Junebug- Part One

February 8, 2010
The suitcase was a familiar, comforting weight in his hand. He heard the tinkle of a wind chime, the bubbly laugh of a child, then reminding him that the ten or so pounds he carried was no longer a gun. The warm touch of the wind was a distant memory; but no longer. He drank it in and it lightened his heart and cleared his mind.

In his sight now, after long hours of walking, was the house. As a boy, he ran around it, ever curious. As a man, he walked inside it, his steps no longer as flighty, his intentions no longer as carefree as they had been in childhood. Behind his childhood playground was the church steeple where he spent his teenage summers, trying to find a God he had convinced himself wasn’t there to find. Stray leaves whipped into his face; the very sight of their source, a tall, dying Tennessee willow, made him ache for home. He had to shake himself. This was home.

The place where he took his first steps: as a child, as a man. His mom called him for dinner, his friends called him to play. His father was buried under that very willow. All that had to point to home, even when his mind was pointing everywhere but there.
For years before the war, this place was his home. The two-story house, old fashioned even for his time, wound down into the ground, almost like it had been grown there; carefully nursed and urged into maturity. The colors were old. Mixed in were blues and specks of white, like the blue of a nursery blanket. Porches wrapped around each layer of the house, leading to various places of the manor. You could see everything from those porches; their windows were like all-seeing eyes. Vines were dying on the rails, the dry and rancid air too much for them. A white front door was decorated with daisies and lavender, which contributed to the sweet flowery smell. That mixed with cotton and old gunpowder, which all came together for a unique backwoods smell. It smelled like home. It was a house of a whole; the structure itself mixed together and blended with the area around it so well, it was like a well-thought out painting.

Nothing much had changed, to a person with only a glance to spare. He saw it; curtains were placed in the upstairs windows. The swing on the front porch had been repainted-there was a new shine to it. Of course, it had been eight years. He was positive it was not kept uninhabited that whole time. It was such a beautiful house. He could sense it as he stepped closer. There was a certain presence. The house had adapted without him. There had been others living inside of it, making memories. That bothered him more then he cared to admit- more than he could describe. But that didn’t matter. The house was his now; the house was his again.

Except there was something missing. It didn’t feel like home, not like his home. There was a voice that should be echoing through the halls, a laugh that could be sending chills down his spine. There was a smile that wasn’t lighting up the room. And he missed it. In the years he spent outside of the rural town, when you were missing something, you went to find it. No questions, nothing to make it so difficult.

Except he was back. If he went searching for that voice (the one that was always on the top of his mind, on the tip of his tongue), that laugh (the one he would roll over backwards to cause), that smile (the one that went on for days and days, and miles and miles), he would only come up empty handed and disappointed. Because she was gone. Her voice would never be heard, her laugh could no longer be appreciated, and her smile would never be seen again. Because she was dead.

The gun that was tucked neatly in between his favorite Levi’s and his unfolded socks suddenly weighed a hundred pounds, weighing down his hand and his conscious. What could have been, what used to be, and the sad reality that was his present ran through his mind, making what was supposed to be a strictly nostalgic trip into one of self pity and melancholy. The air seemed heavier, weighed down with the emotion, and for the first time in his life, he didn’t want to be breathing it.

But pride and self-importance pushed through the veneer of his mind. He neared the door of the house, his steps echoing hollowly on the front porch, seeming to ring with something oddly familiar. A twinge of doubt planted itself in his mind, making itself known in every way possible. His hands shook while he fumbled with the keys. He felt sick to his stomach as he finally opened the door. His lunch almost came up when he saw that the previously yellow walls were now blue.
Her face flashed through his mind. Just a look, just a flash, just a memory. Nothing more, no matter how hard he prayed for it.

Minutes blurred into seconds. He remembered everything. The blue-carpeted floors, the tall wooden doors, everything. He could almost smell her perfume, almost taste her on his lips. But memories were just that; memories. The human mind wasn’t perfect. In years, in days, maybe even in seconds, he would forget the subtle curves of her face and the deep forest green that was her eyes. He had already forgotten everything else, but the few scenes he still had he held on to with an almost obsessive fierceness. Because the last time he was here with her was ten years ago. Ten long years that felt like ten never-ending years.

Never knowing when it was going to end, that was the problem. Sympathies and condolences told him that he wouldn’t hurt forever. Common sense and the too-cruel reality of the world told him that there were many different types of forever. Forever is what she told him before the world and the addiction took her. Forever is eternity. Forever was June. And, thank God, the forever that seemed to be his definition didn’t last nearly long enough. And again, the greeting cards and bouquets of flowers told him that there were many fish in the sea. But not that fish. Not the fish named June that smelled of lilac and liked to sleep in on weekends. Not his fish.

He didn’t know what it was that brought his feet up to her room; habit, maybe? But regardless, he was there and he found himself wishing that he had never left. 1943 proved to be a year of heartbreak and love and world-wide war. In 1943, he came of age, she died, and he decided that there was nothing else to live for. So every sign, poster and officer that told him that killing men across the sea would give him something else to live for seemed, if nothing else, appealing. Not just something to live for, but something to die for.

Off he went into a startlingly bland world. Tennessee was miles away, so a whirlwind of European fashions, women, and new technologies took him in without giving him time to glance back. For two years, to fight was his life, and his life was a constant fight with himself. He got letters from his mom, her mom, begging him to just give up. But giving up would mean letting go of what he had fought so hard to achieve: numbness. Her memory now brought nothing but bitter, angry feelings of gut-wrenching betrayal. For all his sanity was concerned anymore, she brought this upon him. He wrote her letters with scorching words of resentment. He wrote and wrote until his shaking hands tore through the paper. He sent them straight to his house, where they lay unopened in his mailbox.

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