"Herr Medic, say alone."
Medic sits alone in the infirmary. The evening is indigo and limitless. The sky is the colour of blueberries and roasted souls. He leans back in his office char, alone, but still able to hear her voice.
"Say it plain. Don't use metaphor."
He can smell faint cigarettes off in the distance, can hear laughter and cameradery. The saddest part is that there is no 'her', no session, no sleek black chaise. Yet still he hears himself repeat the words woodenly.
Her tone of voice suggests displeasure or dissatisfaction, she wants more from him. This tattered man who bleeds like an oak tree, drips self-esteem like a rusty faucet. He echoes like sin in a room full of God, they can always hear him coming.
He feels her displeasure in the way she talks. Tells him -"Don't get poetic. Say 'I'. Say 'me'. Say 'I am alone'."
He does not answer. Her voice sounds the same always, preserved by a faultless memory, by some less distinguishable horror within him. "Say your age," Is her instruction."Own it,"
He knows immediately what she means. But there is no she. No office. No session. In this distance are voices that are real, part of moments that are happening. And this moment is not happening.
"I am thirty-eight and I am alone,"
Her voice becomes steady and implacable. "Tell me about the children,"
And that winds Medic. He covers the corner of his mouth for not even a second, a microexpression that sets her eyes colder. Swallowing, he hardens.
"Blue eyes," His voice is pathetic. His throat is a pinprick when he tries to swallow, a train-wreck. "It's just a guess. We have-" Falters, but corrects himself quickly. "I have blue eyes. It's just a guess,"
"No." She says. It will not do. It is not enough. Words like a punch in the stomach, she says again "Tell me about the children."
He pauses, softly. The others -the ones who are real, have not noticed him. Still swept up in conversations,building nothing, laying bricks. Medic swallows again, and tries to speak. Tries to tell her of the children.
"There are hundreds," He hisses. Feels a memory tears through him like cut glass. Tears through him like her voice, she says it with rage.
"Nein, Herr Medic." Irons out the telltale crease in her voice. "Tell me about your children,"
It breaks him.
"Tell you about the dead?" He tries to laugh.
"Nobody died, Herr Medic. Please. Tell me about them," The words punch him in the stomach again, and he bleeds crippled excuses in the blood from his palms. "Don't damage the furniture," She says. He is choking on his nightmares.
"There are no children,"
"Please." She is becoming irritable. He shuts his eyes and imagines the sweet release of silence, of so many years of latent suffering festering in her tone. It wounds him, strikes him in the septum and he cannot bring himself to look at her. "Tell me."
Tear him to pieces. Scrape the marrow from his bones with a icepick, but he better not make a sound. This is suffering: there are no blue eyes, no children, no session.
He doesn't even flinch at the sudden appearance at the door. Doesn't seem to notice it, too lost, too removed from it all. Words come from the door, and not from her, not from the session.
"What is trouble, Doktor?"
She would have asked a similar question. Medic thinks about cold winters and the sky the colour of chlorine. Shrivelled corpses, warfarin-thinned blood and neat yellow stars accompanied by nastier slurs, painted on doors and homes.
Medic spits his words. "Peanut butter,"
The words come again. "What about peanut butter?"
Medic says that he is lying. His eyes will not move from one corner of his desk, bleakly fixed there, frozen in the grip of this memory, of her voice. There is no session, there is no she, but he cannot control himself.
"Why does Doktor lie?" It's the final straw. Red-faced and sweltering with shame, Medic stands up suddenly, arms bent at the elbows, fists screwed into political statements.
"Because there are no children!" He roars. "Never!" In the corner of the room,on a file cabinet, Archimedes hides his eyes in fear, and even Heavy, the intruder, a stronger, larger man shrinks back in surprise, and fear. His Doktor rarely shouts, rarely raises his voice beyond measures, implacable tones of grim sarcasm.
Before, half-risen from nightmares, he talks of them. These children. And Heavy knows only because he has asked, only because he has earned the pain of these memories, through time and many bloody, glorious victories, side-by-side.
Medic comes out of the trance in a daze, blanching from beet red to stanlingrad white in a second, his body curving like a bow and he falls, gracelessly, onto the surly concrete floor.
His vision blurs until all he can see if the woman he once called 'wife', and the children he failed, most of which strangers, young and bright and –and –gone...
In a second, Heavy is at his side. Returning to reality, and to himself, Medic waves a hand, dizzy and confused, but well enough. "It's nozhing," He waves a hand. "Nozhing. Mein-...my blood sugar must be..." On the way up, he has another momentary lapse. Having had enough, Heavy heaves him to standing with a single hand, careful and loving in the gesture.
He says nothing. Medic will speak in his own time; he usually does. At first, Heavy is apprehensive as to what triggered this reaction, but sees that Medic's sleeves are rolled up, and he's not wearing any gloves. This is unusual and dangerous: it exposes the hard, black number on Medic's arm.
There is a deep scar running through it, trying to erase that life. It wasn't until he was bleeding out that Medic realised what he was trying to destroy was a lot deeper and harder to get at than the defenceless skin of his arm. He couldn't get at it from the outside in.
Heavy rolls down the sleeves of the shirt with care. He tries to be delicate. And Medic is looking at him with such remorse, and such shame. His voice is soft when he speaks, "Is okay. Is over now,"
It isn't. It hasn't been over for a long time. Worst of all, there is no session, no woman. It's just an empty infirmary on a tuesday night, where the darkness is so loud it almost drowns out the memory.
Heavy lets him be. He says not a word, but presses close to him that night, his arms like a parachute, his body like an emergency exit row. He doesn't ask about the session, about the children. About the war.
And it's sad, because Medic thinks...nobody ever believes this story.