The Combatant – #1

When the alarm goes off at two in the morning, he is sure he is still dreaming. He just closed his eyes, so it can not be time to wake up. But it is. The problem is that after twenty hours working hard to protect the families of others, trying to earn in the private sector the money the police is supposed to provide, those three hours of sleep seem to pass like a glimpse, a brief interlude of life as deep as one’s own death.

He knows that his wife next to him is awake, just as he knows she will continue to “sleep”, the only way she has found not to ask him to stay. He kisses her softly and goes into a freezing shower.

Even it being Brazil, the winter is real in the mountains where he lives, the water at that time its most blunt manifestation. It is always good to suffer a little in the morning, he tries to convince himself as he hesitates, watching the water fall. The comfortable life that men lead makes them weak. He has always admired the level of rusticity he reached in special operations courses. To sleep day after day in the open air, like a beggar in a cardboard, eternally dirty, tired and hungry, but with his rifle in perfect conditions — he liked the lesson embedded into that. When he enters the shower, he forces himself to show no reaction while the water seems to pierce his skull. In a short time he is ashamed of his previous hesitation, and soon afterwards he feels a touch of pride. It does not take much to start a day well.

When he goes down the stairs to leave, he smells coffee; programmable coffee makers are the eighth wonder of the world. Even determined to go straight to the kitchen and from there to his car, he can not resist and stops in front of the half-open door of his daughter’s room.

It’s always the same dichotomy. He can not decide whether to enter and capture that image in his mind, in case he needs it later, or if he avoids it altogether. Everything loses its meaning when it means putting her life at risk. Rationally, he knows he will not improve the world with his actions, and he also knows that he can destroy hers. At the same time, even more rationally, he knows that this has to be done, that he is the one who must do it, and that this is the most fundamental example and education his daughter should receive: that life is combat, and that all who try to negotiate it must be combatants. He knows that his daughter’s battlefield will be different, but let her at least see her father’s life as a metaphor, something that depicts in vivid color the attitude she must have in the future.

Still in the doorway, he remembers dying men as they float in a paradisiacal sea, clinging to wreckage in a crackling sun as they are dragged one by one into the depths by hungry sharks, or left there, dismembered and bleeding to death. He remembers zombie-like men in Nazi concentration camps, exchanging cigarettes for a few more days of life in the form of a piece of bread or a portion of soup, while around them their peers die by the hundreds. He remembers having read, astonished, how many of these men simply lost their will to live. Castaways from torpedoed warships would simply let themselves sink, exhausted by the ordeal of days under the sun. Prisoners in Nazi camps would one day sit down in a corner, lean relaxed against the wall, and smoke their precious cigarettes, a sign of their renunciation of life — usually they died the next day.

These men did not have a strong enough reason to stay alive.

He decides to enter the room.


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