I am alone.
Standing in the hallway, next to the half-bath where I used to get ready for work, so I didn’t disturb my family while they slept, I realize that my entire world has been upended. I stare at my kitchen table which is disassembled in the dining room. “It was left here like some unwanted thing, just like me.” Tears sting my eyes, but I blink them back. “No crying.” My parents are in the living room watching TV, and I am on the verge of a nervous breakdown. “If you can make it through the weekend, work will take your mind off the pain.” No weekend has ever lasted so long.
Monday finally comes, and my buddy SGT Head is waiting for me in the parking lot. He is leaning on his green Grand Am, smoking a cigarette as I walk toward him.
“How was your weekend bud?”
“My wife packed up and left me, so not great. How was yours?”
SGT Head looks at me in dismay and shakes his head. Tears fill his eyes and we walk briskly to the company headquarters.
“Do our wives know each other by chance?”
“Um, not that I know of Head. Why?”
“Because my wife left me this weekend too.”
“She took my daughter and refuses to let me see her.”
I stop at the clearing barrel outside of HQ and look at my friend. Words fail me and the only way I could think to comfort my friend was to slap him on the back. It does nothing to ease the pain.
“We sound like a bunch of old women Head! We need to suck it up already!”
“What is it man?”
A single tear drips down his cheek and he sobs. I turn my head so he can’t see my own pain. Wordlessly, I wait for what I knew was coming out of his mouth next. “Please God, don’t let him say it.”
“Freeman, I feel like some unwanted thing.”
I nearly bite my tongue off. It takes every ounce of discipline I possess to silence the scream that is building in my throat. The veins in my neck stretch tight and my blood pounds through my veins and arteries. The walls I had built over the weekend crumble to the ground. Heartbroken, I nod in agreement.
“Yeah. Me too.”
We stand in the brisk fall air and the silence is deafening. Finally, my friend slaps me on the back and we head upstairs for our daily meeting.
Some unwanted thing.
My mind won’t stop playing it on a loop. The truth of it slowly sinks into my heart. “You are unwanted. You outlived your usefulness, and now there is nothing left. You serve no purpose.”
The morning meeting is full of idle chatter. We finally conclude our business, and Head and I walk out to my truck. I climb in and slam the door. Reaching for the center console, I pour myself a handful of pills to ease the pain in my body.
“You know Freeman, it’s our fault.”
“Say again? You are coming in broken and retarded.”
“Think about your life prior to the military brother. We aren’t the same men they fell in love with. Once upon a time, I was a good-looking man. Heck, I was even nice. Then the Army happened to me. She didn’t like this new me and she left. We are broken. The higher ups should cryogenically freeze us until the next war comes along. All we know how to do is fight.”
I glare at my friend.
“None of us are the same people we were when we got married. Life has brought tears, pain, joy and laughter, but we all have changed throughout the course of time. You don’t pick up and leave when things get bad Head. You adapt to the situation, improvise if you must, and overcome the obstacles that are in your way. You don’t quit on your partner and you don’t make them feel like they are some unwanted piece of garbage.”
My viciousness took him by surprise. However, I wasn’t done.
“Screw it! I am done with this crap….” Suddenly my chest hurts, my breathing is shortened, and the world begins to dim. I feel Head’s hand on my shoulder.
“Calm down dude. Take shallow breaths Freeman. It’s alright. We gotta let this go. How about we cookout at your place this weekend? We can burn everything they left!”
The tension gradually releases its icy grip on my heart, and I am able to breathe normally again.
“Sounds good, I will buy some steaks.”
“I will bring chicken and some charcoal. I assume you will have something to drink?”
I nod. However, my fear and insecurities tap out a message to my brain.
“You’re still an unwanted thing…”