Friday, April 10, 2009
Prompt 259: Write a prompt that begins with the words: "I don't understand"...
I don't understand, it should have been me, not Patrique. If he, Sakima, and Chance had only left with the others that night in the jungle, none of them would have suffered the abuse that they did, Patrique might very well still be alive. He had his whole life ahead of him, why did he feel that his was any less important then mine?
If I go back to the very beginning, to the very reason I went to the Congo, I can't even say that I went because I wanted to give back something for all that I'd received in my life. No, that wasn't the reason I left Chicago when I did, the truth is, my life was falling apart, it had been for far too long, and I knew if I didn't do something I would lose myself. Even before I left I had been throwing my life away, everything I'd been doing went against all I believed, all I'd based my entire life on, and it made me sick to even look at my reflection in the mirror. I knew that I had to do something when it started to affect how I treated my patients, how I saw them, or rather the way I no longer saw them, I'd stopped caring about them as people, and without compassion what kind of doctor could I be? I thought going to the Congo might help me find the man who'd become lost to me, but, instead I seemed to only sink deeper into a hole I couldn't find my way out of.
I didn't plan to continue with the drinking and sleeping around once I arrived at the clinic, but there was little else to do at the end of a long shift, and there was no shortage of nurses who were willing. I certainly never planned on starting up anything resembling a relationship with anyone, but, I guess that's what you'd call what happened between Gillian and I, even if we did have our ups and downs.
I know I didn't expect my time in the Congo to pull up the memories of my work in Vukovar, but, that's exactly what happened as day after day I found myself coming face to face with the innocent victims of war. It was hard not to draw parallels between what I saw as a young resident and what was happening almost in front of me, and the worst part was realizing that despite the number of years that had passed, so little seemed to have changed. If it were not for the color of their skin and their language, they could have been the same, and all of them were as just as innocent as those I'd been unable to save all those years ago.
I don't know at what point I decided that I was ready to die, maybe it wasn't until the Mai Mai came into Matenda that day. I know now that I couldn't have been thinking straight when I challenged then, almost dared the man to shoot me. When he held that gun to my head, in that instant I swear, I remember thinking, just pull the trigger, I dare you, and when he didn't, I think I was disappointed. Then, seeing him threaten John, and knowing that Gillian might suffer an even worse fate at their hands, I just knew they had to leave, all of them.
I'll never know why Patrique stayed that day or why he, Sakima, and Chance stayed that night in the jungle when all the rest of those from the clinic fled, but, I can't help but feel responsible for what they went through when the Mai Mai took us captive. Patrique's death is a burden I will bear for the rest of my life, not just because I know he stayed to help me, but, because his life was taken while he was pleading for them to spare mine. After all I had been through, I don't understand now, anymore then I understood at that moment why he thought his life was worth less than mine. I can't look at Sakima without thinking the same thing. Here is this woman, with this beautiful little girl, and she put both of their lives at risk to remain with Patrique and I, and even after they had raped her, even after she'd seen what they did to Patrique, she too pleaded for them to spare my life. I don't understand what they saw in me anymore then I understand what John saw that would make him risk his life to try and find my body when word reached him of my death.
Understanding the whys may never happen, but there's no denying that the experience did change me, and I owe it to not just those who survived, but to Patrique as well to pay them back for the good they must have seen in me. It'll take some time for me to recover from the malaria and return to work, but, I know when I do I'll be seeing both my patients and the work I do differently. I plan to go back to the Congo when I'm well enough, this time I'll be going for the right reasons, and in a way it'll allow me to feel as if I'm repaying the debts I owe those there. For the first time in a long time I'm looking toward the future with a sense of hope and promise, I hope it's a feeling that remains for a long time.