Disclaimer: All characters and situations are based on Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried. I do not own them.


Aftermath

I've always felt some measure of pride for my easy transition from war to peace. The war was hard, sure, the war was gut-wrenching and ghosts and blood and that goddamned fear, and the folks back at home just didn't get it, couldn't get it, but the war was then and this is now. I've told a true war story and because of that I'm free from those memories, because of that I live life like it is.

This, of course, is a lie.

You know when therapists and everyone tell you to talk about it and that's supposed to make it all better? Well, I talked about it, sure, I talked about it in my work, my writing, and maybe that helped. But it sure as hell didn't make it all better.

Writing, I think, makes it a dream. It's a dream and then reality is a dream and the dreams are real. It's in the dreams that you find out what it is. Your mind hides it all away, you know, and maybe sometimes you catch a glimpse, but then it's gone and you're normal, just a normal guy with a graduate education and No, of course he couldn't have been a soldier and Lucky him, came back with all his limbs and Poor man, just doesn't show it, but I know he feels it inside.

That last one from a clucking grandma who can dance all she wants and read from the fucking Bible and take a piss without dying and she thinks I feel it?

Am I guilty for the man I killed?

No, because Kiowa told me the straight truth, that man was dead the second he stepped on the trail, and Kiowa was on me about that guilt thing for ages. No, because Kiowa told me to stop staring and I didn't notice that the man's fingernails were clean. No, because Kiowa had me listen up and told me to pull my shit together and I did because Kiowa said

It just happens, you know, it's the little things. It's that cow farm you pass on a road trip and maybe you're not in Nam and you know you're not in Nam but the smell of shit is real. The war was then, and this is now, I get it, but shit is now, too. And you can feel it, rising up, and it smothers you. You can taste it in your mouth, that smell. You can feel the hand on your foot and it pulls and pulls and then it gives up. It fucking gives up.

And then it's all, You okay, honey? and Yeah, I'm alright, and You're sure? and Yeah and in your mind you're screaming. You're angry. You're angry because that honey just ripped you out of your dead best friend's last thought and you know, you just know that's what he was saying, that night in the shit field.

I'm doing it again, you see. It all happened to you, to Tim O'Brien, to that Norman Bowker, who hung himself three years later with a jump rope. It didn't happen to me.

I'm drunk on my own escape.

That's what it is, this, the writing, the talking, all those goddamn people who care, it's an escape. It's a dream.

The war is over. The war was real. The war was a series of facts, of names and dates, and it's done, now. It's the mud and the stench that stay with you, that stay with me, and I'm telling a true war story right now. It's true because right now, right here, I'm sitting at a desk thousands of miles and twenty years away from that night in the shit field, and I can smell it. The war is over. War is not.


A/N: Thank you for reading! Any reviews would be greatly appreciated...