War Poet.ca - A CFAP Project by Suzanne Steele

Notional (from May Day)

this is another “letter” from the fictional series, May Day. for new readers, May Day is a collection of letters from a young woman, S, to her French Canadian Warrant Officer lover, M, who is serving in Afghanistan. J, is the third character in the series. J is a 24 year old Lieutenant invalided out of the war with PTSD. J served with M overseas. something happened there. as the author, I’m as interested as my readers are to find out what happened and what’s going to happen with all of these characters… it’s totally true what people say about characters taking on a life/destiny of their own. I have no clue as to what’s going to happen next. you can hear some other May Day excerpts in the audio section of the website… with May Day I am exploring the language of war and love, relationship, etc. within the context of the Afghanistan deployment. eventually, May Day is going to be staged live with music, video and images from Afghanistan


what do you mean your ex broke in? ripped the place apart. pawed like a FOB K9 through your telephone bills, notes, my letters, found the red bandana I sent you from Spain. wrapped around fresh lavender. mailed express so you could smell my lips, my fingertips on it.

J told me. your mom phoned him. said your wife dropped by your place to “get a few of the kids’ things” and left it a bombsite. “Madame was over. let herself in with a key, tore it apart like a madwoman IED. les pauvres enfants. J, do me a favour,” ta mère said to him, “get the locks changed. I’ll clean up later.”

I said to J, “what do you mean his wife has a key?” he shrugged his shoulders, said “it’s not up to me to say.”

what’s going on M? are you in or are you out? I mean I know she’s the mother of your kids, but you told me that you’d had enough. that you’d always felt trapped into it. your marriage. “I never had a choice,” you told me. (though that’s hard to believe. you WO, Mister Wink-At-All-The-Pretty-Women. Mister Confident, Mister I Own The Fucking World.)

and you told me you had to buy her out. half the house, half your pension. that it was done and you’d been worked over. left broke but free. if so, then why should she care what you do? “I’m a single man now,” you told me that first night.

but now this…wait a minute M, I think I’m catching on… she’s your Monday and Wednesday girl isn’t she? macaroni and cheese and kids and t.v. and I’m uncork-the-bottle-come-on-baby- laisse les bonnes temps rouler Miss Weekend.

and I know you M. you won’t want to talk about it. not now. not ever. you’re all work and work. focus. this woman stuff, it’s all just white noise especially that there’s a war to fight. and you love being out in the desert away from life. simple. driven. complexity. A to B. keep my boys alive and safe. all of them… M, you love the brothers as much if not more than your family and friends sometimes. your lives strung together like trip wire: one goes, you all go, in one way or another.

J said there’s a concept called “notional.” something is imagined it exists even though you know it doesn’t/it can’t.

“on Ex,” J says, “the infantry calls in fast air or artillery as needed. even though we know perfectly well it’s not there. that nobody’s going to come. we get into the habit of calling so that when war is real, it’s reflex.”

and sometimes I wonder if I’m notional to you M. non-existent. an idea. until you really need it. a body. warmth. food. fire. welcome back to life. for a few hours.

and I’m tempted to pack it in. call it quits. and I beat myself up about it, throw mental stones at myself, like a one-woman public executioner. and ask myself, what’s with me? why am I drawn to him? what’s it doing for me?

and maybe I should go to some self-help group. something called Ladies Get a Life Anonymous, or start one. but the thing is M, I have a life already—family, dance, friends—and the last thing I want to do is hang with a bunch of pathetic “other women”.

so what’s this about? you and me? maybe I’m just drawn to drama. that’s what my mom always says, rolls her eyes when I fill her in. and I’m a flamenca after all.

and listen M, J says the worst thing a guy can receive when he’s serving overseas is a letter from home that’s stressed. too much tension on patrol, too much wired boredom in the FOBs too much opportunity to obsess on what’s going wrong at home. “gotta keep your mind on the job, it’s deadly otherwise,” J says, “S never, ever send him anything but nice. deal with shit when he gets back. maybe six months later when he’s decompressed.”

so M, this letter is notional. an idea. it doesn’t really exist.
I won’t press < send > I won’t print it off, mail it.

no, I’ll file it in my head. for another day maybe. when you walk through my door.
if you ever walk through my door. whole and well. again.

o M, prend soin de toi, mon beau


About This Page

The page you're reading contains a single diary entry entitled Notional (from May Day). It was posted here on December 30, 2008.


Complete diary archive