Sunday, 11 August 2019


Jac eased himself out of his chair to walk the short distance to the kitchen where he filled the jug with water ready to have his 6th cup of tea for the day.

Waiting for the jug to boil, he thought how good things were. It had taken him quite a while to get to this point, but now he had hit his sweet spot, he embraced it.

He’d been able to turn two hobbies into income streams, one as a rafting guide taking groups down the mighty Rallye River and the other, snapping shots for publishing houses where he’d get royalties each time his photos were used.

Thinking back to his early years, he never thought about what he’d do when he left school. His parents kept him on to matriculate but there was never any mention of University. Instead, when the armed forces arrived, it seemed natural for him to sign up.

He served 20 years and did three deployments. In 1991, he went to Northern Iraq during the aftermath of the Gulf War, working with soldiers from other nations to provide a safe environment for Kurd refugees to return to their homes and supplied humanitarian aid. Then there was, Rwanda, 1994 – cleaning up the country after the genocide.

To aid his own healing, Jac recently returned to see both the people and economy doing well, and he was proud of the clean-up. In 2004 he provided humanitarian relief for tsunami victims.

Army life was not without its challenges but the comraderie he shared with others meant there was understanding without judgement, particularly when it mattered. Little did he know how much this would come into play until the day of his toughest assignment, learning about the break-up with Raylene while in Rwanda.

They’d pledged their love for one another before he left and exchanged rings. Raylene thought it better to wait until he returned before getting married. They spoke of kids and building lives together.

Optimism about his future prepared him for the challenges he faced. When he arrived, he was an army driver, but instead was given the job of scrubbing out rooms in the morgue to get them fit for purpose after being left filthy from the war.

The work was difficult knowing atrocities had been committed there. To stay upbeat, he snapped locals in the streets and in their homes – and was always amazed how people made the best of what they had. He came to realise, hope was universal. There was also Raylene. She was the reason he got up every day.

The news couldn’t have come at a worse time, he’d had a gruelling day and it was his 28th birthday. Returning to camp, he was ecstatic to discover he had mail. Looking at the postage from home, he anticipated birthday wishes. Excitedly he opened it. To his dismay, though, it was not birthday wishes that greeted him but instead a stark message, ‘it’s over for you and Raylene.’ There was no explanation, no talk, just the blunt message.

Astounded by the news, it took him a few moments for it to sink in. When it did, he could only cry. His colleagues concerned, asked him if he was alright. He waved the letter their way and reading it they rallied around seeking to support him the best way they could. As the night wore on, they got him some sleeping aids and helped him back to the barracks where he barely moved due to the heavy sedation.

The following morning, despite knowing it was over, Jac had to speak with Raylene. Officers gave him permission to put a call through. When he finally spoke with her, she confirmed she had met someone else. Someone, she said, who she could love as much as she’d loved him.

Speechless, he dropped the phone and heard the line click before it dropped out. It was the last time they would ever speak.

Suppressing his pain, he threw himself into work and his actions were noticed by superiors. He moved up - leading troops, but it was his improvisation when it mattered that impressed them the most. The years of rafting and camping out on the mighty Rallye weaved resourcefulness into his psyche. Everyday challenges were easily overcome on his watch.

He’d found the army validating as it gave credence to his ability as a leader and showcased his talents. He gained, though, the most satisfaction from the work his regiment did out in the field and he developed great commitment to them with safety uppermost always in his mind.

After 20 years, however, he felt he’d gotten as much as he could out of his career. Hankering for civilian life, he hung up his army fatigues. He was 39 years old.

After resigning, came the arduous task of it – the whole Raylene thing and the aftermath of the experiences on deployment. He’d already moved north from his hometown during his service, preferring the coast but also wanting to forget…her. He did though make trips back to his hometown during his service and was relieved to learn she’d moved to another state so he wouldn’t run into her. He took rafting groups down the mighty Rallye River and attributed his recovery to his work which took him out into nature – therapy it seemed, was right on his door step.

Still, he felt there was something missing.

He hadn’t actively looked for love again…... It wasn’t that he didn’t want to….it was more that he feared…. vulnerability.

Read More - Jacaranda - Chapter 2 

Photo by Kalen Emsley on Unsplash - mountain
Photo by Fabien Maurin on Unsplash - army

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