I’m sitting in the living room, re-watching HBO’s “The Pacific”. John Basilone, the hero of Guadalcanal, has just died on an Iwo Jima beach.
I’ve been binge watching the show, hours at a time, and I’ve been crying my way through the whole thing. There is a terrible honesty to the series that is sad to witness. But in truth that isn’t what plants me there, watching hour after hour.
Watching “The Pacific” it’s safe to cry.
I can cry safely there because there is so much in the show that is sad and terrible and disturbing. I can cry because the show is all about young boys going off to war and doing awful things and having awful things done to them. It’s about watching ideals and relationships and bodies get shattered. And there is a lesser, more subtle message that these young boys that the show follows are going through all the terrible, transformative realities of war are fighting a foe that is so far inferior to them in almost every way imaginable – more poorly equipped, more poorly supplied, vastly outnumbered – that victory against them, while costly, is as inevitable as the tide.
But mostly I cry, and I cry because I have an excuse. While she lies in bed, the chemo drugs burning through her system, sick and exhausted and barely able to force down food and liquid because even bland food is too salty and even tepid liquid burns her mouth, I can sit in the living room and cry – quietly, of course, quietly – secure in the knowledge that if I slip, if I gasp or whimper or moan or hiccup or make any of those noises that signal distress, I have cover.
I’m crying for those poor Marines. I’m crying for their families. I am crying for their naivete, for their courage, for their callousness, for their murder. I am crying for the stupidity of war. I am crying for the poor fucking Japanese boys, seldom seen, who have it a thousand times worse, living in their spider holes, eating moldy rice, and taking orders from people who still think that running towards machine guns while yelling is a brilliant tactic.
I’m not crying because she is sick and uncomfortable and hurting. I’m not crying because I am terrified. I am not crying because there is so little I can do for her or because I might lose her or because day after day after day the grind of cancer treatment sometimes gets to me just like it gets to anyone with a loved one going through chemo.
It’s just that it’s a sad show, right?