This is another stream of consciousness piece that woke me out of a sound sleep last night. I'm not sure where it came from and I wasn't going to post it but then changed my mind. A lot of writing rules have been broken again, but this is the way it came out and I can't bring myself to play with it.
As always, feedback is welcome.
The man is unnamed. He could be anyone. I'll leave it to you to decide.
Don't Cry for MeThe letter had arrived on Friday.
Wash day at the camp. Laughter, drenched sleeves, and cold, wrinkled fingers. A weekly chore. Routine. Only days ago.
My own gasp takes me by surprise and I stop walking. My head falls forward and my eyes squeeze closed. Staggering, I bring my hand up and grope through the air in front of me, reaching for what I'll never hold again. Moisture wets my cheeks, drips onto the black shirt I'd donned for the night's mission.
Memory takes me from this darkened woods to a comfortable room, sunny with morning light, silent except for the soft creaking of my mother's heirloom rocker. The air is perfumed with the precious scent of powder and warm, clean skin. Soft cooing turns to demanding cries that echo of my wife's quick temper. Gurgles of sated contentment fade into tiny hiccups as sleep creeps in. Downy, dark hair slides through my fingers, softer than any man-made silk. Sleepy blue eyes in a cherub face study me with infant trust and curiosity.
My throat burns as a sob tears free. Another, followed by another, and another until there is no pause and I'm shaking and bent double.
It hurts. How can anything hurt so much?
So wrong to try and keep the grief locked away. Beneath my mask of calm, the grief has been shredding my heart, gnawing at my control like a ravening beast. It starts my body rocking and the mindless movement makes the letter in my shirt pocket crackle.
I can't . . . can't . . .
The grief is loose now. There's no stopping it so I don't try any longer.
He'd been sick. A cold. The sniffles.
My legs give out and my knees slam into the ground. Memories are all that I have now.
Sunrises and messy, soggy shoulders. Sour milk and soiled diapers. Lullabies and skies painted with stars and moonlight.
Please . . . please . . .
The doctor said it was pneumonia.
The grief howls and roars. I can't seem to breathe.
I remember . . .
My wife's face, radiant in a golden beam of morning sun as she smiles up at me. Lustrous waves of black hair fanned upon a milk-white pillow edged in Irish lace. Long, slender fingers cupping a red rose touched with morning dew. Her voice as she whispers my name. Her eyes, brimming with awe as she looks upon the life that we created in love. The hopes and dreams we shared over buttered toast and cups of coffee. The promises we made. Our tears of parting.
My grip loosens. My gun drops lowers in my grasp, barely held. This is dangerous, this weakness. I can't seem to care.
Our baby. Our little boy.
I hear the footsteps too late. Much too late.
A lightening bolt of fire slaps me down. Forest trash of leaves and twigs fill my vision. The taste of dirt is in my mouth, seasoned with copper. I can see my hand . . . that is my hand . . . lying atop my gun. A single drop of blood beads upon one knuckle. A boot, so shiny I can see a blurred reflection of my face steps on my wrist. My gun is taken away and I find that I do not care.
Hands roughly turn me over. Faces leer down at me from far above. My body jerks as my dogtags are yanked from my neck. The pain is distant. Fading. Breathing is getting harder.
I should care.
The faces look angry now. Their lips are moving. They must be shouting, but all I hear is my son's joyful laughter.
And I smile as the last faces I see are my wife and son's.