Quotes: Stranger in a Familiar Land
We spake of many a vanished scene, Of what we once had thought and said, Of what had been, and might have been, And who was changed, and who was dead; And all that fills the hearts of friends, When first they feel, with secret pain, Their lives thenceforth have separate ends, And never can be one again;
— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, The Fire of Drift-Wood
No place to run to Where I did not feel that war When I got home I stayed alone And checked behind each door
— Charlie Daniels Band, "Still in Saigon"
Between two places, you still can be torn The place where you live, and the place where you were born For one you know, and one seems foreign When first you become an exile So many times now, I've been back To enjoy the music and the crack But each time, my bags I've repacked And gone on home to the exiles
— Ed Miller, "At Home With the Exiles"
It was very happy, but it was strange. They looked the same to me, of course, but now and then I realised that they were recognising the boy of eighteen whom they remembered, in this much bigger, sunburned young man of twenty-one. That's an odd feeling. So is standing alone in the quiet of your room, just as you remember it but a little smaller, staring at each familiar thing of childhood and thinking: that day of the Sittang ambush ... that terrible slow-motion moment at Kinde Wood when the section went down around you in the cross-fire ... that night when the Japs came up the Yindaw road, the little ungainly figures in the light of the burning trucks, passing by only a few yards away ... that hectic slashing melee at the bunkers under the little gold pagoda where L___ bought his lot and J___ had his hat shot off and the ground was dark and wet with blood — while all
that was happening, a world and a lifetime away,
this was here: the quiet room, just as it had always been, just as it is now. The porcupine-quill inkstand that the old man brought home from East Africa, the copy of
Just William with its torn spine, the bail you broke with your fast ball against Transitus (it must have been cheap wood), the ink-stain low down on the wallpaper that you made (quite deliberately) when you were eight ... Nothing changed, except you. Never call yourself unlucky again. I couldn't sleep in bed that night. I did something I hadn't done since Burma, except on a few night exercises: I went out into the garden with a blanket and rolled up under a bush. God knows why. It wasn't affectation — I took good care that no one knew — nor was it sheer necessity, nor mere silliness in the exuberance of homecoming. At the time I felt it was a sort of gesture of thanksgiving, and only much later did I realise it was probably a reluctance to "come home" to a life that I knew there could be no return to, now. Anyway, I didn't sleep a bloody wink.
I've finally found what I was looking for. A place where I can be without remorse. Because I am a stranger who has found an even stranger war. I've finally found what I was looking for. Here I come! I sharpen the knife, and look down upon the pain. For all my life, A stranger I remain.
Once you've been on the battlefield, tasted the exhilaration, the tension...
it all becomes part of you. Once you've awakened the warrior within... it never sleeps again.