The Cold War Child. Can you see the double meanings in that? Keep your eyes open. WE learned to.
I am Matthew. I was ten. Maybe eleven or so.
Imagine that one. You are being raised in a Cold War environment. Your mother is cold, and so are you. Your father, while not so cold, doesn’t care. Or if he does, he doesn’t show it.
We think that is because what we told him when we were a little child.
“Daddy, don’t hug me anymore,” the little one said as his father came to hug him close that night. “I don’t want to be hugged anymore.”
And his father, looking somewhat puzzled and amused, actually agrees. He doesn’t hug his child anymore, not forever.
Especially when that child was 10 and we were taken overseas to do some more fighting.
There we find a different thing going on. No more of the silent abusing; no when this thing comes on it’s a quiet raging: hissing whispers from our mother in the dark. That darkness is the secret in child abusing. Keeping the child quiet – while you quietly abuse him.
After all, you can’t have the neighbors hearing. They live right next door; the walls are thin; the ceiling, your neighbor’s floor is too. So they beat you when you aren’t looking – sometimes with a wide leather belt; sometimes with a wooden spoon.
That’s the way we make our living: being beaten all the time. And studying. Studying everything around you. Looking for a way to survive.
We had been beaten during our childhood; beaten until we were bruising. Violence is not a new thing in our lives; it has been going on forever.
But now we are ten, trapped in this foreign land. And the Russians are waiting … just waiting their chance to pounce. A mere fifty miles of land separates us from the East German border, where, we are told, 35,000 Soviet made tanks are waiting on orders to charge. Hundreds of thousands of men – against our mere paltry own – 35,000 or so? We aren’t told a thing.
Except: get ready to run.
The telephone calls come early in the morning; the father rises to answer them. A few moments later he has gone out the door. We don’t know if we’ll ever see him again. Mother gathers our few belongings; packing them in a bag. We sit there waiting for the phone call that never came.
They told us this thing: “When the balloon goes up you are to make your way to the Rhein Main Airforce base. There you will find a smoking crater. Get ready to run again, making your way towards the coast. Expect to do some heavy fighting in order to get there. Your parents may be dead. Here is a manual to help you.” And then they hand us that thing; this manual and this book of mine.
It’s called “Survival, Evasion, and Escape”. It’s a great little manual. It’s Army printed and Army material, and is in all the colors the Army comes in. Meaning mostly black and white. That’s the evidence of the facts written within.
It teaches us how to do something: evade, survive, and escape. It instructs us what to do when captured – basically be a pain in the enemy’s hands until you can escape again. And that’s what we learned to do.
Never escaping the fact that this has become our own life.
We seek the solace of other little kids like us; ones who have been abused. Sexually. We meet them in dark corners and under buildings, in the PX bathroom one time. Standing him on the commode (we are about the same age), I give him a blowjob; and then he does mine. We are scared something is going to happen, like someone coming in – or a nuclear bomb going off.
After all, it might happen at any time. After all, they’ve been warning us: “Don’t expect any fifteen minute warning; you’ll be lucky if you even get ten.”
We learn about those weapons – not the big ones, but the little ones: tactical nukes and things. How they can kill you within a ten mile radius; not much further than that.
They are meant to take out small bases – like the one we live on.
I watch the Pershing nuclear missiles roll on by. I know we are not supposed to be having them. This is against nuclear treaty and things. But lips are hushed; hands over mouth. (shhhh! Big secret, don’t tell anyone.)
We see the big blast doors of the bunkers. We smell something like gas. We don’t want to know these things. So we learn.
We learn everything we can about them; them, their delivery systems, the details behind. We learn about fighting and guns. We learn about throwing hand grenades. We learn survival skills beyond reason and hope.
After all there is no surviving a nuclear bomb; not if one falls directly on you. You’ll be burnt in a flash; nothing left but a shadow behind. We learn those things. And we learn those are going to be the lucky ones: the ones who are incinerated in those first few moments of heated nuclear battle.
And from we understand, after that thing, the tanks are going to come rolling in. 7 to one. The only thing we’ve got going for us is that we are thinking ours are so much better. That’s what they’ve told us. But watching the tanks battle we wonder. So many break down; crews cuss, and we can see death coming. Every day with every new horizon; in the setting sun.
So we learn more. Having the libraries – military libraries nearby helps us on this thing. We read every survival manual we can get our hands on. Some of them are rather strange.
One: “How To Survive Anything” tells us this thing: How to Survive Ghost Attacks. (stand still, don’t bother them, they won’t bother you – no documented cases of ghosts actually attacking man – but don’t try touching them either. Then they can hurt you. Go figure that one out.)
We learn that “tuck drop and roll” is a valuable thing. Getting hit by a car? Jump on the hood; tuck drop and roll. Falling off a building? Tuck drop and roll. Going down an embankment too fast? Tuck, drop and roll. Nuclear missile incoming? Tuck, drop and roll (preferably into a hole somewhere, or else you are going to be flaming.). Don’t look at the thing: just do it.
Bright flashes – really bright flashes – scare us. Sounds don’t. Sounds mean you are still alive in some fashion. You won’t hear the sound of the one that kills you. You’ll simply be blown away.
Probably into ashes.
So we learn. We learn about the survival of plants – and how to become one. Camouflage and dressing. Learning for battle. And growing new thorns. We got so good that by the time we got in the Marine Corps a guy came up and tried peeing on us. He thought we were a bush. From only two feet away. And it was daylight. We could of killed him but ended up laughing instead. Scaring the bejeezus (and the pee) right outta him.
We learn about the new types of machineguns, and the weapons of war. I was there when the first Blackhawk came over. We were impressed by its ability to fly upside down, but I thought that was a rather useless thing.
Who wants to fly upside down into battle.
I loved the Cobras and things. Thin, sleek, with helmet driven machine guns. Look down and there you are. Aimed in on this thing. Machine guns blazing. Keeping your eyes on the target might be a bit of a problem. They are going to be shooting back with missiles and things. And the marvelous Hueys. The thunder of their blades. Scary machines but comforting things; they will transport the wounded. If there are any left.
After all, nuclear bombs kill more than things. They can kill machines – and our fathers who drive them.
My father works on Mohawks: spies in the skies. We watching him working. It’s a secret ‘hush-hush’ kind of thing. This is the reason we’re not allowed to travel to certain countries. The USA is certain they will try to kidnap us small children and hold us for ransom; ransoming secrets out of him.
We know this kind of thing. It’s been done before. And we are bristling with thorns by now. We are ready, eager, waiting.
But scared to fucking death.
So we learn.
We learn the moves that will save us: fighting and things. We learn how to kill a man with the simplest of things: a ballpoint pen, a knife and a newspaper folded in half. We learn how to take a man’s eyes out while grasping his groin. We learn sleeping in the snow (so very cold, that thing, with the stars sneaking out at night and staring down hard at you with bright, uncaring eyes. Brittle stars and brittle sky; our breath smokes in the darkness. We stare back at them, both defiant and uncomprehending. Wishing this would go away.)
We learn to eat C-rats and things. And then we learn eating rats and lesser things. Small animals come to mind. Even bugs sometimes. They were there for the protein; low-fat, you know. Good thing for the diet, though the shells are kinda brittle and the legs are bristly and tough. Kinda like we are.
You are supposed to cook all bugs before you eat them. This holds especially true for grasshoppers. They are filled with parasites. You are gonna have to stay alive for a long time – living in the woods and fighting your enemy.
Sometimes your own enemy is your mind. We know that kind of thing.
We punish ourselves on manuveurs – going through the woods, sometimes taking the lead. The other children want us to: we are TOUGH – nettles don’t bother us; thorns? We don’t care. Letting them rip our skin … I guess it takes our mind away, letting us enjoy this thing, this thing we’ve learned to call “BATTLE”.
We learn how to ‘play’ in the troops, going along with them on manuveurs. Our job is to ‘trick them’ – teaching them games of our own.
We lie to them, we deceive them. We lead them into the wrong kinds of battle. Some get hurt. (shrug) Too bad. Sorry sir, just doin’ my job and all that kind of thing.
While the scorched metal we are leaning on burns our hand.
I remember sitting in a troop movement; early early morning; there is frost in the air. Morning mist swirls around. A small campfire burns on the ground. G.I.’s are gathered around. They are listening to us talk as we eat the C-rations of theirs. We tell them of troop movements in the woods. We tell what’s over the hill. Their Commander stands nearby, head cocked, listening in his flak jacket. A radio stands near. He draws us into an APC carrier. We go in. There are marvelous switches all around. We aren’t allowed to play with them, but we are watching, learning this thing as he pumps us for information. We give it to him, hoping for some more C-rations. I’m really hoping for the canned fruit. It tastes good in my mouth; syrupy and sweet. I don’t like those other things: ham and eggs. Ever eat ham and eggs that were born and died before you did? We did. Only it was pork slices and things.
Canned spam and ham and eggs. I don’t know which one I don’t like better.
I see we have reached 1951 words – over the limit. I guess that describes other things as well. And I haven’t even begun to describe the Cold War training. I know it wasn’t what the civilian ones were given – that old ‘drop and roll’ under your desks. As though that’s going to save your life. It never did ours.
Cold War Children. It’s no wonder we grew so cold.
(M3’s note. This is one of Matthew’s ‘journals’ – not an old one, but a new one. “LostJournals” was taken; we are working on this thing. NOTE THE TAGS AND CATEGORIES he used. Matthew is a tricky character; there are double meanings in almost everything he says. Reading carefully you might find them. I know we found some. Good luck reading. Any insights you have into this character – this friend of ours – our Defender and Protector (though he can’t hardly stand his ‘small children’ inside – loving them and hating them instead – and developing his love of hate and hate of love inside. Good luck reading.)
(5/17/11: Interesting. A Site has linked here: The Cold War Child | Γονείς σε Δράση parentsfight.betterschool.net/?p=91112 . Can someone tell me what language this is? επέλεξαν να μάθουν Ιταλικά, μια γλώσσα – looks Russian to me, LOL!)