In an earlier post, I mentioned I was reading “Painter of Silence” by Georgina Harding. I am still reading it, but I thought I would share an excerpt from it with you. Ms. Harding is a very capable author and it is a good read thus far. The excerpt on war I believe is nicely done. You may want to pick this book up.
The scene is a childhood nurse friend of a deaf, mute young man are both sitting in a park in a town they did not grow up in. It is post-war. He recently came out of the hospital, but his condition existed since childhood. An elderly man from their childhood town recognizes her and invites her to come visit. Most of the people would be her grandfather’s age and upon his departure she debates with herself whether she should go. Her deaf and mute companion, who is watching, puts his hand over his mouth to signal to her that she should stop talking to herself outloud. He is living in a house with another older nurse, who to enable his tenancy to the involuntarily and partially displaced owners of the home, exists under the pretex that he is this nurse’s son back from the war. This nurse does not know of the childhood relationship between her nurse colleague and the young man. He has three public identities, including his silent life.
“She does not speak again until they start walking home. You’re right. There is no reason to speak. Speaking gets us nowhere. All these people here must have words inside their heads. Swarms of words. Words they mean and words they don’t mean and words whose meaning they don’t know. The park’s crowded now, so much fuller than it was when we came, families and children and girls out walking togther and lovers and elderly couples, full of people people and unspoken words. The things we could tell each other. I could tell things that would make them cry. And how about them? There’s that man without a leg. I saw him when we came in, sitting on the ground with his back to the railing and his cruch beside him, his one leg sticking out and the stump beside it with the trouser pinned up. He’s come over this way now. What could he tell us? Look, he’s standing there ranting at the trees, shouting at the top of his voice. His words fly up into the leaves and people stroll by and pretend not to see him or hear him. What’s he saying? Best not to know. They used to rant a lot, the soldiers when they were wounded. It was the pain, the morphine, the fear. Some of them cried for their mothers. That was all right, you could feel sorry for them, cry a little too. But there were others who were full of hate. They spoke of killing, of wanting to kill. You had to close your ears to care for them. But you did hear it what you did hear you never forgot. I know, that was the war, and it’s not the war any more and nobody’s fighting now but there are casualties everywhere, here in the park. It’s just that you can’t see the injuries any more. You can’t see but they’re there. The wounded, the shell-shocked, the amputees missing pieces of themselves.”