posted on Nov, 5 2006 @ 05:04 AM
I don't know how long I was talking when I woke up again, but it must have been for some time, because someone was telling me "it's okay". For a
few seconds I am eternally grateful to God that I can hear again, that I can speak. I don't know what I'm saying, but I feel the hand on my arm,
someone comforting me. I am horrified at being touched, I hate being touched, don't #ing touch me! This is said aloud apparently, and the hand
is quickly removed, though the comforting voice never stops expressing its sympathy. I still can't see, but at least its dark this time and not so
I can't move my arms, at first my panic deepens but somehow I remember who I am and what's happened. I'm in a bed someplace, my restraints are for
medical reasons. Even knowing this, a part of me needs to struggle. I think of my son, where is he? Apparently I still have no interior
monologue, because the voice, a man whose age I cannot determine, assures me that my son is safe at home.
I cry, loud. And scream. I don't know what I scream; I'm ashamed for crying, and it makes me scream louder and cry harder. At least, I think I'm
screaming; I hear noise but I don't know if it's me, so I get louder, hoping to prove to myself that I can still make noise.
No, I must be dreaming.
I'm at the hospital, my wife is in labor. Although I don't have a weak stomach, I don't like the sight of bodily fluids. I've seen childbirth
before, recognized it as biology but not something I'd like to se for a living.
But as she pushes our son out, my wife looks at me, and I look at our son. The sight doesn't disgust me; I am impressed at the calculating efficiency
in which the nurses and doctor deliver him. A nurse asks me if I want to cut the cord, I take the clips she offers me. The cord is somewhat slippery
even between the sharpened blades, and it takes me a few snips to seperate my son from my wife. They continue to extract the rest of the placenta from
her, and my focus remains on our son.
I'm in a state of wonder as they put him in the little newborn bed and begin cleaning him up. They weigh him and put a little cap on his head and
eventually hand him to me. I hold him as one would hold a priceless vase; ever so gently, but terrified to let go for fear I'll drop him. His eyes
are open, and although I know a newborn can't see much right away, he's looking at me. This is the only time I have experienced love, and I
am awed by it.
My wife wants to hold our son, and considering that she just did all the work, I don't argue as I carefully step over all the electrical cords
feeding the array of equipment in the delivery room as I bring him to her. Her mother is the only other person in attendance besides the medical
staff, and she strokes my son's capped head as my wife holds him close.
All this I have remembered within seconds of reading the letter. A memory within a memory.
The guys call these "dear john" letters. I always silently sympathized with the poor bastards who received them; in the last week, at least two had
received similar news from their soon-to-be ex-wives. A female in my camp had also been handed a bye-bye note recently. But I never thought
I'd get one. I had occasionally wondered what I would do if I did, and with a vague sort of detachment I had sort blown it off. I mean, yeah
those guys had wives and kids, but my marriage was secure. Sure, we weren't as happy as other families, but we were loyal. I've only been here,
what, a few months so far? She was there after the first year, she can take one more deployment.
I've just been promoted a few days ago, and I know I can handle the responsibility but I can't let my emotions show to anyone. I don't know if
I'll be reassigned to lead a patrol, or if I'll stay where I am with the extra stripe. Either way, "sharing" isn't one of my strong points and I
can't rely on anyone else; this letter is proof of that. I curl up on my cot and face away from everyone as I read the letter again, just to make
sure my own insecurities haven't somehow caused me to translate the words wrong. For some reason, I think back to my favorite movies and video games,
favorite books, favorite characters from all of those venues, and wonder what it would be like to be them.
After a while I muse that it's funny how they call these letters "dear Johns"; mine began with "Hey, how's it going?"
Before I know it, I'm dreaming.
I'm fifteen. Today's a graduation day, and today I'm no longer a junior cadet; I'm a senior cadet. Still got a couple years until I
graduate completely, but I'm getting stronger and smarter as the months go by. I try to subtly look at the extra stripes on my shoulder without
anyone noticing. I don't plan on being an officer; I'm not too good at advanced math and I'm fairly certain this will keep me from being
commissioned, but by this time I've realized that I'd rather take the orders from someone who knows what they're doing and be responsible for
myself, rather than be in charge.
The ceremony is over, and all over the field parents are mingling with their kids, and being introduced to their kids' friends and favorite
instructors. Fathers are smiling proudly like idiots, and mothers are crying like leaky faucets. I don't bother to mingle; my parents have never
attended any one of my ceremonies, and my birth parents probably don't give a # where I am, they sure as hell aren't here. I go across the field
towards my dorm, hoping to avoid the more social instructors who will no doubt want to give me a pat on the shoulder or shake my hand and tell me how
it only gets more challenging, more worthwhile.
Like other students who don't just go to school there and actually live there, all year every year, I have a handful of priviliges that others
don't, such as being allowed to leave the grounds at certain times. I walk out the gates and down the street, not really sure of where I'm going. I
rarely leave the academy; usually it's on a bus to escort an injured cadet to the main hospital in town, or something equally mundane. I've snuck
down to a gas station before to buy cigarettes, but never been further than that in the seven years I've been there.
After a few moments of walking I stop and lean against the wrought-iron gates, suddenly not caring if someone sees my lapse in posture. I can smell
the smell again, the one I've never forgotten, and I don't even have to turn around. Ash. The chimney is burning again, during graduation day no
less. I didn't notice anyone missing, but since I make a habit of not knowing people unless I have to, I'm really not surprised.
Realizing that there's absolutely nothing for me to do outside the premises, I hurry back inside, intent on going back to my dorm and sleeping. I
bump into a female cadet whom I share several classes with. I'm not sure why she's here, the female dorms aren't even close by. She smiles as she
recognizes me, and before I know what's happening she wraps me up in a hug and kisses me on the lips. It's the first time I've ever been kissed,
and I don't know what to do because she's touching me. I shove her off of me and try to walk as fast as possible without running the rest of
the way down the corridoor, ignoring her yelling at me from behind and trying to hide my face from the people looking at me like a freak.
I must be dreaming.