Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Porcupine

He spent a lot of time thinking, pondering, wondering, a little questioning here and there, some scribbling and jotting down notes here and there on rough papers that he will never pick up till eternity - helps him get organize he claims -, but other thann that, he spent most of the time thinking.

It's funny how an army private can sometimes dumbfound a staff sergeant. Not that it happens most of the time elsewhere in other countries since regulations and discipline is always utmost priority until it stifles communication and interaction. In Zanotopia, soldiers of different ranks and positions stay at the same bunks, work in same units and groups, and are almost indifferent where rank and profile are concern, thus the freedom of speech among the hierachy.

It was during training. The whole batallion was running and doing the normal drills as usual. And as usual too, the troops in the units will always remove their shirts. Some say it helps to get the sweat off your shirt - save some water on the extra amount of dirty clothes that has to be washed - other thinks it's an opportunity to flex their muscles to each other. Not that they're trying to get attention from each other, especially when they're of same (or similar) gender, it's the ego that's at stake.

Unusually, however, the staff sergeant will wear his shirt. More than just a shirt, but the complete army outfit. Many have wondered, but not many dare to ask. More so that the SS is well known for his temper, lousy attitude and impatience. Never takes 'no' as an answer, never accepts 'sir I think you're wrong' as a response, never accepts failures, and seldom - if not never at all - encourages questions asked.

The irony then comes when it didn't take someone from a position above his to throw him that question, but someone new, fresh, no almost nuts about the military, to 'make him wonder'.

"Sir, while everyone runs without their gear and outfit during the drills, why do you do that?" the private asked.

The question of course stunned the SS for a while. He never expected a junior to throw such a question at him. His colleagues and bunk mates teased him before, but no one actually asked out of concern and care. Somehow, like always, his defense mechanism started was activated. Excuses and some barking around, telling him off for being a busybody and a warning to stop snooping around his business.

Interesting enough, that defense mechanism though activated, never worked out any results. He just stared at the junior, mouth ajar with no words said yet, and gazed into the eyes of the junior. From those little eyes beneath the ruffled hair trickling with sweat, he knew that this junior knew something about him.

"Sir, it can get a little heavy at times." I'm sorry if I'm being a busybody, maybe I'm not in a position to ask, but just so you know..

I'm concern, and we care about you sir.

The private trotted off to the dinner calls of his friends, leaving the SS behind, amid tired soldiers moving to the canteen, but alone in his thoughts. Drowned, he knew that in that sea of thoughts was an answer. Or he need not even look into those thoughts, he just need to lift up his shirt for those answers.

Quietly closing the door of his bathroom cubicle, he took of his armour piece by piece. Standing in front of the mirror, stark naked, completely stripped off his armour, he saw what he never wanted others to see. Unhidden by any piece of garment, the bruises of his torments were clear and evident. The marks of a suffered and tortured ex-prisoner of war, the traits of an abused soldier back in the old regiment, the scars of a defeated soldier.

All this while, he knew so surely, that if anyone saw those bruises that will never fade, those scars that will never heal, he will be discriminated. The army perception is that the weak will never be fit for the army, the sick don't deserve to be a part of Zanotopia's elite military force, the defeated are never regarded as soldiers. At the back of his mind, he can imagine himself losing all opportunities to rise even further in the ranks. He saw himself isolated and secluded, rejected and discredited despite the stars and stripes he won for himself, despite the lengths he covered in the battlefield, just because he was defeated.

Sick, a disease in the mind. Bruise, more than just a blue-back mark across his back and chest, but a spot in his heart that hurts when applied pressure.

Later the evening he met up with Nire. Wasn't he glad that he had that opportunity to be at the side of someone who would finally understand. She was always the good listener. He would spill his thoughts to the floor - that's where his eyes were glued at everytime he talked 'with' her - and she would just listen, absorb, be a part of the scenario he was in, and finally and most importantly, the advice.

"You know," she broke the long silence after he concluded his problem. "The question is more than just why aren't you prepared to let people see what is inside you, but rather, what is it that you can't accept about yourself."

Second stunner in a single day. He exhaled heavily along with a sigh.

You still can't accept yourself for what you are, can you? I can't. I just can't. Expectations. Overidealistic dreams. What are you? A robot that can be repaired? God that is divine and untouchable? You're made of flesh and bones, blood and breath, like anyone of us, you're still human, you're still vulnerable like anyone else, and you carry what all of us too carry.

"Finally someone pricked you at a soft spot huh?" she poked him. He nodded slowly. His past has always been his soft spot. His memories, at times, haunts him. Often he asks himself, do I still live in the shadows of my past, and far too often, he allowed himself to believe so.

Right now, who knows, he might be thinking twice of running the way everyone else in the army runs. Hopefully he will be able to take those heavy armours adorning him off one day. If that day really comes, it will because it took a brave junior with enough discernment to take that step up, with nothing more but care as a needle and curiosity as the prick, to poke the SS at a place where he needs to be pricked. Like a clogged vessel, the blood can only flow when an exit is made. The private, like a porcupine and its prick, or maybe like a doctor with the surgical tools, made that exit for him.


Peiling said...

When the SS's Father looked at the scars one day,he will tell everyone he knows that,"Look at my son.His scars had proven that he managed to stand as a soldier,a man even after all the trials n battles.And...I'm Proud of Him."

If u ever realised that,there isn't a need for a thanks or sorry between true friends.Because it is a two-way relationship.If one refused to open up that locked door,the other one can't go in either.Thats the wonders of Friendships!
Use the most simple words to express : I Love this Post!

stephy said...

Hey, what a good porcupine that can notice, observe and have the courage to tell the SS. In our lives, sometimes even friend do not honestly, frankly, genuinely tell us thing that goes wrong. However, I think in this world everyone is not perfect as only god is perfect and won’t make mistake. I feel like sometime human being are just curios about thing and people that happen around them, like to gossip, and very interested in knowing others personally stuff. In short, probably will feel satisfied, proud and happy (I guess) when they found out information that has been covered for times or just happening regardless true or false. May be because they think it is a secret. Therefore, why don’t from the very beginning don’t ever cover it up or try to escape but face it fearlessly and confess our sin. Of course, it need bunch of courage, confident and strength. We can turn to god pray and ask for it and we shall receive when we ask. Definietely, you’ll be forgiven and slowly but surely you’ll gain back the trust from others.

betty said...

No matter what happened in the past, there is nothing like time machine for us to go back to the past again even though we are very regretful now. It does not like playing 'same' or 'solitaire' or typing using the computer, we still have the opportunities by just clicking 'undo' if we are dissatisfied. Something unpleasant that happened in the past is irreversible. Yes, it may hurt us and causing us to stop at a certain point and move backward. We may try to escape from the reality and hide them from other's knowledge. But life is not static. We should learn to let go these unpleasant past and learn from the past, avoid doing the same mistake, improving ourselves and become a better person. We live for the present and future and no one will be accepted by all the people in this world. There will always be someone who like us and dislike us. We should not take other people's opinions too seriously as it is our own life and everyone have their own measurements. Maybe we really need someone like this brave porcupine to stimulate us so that we will face our problems. The most important is that we accept ourselves. Everyone is special in God's eyes.

sihan said...

never ceases to facinate me, this is Tan-Loh Joash's trademark writing style, though-provoking as usual and entertaining at the same time. I wish I could write like you but I know everyone is endowed with different talent by God. My talent is to be very perasan and compose stupid poem.

Porcupine...what a good symbolism. and your (our as well) juniors are good readers as well. vr critical.


HeartzOfGold said...


you think i not perasan kah? hahaha!!

Peiling said...

I can testify for that,he is PERASAN!!!
His skin can be adopted by FBI as a material to make bullet-proof jacket,Trust Me!

HeartzOfGold said...

any evidence? hahahaha

ej said...

the evidence is obvious and is usually left unspoken.