Goodbye to old boots

by Elias Blum


This weekend I said goodbye to my old boots.

These were the boots I wore in Iraq. They are ventilated with breathable canvas panels which makes them comfortable in the heat (although completely unsuited to wet climates). I found them much better than the issue ‘Desert Boots’.

Anyway, they’ve been living on a shelf for more than a decade now, and I wouldn’t wear them again (although they have plenty of wear left in them), so my wife suggested that I might get rid of them. I agreed, but I was ill prepared for the emotional response of actually seeing them packed in a box to go to the charity shop. It’s one thing to say ‘yes, they can go’, another to actually see them go.

It felt like part of me, part of my past, my story, was being ripped away, leaving a very raw wound. I have so few connections now to that part of me. It was an important part, a formative part, of my life – even if it was one that I had to put behind me. I invaded a country in these boots. I got shot at in these boots. I was complicit in great evil in these boots. I put a gun to a man’s head in these boots with my finger on the trigger (he surrendered). I walked past people being tortured in these boots and didn’t say anything because I thought it was normal and I didn’t know what to say or who to tell. I almost put the same gun to my own head in these boots. And it’s hard just to let all that go.

Today is the first day in about three years when I’ve had a serious PTSD attack. I thought I was over it. But that same crushing nausea and self-loathing that I used to know so well came rushing back to me. Barely made it to work. I’m sitting here numb, just rambling about these old boots.

I don’t want sympathy or anything like that. It’s just that sometimes a pair of old boots is more than just a pair of old boots. Sometimes, those old boots represent something that’s hard to carry and even harder to put down. And sometimes its easier to express these things in writing than to actually say them.