came back home after she lost everything, including the baby she had to give away. She thought failure and cowardice drove her, but it was braver to face her family and friends than to keep running until she couldn't remember how to stop.

I was gone then, still chasing Charlie and trying to make it alive to the end of each day. We lost half our platoon the week of Easter, most of them kids no older than me, and I got field-promoted to squadron leader. I never understood the math on that, except that I was senior and somehow not dead.

The troops' lives rested on my shoulders then, and it was a thousand times harder than just being afraid for myself.

They said that war was glory, but those had to be the words of generals and not soldiers. War was blood and terror and people dying, and losing the man next to you inside the blink of an eye.

War was a Thunk followed by a red hail of mud and vegetation, and pain so bad you couldn't-breathe-couldn't-scream-couldn't-move. The chopper took so long, I honestly wished that I would die.

That grenade stole my leg and saved my life, and the next few months at the VA Hospital gave me the chance to try to be grateful.

In August, I came home again, limping off the train to find Annie and Mama waiting there to meet me. Annie cried for my return or my missing leg, or even for herself or the fact of how badly life had scarred us both.

We've been working our way toward something ever since, following the echoes of our past like misbegotten ghosts. We could offer each other that, memories of when she was sweet and I was whole and our future waited for us to claim it.

Apart, Annie's history came back to haunt her. Mine did the same. She dreamed of being powerless and trapped, and I dreamed nights full of death and explosions that would never leave me any more than the fragments of shrapnel still buried too deep to find.

In time, she helped me to walk more steadily, and I convinced her to hold her head high. The streets themselves were a gauntlet of lost pride and reputations, but we traveled them together. Our innocence had been shattered, so we looked for hope instead.

"What will become of us?" she asked, on a night grown heavy with stars and the threat of late frost finally gone.

"Nothing," I said. "Or maybe everything."

We had the house and Mama and each other.

If someday she found a husband and I a wife, then we would have unearthed our dreams again—a little tattered now and slightly faded, but still every bit as true.





 
 
 
Danmuchtooarrogant on March 26th, 2012 06:55 pm (UTC)
I loved this, such a sad and whistful story for innocence lost.

Yay Simon & Garfunkel.

Dan
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on March 26th, 2012 07:01 pm (UTC)
Thank you!

I see you recognized the title-- it completely fit the mood and setting of this, and I'd hoped most people would know where it came from. That song is as mournful as the lost innocence of most young people during that era.
jeza_jezaro: pisanejeza_jezaro on March 27th, 2012 07:56 am (UTC)
I`m glad it's over. Otherwise I would have cried.

It's such a bitter-sweet story. I love how despite everything they are still together and have a shelter to return to when the life becomes too much. And the rest is life, isn`t it?
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on March 27th, 2012 05:05 pm (UTC)
It's just heartbreaking what people can go through, especially the horrors they never went looking for.

But family and friends make such a difference in whether you survive the pain life gives you. Love can bring you past so much, even if things at first look hopeless.

I'm glad the ending came around enough to undo some of the sadness this caused.

Thanks so much for reading and commenting, especially on these non-fanfic stories!
(no subject) - jeza_jezaro on March 28th, 2012 10:45 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - halfshellvenus on March 28th, 2012 05:00 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - jeza_jezaro on March 30th, 2012 06:41 am (UTC) (Expand)
jacq22jacq22 on March 27th, 2012 09:33 am (UTC)
Lost innocence 'following the echoes of our past like misbegotten ghosts' Even in a very normal life we mourn for what we no longer have.

Great entry.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on March 27th, 2012 05:07 pm (UTC)
Even in a very normal life we mourn for what we no longer have.
We do-- we can't help it.

Growing up means losing innocence along the way, and even if the loss isn't so devastating as it is here... part of chasing our childhood memories is chasing that feeling of when we didn't know that such bad things were possible.

Thanks so much for reading and commenting. I really appreciate it. :)
Myrnamyrna_bird on March 27th, 2012 06:28 pm (UTC)
Oh so sad and beautiful at the same time. You really captured that feel of lost dreams, change and hope.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on March 27th, 2012 06:34 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much!

This was one of those stories you really lose yourself in as you write it-- becoming both the characters, feeling their era and all the things they've been through. Surviving such sadness and misfortune is one of the great strengths of human beings. It never ceases to amaze me.
A Karmic Sandbox: Mona Lisa Impressionkarmasoup on March 27th, 2012 09:29 pm (UTC)
Such a strength in weakness and vulnerability. Such a failure of humanity, such a triumph of man. *Bows*
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on March 27th, 2012 10:00 pm (UTC)
Such a failure of humanity, such a triumph of man.
What a wonderful way to put it!

These are the kinds of things that tend to move me-- people who rise above adversity and keep going, because they are still stronger than all the things that have tried to destroy them.

Thanks so much for reading and commenting!
Lose 10 Pounds of Ugly Fat...  Cut Off Your Head.n3m3sis42 on March 28th, 2012 11:22 am (UTC)
We could offer each other that, memories of when she was sweet and I was whole and our future waited for us to claim it.

Even if you don't suffer losses like your characters did, it's funny how quickly those days are just gone. As a young person, I always felt like things/chances/people would just be there forever. The doors start closing before you know it.

Granted, there are always new people and new chances. I like that you left it open-ended.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on March 28th, 2012 05:02 pm (UTC)
As a young person, I always felt like things/chances/people would just be there forever. The doors start closing before you know it.
Oh, yes-- you have no idea of how things drift, whether it's due to inattention or just the passage of time. So, you will eventually lose some part of that magic that you associated with childhood.

I like that you left it open-ended.
In my heart, I like to think that life will eventually turn out well for these two. Heck, in my heart, the guy from the Disneyland story could have found a girlfriend by now!
similiesslipsimiliesslip on March 28th, 2012 03:31 pm (UTC)
This is both beautiful and sad. I'm almost 34 and yes..as we "grow up" (still, even from 20s to 30s) the world..changes..or at least our perspective does.

I'm not surprised that many who volunteer to fight in wars are young. We who are old are too aware of what truly happens while the young still feel invinsible.

We owe a debt to soldiers. I'm sure many of them still struggle in their dreams.

Your skillful word-weaving made me cry. The term, "broken stories" and the ending line are both so true.

Amazing entry!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on March 28th, 2012 08:59 pm (UTC)
We who are old are too aware of what truly happens while the young still feel invinsible.
I think that's true. When you are younger, you tend to be more idealistic and feel less of a sense of personal danger. The idealism is important-- it fuels us all to be better versions or ourselves or our country. But the latter part comes at a cost.

I'm glad you found this story so moving, and I so appreciate you telling me. Thank you so much for reading, and I hope the tears are gone by now.
(no subject) - similiesslip on March 28th, 2012 09:23 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - halfshellvenus on March 29th, 2012 12:16 am (UTC) (Expand)
lriG rorriMlrig_rorrim on March 28th, 2012 07:50 pm (UTC)
This is lovely, lyrical, and bittersweet. Well done!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on March 28th, 2012 09:14 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! I'm glad you enjoyed it. :)
medleymisty: autumnfencemedleymisty on March 28th, 2012 10:24 pm (UTC)
I'm guessing the characters are siblings? I was wanting them to get together, and then I read the bit at the end about finding a spouse.

My heart breaks for both of them. Annie - although it was worse than my situation, I could relate it to that whole emotionally abusive friendship thing. And then the poor soldier - oh.

Wonderful, as always. :)

The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on March 29th, 2012 12:27 am (UTC)
They are siblings, though they could have been platonic friends as well. I had to think for awhile about how I wanted that to work out for them, and decided that it would be too "tidy" to have them be friends who might wind up together. As family, they could still help each other through the aftermath and each try to find a way back.

Those were more innocent times, back then, which I think made people all the more unprepared for terrible things to happen. We're never ready for this kind of pain, but we're more aware now that it can happen. I'm not sure that helps in any way at all if something like this happens to you, though.

I'm so glad you liked this, and that it moved you. Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments, now and always. :)
java_fiendjava_fiend on March 29th, 2012 01:23 am (UTC)
This is really beautifully written. I think that you really did a good job of evoking a lot of powerful memories that people can really relate to. Your final line is a powerful kick to the gut, I thought. And a perfect capper to a beautiful and bittersweet piece.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on March 30th, 2012 02:51 am (UTC)
Thank you so much!

Your comments were so nice that I got stymied trying to figure out how to reply to them, and still haven't found anything articulate to say, so thank you again! <3
Ellakiteellakite on March 29th, 2012 05:16 am (UTC)
This was so well-written I thought it was true; only your tags gave it away.

I lost a lot of myself during my tender youth... so much so that I hid from the world for most of my life. I occasionally hear true tales similar to the one you've spun here, of people who find happiness and contentment after the most horrific experiences.

That's how I know the definition of the word "hope". (That's a reference to my own piece this week, BTW.)

Beautifully done. Thanks for sharing.

PS: I caught the S&G reference, too. I really need to find that CD again...
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on March 30th, 2012 02:53 am (UTC)
I'm glad this read as true-- I think this could have been the story of so many people in that era, who found hard truths that they never intended to go looking for.

I occasionally hear true tales similar to the one you've spun here, of people who find happiness and contentment after the most horrific experiences.
Someone once said, years ago, that rather than studying how adversity broke people, we should study the people who overcame it-- just in the hope that there might be something we could learn from them.

I'm glad the S&G reference caught your attention, too. It fit the mood of this so perfectly, with that mournful nostalgia and delicate sound.

Thanks so much for your kind and thoughtful comments!
copyright1983copyright1983 on March 29th, 2012 05:31 am (UTC)
"Preserve your memories, they're all that's left you..." But what if you don't want to?

Well done.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on March 30th, 2012 02:56 am (UTC)
But what if you don't want to?
I always hope that there's something we want to remember-- even if there is so much we'd like to forget.

Remembering good times can help us believe that we can reclaim them. Remembering ourselves from before we were lost sometimes is the chance to find our way back.

But there are always other memories we would like to be freed from. The characters here have both sets. If only we could easily choose!

Thanks so much for reading and commenting. :)
Jemima Paulerjem0000000 on March 29th, 2012 08:22 am (UTC)
*hugs* So sad, and yet, still hope. :)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on March 30th, 2012 02:56 am (UTC)
Thank you so much.

The hope is everything, isn't it? With that, we can survive seemingly insurmountable things.
(no subject) - jem0000000 on March 30th, 2012 04:58 pm (UTC) (Expand)
the middle of the road's fine with no cars aroundnoodledays on March 29th, 2012 08:07 pm (UTC)
I really like the optimism you incorporated in some very sad events.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on March 31st, 2012 06:33 am (UTC)
I hate to torture my characters permanently, and having hope and some idea that things could get better... it makes all the difference in the world to people in situations like this.

Thanks so much for reading and commenting!
m_malcontentm_malcontent on March 30th, 2012 01:58 am (UTC)
A different but beautiful kind of war and sibling love story.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on March 31st, 2012 06:53 am (UTC)
Thank you!

In many ways, our siblings are our co-keepers of the past. If anyone else could remember who we used to be, and hoped to be, it would be a brother or sister.

In the worst of times, if we ever lost that we'd hope they would help us to get back there.

Thanks so much for reading and commenting!