Return to Sender

March 4, 2011
By Timballisto BRONZE, Stafford, Virginia
Timballisto BRONZE, Stafford, Virginia
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

My legs were wooden, stiff and numb, when they told me the news. I did not cry, I did not scream in rage and attack the man in the uniform who stood before me. I just… nodded and gently shut my door. I remember, dimly, sitting down on my bed, fiddling absentmindedly with my engagement ring, staring at a stain on the crème shag carpet.

I must have fallen asleep, because the next day, I woke up with tousled hair and a shrieking alarm clock that blared the time: 5: 30. Mutely, I shut it off and turned over, pulling the covers over my head before dropping off again. Feeling took too much energy.

The next time I woke up, it was to the ringing of the telephone, echoing through the kitchen. I picked it up, my voice flat.

“Yes?”

“Sarah, oh my gosh, are you alright?”

“I’m fine, mom.”

“Sarah-“

“Yes?”

There was silence on the other end of the line for a few moments before she spoke again. “We’re meeting him at the airport today.”

“Okay.”

“Get dressed, I’m coming over to pick you up.”

“Okay.”

I don’t quiet remember how I managed to dress myself in my state of disbelief and numbness, but I managed to get myself looking half-way decent before wordlessly sliding into my mother’s beat up old van.

“Are you okay, honey?” she asked, all compassion and sympathy.

I swallowed a lump in my throat. “Yes.”

She didn’t look convinced, but pulled away from the curb and we moved forward. She moved forward- I stayed static.

The airport was crowded, busy, sanitized. It’s uncaring, unsympathetic sterility soothed me, somehow. It didn’t try to comfort and it didn’t jab at the dam of raw grief I had locked away. It was soothing.

“Honey,” mom murmured. “he’s here…”
I bleakly turned, my eyes searching out a smiling face and two bright green eyes-

I saw his friends, his buddies, his Marine Corp comrades. I saw their weary faces, their tired bodies, the tracks of tears down their faces. I saw the silver that hung from a pair of dangling dog tags, clenched tight in a best friend’s hand.

I saw the body bag, and I wept.

The author's comments:
I suppose numb, blatant denial is what most feel when a government official comes to your door to tell you your husband, brother, or son has died in Afghanistan. It's only when you see the proof for yourself, the grief of his friends and your family, that it becomes real to you.

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