Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Veteran


He was never the same after the war.   He either sits in the corner pretending to read the paper or stares at the ever-changing images on the television set on its own special rolling table, rabbit ears on top with a doily for decoration.  His wife sits at the kitchen table studying the photos he took of his time overseas while she smokes cigarette after cigarette.  She is trying to discern from the one dimensional images the exact moment his soul had left his body behind.  

An early shot of him in front of his tent: shirtless, the body of a very young man -- no stoutness there, a thin, narrow torso, all ribs showing, a sweet innocent boy wearing a necklace of shells.  Many photos later and she thinks she has found it.  He is standing in the barracks, one foot upon his bed, wearing t-shirt and boxer shorts, dog tags showing beneath the thin fabric of his undershirt.  Small iron beds with green army blankets, pillows so thin they are barely perceptible.  The curtains have a pale design, the walls are empty, and so are his eyes.  His bunkmate has left his own dog tags on his bed it seems, along with his hat on the bedpost.  Yes, this is the first photo that has evidence of him no longer being the same boy who left home.   No more sweetness, no more innocence.

Now he is perched on the roof, the roof of the first story that is, arms resting on his knees. He is looking out at the world, wondering what he is doing here as the storm clouds come rolling in under the powerlines and over the rooftops.   The sky a purpley grey, the hedges all fertilized and green, trimmed into perfect shapes.  He tries to remember what life was like before and if any of it will ever seem worth it in the end.  


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