Cowardice Picture

Taylor Leong, 2014. Watercolor and India Ink.

He never wanted to be a soldier. Oh, it had been fun to fantasize about it, back when he was young, listening to his Grandfather’s fanciful tales of conquest and battle. This war was different than the beautiful and grand scenes Grandfather would describe to him–here there were no heroes, no colorful flags with the sigils of kings flowing from the staves of noble cavalrymen. This war was full of nothing but smoke, dust, gas and ugliness. He was an artist at heart, and wanted nothing more to do than be back home, sketching at the museums and drawing portraits of all the beautiful young ladies who would pass by. He used to view the grand oil paintings showing the muscular heroes of Greco-Roman mythology brandishing weapons blessed by the gods. Today the weapons were supernatural too, in a way–blessed by the new deities of the age, scientists and inventors racing each other to see who could pry the newest deadly element out of the earth.

He was standing in the middle of a rural town where boxes, suitcases, clothes could be seen flung to the side of the road, covered with dust. The few residents that had lived here had fled a long time ago, and now he was here, alone, and couldn’t remember how he had ended up so far away from the rest of his troop. The setting was beautiful in its solitude and stillness, and he wished he could make a watercolor to capture the pale colors of field, dust, and sky. But even if he had his materials with him, who would he show it to? He would have been happy to see anyone, from either side of the war, who he could ask: Am I in my own country? But of course, there was no one left answer in whatever language they had.

He thought he would rest a while. Play that game children’s game, where you close your eyes and pretend that you have become invisible to everyone around you. If he closed his eyes here, where there was no one to look for him, would he truly disappear? For a moment he hesitated, wondering if he was maybe too old to be thinking such childish ideas, but he quickly dismissed the thought. If his adulthood was meant to be spent trudging in some army across unknown lands for the sake of some high and distant political troubles, he would very well afford to indulge in some harmless childish play.

Walking along the road, he found a good-sized box that looked like it had been a sort of fruit crate–for tomatoes, perhaps– and hid inside it. It was smelly and he realized his uniform would probably gain some unsightly stains, but he didn’t care. Sitting squarely in the middle of the road, someone was bound to find him at some point, trudging along like he had originally. Until then, he would wait. He closed his eyes, and disappeared.

[Thank you for viewing/reading! This was originally for a series about people in boxes (don't ask why) and of course the first thing that came to mind was the silly opening of Hetalia that we've all familiarized ourselves with. Of course, in the series it's played off for laughts, but I wanted to explore what was going through Ita's mind, especially during this particularly turbulent time in European history–referenced to how many scientific innovations were created for the purposes of weaponry, as well as the dissonance between the way the war was purported to be at the beginning and the way it actually ended up :/ A scary and lonely time indeed. ]

Bonus: Ita's uniform reference:
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