blog 1 the gift of the journal

August 1842

I was talking to Lady Sales yesterday and today she gave this journal. I think she spent a good part of last yesterday and I suspect even last night sewing it. I don’t know where she found the paper. She must have begged everyone for paper. You can tell some of the lettering has been scrapped off so the paper can be used again. As I fan the pages of the journal I see every sort of thickness and color. Some edges are smooth and some are torn. The paper is sewed into leather and that is cobbled together too. It reminds me of an old crazy quilt the way the big and small pieces of leather are stitched together. She used a piece of ribbon to be the bookmark. She even wrote on the first page. My finger is tracing the wording now: The Journal of John Nicholson. Her handwriting is big and round and lovely the way she is. Open. Friendly. Not like my own moth —–

Lady Sales and I were talking and somehow it got around to letter writing. I told her I was not very good at writing letters. Nor my family. My family is not that kind that keeps in touch or stuff like that. My own Mother raised us to never ever show affection. Whenever I left home everyone stood in line and I shook hands with first my older sister and then my kid brothers each in turn dutifully as if perfect strangers before standing before Mother who did not let me kiss her. She just stood there in her widow’s black like a grim gorgon daring me to show emotion toward her. So I turned around and left. I guess I will never see anyone again. I wonder if they will care?

I wrote exactly two letters since I came to India. What could I write? Mother ordered me to go to India to make money to save the family. So unless I have money to send home what could I write that anyone at home would want to hear? I have already failed in my mission. India is not cheap. India is expensive. Just buying my camel and tent and sword and rifle and supplies to march north put me in debt to Uncle Hogg who also bought my horse. So what could I write? Why I failed to send money home? Anyways! I am not the type to write…. to expose my soul, to open up…. not even to my own family — who would not care to know me anyway. As everyone made perfectly clear. Like when my older sister hissed I was nought but a great big bully the day before I left home forever. So why should I write?

Neville Chamberlain told me, we were at Peshawar, Chamberlain told me he was not a keen letter writer either when our commanding officer scolded us for not writing home to our mothers. Mothers are considered to be so sacred. Society puts them up high on pedestals. The Mothers of the Nation. Britannia. Queen Victoria. That sort of thing. Chamberlain told me he was not much of a letter writer after I said I simply could not write letters . But Chamberlain told me he kept a journal and then every few months he would copy passages of it out for his mother, for he had only his mother, like me, and it allowed him to share his life with her. But of course Chamberlain is English so I imagine his mother is something out of Charles Dickens. Very loving. All ribbons and lace in her cap over fading gold hair and eyes like bluebells and a merry disposition. My mother on the other hand —-

Anyways! Lady Sales suggested I try to keep a journal because after what I and the other survivors went through when Ghazni Fort fell, our own little Black Hole of Ghazni, ‘little’ being the operate word, with us wedged together so tightly the corpse of Joe who died of typhus rotted for two days before the fucking guards finally decided to show mercy on us and open the fucking cell door….

I mean —-

I mean —-

What do I mean?

Lady Sales suggested I try to express everything that is bottled up inside of me because Lady Sales said I reminded her of a canister of shrapnel about to explode raining pieces of jagged metal down on everyone. Which is pretty astute of her I guess, being a Military officer’s wife. No one even knows if her husband made it out in the slaughter during that disastrous fiasco of a retreat from Kabul when Lady Sales and her party were betrayed by Afghans and sold to Akbar Khan as hostages no less than us.

Only 3 years ago I was 16 and as widow’s son in Ireland and now I am one of only ten men to survive the fall of Ghazni Fort. And every day Akbar Khan’s thugs boast that today is the day we die. And if we can’t be parlayed as hostages we will cease to have any value. And we will be shot and our bodies mutilated and dumped like garbage in the dirt for jackals to eat. And I hate the god damn Afghans the way one hates maggots. They are vicious, violent, fanatic, brutal, disgusting people. And we all have to pretend to everyone else that everyone is so calm and brave and fine and noble when there is absolutely no fucking reason why any of us should even be here in this god damn place to begin with! And I am going to die before I have a chance to live —-

I don’t think this is helping me any.

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