Ashes….Part II…A short story.

Pooter aka Oku,

Home. It’s more than a point on the map. To me, it was where I felt alive, safe and relaxed. Through the lens of yesterday, I see ‘me’ before the war. I was a ‘good’ guy. I held a variety of jobs. Lawn care, roofer, construction, and retail are just a few of  potential careers I could have pursued.

For a while, I did.

Nothing satisfied me. I went to work, went to church and paid bills. I wasn’t living, I existed. Then terrorists came calling on September 11, 2001. Two weeks later, I joined the Army.

Home became wherever I laid my head at night. For four years, home was Ft. Hood, Texas. I was honored to serve in the Seventh US Cavalry. Another four was spent in Illesheim, Germany. Assigned to a reconnaissance battalion, I enjoyed my time in Europe. I spent over two years in Iraq, and even it felt like home after I adjusted to the radical change. Eventually, I returned to the States. I landed at Ft. Carson, Colorado. Between the majestic mountain ranges and nice people, I thought I had hit upon my home away from home.

I moved back to Mississippi in 2016.

You know that saying about not being able to go home? Well, I did. I liked it here, life went by slowly. People are nice and the food is great. It’s not that you can’t go home, it’s just your horizons have expanded. In my case, my perspective expanded and was tinted by the horror I’ve seen.

Some people’s memories are so intense, they melt the person they once were. The mind became this veteran’s battleground when I returned home. I tried to replicate the ‘high’ of combat, but nothing came close to it. Alcohol, drugs, unnecessary risk, nothing was off the table.

And because of that, I can’t go home.

War changed me. “Sure, everyone says that.” Yeah, but it didn’t change just the physical, it changed the way I viewed the world. Prior to war, I would look for the good in folks. Now, I don’t see the good. I am focused on the negative attributes of the person. Everyone and everything are considered a threat until proven otherwise.

That brings us to tonight.

I’m dying. I’ve known it for a while. Maybe it’s the  toll of too many years, fighting too many wars, in too many places, where we were unwanted. I tried to do the best I could by you. I found you sitting on a pile of ashes. Looks like soot will be all you have of me, when I’m gone. I set you up a fund. Your university is paid in full. It’s all detailed in the will.

I never had a kid, but you were the best thing to happen to me. Good-bye.”

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