Phil stood there and felt the breeze come up the rise to where the redoubt was to have stood on the rolling terrain near Saratoga and thought he smelled cordite floating on it. Again.
“Phil? Are you okay?” his wife Carrie asked. “You’ve got that thousand-miles-away look you had when we visited Gettysburg.” She knew what was going through his head, so she stayed close.
Phil blinked a pair of dewy blinks, rubbing his hand across his eyes as if they actually stung from the smoke that wasn’t really there. He knew it wasn’t, just as he knew the chatter of small arms fire and the swelling sounds of men in combat weren’t really there. His mind settled upon the wind-blown clatter of nearby birch and maple branches and the jabber of some kids from a school tour.
“I’m okay, Carrie,” he said, wrapping his hand around her arm, pulling her closer. A flash of sunlight off the windshield of a passing car touring the battlefield site brought on a flinch, but no longer did he full-on duck when something broke through the dark blur the world had become. He was improving since he left the VA and began his own form of immersion therapy, visiting battlefields up and down the East Coast. He carried his own battlefield wherever he went.
“What say we stop by the military cemetery on the way back to Albany? I want to pay my respects to a couple of guys there I knew,” Phil said, as they swung back to their car in the small lot near the touring roadway.
“Sure, hon, we can do that. You just tell me their names and I’ll find them for you.” Carrie didn’t flinch as much anymore, either.
Phil slid into the passenger seat and took one more long breath of air. He thought it smelled of autumn leaves and old, old memory, which he found odd, since he hated History as a kid. He hated everything when he got back, including himself, Carrie, home and what they’d all become.
As he buckled in and put on his sunglasses, Phil felt the warmth of his wife’s skin awakening the few hairs left among the expanse of scars on his right arm. He shivered. Not because he was cold, rather because once more he realized Afghanistan may have wrecked his sight, but his vision, the view from wherever he stood, was improving all the time.
This is a couple of minutes worth of free write I wrote for JD Mader’s weekly 2 Minutes, Go! feature on his website, Unemployed Imagination. Not sure where it came from, but it hooked me. So I think I’ll build on this down the road. Thought maybe I’d share it this morning.