The days seemed to draw on longer than before, than when I could walk, when I wasn't stuck in this metal contraption. The light was fading outside, the hues of orange and pink scattered through the light blue sky that was fading into darkness; the wind seemed to grab at my coat, seemingly in attempts to free me from it, ruffled through my hair. A shiver ran down my spine as I pulled the dark grey coat about my thin shoulders. It was growing smaller, barely reaching my elbows. Voices of boys singing saddened hymns, children playing, joy and pleasure escaping their lips, echoing through the park, noises I've grown used to hearing every day. Now stands a phantom of a man I used to know.
About this time the town used to swing so gay, when glow-lamps budded in the light-blue trees, and girls glanced lovelier as the air grew dim, — in the old times, before he threw away his knees. Now he will never feel again how slim girls' waists are, or how warm their subtle hands, now all of them touch him like some queer disease.
Artist would request to paint the young man's face, the sharp contours of his jaw line, his bright eyes that seemed to see beyond the surface of your appearance, his mussed hair, every part of the man was detailed and matched with an outfit that screamed sophistication, hoping to capture the youth, the radiance he had in his face, the ruggedness of his features.
It is gone now, it has faded away. That man is dead, a new man, all that is left is me. I sit where that man used to walk, where he used to enjoy life, used to laugh, and to feel the warmth of bodies beside him. I'm far from the man I see before me, the man who carries himself high. This broken body is a hollow shell of what those artists desired to capture upon their canvases. If only I could return to the days of my youth, with the vitality and vivaciousness that seems to elude me now.
It was a football match to be proud of, or so he thought, he wasn't in his right mind, he was blurred by the multiple drinks he'd had during it but they were laughing, slapping each other on the back. The signup sheets were everywhere, his mates carousing and revealing in the afterglow. He thought he should join, he didn't know why, maybe it was the fact a friend told him he'd look like a god in a kilt. Maybe it was to please his Meg? He asked to join, and the papers were filled out without the need to beg. The lie on his paper shone out brightly to him, aged nineteen, but it didn't matter, he was in.
As I watch the kids play, the man fades as the smile pulls at my lips, the kids before me won't have to watch as those around them fall to the ground. My hand tightened about the arm rest of the wheelchair. A shot of fear ran through my body as an all too familiar sound echoes through the streets. Fear I never felt when I was the man that I could see once more.
Fear was nonexistent for the teenaged boy, the Germans he scarcely thought about, Austria, he didn't bat an eyelid at. No fear of anything from the enemy side touched his heart. His thoughts only on when he would return, of what he would see and hear, the praises he'd hear from the people, the jeweled hilts of daggers, plaid socks, of salutes.
The return was not as the young man had imagined, it was far from it. Yes there had been drums and a few had cheered him on, but I was never again the same, I was wounded, not only physically, but mentally. The man who brings my fruit each week would often thank me, and ask how I was faring. The answer is not one easy to say so I usually just brush it off, saying I'm fine.
For the rest of my life I will live this over and over again, the same routine as the man I see as the sun fades, as the streetlights flicker on, children rush about the park calling to their friends, telling them of the day they had, laughs, screams of joy. This is my life now. As two hands grip the handles of my wheelchair I sigh.
"Sir, it's time to go back home." Was the soft voice behind me as I was wheeled back to the institute I was placed in to stay. The looks I am given as I pass by, the pity, the looks of the women, the men who study me with looks of questioning, "Why haven't they put him to bed? Why don't they come to save us from having to see him? To see the pain and loss and suffering in his eyes." I don't care what they think. I don't I know I will only see them for only a few more years, a few years with sickness ruling over my weak body.