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John White

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I sign
Eagerly
Yet, petrified with fear
My name has never stung to such a great extent nor never will sting more
I slowly inscribe my name on the contract:
J
Will I return alive?
O
What will happen of my fiancé, Suzanne?
H
How could my mother go on knowing she outlived her child?
N
I know I will regret this
W
Is there still time to flee to Canada?
H
Will I be a hero?
I
Will I be a monster?
T
Can I do it?
E
Can I kill a man?
Thank you sir, you will leave at the end of the month
The month passes in a day
I saunter away from my parent’s home
My mother weeps uncontrollably with Suzanne
My father stands emotionlessly
I am unsure whether he is proud or ashamed
As I recall
Not once did my feet touch the dirt that day
I flew but wished to be grounded
Every seat is filled
But the bus is empty
Just me sitting alone
Only I and the dirt road exist
Nine weeks in hell is a thousand years back in the real world
The real world
As if this isn’t the most realistic moment of my life
As if the sergeant roaring in my ear isn’t real
As if six hours of sleep a night isn’t real
As if a marathon a day isn’t real
I wish I could say I am ready to leave
I wish that the sergeant did his job and prepared me for war
Prepared me to kill a man
I step out of the helicopter
The long grass brushes my leg
Every sense in my body enhances
My gun is cold
Cold as ice
Even after the warmth of my body transfers it is cold
I am paralyzed
I cannot move
The soles of my feet are glued to the hill as I look around
Graceful emerald mountains dominate the horizon
I forgot who I am
The tranquil nature of the valley grasps me in its gentle palm
How can man die in a world so stunning?
Let’s go soldier! Do you want to get shot?
No sir
I run with them
The sergeant stops
Seven men scurry out of the grass screaming
One has a scar across his face
Another is left handed
One is not screaming
Merely running
Towards me
I can tell he is as terrified as I
What are you doing?! Don’t just stand there!
So I raise my gun
To my right shoulder
Rest my cheek on the surface
I inhale
All sound is gone but the beating of my heart
All is a blur but his face
The face that I see whenever I close my eyes
The face that will follow me even through death
I exhale
He stops running
The water below him is stained by blood
He drops first to his knees
Then his to chest
His expression has not changed
I wake up
It is eerily quiet
I am surrounded by placid dove-white walls
What happened?
Well it's about time you wake up you were shot in the leg then passed out in battle
I do not remember receiving the wound, and barely notice it now
All I can think of is the man's face
His terrified face
Terror not from the fear of death, but the fear of causing death
I assume my expression was the same
Not even my dear Suzanne crosses my mind at the moment
John, you received a purple heart. You’re a hero!
I still fail to recognize the voice
I do not remember if my next words were spoken or merely thought
Why don’t I feel like one?
Thinking back, I was wrong
My name now stings more than ever





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