C A T H E R I N E    B U S H



Novel Excerpt

I study war. Iím a researcher, a theorist, an associate director of the Centre for Contemporary War Studies. I have a degree in War Studies, and I like the baldness of that. Not Defense Studies or Conflict Studies or Peace and Conflict Studies. No one declares war any more, some eminent analysts say. The concept of war is outmoded. But I donít see the point in talking around what we are really talking about when we are really talking about war.

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A few people, men especially, still appear shocked when they find out what I do - not so much because Iím a woman, but because of the way I look. Because I like to wear long, clingy skirts and dark-red lipstick and in boots with heels I stand as tall as they do. If I let loose my hair, it would fall halfway down my back.
Other people simply ask me why I do what I do.
There are things I want to know, I tell them. Things I believe itís important to try to explain. Iíd rather think about these things than not.

I woke in the dark to the echo of Lux's voice wafting through the flat. Come back. Why don't you come back? I struggled to right myself in the landscape of the familiar: the white walls of my windowless bedroom, so small that the double bed engulfed it, the sea of white bed sheets. Rising, I pulled my old silk robe from the hook inside the closet door and slipped it around my shoulders. The turquoise numbers on the digital clock read 5:06.

Brain runs through muscle tissue, my friend Tim, the doctor, has told me. Memory lurks throughout the body. There are days when I can press sharp nodes and feel the muscles twang - Evan, here. Neil there. Martin. Lux. My mother. My father.
Galaxy, Evan whispers in my ear, is derived from the Greek word for milk - think of it, Cay, a sky full of spilled milk. He licks my cheek. And sky comes from the Latin word for skin.
Pain travels, Tim says, it migrates. Where it originates is not always where it ends up.
At times, without warning, Iíll press my palm and hear the roar of a Toronto subway train, the hum of a streetcarís metal wheels singing in their metal tracks. Iíll touch a point beneath my shoulder and see myself in Toronto racing towards the streetcar stop at Queen and Bathurst, or College and Spadina. Or Iíll be back in Brixton - Martin rattling down a staircase, slamming shut the old vanís door.
Some days I feel theyíre with me always, carried within me as neurochemical presence, encoded in peptides and combinations of proteins, impossible to escape. An interior war.
Some days loss, pure loss and the longing for whatís lost, for what I failed to do, grows nearly toxic in my blood.

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