Sherman Alexie - “What You Pawn I Will Redeem” (via swintons)
When I was thirteen, my grandmother told me a story about the Second World War. She was a nurse at a military hospital in Sydney, Australia. For two years, she healed and comforted American and Australian soldiers.
One day, she tended to a wounded Maori soldier, who had lost his legs to an artillery attack. He was very dark-skinned. His hair was black and curly and his eyes were black and warm. His face was covered with bright tattoos.
‘Are you Maori?’ he asked my grandmother.
‘No,” she said. ‘I’m Spokane Indian. From the United States.’
‘Ah, yes,’ he said. ‘I have heard of your tribes. But you are the first American Indian I have ever met.’
‘There’s a lot of Indian soldiers fighting for the United States,’ she said. “I have a brother fighting in Germany, and I lost another brother on Okinawa.’
‘I am sorry,” he said. ‘I was on Okinawa as well. It was terrible.’
‘I am sorry about your legs,’ my grandmother said.
‘It’s funny, isn’t it?’ he said.
‘How we brown people are killing other brown people so white people will remain free.’
“I hadn’t thought of it that way.’
‘Well, sometimes I think of it that way. And other times I think of it the way they want me to think of it. I get confused.’
We talked for a few minutes. She told me that she’d had a plan to join the Navy out of high school, but that fell apart because her knees were bad. She told me that she’d just finished working a 12 hour shift on a food truck. She told me that she’d moved to New York for no reason, just to get out of Kansas. “But I’m so glad I came,” she said.
“Why’s that?” I asked. Her eyes began to water.
“Because I’m so in love with a girl right now.”