An Open Letter From the Piece of Shrapnel in the Rear End of an IDF Soldier

I’ve known you since ’48, and even if you do whatever you can to forget I exist, I’m there in the back all the time, and somehow I’ve started to feel I’m a part of you.

Sayed Kashua
Sayed Kashua
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Sayed Kashua
Sayed Kashua

Hey, Yoav. Yes, yes, you − the soldier from Golani − why didn’t you tell me you were a friend of Bennett’s? Man, I would’ve given you props. Yes, it’s me talking − the piece of shrapnel in your bottom, close to the spine. I know it’s surprising that a bit of metal can talk, and in Hebrew for that matter. But hey, that’s what happened − I’ve been stuck in your ass and been a part of your body for so long that I ended up learning your language. Forgive the accent, but my mother tongue is a bit more guttural. By the way, man, I’m sorry that it’s agony for you every time you go to the bathroom, but, believe me, I’m even worse off. No offense, but god do you stink. I can hardly breathe.

I have to be honest, I felt a little surge of pride when Naftali Bennett mentioned you in his speech. His voice sounded kind of familiar, though I can’t see anything up front, you know. Where Bennett’s concerned, you’re doing me a favor, I grant you, but couldn’t you have turned your back to the screen for a little bit during Peres’ 90th birthday celebration? I’m dying to see how the guy looks now. They say that he’s got the hottest piece in the neighborhood stuck in his ass.

Anyway, you should know that it’s not easy for me to have this conversation with you. Ever since I found out you’re close to Bennett, I’ve been wondering what to do. I even consulted with some other bits of shrapnel I met yesterday when you went to Beit Hahayal. They actually told me to keep quiet, that it wouldn’t help, but still I told myself − I’m different. I’ve known you since ’48, and even if you do whatever you can to forget I exist, I’m there in the back all the time, and somehow I’ve started to feel I’m a part of you. I know you don’t like it, but that’s just how it is, man. Believe it or not, I even worry about you a little.

Listen to me, Yoav. Don’t listen to your friend. Don’t listen to Bennett. Remember that he’s mostly looking out for his own ass. He doesn’t know how much you suffer, and how it keeps getting harder as time goes on. You’re not young anymore, Yoav, and you still haven’t found love. You fought hard, I can attest to that myself, and you deserve a healthier life. Yoav, I know that it’s hard for you to sleep at night, I know how hard it is for you to look in the mirror and lie to those around you. If you haven’t noticed, you’re not going to parties as much as you used to, and who better than me can understand. Remember that I’m stuck in your behind and hear everything people say about you the minute you turn your back.

This isn’t easy for me to tell you, Yoav, but yes, people say you walk crooked; some even say you’re ugly. Even people who you think love you, who keep coming to your birthday parties, who smile at you, see a pathetic man who won’t be able to go on keeping it together. For now they’re afraid of you because of your power, they smile at you because of the hardships of the past, but they despise you, Yoav. Not because you were born this way, but because of your actions, because of your attitude toward me.

I know it’s hard to be alone. Look at me. Aside from you I have nothing. I, who exploded into a thousand pieces, was left here alone. You think I don’t want to reunite with all the other bits of shrapnel? You think I don’t dream of returning home, to the land?

Have the operation. Save me and save yourself. I’m taking a risk here too, you know. We also have a saying − better the ass you know than the ass you don’t. I often think to myself that maybe I’ve just grown too accustomed to your smell. Often I’m afraid life will be harder on the outside. As you know, pieces of shrapnel can sometimes be very fragile beings, and sometimes just the thought that I’ll have to go around in the world as one who came out of a Jew’s ass makes me want to curl up and not move. I know, it must hurt you − again, my apologies.

Know your body’s limits, Yoav, and stop telling yourself lies, don’t bequeath them to your children. We both know you have no idea what the Jewish people is, where it begins or ends. We both know you don’t know exactly what the Land of Israel is, where it begins or ends. Not to mention me, whose maneuvering room stretches from your intestines to your anus. Even though there are times, I swear, when it’s quiet and peaceful, that I can actually hear your heart beating − and that gives me a few moments of tranquillity, even hope.

Your time is running out, Yoav, and as the years go by, you’re just getting uglier. How long do you think you can go on living exclusively amid people like you? How long do you think you can survive without love, and without the ability to hold your head up and walk erect?

Sometimes, when you get together with your few friends, practically the only ones who are still willing to talk to you − those friends who all, without exception, suffer from a piece of shrapnel or two here and there − I am filled with pity and truly touched. When you meet to encourage one another, when you vow to trample all the bits of shrapnel to dust, precisely in those moments when you’re filled with self-confidence and talking about pain relievers that will suppress the shrapnel, or about laser surgery to make it disappear, I’m talking with my little metal friends that have gathered along with you. I admit that it’s pretty scary sometimes, but we all know that if you continue in this way you’re doomed to become extinct and decompose, and only then to set us free.

Illustration by Amos Biderman.

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