So now I'm leaving. My tickets are in my inside pocket, I'm aware of the bulge of them constantly, the brush of the envelope against my shirt. Siberia, for the love of God. Everybody knows that name; it means nowhere. It's a joke. And off I go. No telling why.

A voice in my head keeps repeating that this is a pantomime suicide, an exercise conducted not to bring me to a new world but chiefly to remove myself from the world that still holds my attention, and it may once have been right--I will love the change when it begins, but at first I think maybe the strongest reason to leave was just the urge to eliminate myself. But I am not willing to die, so perhaps I dreamed up the next most dramatic exit, a way to live the fantasy that underpins most suicides anyway: that somehow your exit will chasten everyone who has failed you, and too late they will wish they had done whatever it was you most wanted of them--but somehow, magically, you will know that, and you'll get to watch it, and maybe you can somehow come back to claim the fruits of it.

I have always been fascinated by the accounts of wars. No matter how badly some general is beaten, he always seems to be able to run away into the hills and come right back with a new army. Somewhere, he finds a whole army's worth of new men... and there he is again, and maybe he wins the next round. But where do these guys come from? Weren't they all slaughtered in the last paragraph?

Or else I'm reading a biography, and the person who's been starving on the street and struggling to get a decent job, or whatever, suddenly changes towns and lives happily and comfortably, all out of nowhere. What brought that on? Weren't those troubles utterly demoralizing? Wasn't it pretty much hopeless?

And of course, the trick is that a lot of time goes by while all these changes are happening, but the story doesn't talk much about it. It takes time to get that new job, make the move, months are spent considering it, talking to people. The men who ran away from the last battles resurface and fall in line again, over a period of two or three years, long enough for a new crop of teenagers to reach fighting age. It's not a big mystery when you look at it that way. And it's a reminder of the lazy pace that history takes, much of the time--a year or two looks like nothing after a few more years have gone by.

In Bogey-land, according to Raymond Briggs, it's customary for a Bogeyman beset with debts and troubles to crawl into a voluntary interment and go to sleep for thirty or forty years. After that much time has passed, who cares any more? It's a fresh start. We have almost the same custom in the form of bankruptcy, after all.

There is something to be gained by conceding defeat. It feels like drawing a border in scorched earth, like running away from the homeland you've found already burning, but this is what people must do when they can find no better recourse: there was a king who surveyed his own ruin, his troops dead in the underbrush, smoke hanging, and realized at last that here was the spot he needed to have held, this was the place he should have fortified. So alone he gathered blackened stones from the rubble of a village and built a wall, low but defensible, exactly the thing he'd have needed to hold this land, and when everything was in place, mortar drying, he set one last stone on the ground within, and lay his head down next to it, ready at last to die of his wounds.

The king spoke: Anything that is made within, a keep or a garden or a town, it will simply have to be done by someone else in later days; I am spent in the raising of the wall itself. And history will curse me for a fool, that I didn't build my fortress when it might yet have served, when I had the men to set to building, when I had the land to defend, but hopeless or no I have built it now. For I am lost already and I have only the hope that this blood-soaked field may be fertile someday; and I would not be remembered as two times a fool.

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