Sunday, April 11, 2010

Prisoners of My High Sanctity

On the bed, I was a lone, absurd figure in the history of my times, a sleeper in the century of ruthless law, of bombers over suburbs, of artillery barrages destroying the gaily painted walls of kindergartens. In my bed I dreamed of military science classes, imaginary troop movements, and the portraits of boys slain in Vietnam hanging from library walls. In these dreams I satisfied my own sick and overextended need to be my own greatest hero. I had a passion for the undefiled virtuous stand and a need to sacrifice myself for some immaculate cause. I knew this and hated myself for it and could do nothing about it. Ah, Annie Kate, I will marry you and adopt your child because I’m so good. Ah, Bo Maybank, of course I’ll be your friend and accept your soft towels because I’m so kind. Ah, Tom Pearce, of course I will ease your journey through the plebe system because I am so saintly. Ah, Pig, of course I will defend you before the honor court even though you have been dishonorable because I am so noble. Who else would I take as prisoners of my high sanctity before my life was over?

I tried to think of Pig during this time but it was hard. I can seldom judge how I feel about an important event in my life as it happens. There is always a time lapse before I am sure exactly what it is I feel. I did know that my refusal to rise from my bed upset my roommates and alarmed my classmates in R Company. They thought it was my finer sensibilities and my greater love of Pig that put me in the bed, that separated me from the rest of them. I secretly enjoyed my honorary role as chief mourner. They thought well of me because I was not like them, because I was unable to carry on and incapable of blocking the horror of that suicide on the tracks.

“Too sensitive,” they would whisper as they conferred with each other in the alcove. They did not know I was Pig’s avenger and cadreman, not his chief mourner. I would open my eyes and smile at my friends, then return to the business of sleeping. I kept my hatred secret behind that smile as I always did. That smile was the weapon to keep your eyes on. I should have warned my friends never to turn their backs on my smile. But I was not talking in those days. I was looking for something. In daydreams, I saw myself cut down by firing squads in sun-bleached courtyards as I screamed out the word Libertad to the small tyrant who watched from the palace window. I threw myself on hand grenades, and charged into the machine-gun fire aimed by impregnable gunners. But I was not looking for that so I slept some more and could not move very well in those days or participate in the life of the campus, which continued undisturbed as it always had and always would. Nothing could still the coming of reveille, the gathering of platoons, or the striking of flags at retreat.

~The Lords of Discipline by Pat Conroy, pages 444-445


shualah elisheva said...

completely off topic [though i loved the quote]: purchased the understanding tzniut book by rabbi henkin that you recommended.

absolutely love it.

anon said...

extremely melodramatic purple prose. typical conroy.