The End…or the first beginning…A Walk in Darkness…A short story…

Depression. It’s bad for your digestion. I make no jest concerning this silent killer. Pardon me, my thoughts are insidious at the moment. In the quiet moments, when the darkness in my heart overwhelms me, nothing frightens me more than myself.

For you see, I’m a trained killer. A soldier. As with many of my fellow veterans, I struggle with what I have seen and done. The silence in the motorpool is killed by shouting. It figures. Shouting would adequately describe the state of my life.

The door swings open and sunlight bursts into the dark room. Shielding my eyes, I struggle to refrain from shouting. Perhaps, I forgot to mention that I suffer from migraine and tension headaches. The sudden breach of sunlight hits my eyes, and I feel like my skull is cracking open like fissures in the earth.

My soldiers enter the building and the door swings shut behind them. They file in and take seats around where I am sitting. They chatter about life and crack jokes at each others expense. While they make small talk, I self-medicate.

“Alright, what did I say the afternoon class would be?”

“Combat medicine, Sergeant.”

“Right. When do we apply a tourniquet?”

My soldiers lean on each others knowledge and answer the question. Normally, I would be proud of my warriors, but recently I found out I wouldn’t be deploying with them. It would be my third deployment, and due to the stress in my life, said stress triggered seizures. Thus, my days in the Army are limited.

“What are the two types of fractures?”

Again, my soldiers perform flawlessly. War-fighting soldiers have an edge. With each day of training, repetition and rehearsal, I watch as my soldiers edge sharpens. I’m so proud of them, I could burst.

“I wish you were going with us, Sergeant.”

“Me too, troop.”

I have done the best I can, when it comes to training my guys concerning the rigors of combat. The rest of my life lies in ruins, but at least my soldiers have a fighting chance.

Of course, my pride has led to the ruination of my personal life. All too often, my obligations to my family were given second place. My career took precedence, and now I am reaping the fruit of my choices.

“They won’t let you join us late if the doc can control your epilepsy with medication?”

“No. My career is over. Remember, all you have over there is each other. The bonds that bind us are stronger than blood.”

We walk out of the motorpool and head to the company headquarters for formation. It has been the greatest honor of my life to be a soldier. I watch as my soldiers slap each other on the back and crack jokes about the upcoming deployment. There is no small part of me that doesn’t wish I was going with them. Instead, I will be home hoping the darkness doesn’t smother what is left of my sanity.

God help us all.  

Dark Thoughts…AWID

The quiet in my house is the opposite of my mind. I can’t shut off my brain. “You hardly use your brain, it should be a simple thing to shut it off.”

It isn’t.

Ever since my return home, I feel alone. The ghosts from war torn lands sometimes seem to be my only friends. That’s pathetic. I sound like a loser when I allow these thoughts to run through my mind.

It’s after five in the evening, and I am sitting in the recliner. I turn the lights off, except for my corner lamp. The A/C hums and Rambo: Last Blood plays on my television.

The longer I am home, the more I wonder about my return from the sand pits of Iraq. I’m home, I should be grateful to be alive and whole in body. I am. Many of my friends never returned, I sure do miss them.

My struggles with my thoughts and the chaos within seem to play throughout the latest Rambo movie. However, it barely scratches the surface of the pain that plagues so many veterans. 

It is of small comfort that I am not alone in this struggle.

This pandemic has drained me. We all are shut-in. Sometimes, it feels as if I am being smothered by the memories of a life I left long ago. As if someone is holding a pillow over my mouth and nose. 

Now, there is more trouble. Racist cops kill an unarmed black man. Or should I say, one racist cop killed him? Either way, a man lies dead because of the hatred in another man’s heart.

As I watch the world implode around me, I have to wonder what my friends would think if they’d survived. Would they be happy with the way things turned out? Would they wonder if their sacrifice was in vain? 

I survived and I would rather have my friends back.

There are many reasons why people are protesting the murder of an innocent man. I can understand their anger, their frustration with the justice system is not wrong or invalid.

Burning down communities, destroying the life’s work of people who had nothing to do with the murder is wrong. Yes, I can separate the two. Many innocent people have been hurt by their rage. Yes, their rage is justified. No one, regardless of race, should ever be murdered because of their skin pigmentation.

We are all God’s children. 

My brothers, those who never returned, would not approve of the actions of this police officer. They would not agree with the wholesale destruction by the rioters and looters. It is possible to stand against injustice without robbing, looting, and being a public nuisance.

My friends would stand in the trenches and fight injustice, at home and abroad. All I can do is fight to keep their memories alive and hope for a better tomorrow.

Actions…..AWID….a short story…..

Visor pulled low, I glanced across the crowd of people on the verge of rioting. Amassed, in the middle of the ocean of folk, stood one lone man on the hood of a beat down Toyota truck. He was armed with a gas mask, bullhorn and righteous indignation.

In Arabic, he shouted for us to go home. The ocean of people swelled with the chant, and they trudged in our direction. Like mindless zombies, they drew closer and closer to our position. I shoved a riot control grenade into my grenade launcher and took up a position away from the rest of my team. The lone man, whom I nicknamed Toyota, charged out of the sea of people and confronted me. He gestured wildly in my direction, while he lifted the bullhorn to shout more threats. The crowd roared with his chant and tempers flared with the desert heat.

“Do I feel threatened? Well, yes I do.”

Without a word spoken, I lifted the grenade launcher and shot the ringleader in the chest. The rubber grenade flew true and hit Toyota in the torso. He crashed to the ground; tiny shards of bone protruded from his robe. I walked over to him and knelt beside him. Groans escaped his lips, and I waved at him.

“You okay, man?”

“Ahhh…”

“Hey dude, are you okay? What happened?”

He brushed my hand away and continued to groan. As a trained combat lifesaver, I started the steps of evaluating and treating a casualty. I treated the instigator for shock and loaded him in a vehicle. The medic checked my work and gave me a nod.

“We’ll take it from here.”

“Yeah, alright.”

The crowd had slowly dispersed and only a few diehards had stuck around to see what else would happen. In the distance an angry Lieutenant stormed toward my team and me.

“What in the name of all things holy, do you think you’re doing?”

I snapped to attention and whipped out a professional salute.

“Sir, I prevented a full-blown riot from occurring by shooting the instigator.”

“Are you brain dead, Sergeant?”

I removed my helmet and tapped the side of my head. Then, I made a show of asking myself questions and answering my queries.

“I don’t think I am allowed to answer your question, sir.”

Angrily, the Lieutenant stepped close enough for me to count his nose hairs. Nostrils flared, he jabbed two fingers into my chest plate.

“You wounded a man on our first mission. Do you realize your action jeopardized all our lives?”

“The Rules of Engagement stated if I felt threatened; I have the right to defend myself, sir. Therefore, today I felt threatened. I defended myself and my team. The riot ended before it ever began. You’re welcome.”

Without a word, the Lieutenant spun around and stomped off. I took several deep breaths and composed myself. As the sun dipped in the western horizon, I walked back to my team.

“Well, that was intense. It’s going to be a long fifteen months.”

Madness…A short story…AWID

I dream of snow. Wading across the painted desert landscape, my boots press into the soft powder. “Ugh, what a horrible smell. It smells like someone died here.” The crumbles of powder crack and fall from the faces of innocent women and children butchered in the name of tyranny. Gasping for air, I fall out of bed and land on my knees.

“It’s okay. You’re not there anymore.” My throat is clogged with the taste of blood, and I run into the bathroom. Leaning over the sink, I cough until chunks of bloody phlegm are dislodged from my larynx. “Regardless of how long I’m home, I can’t escape that horrible place.” Tears of pain dot my cheeks, and I wipe my eyes bitterly.

“I don’t know what’s killing me quicker, the alcohol or the burn pits.” Night after night, I struggle with dreams of sand, bullets, explosions and broken limbs. My mind is fractured. In some ways, I’m not sure if I remember it correctly or if somehow, I managed to get it all wrong. Whichever the case, it all seems real to me.

Angrily, I slam my hand down on the counter. “Well, come on with it already. If you’re going to take me, let’s get it over with. There’s no point in prolonging the inevitable.” The mirror tells the tale of a broken man. A man who went to war to set things right, only to lose himself in the process. It’s safe to say, I’m bitter about how things turned out. Turning the light off, I walk out of the bathroom and into the kitchen.

My one-bedroom apartment is sparingly decorated. The state flag of Mississippi hangs on the front door along with a sign informing intruders that I don’t call 911. A sofa bed, recliner, a 47” Vizio television, PS4 and laptop make up my earthly possessions. Jameson whiskey bottles litter the top of the fridge. “I’m living it up. There are no strings on me.”

The smell of lime poured on the bodies lingers in my mind. I can see the broken bodies, whether it’s a hallucination or dream, I can’t tell you. Children are gathered nearby, their eyes devoid of hope. Soldiers smirk, their only defense against the chaos, dark humor. The darkness encroaches ever closer.

I’m lost in the darkness.

In the dark, I can hear the footfalls of my enemies drawing near. The inky blackness smothers any hope I have of finding my way out of it. My depression and anxiety restricts my ability to formulate an escape plan. In the purest sense, I am sinking into the pit of misery. “God, help me. Where are you when I need you the most?” The maddening cackle of my tormentors ring out in the dark. My heart beats with the fury of a thousand waterfalls.

“Where do I run to? How do I get away?” These questions have no answers, they are as vacant of possibilities as the eyes of the dead-yet-living children, I saw that day in Iraq. In many ways, I wonder if my mind broke from seeing the thousands of bodies laid side-by-side, knowing the torture their lives held until their untimely deaths swept them from this plane of wretchedness. Either way, I’m sure it didn’t help.

From a distance, the lime scattered on the bodies to keep the smell of decomposing corpses down, looked like pure snow. It wasn’t until you drew close that you recognized the horror it hid. “The same could be said for my life. I’m devoid of hope, slowly decomposing into nothingness. All I want is to go home and forget about this crap.” Being at home hasn’t helped me, the war has followed me home.

“Mr. Freeman, how are you today?” I look up at my nurse as she brings in my medicine and a tiny cup of water. “Can you loosen the straps, so I can take my medication like a big boy?” She smiles. “No, just tilt your head back and swallow.” She shoves the medicine into my mouth, and I swallow the pills.

In my mind, I can hear the cackle of madness and it frightens me.

Dark Places…a short story…

“You know, sometimes my mind just wanders off to visit places I never should have been. It don’t ask, it just leaves, and there I am stuck in some third world dump, fighting for my life, wondering if I will make it home to my baby girl.” Alexa Kinder looks at Tom Briarberry and smirks. “It just wanders off, huh? You sure it ain’t running away from its owner?” Tom shakes his head. “I don’t wanna go to these dark places, but it’s like I can’t control it. There’s a fighting side to me, and it wants loose.” Alexa puts her arm around her friend. “My mind wanders too. It’s an affliction we all have. It’s a curse of being human.”

Tom looks into Alexa’s black eyes. “Where does your mind go, Alexa? How did you get them black pupils?” Alexa giggles. “The pupils are because of genetics. We aren’t going to talk about where my mind goes, okay?” Tom pushes himself to his full height of 5’7 and leans on the wooden fence bordering Alexa’s grandfather’s property. “Why not? I told you where mine goes.” Alexa blushes and turns her head. “Because, I don’t want to talk about it. Can you respect my wishes, Tommy?” Nodding his head yes, Tom ponders his friend’s sudden defensiveness.

“You ever get back on that horse what threw you?” Alexa shakes her head, her blonde French braid shakes with the motion of her head. “No, Tom. It hurt me. I am frightened to get around him now.” Scratching his beard, Tom spits on the ground. “You were peerless, Ms. Alexa. Straight up, you were the greatest I ever seen. Is that accident with that horse, where your mind goes?” Alexa’s eyes grow cloudy as she leans close to Tom. “I said to let it go, Tom. Please, don’t keep asking.”

“Okay. I won’t ask no more. Did you know I got hurt over there in the Middle East?” Alexa looks at her friend. He is shorter than her 5’10 frame, but there is something about Tom that makes him seem gigantic. Brown hair, brown eyes, and a tan that borders on red clay, Tom fit all the makings of a stellar mate. “No, I didn’t know you got injured. What happened?”

Tom scratches at his beard. “We were escorting trucks back and forth, bring supplies in an out. Traffic backed up on the supply route, and we had to dismount. We trying to get an opening so we can get through, but nobody was listening. A loud bang came from behind me, and I saw my friend fall. I run to him, but he’s gone. I never heard the second bullet. Doc says it went through my helmet like butter on a hot roll. My head stopped it. “

Her blue eyes fill with tears as her friend recounts what happened. “Is that why you sometimes slur, when you speak?” Tom nods. “Yeah, that and the VA took my teeth. I told ‘em I had one bad tooth, but they wanted the rest. It’s why my mind goes to the dark place. I want to get my hands on the guy who killed my friend. He didn’t do nothin’ to nobody. K.C. was a cook, not a grunt. The Reaper got him. You know what we did?”

“No, what did you do Tom?”

“I got on that horse what about killed me. My friend deserved to be honored, I needed to prove I was capable of moving past the pain.” Alexa sobs and throws her arms around Tom’s neck. Tom pats her back and pulls away. “You can’t hide forever, Alexa. Someday, you gotta confront the pain, and only then can you heal. Riding ain’t the pain, it’s the fear you aren’t as good as you used to be. The bones heal, but the mind fractures.”

“How did you get out of your dark place? Did you get out, Tom?” Tom grins, his mouth stretches into a mirthful smirk. “I walked. The dark is always a part of you. Put one foot in front of the o’ter. You know that fortune cookie, Facebook wisdom about two wolves? Be careful what you feed, darling.” Glancing at his watch, Tom nods at his truck and Alexa waves goodbye. Alexa turns back to watch the horses work.

As Tom gets in his truck, he watches Alexa walk toward the homestead. “Some lessons can only be learned from personal experience; they can’t be taught via an instructor.”

Danger close, brace for impact…AWID

Scars laid upon my heart tear open and bleed, staining my soul. Such is the life of an idiot.

This is the story of the world’s dumbest man.

My scars are from various sources. Love is not always kind, nor is trust. Chief among my complaints, here I beg for forgiveness (I will do better tomorrow), is unreciprocated affection. Do I learn my lesson and move on? Of course not, like a good idiot, I go all in. I trust that all will be well. “Give it time!” Viewing my idiocy on this digital piece of scratch paper, stained by digital ink, my stupidity is frightening.

I must give myself high marks on scoring on the extended scale of stupid.

The blinding glare of the headlamp of my oncoming train reveals just how dumb a man can be. Objects of desire can blind us from all other priorities. We focus on what may be and forget what is. Our hopes are inflated, and our present is deflated. Exactly how many times must one man be told no, before he buys a clue and moves on. Exactly how many scars must he endure before he protects himself?

Danger close, brace for impact.

White light glaring off white walls give the room a sterilized feel to it. Maybe it has to do with the overwhelming smell of bleach. The tall, gangly woman sitting across from me never takes her eyes off me. Her eyes pierce through my hatred of humanity. She reminds me of a crow, or Big Bird.

“What brought you here?”

“An ambulance.”

Her thin lips pull back into a grin which conjures up mental images of a smiling shark, right before taking a bite out of an oblivious surfer. “Oh boy, now I’ve done it.”

“Besides an ambulance?”

“Lady, what do you want me to say? It’s all my fault? Fine, it’s my fault. I am the world’s worst father, an incompetent husband, and a broken man. Are you happy now?”

“You do realize until you pull back the scabs and purge the infection festering in your soul, you will never heal, right?”

What a pretty shade of white.

“I attacked someone.” I motion with my hands to show it’s not a big deal.

She nods her head, her red curls bouncing up and down in excitement. “Why?”

“Seemed like the thing to do at the time.”

“Do you yield to your aggressive nature often? What caused you to snap?”

Combat cocktails, stress, a failing marriage, a lost career….

“No, I don’t yield often. We are all one bad day away from doing something like this.”

“Why did you snap?”

“Stress, anxiety, a desire to be dead but not enough will to carry out my sentence?”

“How do we know you won’t succumb to these triggers in the future?”

“You don’t. You’re gonna have to trust me.”

‘No, I don’t.”

Danger close….

The headlamp of my train is quickly approaching. My only thought is, “maybe it won’t miss this time.”

13 December 2019

Memories of Rhodie and my beginnings as a soldier..AWID….

I have been up half the night struggling with the loss of my friends, in a war which now seems to be some pointless endeavor.

Chunk wants in my lap, and I want this part of my story to be over. I suppose I will start at the beginning.

November 2001:

Fort Jackson in the wintertime is a wet, cold area in which trainees struggle to survive in. I personally believe it to be a training area where trainees who don’t know any better test out cold weather gear. My arrival to basic training is preceded by two weeks of rain, and plummeting temperatures. Our trip from the airport is in the back of cattle trucks with no canopies. Upon arrival, we are escorted into a dark room where we are handed a pile of paperwork and told how to fill it out. Hours later, we are escorted to the barbershop and we receive our haircuts. Integration goes fine, until the fattest guy in the platoon decides to show us how to do clap pushups. Bravely, he struggles to get in the ready position. Hands placed shoulder width apart he descends toward the ground,  he forcefully flings his body back up and puts his hands to his side. Momentarily confused about what comes next, his face crashes back into the floor with a sickening thud.

“Oh my God! I’m bleeding!”

I glance over and look at his face. Blood covers the lower half of his face, and there appears to be a crack in his chin.

“Yep, you’re bleeding.”

“Freeman, go grab the drill sergeants with a battle buddy.”

“Wait, please don’t tell the drill sergeants how this happened. I don’t want an Article 15 before I get to basic!”

For those not sure what an Article 15 is, it is punishment in the military. The Army takes half of a month’s pay for two months, 45 days of extra duty, and you are restricted to the barracks.

“Okay.”

My buddy and I make our way to the office where the drill sergeants hunker down to avoid the cold. I knock on the door. A six-foot, muscle bound behemoth answers the door in a huff.

“What private?”

“Um, drill sergeant we need you to come upstairs, something has happened.”

The drill sergeant eyes me suspiciously. “What happened?”

“This private slipped and didn’t have time to catch himself, his chin is busted open.”

“Dear God….”

We haven’t even made it to basic yet, and people are already finding ways to injure themselves. Somehow, I manage to make it through the rest of training with no cracks in my face, or any other bodily injury which would keep me from fighting in the War on Terror.

Lucky me.

2002:

Advanced Training goes smoothly, no injuries to report, just class upon class teaching us how to perform our job. Basic Training is where you are taught to kill in the name of your government. AIT is where you learn to do your job until called upon to kill.

After 24.5 weeks of training, I finally move to my first duty station. I leave the frigid cold of Virginia and move to the hot sands of Texas. A massive room is crammed full of soldiers waiting for their unit assignment. Finally, I hear my last name called, followed by my birthdate.

“Here, Sergeant!”

“You’re going to the Seventh Cavalry.”

The room erupts into laughter. I feel a hand on my shoulder, so I glance back. A First Sergeant looks at me and smiles. I hope you like the field troop! You’re going to get plenty of time in it.”

I force a smile and make my way to the door. My sponsor informs me our next stop is CIF. After I get my assigned gear, I am taken to the Squadron Headquarters to be in-processed. My First Sergeant is a crusty old soldier, he smiles broadly and gestures for me to enter his office.

“Alright private, do you know the Army Song?”

“Yes, First Sergeant.”

“Wait one, private.”

Two other privates are brought into the room.

“Alright privates! I have to use the bathroom, but you will serenade me with the Army Song. Ready?”

The three of us look at each other.

“Come on privates…”

“First to fight for the right, and to build the nation’s might, and the Army goes rolling along…”

Our First Sergeant throws his head back and belts out the lyrics. Finishing, he comes into the room and looks at all of us.

“You guys suck. Get out of my office.”

After completing all the pre-requisites, I am taken to my unit which is housed on Turkey Run Road. Row upon row of equipment fill the parking spaces in our motorpool. “Private, we are HHT troop, our equipment is over here, away from the tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles. All the other soldiers are doing maintenance, go on over there and help out.”

“Roger, Sergeant.”

I walk through the motorpool until I find a group of soldiers cracking jokes and looking over vehicles.

“Hey new guy, come here.’

I nod and walk over to them.

“What is your MOS? You a fox?”

“Yeah, I’m a fox.”

“Cool, I am a mike. Walk with me to the maintenance office.”

“Okay.”

We walk around the building to the motorpool office. The quad holds 8 bays; each bay holds a vehicle. “Go over there to that truck, and help the mechanic change the hydraulic fluid. “

“Yeah, I got it.”

Sticking out from the vehicle are a pair of black boots, I kick one and wait for a response. A young man with a tousled mop of yellow hair rolls out from under the vehicle. “You like that foot?”

I nod. “Yeah.  I’m Freeman. Mac sent me over to help change the fluid.”

“Rhodie.”

“Nice to meet you Rhodie. Tell me what I need to do.”

Rhodie and I spend the day changing fluid in one truck after another, by day’s end, we are the best of friends.

March 04-05:

“Freeman, Rhodie, this is your room. Put your gear in here and report to the formation outside.”

We grab our bags and throw them on the bed. I walk out and grab my trunk and wheel it into the room next to the bed. “Can’t do anything without a formation eh Freeman.”

“I guess not. Let’s get out there.”

“Yeah, I need a smoke.”

 We pull the door shut and walk out into the hot air of Iraq. “This place sucks Freeman.”

“Yes, it does, but in their defense so does your home country of Canada.”

Rhodie laughs and punches me in the shoulder. “Screw you, Freeman.”

“Rhodie, you are my favorite Canadian.”

“And you’re my favorite redneck, Freeman.”

The year passes quickly, laughs are had, and sorrow fills our chalices. Before we know it, we are getting on a plane to head back to our beloved country. Sixty days later, I am living in Germany.

June 07:

“The more things change, the more they stay the same. Chow here in the sand still smells like body odor.”

I am standing at the salad bar looking it over when I hear a familiar voice call out to me. Turning, I recognize my old motorpool sergeant standing behind me.

“How ya doing, Freeman?”

“I’m making it Sergeant, how are things?”

“I’m okay. Thought I should tell you about Rhodie.”

“Oh no….not Rhodie.”

“Yeah, son I’m sorry. I know ya’ll were close.”

“Thanks for letting me know.’

The darkness feels so close. Standing in a filled DFAC, crammed full of soldiers and cooks, I feel so alone.

I want to die.

12 November 2019

AWID…Bad days and lonely nights…

“I can’t help what you hear!”

Veins taunt, her eyes clouded by anger, she screeches these venom-filled words at me. I wait for my moment to respond back with my own venom, there will be no coming back from this argument.

“Ok.”

“Every time I say anything to you, you reach for your wallet!”

“I’m a generous guy, not to mention your husband.”

“By what standard are you a husband? You are a provider, a means to an end.”

I bite down on my tongue, hard. The taste of blood fills my mouth.

“Okay.”

“What are you trying to do? Buy my affection? If it was for sale, you couldn’t afford it!”

“Oh, so now I am a whoremonger. Wonderful. Any other accusations you care to air out before I destroy your grid square?”

She balls her fist up, her face contorted with rage, she swings and strikes my face. I wipe my mouth, blood stains the back of my hand.

“ Ok. Do your worst, we will settle up after.”

20 October 2019

Harms way….A Walk in Darkness…

“Gentlemen, we are going to put ourselves in harms way today, prepare yourselves for what is going to happen.”

After three months on ground, the briefing needs to change. Harms way or not, the mission beckons. Half-heartedly listening, my mind wanders to my pregnant wife and beautiful daughter. “Are they okay? Am I a daddy twice over? How will I find out when I am halfway around the world? What if….no, no, NO….I can’t think like that…” For a moment, my emotions want to run rampant, but I maintain control of them. The briefing continues, I come back into the small room where only a select handful of individuals sit in the chairs listening. I glance around the room, every face resigned to the fact we are walking into the deepest depths of hell for those we love.

“The survival rate of this mission is…” Silence falls on the room, the speaker suddenly loses his voice. I look at the floor. We all know where we are going, we’ve heard the stories, and now it is upon us to make sure the horrors we have heard never happen again. “um, guys….none of you may make it back. Your sacrifice will be remembered, songs will be sung in your honor, and remember Fiddlers Green.” My chair is uncomfortable, and I squirm in it trying to get in a position where I feel better. No one says anything, we knew walking in we would hear this in the briefing, it just confirms we are riding into hell.

“This concludes the mission briefing, thanks for coming.” We stand to our feet and silently exit the room. It is as quiet as the grave, soon it will be too loud to hear ourselves think. As I make my way down the dusty hallway, I feel a hand on my shoulder. Turing, I realize it is my First Sergeant. I snap to parade rest; he waves it off. “Freeman, you have a wife, right?” I nod in affirmation. “Yes Top, is everything okay?” He smiles and slips his arm around my shoulder and we continue down the hallway. “Yeah. She gave birth to your daughter; it is your daughter, right? Anyway, mom and child are healthy and doing well at Evans Hospital. I know what you heard in the briefing; now you have a reason not to die. You understand me, Corporal?”

“Ride or die, First Sergeant.”

I walk out into the sun, Fallujah beckons.

10-4-19

Hot socks and t-shirts…A Walk in Darkness…

The clean smell of Irish Spring body wash lingers in the air, as I stand on the mat drying off. “Another day, another headache.” As I dry my back, the early morning silence is broken by the quiet hum of the dryer going through its cycle. I have an affinity for hot socks and t-shirts. As a soldier going through basic training, my Senior Drill Sergeant informed me that somedays nothing beats a clean pair of socks and t-shirt. “I have been clinging to clean socks and t-shirts for three years, when is it going to get better?”  It’s not Colorado I hate; I love it here. Rather, it is myself that I can’t stand.  “You can’t do anything right!”

“Can’t you do laundry during the evening like a normal human being?’

As if on cue, my spouse appears behind me. “I didn’t mean to wake you, I wanted to heat up my socks and t-shirt.”

“Whatever.”

I sigh deeply.  It doesn’t matter what tone I use, nor does it matter if I differ my approach, the result is always the same. We are completely detached from each other. Instead of becoming one as it is states in the marriage vows, we are now two individuals. Angrily, I wipe the unexpected tears from my eyes. The laundry cycle is complete, so I open the door and remove my hot socks.

“I’m sorry.”

“For what? Being a broken man, you can’t do anything right. You are a drunk, and not even a man.”

“Ok.”

I shake my head in disappointment at another failure. “I can’t help what you understand.” She turns and makes her way back upstairs. I slip on my hot socks and a smile crosses my lips. Thanks, Drill Sergeant.

“Somedays you can’t beat a hot pair of socks and t-shirt!”