|a very old typewriter, Amherst History museum|
Fate is fickle.(Trust
it or not) It's better than a bullet
but strikes just as hard.
Seats at McDonald's are not made for comfort, bite the backside and work the butt, numb. No one is here this time of morning. Breakfast is being prepped by workers moving slow, left then right. The coffee is hot though. Everything he owns is in a canvas bag by his feet.
Exiting the bus, they told him, 'You can't stay here, but there is a McDonald's where you can wait for the next bus.'
An hour from home and only three or four to wait to make the last leg. It doesn't make sense sometimes. Life or the situation. He raises the cup, letting the heat gnaw his lip. Another drink. Another drink. All he ever wanted to do was serve.
Taking a wad of neatly folded paper from his back pocket, he flattens the stack to the table top in front of him. Medical discharge. Unfit to serve. The bus driver's words, 'You can't stay here,' loop his thoughts.
'Is it always like this?'
His hands evidence weeks of boot camp, PT voluntarily endured for years to prepare, pages turned in books he's studied all his life, hopes and dreams. Sometimes it seems just when you figure it out, life changes.
Headlights carve the street out the window, leave the night even darker. Whose fault is it, when it is no one's and we've done everything right? Otherwise fit, the body he worked to hone, betrayed him.
There is no easy answer, other than there is a next. At times it's hard to see. Only, 'You can't stay here.' He stands, moves to the counter, refills his coffee & turns to the table again.
A face he hasn't seen in months, only hear on the phone line when allowed to call, comes through the door---his mother. They hug, hard and she consoles him in words he can't hear, not yet.
'I didn't want you to have to wait,' she explains.
Breaking the embrace, he retrieves his bag, they exit and he places it in the trunk. Looking back at the empty booth, the questions turn again, as they will---the same ones I have turned a thousand times.
The car door clunks loud behind him, the ignition cranks & they pull out---head home. Lines blur on the road, unending to the horizon. Welcome home. Welcome home, it doesn't feel the same.
Something I scribbled out in my notebook this morning. My nephew came home from boot camp yesterday. Medically discharged for something he could not control. My thoughts are with him as he figures out what is next over the coming weeks and months. I have been there.