Monday, June 05, 2006

Water in the Desert

It rained pretty much all Saturday, and after initiating limewire in order to secure the last 4 episodes of LOST, I went for a burrito at La Chilenita. I was so tired, I could barely order, and so munched quietly away, pretending not to notice the staff occasionally glancing at me with pity. A little bolstered, I went to catch my vespers at the park, and lent against a bench in the rain.

I thought about how happy I was, and put it down to a renaissance of sorts. I'd always imagined happiness to be some hidden state of return, to innocence, if you will. I decided amist the watery mist that I was ready for more responsibility and that I'd start by learning Arabic. Little did I know how quickly the chance for this would manifest.

A deeply tanned young man with a cast on his right arm approached me. He was obviously distraught, and seemed to need something. This is not abnormal in the park, so though wary, I obliged. He asked me if I was Canadian, which usually requires a longish answer, though the answer I gave was 'yes'. His relief was palpable. He told me he'd just returned from serving with the 22nd Regiment, the Grenadiers, in Afghanistan, and needed to talk to a Canadian. He said noone else would give him the time, and all his family here had asked him to leave, for an emotional sojourn. He called it a pilgrimage. And then he broke down. I hugged this stranger for a while, silently weeping myself, and said 'welcome home'. He said I had been waiting for him, to give him water in the desert. His name is Eric LeBeouf

As he told it, he'd been captain of a platoon of predominantly Quebecois soldiers, and had lost 4 of his men on a confidential mission as coordinated with MI6. During one event, they'd been pinned down in a shallow colvert for a day, bullets zinging right over their noses (they had to lie on their backs). At one juncture, when the shots seemed to have lulled, he'd instructed a man to look right while he looked left. When he looked back, the soldier's head was cocked towards him, blood seeping from where he'd been shot in the eye. This was LeBeouf's last straw: as captain, he said he was under immense pressure trying to balance his emotions whilst remaining strong for those under his command. He asked for sick leave and was refused. So he found a wall and broke his arm on it. He was sent home in a Goliath, with a temporary cast to help relieve pressure from atmospheric swelling. He brought his wife and kids home with him.

I asked about them, wanting to divert some of his attention back to what his life holds now. This primed another story: I don't know to what capacity they were there, but his command were running operations in Algeria, and were sent into a town for a recon sweep before a supply convoy went through. They spotted militants, and so fired warning shots to disperse the crowd. The town scattered, but the claps shocked one poor old blighter so much, he feel from a balcony and shattered his femur. Now, Eric is a field medic, and feels a true conflict between being both a warrior and a healer, he invokes the catchphrase 'hippocratic oath' much. So, tending to this unconscious man on the spot, he recognized that the bone had pushed out towards his inner thigh, and was resting against this man's major artery. He took off his rucksack, giving it to his translator, and lifted the old man onto his back. He potato sacked this guy for fifty-two kilometers (!!?) to fall down face first inside a family's threshold. He was awoken by water being dripped onto his face, and saw he was being attended to by a young Muslim woman. He rested at this woman's house with the blessing of her father, as miraculously, the 73 year-old man he'd just saved turned out to be her grandfather. One night she slipped into his bed, and he said he could smell she was ready. 9 months later she gave birth to their first child, Daphne. At this, I burst into tears. It is one of the more beautiful things I've heard in a long time.

After some trepidation, and conferring with Armand, introducing Grae and Ian to him, and struggling with the due suspicions that Steve invoked, I made a bed for him on my couch and went out for a beer. I came back in to see that he had opted to sleep on the floor. Both Eric and I needed each other, I needed to commit to this leap of faith and to just believe (I don't usually pick up men in the park). He needed water in the desert.

He asked me, in case of him ever being shipped back to war, to keep attentive of his wife and children. I said I'd love to meet them and perhaps spend time together, as obviously coming to Canada would be a culture shock. Eric said his wife would teach me Arabic.

My mind is still agog.

@ @ @
I discovered something unpleasant today. Most of the 17 terror suspects that were recently arrested had attended school at Meadowvale Secondary School. I believe this to be the same school that my mum's very good friend is principal. My mum even served there as substitute teacher for a few years. How horribly close to home

4 comments:

pagno said...

wow. amazing that you can trust your intuition so much that you were able to extend yourself in this way. have you two parted ways yet? where will he go next?

Lindz said...

Know what, Tom?? You're totally impulsive, and just about the most trusting person I have ever met in my life. They are qualities that continuously and simultaneously I admire, that inspire me, and that make me think you're completely off your rocker. But...one thing is for certain...you can tell me a story any time. Thank you.

S'Mat said...

you're too kind lindz. the situation was about as dodgy as you could imagine it would when inviting an emotionally unhinged weapon of war to sleep in your living room. really makes me reappraise this 'terrorists beheading stephen harper' business, as that's exactly what eric, the canadian soldier, wanted to do to him too. can't wait to see you!

Eve said...

So what happened to this guy?