Friday, October 31, 2008

Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory

'You know, I am never sure whether the pain of not letting me drink vodka is worth the price. I mean, I appreciate all they have done for us. This warm little room you have beats sitting on a cardboard mat begging on the streets of Moscow over a Russian winter. And the food here is, well, hospital food reminds me of Army food and I think I was one of the few of us conscripts who enjoyed the food the glorious Russian Army provided. Provided you spiced it up with a swig of vodka. And that brings me back to my first point. If they just let me have a small sip of vodka now and again, my life would be perfect.

'Well, as perfect as you can get with no real eyes. Not that my old eyes did much for me - all burned out and useless. I could barely see the hands in front of my face, for all the thrashings my father gave to make me read. Well, it wasn't a waste of time when I was driving a tank. Ah, the beauty of a T72, the roar of the diesel engines, the useless chugging of the autoloader, was only compounded by the baroque complexities of the operating manuals. At least I could read them - otherwise I'd have ended up being a foot soldier on some forgotten front.

'I guess army issue beatings and a brush with the odd Islamist would have been better than blind and begging in a Russian winter. How was I to know? A blink and you missed it error with the laser range finder, and I'm blind and extraneous as far as the Russian army is concerned. But now... I'm a valued treasure in the heart of the IM Sechenov Moscow Medical Academy. Because Comrade Maykov... sorry, Chief Scientist Maykov... you know, with us no longer being a communist country and all, is not cooperating in the grand Kremlin scheme of things. I'm a living prize until they figure it out.

'Not that the eyes he grew me do much good. Nine times out of ten I wake up looking like the morning after a hard night on the vodka. These black and white spots and flashes. Just like a hangover. Which is why I want the vodka - I'm sure it'll fix things again.

'That's the secret of a hangover. More drinking, good and proper. Fixes your body right up. You see, alcohol converts from ethanol to acetaldehyde, which is the poison that you feel in your system the morning after, the black spots dancing in your vision, the malodorous head aches, the vomiting. It finally cleans up as ascetic acid, which is harmless, but you have to go through the pain first. But at higher alcohol levels, you get the MEOS system kicking in, which doesn't have that nasty acetaldehyde step to bring you down. So keep drinking to top yourself up and you'll feel fine.

'Just like the way we've run Russia since the break up. Keep topping up the binge, on oil, on nationalism, on invading our old property around the Caucasus, keep topping up ourselves until we get drunk and angry and stagger into China in a jealous fit. We should have handled our hangovers the Chinese way. Not drinking in the first place, because they can't handle their drink the way we do.

'Ah well, soldier. Enough of my ramblings. I'd best be off to the next bed. You'll be up and around, just as soon as they figure my eyes out. Of course, my accident is a little different in scale to what the Chinese are using. Just be grateful you're a foot soldier and not in a tank. I hear they shoot our tin cans even after their eyes are out. Whereas you and your comrades they leave behind. Whole divisions of you, cradling your bright, burned faces in your hands.

'A generation lost, the papers are saying. Tens of thousands, maybe hundreds. Now that's a hangover... But don't you worry, as soon as they figure out my eyes, you'll be the first to get them.

'And I'll be back to my vodka, with a medal on my chest.'