The Voyage Part Eight – Brian and Rashid. Bruce McCorkill
Brian has attempted to tell his side of the story to Carol.
She doesn’t want to listen, and only wants to get advice from her friend Jan.
Jan gives advice, but seems to have an ulterior motive.
I knew it… As soon as that woman climbed onto the boat I could see she was trouble. She is supposedly Carol’s best friend, one to rely on to give sound advice to help Carol reconcile with Brian. But all she wants to do is to get into Carol’s pants. This was not part of the trip. I’ll have to fix this somehow.
But while I think about this, let’s see how Brian is going.
After Brian told Lenny the full story of the shooting of the girl back in Vietnam, he collapsed in Lenny’s arms and wept softly. Lenny consoled him.
‘It’s all right mate. I knew there must have been something more than what you always told me. Now I know. I just wish you had trusted me earlier and let me know the full story. I can understand, Carol was the one thing that kept you going all that time, kept you in control. You made a mistake on the night before the raid, a big mistake, but I reckon you’ve paid for it.’
Brian looked at his friend.
‘Lenny, she still is the only thing in my life that keeps me going. After last night I just don’t know if I can keep her. She really seems to want to break up. I couldn’t cope with that. What can I do?’
‘Easy mate. Remember, back in Vietnam, I was the one who worked out the fighting strategy. Well, you’re in the fight of your life now, you need a plan. Seems to me, you have to tell Carol the whole story.’
‘Hang on, you mean including the part I just told you?’
‘Yep, the whole bloody story mate. You made a good start by telling me, and the earth didn’t fall apart did it. I don’t reckon it’ll make her happy; she’ll want to know how come you didn’t tell her before. She’ll want to know about any other secrets you’ve been keeping from her. You have to teach Carol how to trust you. So if you are serious about keeping her, you have to tell her everything.’
‘Lenny, you’re right as usual. You know I feel a bit better since telling you, it’s finally out in the open. I reckon I can cope with telling Carol, I just hope she can cope with hearing it.’
Lenny put up a warning arm.
‘But don’t tell her just now. From what you say she needs time to cool down. Also she’s going to want to know what you are doing to change. So you need to give her something. How about if you square the situation with the Afghans. If you’re serious about this, you need them on side. From what you say they seem good people. If they’re on your side, the battle’s half won.’
‘Sounds good Lenny. I need to apologise and make them welcome. They are good people. Funny part is that last night, even while I was making a clown of myself, they didn’t get upset. It was like they realised there was some crazy stuff going on in my mind. I overheard them later saying that I seemed very troubled, and that they should try to help me. After what they must have suffered, they must have seen a few guys like me.’
He shook his head.
‘You know Lenny, this is all crazy. I’m the one supposed to be helping them, letting them live in my house, helping them settle in Australia, but they seem to be doing the helping. Maybe I could speak to the guy; he must have seen terrible things in his army days. All he told Carol is that they suddenly had to leave; it was that or be killed. I could tell him my story, see what he thinks. Maybe I could get him to tell me.’
Brian shook his mate’s hand.
‘Thanks Lenny. I realise how some of the guys must like talking to you about their problems, you do have the knack of listening. Like you said before, half the guys here seem to be having dramas when you get them on their own, maybe we should all start talking more, not just pissing on. Something to think about my friend. Anyway, off to start the mission.’
Brian avoided Carol that night, and indeed he was still relegated to the couch. But next morning, he approached Rashid.
‘Rashid, I just want to say I’m really sorry about my behaviour the other night. I don’t normally do things like that. Something came over me and I just don’t know why I said all those stupid things. No, hang on a minute; I do know why I started behaving badly. It was your daughter. She suddenly reminded me of a girl back in Vietnam, a long, long time ago. A girl I did a terrible thing to. It’s been on my mind all these years, and I suddenly snapped and lost control. Please accept my apology and welcome to my home.’
He held out his hand to Rashid, who shook it warmly. Still holding Brian’s hand he responded.
‘Brian, you have no need to apologise. We are simply grateful for the chance to leave that awful Refugee Centre and live in your lovely home. All I can say is thank you for accepting us. Both my daughter and I have suffered greatly over the last few years. In our country we lived with many people who suffered terrible events, and they showed this in many strange behaviours. In my time, I have seen countless brave men who suddenly broke, for no clear reason. With Samira’s work at the Centre, she sees many people like that, all with tragic stories. You call it counselling, we just know it as helping talk. Samira is very good at this, she seems to know how to just listen and people like talking to her. She likes you, says you remind her of some of the Australian soldiers back home.’
Rashid then looked at Brian closely.
‘Brian, I watched you last night. I saw you change when we sat down. I thought that Samira triggered something in you, something bad, but also very sad. I think you have a story to tell. I hope that when the time is right and you have learnt to trust me, you will tell me this story.’
He smiled warmly at Brian, who suddenly had a flash that this man could listen to him, and like Lenny, understand his fight with the demons.
‘But in the meantime my friend, we have work to do. We have to fix this old air conditioner for Carol. I think I have found the problem. All I need are your beautiful tools. I’m jealous Brian, back home I had to repair these things with bent wire and rusty pliers.’
So the men spent the morning repairing the machine together, and pottering around the shed, Rashid marvelling each time he discovered more tools. By morning’s end they had developed a type of camaraderie, each one assessing the other, and like smart soldiers recognising a friend rather than a foe.
As they ate, Brian impulsively grabbed Rashid’s arm and blurted out.
‘Rashid, what is the war in your country really like? In Australia all we hear is what the government thinks we should know, there are so many different stories. It seems like our Vietnam War, the people at home didn’t really know or understand what was going on, while us soldiers who were there knew exactly what was going wrong, and how it was not serving any purpose.’
Rashid gave a bitter sweet laugh. His eyes clouded for a second.
‘Brian my friend, I could talk to you for days about our war and you would still have trouble understanding. Sometimes I don’t understand myself. For the minute, let me say, our war is the same as your Vietnam War but many times worse. Your war was fought in the steamy jungles; ours is being fought in the barren desert. But some things never change. Not knowing who the enemy really is, not knowing the real motives of foreign countries, not knowing what will happen once the armies go home, and worst of all, knowing that governments will never realise the madness of war. More about this later, we will sit and tell our stories, but in the meantime, where is this old machine which cuts grass, which you can’t start?’
It always works, doesn’t it? Get men together in a shed with tools and they just seem to sort things out, find common ground. Hopefully, the boat now has two men steering together bound for the harbour. There are still a few reefs to navigate, Brian needs to befriend Samira, but I think he’s getting better at understanding other people. If he takes her father’s advice he could maybe bring himself to tell her his story. She seems to have a knack for helping people with troubled minds. But then to achieve the mission, he has to confess to Carol and gain her trust. I don’ know how he will manage that, it’s a big ask, and he’ll need a lot of help. I’m now really worried about Jan; she’s skulking around the boat and still could sink it. Not sure how to deal with her, hopefully she may just fall overboard, with a bit of a push from your’s truly.
Issues for the fixer to sort out.
Is the boat now on the right course?
How can Brian gain Samira’s trust and friendship?
How will Carol react when he finally confesses to her?
To be continued.