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Driving myself to the neighborhood grocery store, I pulled in to the same old spot as usual, put the car in 'park' and turned off the ignition. Looking through my window, and up at the sky, I could hardly tell if it was night or day. It was one of those forty degree, late fall days where the sun never shows itself, but neither do the moon or stars. One of those days when you feel like the whole world's in limbo, just waiting for something to happen, but just what, is anybody's guess. It's just a feeling I suppose. The kind of feeling that something should happen, but never quite does.
Just getting up and out of my car was an effort these days, but as I pushed myself away from the steering wheel, stood erect and slammed the door closed, I tried to remind myself how lucky I was to be alive. 'What about the guys that didn't make it?' I thought. 'The ones that came back in pine boxes. How about them?' But the antithesis of my short-lived optimism always seemed to work better for me then the thesis and I usually concluded that I too would have been better off dead.
'At least if I were dead,' I thought. 'People wouldn't have to worry about me anymore. There'd be an end to this, an end to my suffering and pessimism, and it would've been an honorable end too. None of this going around feeling sorry for myself. The feeling that I left a piece of myself back there in Iraq. Feelings that pills or psychoanalysis will just never heal over. What the hell,' I continued, as I stepped with what force I could apply on the big, black pad of the electronic door. 'It's not really me people are seeing now when they look at me. At least, I know I don't see myself the way I used to. When I look in the mirror to shave, I don't see the happy young man with boundless energy I used to see, just twelve months prior. I feel like some kind of crummy insect... hard on the outside and just a bunch of mush on the inside. And every time I lay down at night to go to sleep, I replay the day I got wounded over and over again, like that's gonna help or change things, but that's impossible and I k
now it. And every night I come to the same conclusion; get up, take another sleeping pill and lay there staring at the ceiling again until the sun comes up. But now, with the weather changing the way it is, even that doesn't happen. So here I am, stuck in limbo, not really among the living, but not counted among the dead either...
I wondered to myself if one of the sharp old politicians whose idea it was to send us to war would care to walk for a few minutes in my shoes. I wondered - as I took note of the stares that came my way from customers and employees alike - what they would think if they could see for one minute what I've seen. The memories I have to share that no one wants to hear. Memories of flying limbs; shrapnel from roadside bombs tearing flesh like a rag tears along a seam; babies crying; mothers turned prostitute, starving, begging, praying. Praying for an end to it all, but the next day is just a duplicate of the last, and a just and fitting end never comes.
"Reid!" Came a voice from behind me, startling me, making me turn in its direction. "I knew it was you, you old son-of-a-gun. How ya doin'?" asked a neighborhood friend I hadn't seen since I'd left town. "You look great!" he added, just to be nice I thought. "Why didn't you tell me you were home? We could be out there playin' golf like we used to... right? How about it? Hey, call me sometime. Don't be a stranger," he continued, as he patted me with some reserve on my left shoulder.
"Sure," I replied. "It'll be fun. I'll give you a buzz. Give my best to the wife," I said, watching him walk away to an opposite side of the big supermarket. 'How could he be so callous?' I thought, as I turned away. But then, how could I expect him to know what I'd been through. He was just a guy. Just a regular Joe in the neighborhood. He didn't have to go. He got lucky. I can't blame him though, I wanted to go. I didn't realize the sacrifices I'd be making when I left. I was just so caught up in a wave of revenge and anger. I wanted so much to do what I thought was right. I wanted to make my parents and grandparents proud of me. I wanted to show them that the time they'd invested in me was well spent. But mostly, I wanted to show them what a good American I was.
'Whatever... it's done. It's over. Get over it,' I told myself, as I had so many times before. But as I got back to my car and pushed my shopping cart toward the trunk as I usually did, I couldn't help taking another look at the sticker on the rear bumper. "These Colors Don't Run!" it said. But as I looked down at my missing left leg and leaned my crutch up against the car, I knew I, at least, would never run again.
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