The story is enough.

The story is enough.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

"Peacetime" by Luke Mogelson

This story can be found here in the April 27, 2015 issue of The New Yorker.

First Line: "I was living in the armory on Lexington Avenue."

Last Line: "Somewhere someone was calling my name."

Oh, I enjoyed this story!  From beginning to end, I was engaged.  I didn't look to check the clock or flip the pages ahead, wondering how many more were left.  With the first line, I just settled in for the ride.

The narrator tells us he was living in an armory.  Not staying overnight to get away from it all and clear his head.  Not a drill weekend for his unit.  Not stopping by to chat with the commanding officer.  He was living there.  He told the First Sergeant "two weeks, max" and ended up there for months after returning stateside.  He was avoiding going home to his wife.

Why?  We don't know yet.  But as we follow the episodes that occurred during this time, we find out more about the man we only know by last name, Papadopoulos.  

He works as an EMT.  There is a "regular" 911 caller - a lonely widow who calls in every Wednesday.  He and his partner, Karen, respond to a motorcycle accident, a rotting body, a gas explosion, a failed suicide attempt. Twice.  All of these incidents skillfully intertwine with Papadopoulos's off-hand attitude about his marriage, a war-induced pulmonary disease, a new hobby - kleptomania, drinking, drill weekends.  

Papadopoulos tells us everything that is going on with candid honesty.  There is an unburdening of self that shows he is conscious of the audience to his story, but also is not completely aware of himself just yet. Karen hits the nail on the head: "You think you're being a good person, but you're not.  What you're being is afraid."  

Every episode of this story is shared for a reason - to give us insight into this young veteran.  We learn about him best through his interactions with his commanders, partner, neighbor, fellow soldiers, patients. 

He is a good person.  He has loyalties and a sense of right and wrong.  And his profession is one of rescue and nurture - to come into a moment of crisis and create a sense of order and control, healing.  

But who can offer him the healing he is seeking?  War creates an altered definition of "peacetime" and here, now, looking back on the events shared, Papadopoulos recognizes he is broken and haunted.  "Someone somewhere is calling [his] name."

The writing voice of Luke Mogelson is conversational, like a casual interview. With increasing comfort, Papadopoulos spirals deeper and deeper into memories, creating a tight and honest tale.  The details are written with such conviction and accessibility it could be a nonfiction account.  And such a tone held my interest.  The realism of the story, the emotion, the humanness were welcoming.  Mogelson posed questions without dictating a solution. Heavy and important themes were approachable here.

I searched for more of this author's work after reading this piece. He is a journalist by trade and I was able to look at some of those writings.  I found them to be compelling as well.  I look forward to more by Luke Mogelson.

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