Snakes and Pills

023 - shy blessings

I stared on at him through the two slightly ajar French doors. He stood at the edge of the balcony, leaning against the rail and taking in the mist of ocean spray coming from two stories below. The repetition of the waves crashing against the rocks was broken by his voice as he spoke the first words I had heard in two weeks.

"It's over. Word from the north will bring the news, victory has been attained, and we can finally lay down our arms." He wasn't facing me, and as I stared at his back, lined in loose-fitting, stained olive drab, I tried to get a reading of the expression he was carrying on his face, but I couldn't. He continued, "Finally, Peter, we can go back to the lives we left behind."

It wasn't anything like what I had seen from him over these past five years. Talking about our past lives, talking about what surely did not exist anymore, I didn't quite understand. Optimism was not something I was accustomed to, a quality I least of all expected in my friend on the balcony here. I turned around, moved a bit deeper into the room, and sat down on the couch, my back facing the balcony.

"Yes, yes, my friend, it is finally done." His voice was a little more distant now. I felt the upholstery on the couch my body rested upon. I grabbed one of the throw pillows, and ran my fingers over its soft, felt-like surface. I thought about the owners of the throw pillow, the couch, and indeed this whole house. Who were they? Where were they now? Would they care now that a man who was covered in the grime, sweat, and blood of the past months now casually rested his boots upon their coffee table.

"They can't care in heaven, Peter," he answered from the balcony, as if he was reading my thoughts. I heard just the slightest sound, like that of a tiny piece of metal hitting the concrete floor outside. I opened my mouth to see if it could still make noise. The first tremble of my lips, the quiver in my tongue proved that, yes, it was awkward, but I managed, "Aye, nor in hell."

"We'll see," he replied. After that, I heard an explosion that was not entirely unfamiliar, but I must admit, did take me by a bit of surprise. In a moment, it was over. I turned back around, and looking out the blasted remains of the French door, I saw no more balcony, and no more of him. The last explosion in this great conflict that I would bear witness to would be the hardest to endure.


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