For two weeks I watch the widow toil, trying to pick up the pieces of her life that would forever be incomplete, struggling to put food on the table and clothe her orphans. I have come to know her routine from sunrise to moonrise. She would wake up in the morning, have her bath, make breakfast, wash her children and dress them for school and then she would go to the school where she teaches and is paid peanuts at the end of the month.
But for two weeks that is all I could do – hide in the shadows and watch her, rummage through her garbage to find out exactly what she eats, what she uses and the drugs she takes for her ulcer. Several times I have sneaked into her house and seen precisely how she lives; like the struggling widow that she is. For two long weeks I stalk this poor, defenceless woman but could not find the courage to walk up to her and just…talk. How different things are now. Back then, in those days, all I needed was a minute and the widow would seize to exist.
I am a troubled man indeed. I am haunted in my sleep by the faces and death cries of the men I have slain in the name of doing my duty; protecting a self-serving dictatorship, silencing those that dared to have a contrary opinion, those who wanted change. In my wakefulness, I am troubled by thoughts of the families these unsung heroes have left behind. That was why I sought out this widow; because I knew her husband, because I knew exactly what happened to him on that night, because I think my atonement should start with her – perhaps then I will find the elusive peace to raise my own children, my family that cannot live with the penitent grouch I have become because they do not understand. I have no hope of making heaven and I feel as if the angels eye me with disapproval. I could almost feel their icy glare lashing me. I am unworthy.
But watching this widow with her simple modishness, her charm that allows her to smile through her suffering with warm tears in her eyes, with her need for help that her pride would not let her ask
for, my fear for her ebbed and in its place other feelings blossomed – sympathy, respect, admiration and then that.
But how does one approach a woman like that and say, ‘Madame, I knew your husband. I have read his file. I also know what happened to him that night, the night of the accident. Well, it wasn’t an accident really because I was there. I was driving behind him in my big, black, monstrous jeep. I stalked him, just as I have been stalking you these couple of weeks and when I had him on the lonesome road; I shoved his car off the road, into the old, tin mining pit. I came out of the jeep and lit a cigarette while I watched the cold, murky waters close him in.
I smoked and waited just long enough to make sure that he would never come up alive. And then I drove away, playing loud rock tunes, feeling like one who had just fallen in love. The next morning, I felt so proud when my boss, the colonel, said, “Excellent piece of work, soldier, you deserve a commendation.”
From The Story Issue