I live in a war... (and I say "I love you")

I live in a war. Of course, no one ever uses that word. When it comes to speak about Venezuela, everyone’s agree we are in some sort of “crisis”. “Crisis” sounds abstract to me, like something afar; something that intellectuals use to explain things we more often than not find hard to understand: “a political crisis”, “an economical crisis”, “an institutional crisis”. Whenever I hear this, I imagine “politics” as some teenager having a “crisis”: pushing pillows and screaming, complaining non sense over phone, writing long whims at some Facebook’ wall. No one uses the world “war” and if they do, it’s only a figurative term: “this is like a war”. I doubt there is something in the middle, something between being in a war and not being in one. What is it like to live under a situation “war alike”?
Since this is my blog and I can say whatever I want in the way I want it, in the way I feel it, the way I sense it and the way I live it; I’m going to say that I live in a war. I know this is hard to fall for.

We are used to very strict definitions of war, maybe we owe that to Hollywood and World War II movies. Because of those we like to think of wars as several formal armies fighting against each other, with sophisticated weapons, planes, ships, huge battles, submarines and an overwhelming devastation; a devastation everyone can see, a city destroyed from head to toes, houses down, refugees, death everywhere. The elements we use to commonly identify a war are not useful here. If we go to the shopping malls on weekends and to elegant weddings on Saturday nights, if we call our boyfriends only to speak about how was our day in the office and to dedicate the remaining ten minutes to endless declarations about how much we miss each other during work days, if we take our kids to a birthday party and gather with the family for a barbeque on Sundays, if we have a romantic dinner at a restaurant and go see a movie afterwards… If you live like that, would you call it “war”? My answer is yes.

This is a war. There’s nothing official about it. There are not signed documents, there are not ONU meetings, and there are not concentration camps and no headlines or tweets updating you about the latest events of “the war in Venezuela”. But just because is not official doesn’t mean that is “less” war. Its like seeing your friends; Tatiana and Fernando, hanging out together, sending corny text messages to each other, making out when they think no one is looking, holding hands and attending meetings together… and to believe that since neither of them calls each other boyfriend or girlfriend; there is nothing between them. It is love anyway. Same as war, it doesn’t need to be official to exist, to fulfill your life, to take over your senses.

Just as love doesn’t need to be told out loud to be felt, war doesn’t need to be named for us suffer its effects. Same as love revolves first inside, disturbing your stomach and why not? Your concentration; long before anyone notices it, long before you notice it… This is a war that everyone feels but no one knows it truly exists. This war is happening inside us, inside our moods, our minds, our hearts. It revolves our stomach but not to give us any excitements but to fill us with worries. But we don’t ever say it, not even when we talk about it.

I live in war that doesn’t comes at once, but comes slowly, moving like a gentle shadow and stopping at your door from one day to another without warning, stopping at some friend’s door; and then leaving again.

A friend was briefly kidnapped a couple of nights ago, at 7 Pm, when he was visiting another friend. His family didn’t know if he was okay till 6 am of the next day. I don’t know how the kidnappers let him go, what were the negotiations in between. My friend doesn’t tell the whole story to anyone, not even to the ones who are closer to him. His kidnapping and all the details are now a family secret, fearing possible sequels, possible revenges, you don’t know from what or who. A girl in my office refuses to take the bus. Her parents pick her up at the office everyday or she takes a taxi, even considering that she lives far away from the office, there’s a lot of traffic and cabs are ridicule expensive. But a few months ago she heard a story about an armed gang which entered a bus, ordered the conductor to stop by at some lonely area and then, ordered all male passengers to get off the bus; leaving only the women there. Then, the gang systematically raped all the women inside the bus. I don’t know if this story is true and neither does the girl in my office. But since this supposedly happened in her route, she decided to never take a bus again.

I don’t go to certain places, I don’t carry a lot of cash, and I have neither expensive cell phones nor expensive clothes. I try to look as much “low profile” as I can; which is just non sense; If you consider my low salary. I’m careful not to speak out many opinions in certain places. Every time I write this blog I’m a bit scared. I fear of possible unknown consequences. A possible Internet censorship it’s the least of my fears. Prison is the highest. So I always write every word carefully, trying to control every thought that wants to come out but it wouldn’t be appropriate, try to speak and not speak at the same time, to not provide details, to change those that are necessary, to miss clues, to use words that would possible classify me as a “traitor”. You watch your mouth and open and close your door quickly, you not leave stuff in your car, you don’t safe stuff in your bag’ pockets and gently put your arm above the clap to secure your belongings. You are already used to look to all sides when you cross a street: both sides of the cars coming, both sides of the sidewalk in case a motorcycle its also coming; and then to your left, your right and your back in case someone suspicious is following you. You perform all those rituals unconsciously in a couple of seconds. It’s only when you detect a weird look, a strange movement and walk quickly and refugee in a shop; when you notice that you are doing that every single time, every single day. It’s on that moment when you realize that this war has been here for some time, I’m not sure for how long.

I live in a war that goes inside; in a war feed with uncertainty. I live in a dark war. In a war that lacks of information except for the stories passing from mouth to mouth and from Tweet to Tweet. I live in a war where I don’t know who the “good ones” and the “bad ones” are; I don’t know whose the armies belong to, I’m unaware of their power, of their tactics; I’m far from delude their intentions. I just suspect that this lack of information is convenient for at least one side, or maybe for everyone involved. I suspect this is a war of everybody against everybody, against all things that are worth for no reason, against me and what I represent. But I’m not the victim of this war. I do not exist in this war. I’m not involved. I’m just living it, living inside it without playing any significant role in the game. I’m just here, standing and breathing its suffocating air, smelling its remaining, overwhelmed by all tangible and non tangible destruction that leaves behind.

This war smells like loneliness, like anxiety; it gives me the same sensation of that when one enters a room that is messy, disorganized, filled with papers, 40 year old files and books with woodworms. A room that is old but it looks more forgotten than old. The fact that it was left like that it’s the important part, not how much time it has passed. This war smells like that dust that spreads when you try to clean up the mess, that enters your nose and your eyes until you can’t take it, until you start sneezing and you know that the only thing that will stop your allergies would be getting out of there. I’m allergic to dust. I’m allergic to war too. The dust’ allergy runs inside your nose while the war’ one enters your chest. It’s emotional; it oppresses you and it can control you if you let it; if you think for too long about that story you just heard, if you feel too much sorry for the leading roles of such story, if you become aware that they are like you and you could have their exact same luck. We like in the war of the “what if”, which petrifies our senses. What if I’m next? What if this is what will happen next? This possibility which might not be real but feels like it petrifies your senses.

Sometimes it make us lay down in bed thinking that if only we could stay there all the time – and our love ones too – then maybe, nothing would happens to us. Perhaps that would be another way out: to lock down in our shelters and close our eyes until it’s over. The sleeping beauty tale makes now more sense to me. But something always wakes me up. Even at home, we hear gunshots out there sometimes. We don’t know if they were really gun shots or fireworks or if the fireworks we are hearing were used to hide the sound of the gunshots. We don’t know if someone has get hurt or has been killed and where, and how, and because of what. We hear sirens. We secure our doors. We make sure our must precious belongings are not visible from the street.

This is a war that has discovered that fear is the most powerful weapon of all. Forget about guns, AK 47, tanks, airplanes, ships, antrax, bombs, grenades… The fear it’s the only weapon that can be used over and over again without leaving any visible print, without facing any legal responsibility. The fear can be created with relatively low effort gaining outstanding results. The fear can withdraw a whole population, keeping them in line; in their line, to their rules. The fear is simply effective. Fast, cheap, clean, even innocent, but overall; effective. The fear is contagious and has the ability to expand. If one fears the spiders it also fears dark corners where spiders might hide, fears the slight touch on the back from a annoying friend; or the breeze or the palm tree… since it reminds the walk of a spider.

We fear about us, about all of us. And is that extensive fear what makes us look at our love ones in an entire new way. We easily became over protective. My boyfriend knows that he must call me as soon as he gets home after he drops me at my building. If he takes more than ten minutes to make that call, I start worrying. One day his cell was running off battery and he didn’t not call me till it was half an hour later than usual. I was near crying. My mom usually picks me up at work if I have to work extra hours because I can’t afford to come home when the night has fallen. My boyfriend asks me over and over again to take care of myself.

I live in a war. I have no doubt about it. I don’t need anyone to declare it. The reality is so overwhelming that I would consider an offence to see someone calling the press and openly admitting it. But I also live my life. Life does not paralyse abruptly when this kind of war erupts. It keeps moving. The sun keeps shinning. The office expects you at 8 am. Your family expects you at 6 or 7 Pm. You spend the weekend wondering around malls, you are looking for a dress to attend to a wedding of a very close friend in a few weeks.

Your boyfriend calls you at 10 am laughing and saying “I love you”.

You don’t say that you fear for him, that you fear for yourself, that food is scarce and money even more, that whatever you used to call freedom its now seriously injured. Is not that you don’t want to hurt him or worry him more, is just that you are who you are: a dreamer. A dreamer who’s certain that same as war can conquer all; love might have the same prerogative. It’s a cliché, I know it. Sounds like the typical phrase one would expect to hear in a beauty pageant. But the cliché stops being so when you really understand it, when you feel like you really need it.

You smile. You just say “I love you" back to him.

You keep moving. And keep living your life; in a war.