Occasionally my friend would pipe up and begin to say something about Rwanda but he had passed the stage of drunken fluency. There were now only bursts of words, scrambled and squelched out in an agonising rant. He knew he was too drunk to make much sense and got up, weaving through the tables towards the hotel lobby. I followed him, guiding him towards the elevator, where he turned to say goodnight. As the lift doors opened, he put his hand on my shoulder and blurted his goodbye message: 'It's in the soul, man... spiritual damage is what it is...'
Strange talk even in drink. The soul. Spiritual damage. As a group foreign correspondents are not given to discussions of a metaphysical or existential nature. We are trained in the school of the present, taught to analyse the tangible. There are men and women with spiritual beliefs, but these are rarely if ever discussed with colleagues. I could only conclude that something had changed inside my friend. Something that he had seen or experienced, perhaps the collected images of weeks, had prompted this hard-headed reporter to contemplate the soul of man.
We drank and ate our dried biscuits in silence. Afterwards we trooped out and saw that a thick mist had come down overnight and spread itself like a curtain across the road south to Rwanda.