My morning was perfectly predictable. No straying from the order I’ve re-composed around the welcoming…no, the resignation of accepting, the beginning of another day. Now the poem I wrote rings through my head and knowing he couldn’t hear the garden symphony tears at my heart and I feel it at my core. Stupid fucking poems.
Remembering the look on his face as his head reached skyward, the determination in his step, anxious, almost panicked as he battled what he knew and what the war had made him see. That helicopter we hear while sitting on our porches is just a helicopter to us but to him it was the war coming back to haunt him. And so he walked with determined step to a place where trees didn’t block his view, and with panicked eyes he turned his head to the sky to confirm what his mind knew was true but what his soul insisted was a lie. “It’s an air-care helicopter” he would tell me. This seemed irrelevant to me but I thanked him anyway. I knew why he looked. In fact, if you are are out in the world and you see a person looking toward the sky to identify exactly the source of the sounds of a helicopter flying low, you can know for almost certain that person knows the battlefield and he can never escape the sounds. I didn’t know this before I knew him.
These details became routine in my life. Little by little I learned the why’s of what he did so the outbursts in the store didn’t break my stride. I scanned plots of movies for any indication there might be scenes of war before pressing play. I knew the gaze that meant the war had called him back and now it was my turn to nudge him back home with a word about anything from this life we were in right now (one must never nudge a soldier back from the memories of a battlefield by touching their arm or touching anything. You must remember they are, in their minds, at war at that moment even while they sit on that chair in that garage in that house in the suburbs with the birds chirping outside. They aren’t there with you. They are at war). The same goes for dreams; one must never wake a soldier as you would someone else by gently shaking their arms, or a gentle kiss on the cheek, lest you become part of the nightmare he’s in an he reacts swiftly to protect himself. I learned never ever to walk up behind him without announcing clearly from a distance that I was behind him. These little things all added up to a life tailored to a soldier’s wounded soul. They go to war to fight the battles so we can sit here on our porch beside our gardens. Then they are called home except they can never truly come home because the war, in some ways, comes home with them.
He was a soldier. He fought for us and then his battlefield became the things he carried inside his soul. A man’s soul, wounded from the things of war, can never truly be mended. They simply move among us, doing their best to accommodate this life so that we, the ungrateful, can be at ease. It’s a lot to say in one little paragraph or two so for now, just know that moving among you today are soldiers whose battlefield has become the wrestling of their souls as they struggle to reconcile the things of war. Before you judge, consider this real possibility.