Ronald York

By Vexen Crabtree 1990

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Hello,

I have found the most bizarre letter! It was amongst my Dad's junk. It is a letter from Ronald York, it looks like he was a journalist during a war somewhere. It looks old, the paper is very dirty but I typed it out! My family doesn't know anyone called "Ronald York"... I'm tempted to try and find the family of the author! But... it's like a dilemma! I don't know if Ronald's family ever found out what happened to him, or if they've seen this note, or if he actually died or if he survived! So I don't know if I'll be opening up old wounds... I want to try and find this guys wife! I bet she's remarried and has her own life... and I don't know if this will just make her unhappy. Or... conversely, if it will help her deal with the past!

Maybe his wife is gone too, though, I don't really know how old this is, must be ten years though!

Actually I found her... I'll let you read the letter, then tell you what happened afterwards.


This is my new diary. My name is Ronald York. I am writing so that I can jog my own memory about recent events that I have forgotten. I am also writing so that those who love me can hear my final words, or so that I can look back and read them myself, privately, and recall my situation.

Something is seriously wrong in my life. I know that my life is uncertain in my own mind. I cannot remember simple facts - where I am, for example. I only know my name because I have a nametag!

It is morning now and the light is coming up outside, I am spending another day in this foreboding war torn land, not knowing where or who I am. I am scared that this god-forsaken land will be my deathbed. I have no food or water.

Last night I found some of my belongings... I assume they are mine! If not then I sincerely apologize to their owner! The rucksack was covered in ash and rubble. It did not contain food or water but it shed clues on my identity. I now own several cameras, multiple films and a bent tripod. I am a journalist. I am quite unprepared for my job!

Bag didn't contain any contact details or maps, rations or medical aid. My ID is torn and burnt. Oh... I am suffering from headaches. They are serious. I feel dehydrated and exhausted. I have difficulty moving sometimes and find it intensely difficult to awake myself or get up whenever I have been to sleep. It was worse this morning than last morning.

Terrible flashbacks and my hands shake uncontrollably. I am collecting my things together and will walk.

All the windowpanes are smashed along the floors and the doors are all out of their hinges. Ash and burnt relics of lost belongings scatter and cover the uncarpeted floor. I do not know how I came to be here.

--

This is what has happened. There is some hope.

My pen is running out! Of all the things! :

I am in a town. There is conflict. Bosnia, Yugoslavia, Serbia... somewhere. I did not go far first time, just down onto the street and quickly back. The whole street is like this house, brown and black walls, destruction, ashes and rubble all down the street.

I travelled to the edge of the town and moved into the dirt fields beyond. On the horizon there were tanks. There were more than I could count and they were moving rapidly. Fear told me the destruction of this town was imminent but my intellect told me they had no reason to further demolish this town.

Oh the most terrible thing... I am wearing a wedding ring. And I very much want the arms of my lover. I love you. Forgive me. You are right: I need to change my line of work. I am sorry.

There were rumblings in the ground, explosions in the air and plumes of dust on the horizon. Firing missiles and rockets in to the air at invisible enemy, the tanks told me half the story of a war, a desperate and long war. And this is when something happened to me.

On the way there I met a family. For an hour when walking I saw nothing that moved, and after that a small withered family: they were starving and would not leave their crippled husband behind. They did not understand English and I did not understand them. I do not even know what language they had spoken to me in. I passed them by. They were not entirely middle Eastern, not Arabs, but not English either.

I will return with fantastic good and money and... I'm going crazy.

There were helicopters overhead, they were attack the attacks with some success... one by one the tanks exploded. In order. It is like the tanks did not understand that they were being destroyed... they just sat there and submitted themselves to their fate! They were still firing... but into the air, landing their projectiles on unseen horizons. And the helicopters fired!

My legs gave way in fear when the ground shook. The rumbling of the ground told me there were heavy vehicles moving around the village. Dust and concrete was becoming dislodged from buildings all around. Fear and death everywhere... except that there was nothing living except me, and no one to die except me! Everything was already dead. The atmosphere was choking me, surrounded by the explosions under the Earth, the tanks on the Horizon and the helicopters above I knew the feeling of complete mind-altering fear. I heard the whoosh of guns and missiles and covered my ears. I was curled up on the floor, the dust in my eyes; unable to scream when something happened.

I found myself distant from everything. Everything seemed unreal. It feels like this when I get head rushes. But this time there was no pain or feeling. I felt free! And I had an urge, I feel much better now for doing what I did! I feel healed and clean. I have taken many photographs of the decay... I have photographed machines destroying machines; I have switched shutter speeds and captured missiles, flares and explosions with a great efficiency and skill.

I have taken still records of exploding tanks. I have permanently captured the decadent violence of war on film... I have fed from the inhumanity. And this is how I earn a living! Should I photograph the mostly dead family I failed to communicate to earlier? Should I make a living from those people too?

Should I venture out to where the smoking ruins of the tanks are, and find Human remains amongst the twisted metal? Is that also a circumstance where I am to practice my skills? If anything... I have learnt today that I am to leave this town, this country, and return home and never venture out again.

Death and decay. Click. Explosions, excitement. Click. War, machinery, twisted metal... click click. The broken homes of a broken people, the hopeless future of a war torn populace. The crying and sobbing of a child who doesn't understand why her crippled father does not help her silent mother. Failed... I didn't click that. Failed... I have lost my identity as a Human Being.

As I realized that the tanks and war were not about me, I realized that I may survive to live another day. And so my fear returned and I retreated to a different house. A charcoal skeleton of safety... a home. I imagined a family. I imagined children playing with children, the daily chores of a working family, the parents sneaking off to make love upstairs, candlelit dinners. And I imagined what it would feel like to sit facing your loved one, the one you protect... and see in her eyes a fear. A fear that if war should come you will be unable to stop it... that no super human can resist the destructive element of Human nature.

That all the love of the members of the family that once lived in this simple house... all that love could not stop the inhumanity of humanity destroying lives. Maybe if they saw things like I do... like my camera does, then those who engage in war would not do so. But how can you photograph emotions? Or when the sweat of human work has turned into the dusty smell of charcoal, how do you photograph the loss? Do people become desensitised?

My head hurts... it makes my arms tingle. Sometimes my skin feels wet... I don't feel like myself. I feel confused and there is a storm in my head that comes and goes. If the Eagles come then maybe I can get a lift! There are never any cabs when you want to go shopping. Never any cheap jeans, or three for one deals. I know that some of the shop owners would remove the items of clothing I was looking for when I went shopping because I could see the receipts. It makes me angry to think about deception! I can remember we keep all our receipts in a drawer except sometimes I just thrown mine away because I'm lazy and inconsiderate. Oh… hang on I'm sorry, I don't know what I'm talking about. I'm going to read back and remind myself what I was writing. My arm feels wet and my back and shoulders ache. I think my bones are out of place.

I will tell you about the hope! I left the town, and a helicopter flew by. I was scared as I didn't want to be shot. But I don't know what came over me... I chased the helicopter and waved and jumped. My instincts were right because it didn't shoot me. It circled me above and flew off. A minute later three larger helicopters chased after it, laying out a pattern of vapour trails ahead of themselves as they unleashed missiles. I hope the helicopter crew had the time or inclination to use their radios and tell someone I'm here!

Because I hope that I am missed! But I have to be realistic. Tomorrow I am going to write a note and pin in to a prominent building and follow the dirt road out of here. If I stick to the road, I will eventually come to see larger towns on the horizon. I have no other choice.

I am leaving this diary behind, I will bury it. I am leaving instructions on how to unbury it in the message I leave on the biggest building in this town, and will carry a similar message with me. If you find this diary... please follow the road. I will travel away from the sun in the morning if there are two roads. Going West! Please come find me.

If however you find my note and I am dead, please keep this note and let it find its way to the owner of the other half of the wedding ring I am wearing. If I survive, it is her who kept me going.

Love,

  • me.

I found Sarah York. She didn't remarry, and she didn't ever find out what happened to her husband. She was very sad... but I think I did the right thing. I'm kind of angry at my Dad for never pursuing this letter.. but Dad was a bit crazy after leaving the forces! I feel really sorry for old Sarah... I think she's spent many years all alone. She mentioned she has a girl though, and we talked a bit but I didn't ask where she was now. She's so alone :-(

I'd hate to be old! I don't know how you can spend so many years not knowing what happened to someone who you love. Oh... I saw a photo of Ronald! He was attractive, only young, whenever the photo was taken over ten years ago. I feel like this silly event has changed my life somehow... life is so long! But things can go wrong, and you can end up alone like this woman, suffering under her own emotions and love. I'd hate anything like that to happen to me, but I would just get on with my life and find someone else after a few years! She must have really loved him!


Notes:
This text is based around a letter from Ronald York. The actual letter is something I wrote as an English assignment. I can't remember what the actual assignment was, but I got good grades. I was about 13 years old, I think. I have edited it slightly. The surrounding notes are supposed to be written by a twenty something woman who found the note, I'm not sure if it's apparent from the text that the author is supposed to be female... ending it with a sentence like "She must have really loved him!" seems like a feminine thing to do.

Current edition: 2002 Dec 01
http://www.vexen.co.uk/unforgiving/ronaldyork.html
Parent page: Unforgiving Circumstances: Poetry and Artwork

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