There are many things in my life that I regret.
If you live the life that I have lived, the life that was chosen for me before I even had a chance to decide if it is what I wanted, regret is inevitable.
There is blood on my hands and in my soul.
Assassin! It is what I am. . .what I was and, perhaps, what I will always be.
I allowed myself to be moulded into the image that was required of me. I thought it was an honour; I was fighting for my people, for my country, for my family. . .for my father.
But he did not fight for me. I was his weapon, his tool and I was expendable. He sent me into the jaws of death and when those jaws clamped around me, squeezing the life and the humanity from me, he turned his back and allowed them to feed.
He is as dead to me now as I was to him then.
Damaged goods. . .it has been said to my face and it is probably true but the damage happened long before Somalia. I have lived with the acknowledgment of my own mortality since I wiped my sister's blood from my face. I did not kill Talia and yet her blood stains my soul as deeply as Ari's. I never thought I deserved survival, not in the market place in Israel and not in that African hell-hole.
I thought my training had prepared me for anything. I was wrong.
Was it bravery or foolishness to think I could withstand what they did to me, what I was forced to endure. It was not the beatings or the thirst or the hunger, though each in their way was enough to chip away at the walls I thought were impregnable.
I was raped.
I must say it allowed. I will not allow it to fester.
I fought for my dignity even though I knew it was a battle I would never win. I was strong but they were stronger and they did not care. I was nothing more than a vessel, a plaything with which to toy and slake their basest urges.
If I had had the means to take myself from their grasp I would have taken it with a prayer for forgiveness on my lips but I was not allowed that opportunity. I think that they realised that I had made peace with death because they forced me to live. . .in the knowledge of my own impotence. They forced me to drink, to eat, alternating treating me kindly with hours of abuse and hours of total solitude until I lost track of time and of myself.
And when I heard them drag in two more prisoners I didn't have the energy or the will to acknowledge the change in circumstance. They took no chances that I would try to communicate with their new captives, my shackles were tightened and I was hooded and gagged. But I could still hear.
I could hear the beating of fists and cudgels on flesh and hear the grunts of defiance change to cries of pain. And I pitied those poor unfortunate's who thought they could resist the inevitable.
Worse still were the unmistakable cries of despair and disbelief from the cell closest to mine, masked by a gag but still horribly recognisable. Another victim of sadistic lust. I was not so far gone in my own suffering that I couldn't pity that poor soul.
And then to be rescued. . .by the team I had betrayed!
I did not deserve it but they were there, at great risk to themselves. I was taken to a far cell and I knew at a glance that Tony was not my neighbour in suffering. He had been to his own private hell but I did not see the vacuum at the heart of him.
Our gentle, honourable. . .geek.
Bowed, shattered but, I pray, not broken beyond repair.
He never speaks of it and I don't think that anyone else sees what I see. He is the rock who underpins the team; quiet, gentle and always there.
Always there for me.
As I tried to be there for him.
I told him what they did to me in the hope that he would trust me enough to know that he could unburden his own demons upon me but he smiled that gentle smile and hugged away my tears and kept his own secrets locked so deep that he could fool everyone else that he had put Somalia behind him.
And now he is paying the price for his silence, for trying to protect us from what he suffered.
The others have gone home to sleep, some, perhaps, to weep and I am here to keep vigil.
I hold his cool fingers and try to ignore the cold clinical medical detritus that is the only thing between him and death.
The team all know now what he endured, though not in detail, and we will not allow him to hide behind his walls of selfless integrity a moment longer. As soon as he is able to hear it, we will tell him what we know and we will coax the truth from him and he will know that he is safe, with us. . .because we are in this together, a team.
There is much in my life that I regret; that I betrayed my friends, that I had no choice but to take the life of my brother, that I didn't see my father for the ruthless, heartless bastard that he is.
. . .but I will never regret returning to the team who have become closer to me than family.
I will never regret coming home.
Shireling. October 2009