I encountered Concrete Man in #Kabul. Not born of woman, CM seemed constructed of gravel, lime, and sunburn. A molten alchemy had been poured into formwork that barely contained him. They built him roughly square-ish, about five-eight by five-two wide. The artisans decorated him with forearm tattoos, a deep leather coating stretched taut over the bulbous frame, and stuck a couple of light blue headlights for eyes beneath his grey buzzcut. His muscularity reminded me of a sculptor’s work, layer upon layer of careful built upon clay, nothing of the glossy preciousness of the gym. Like a ballerina at #pointe, CM teetered on the head of a pin between excruciating good manners, and the hardly contained reek of homicide. He was so polite. Once landed, he helped lesser mortals take their bags from the overhead shelves. He insisted that others should go first. In customs queue, we bitched about #Kabul, exposure to random death, the circularity of history. He’d come with the British forces in 2001, and 17 fighting seasons later, he hated the place yet. He was a #Paras recruit, scraped from #BrickLane when #BethnelGreen was still Dickens’ scrappy East London vault, mired in soot and poverty. I’d known Afghanistan since #Taliban days, so we had points of comparison, things to chat on. He had a new job these days. He could only hiss what he told me through the locked teeth of his latched jaw. He was a one-man phalanx, a lone #Thermopylae. His fights were etched in the creases of his brow, and in scribbled neck scars. No longer a soldier as such, he was employed to stand guard between frail teachers who travelled to the provinces to teach Afghan children (sponsored by the Nordics no doubt) and the Taliban who would do them in for an Inshallah. Just him. Him and a #Glock, a #Kalashnikov, a belt of grenades, and pure grit. In the bar, he drank whisky and vodka as though he were taking snuff: short, sharp intakes that briefly lit his eyes, and brought the veins on his neck out like serpents. “But,” he said, “at least I managed to see my kids through school.” And therein we found our commonality. Just men. Just fathers.
#lostsouls #loversofugliness #stoic #kalokagathia