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The result of a twenty-minute prompt I promised my students I would do with them during class, The influence of war on [any type of person/group], only slightly edited for clarity.

When I think of a war-torn country, I think of a Middle Eastern wasteland. I only know a wasteland from pictures, from movies, from descriptions in articles and well-crafted stories spun with more than old adjectives. I’ve never walked a wasteland, never picked up the broken dirt pieces in my hand or smelled the still-burning flesh. I don’t know much, this is just how it seems.

I think of Fallujah from an essay of a peer years ago, a big man with a beard and a whimsical pony-tail, wore Hawaiian shirts and reminded me of Penn from the magician pair for dudes. He didn’t know a wasteland as a victim, he was merely a master of words, spinning them to form the void where resources once were. I think of a vast, barren space, of buildings crumbling down, brick by brick, mortar filling the cracks in the rubble, covering the air holes that were life lines for the buried and the crushed. People die inside those piles, but they are people I don’t know. In my mind, their screams still bother me.

I see bombs explode and shrapnel flying everywhere. I suppose I imagine the part with the shrapnel, because I can’t see through the smoke I suspect is there, thick like substance, making the air tangible, breaths impossible. I can’t see my hands, my soldiers, or the enemy; I can’t aim. Only blasts and burst of light, black.

War is always a mess in my mind. War is always far away. War is never near or knowable. Why isn’t war knowable?

This isn’t some kind of fantasy, some collision that I’m creating for the purpose of the story’s climax. This happens; war happens. War is real people, pressed suits, stamped and sealed papers in cherry wood offices making decisions on my behalf. Choosing, siding, deciding for me, my fate. No, but war is more. War is real people in big boots, camouflage suits, backpacks, water jugs, big guns. They follow orders. They end lives. That’s the part I can’t reconcile, I shy away and retreat again into the comfort of the far away. The screams inside those crumbling buildings. War is those real people too. Was.

War is conflict. War robs the rich. War backs us into corners that we never realized did exist. War takes men I know and makes out of them something else, or something more. Which, I’m not sure. War takes our land and makes it a safe ground or a battle field, sometimes both. [unfinished]