melancholy: the penny drops
sledge/snafu, mini-series (part four)
by frooit

.

.

.

.

You can't sleep.

You lie awake and blink at the ceiling. Your teeth grit. It's the assaulting and constant screaming that you hear. It's the crying and the hell fire heat and the sweltering humidity and the acid in your guts (oil-slicked and literally burning a trail from your gullet). It's the blood on your hands and the serrated coral edge and the waist-deep mud. It's the constant biting bugs and the horrid smell (oh, the depth and breadth of it) and the choking fear. It's the guilt, the pain. It's the flashes and the bangs and the ominous, late-night rustling (anticipation) and did'ja' really think.

You roll out of bed and come to the door.

Your hand pauses on the cold knob.

Go down the hall, take those seven or eight steps, and come to a brick wall.

.

.

.

It's mid afternoon and the two of you are lazing about on the crisp grass skirting your family's property. You're soaking up the sunlight, breathing equal parts tobacco smoke and fresh (intense, austere, powerful) air. You lie back and listen to the birds and the wind and the almighty silence and calm. You note the few birdcalls you can from the distance. Snafu is silent in any agreement, head tilted, loose on its roots, bruised eyes shut, lips pursing his half-gone cigarette.

It's for hours that this might go on. A moment you figured you would never get to share with anyone, really. You figured, you'd decided (whether you really wanted to or not, it was apt for the time), that you would die back there. Back in your world of oceans blue and skies grey and mud mud mud, rifles, and death.

"Too good tah be true," Snafu mumbles.

You're turning to him. He's looking beyond you though and to the horizon, those peepers of his so glassy huge, pupils sucked tight. The Sun is hiding. Your skies grey have come to visit (and your oceans blue too; loud in the curve of iris).

You wince.

Everything is all the more bright and stinging the less sleep you get.

.

.

.

You've rolled out of bed and come to the door.

Your hand is paused on the freezing knob.

Fight or flight.

You decide.

You turn the knob and find you're not opening on to the hall outside, you're opening on the inside of a room. A room hung in shadow, a room that used to be your brother's but now here stays a refugee, a spectre, a living, breathing ghost. Your ghost. You move to the center of the room and the bed there. You climb in next to the shrouded figure. It's all said and done before you know what's been done.

Walk through a veil of smoke; walk through a threshold.

Whatever is on the other side must be better than here.

More often than not that's not true.

More often than not holding to hope is a dead man's prayer.

Snafu doesn't move. You inch closer. He faces away from you, his back (surprisingly) showing to the door. He's putting off an enormous amount of heat. You move up and take a breath in. It's cigarettes and crisp uniform and shoe polish and sour smoker's sweat that you get. He moves now, turning his head just. You can't see his face so there's no expression, only the wetness in his eyes gleaming back, lit by midnight stars and translucent cloud.

.

.

.

Storms move with purpose coming in off the coast. Your day is quickly turned to night, turned to rain, turned to harping gusts and you're both soaked before you even get within sight of the house and the covered porch. You spring up the two steps and onto the deck at last, Snafu following much in line. He looks like you remember him best. It's a blinding reference, a stark call back, and you want to stagger from it.

His hair is flat, his eyes damp (squinting droplets away; fluttering eyelashes, fluttering, fluttering) and his mouth, well, it's a sneer. All the characteristics of a Marine not so long ago, none of the dress. You pull him close in that moment, by the collar of your borrowed shirt, and bam

smack him right on the lips.

He goes ridged.

But you're thinking, This is for always watching out.

His lips are wet.

This is for a job well done.

Wet and cold.

This is for being a friend.

.

.

.

You move closer still, pressing your chest to his spine and the top of your thighs to the back of his. He looks to you no more. You bring up your left arm and lay it over his shoulder to grasp his chest, his collarbone, his heart. You both breathe: his chest swells, yours delays, ears straining to listen. The whiff you're afforded now is something entirely different. It's his singular smell, wild, roving, and biting strong. It's plainly enough to make your eyes water. Enough to make your throat clamp shut. Enough to make you moan (pain, agony). This is what comfort should feel like but it's just the clap of thunder.

You open your eyes and a sterile white ceiling shows above.

Lightning streaks. It calls out the white, pressing dark corners clean.

The noise and flash still conjures fear, even at this age.

It's woken you from many dreams.

Many you still have since getting off that train alone.

.

.

.

.

end