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I sit still and silent and alone as I am looking brokenly upon the “Tomb of the Unknown Soldier”. Is that the story of my Dustin now -- has he suffered such a mangling death that his corpse may not be recognized and brought home?
As I sit at one end of the bench with my back leaned up against the wall I am between the floor and the pool, between land and water. When I think about it this seems to be a fairly accurate way to sum up how I feel.
A floor is solid and supportive -- hard to break, this is me with Dustin. Water however will have its calm-seeming surface broken easily and will swallow you if you let it -- this feeling of helpless drowning is me floundering is Dustin’s absence.
Right now I sit in the middle as I am expected to believe Dustin is alive -- although he is not at war and he is not at home, they say he is still breathing somewhere.
I want to hit them for saying this is so. Every young man from Canada today is at war or at home -- if neither he is dead. Yet they don’t have the nerve to say this to me. Would it really kill them to say “Dustin is dead but we do not know where.”? I guess they think so. Perhaps I allow myself to possess this anger because it quiets the sobbing sadness.
They told him how fighting in the war would be honourable, and he thought seeing all those new places would be so exciting. He wanted to fight for freedom; he wanted to go with all the boys for the country. He would send me letters when he could, he said. Oh I was proud of him.
I remember how when those letters would arrive my heart would just flutter. My heart would flutter because I saw those letters as signs that in his spare time he really would think of me. I see now that his thoughts of me were the wrong reasons to appreciate those letters -- I should have been thankful for the signs that he was okay. I should have been thankful that he was able to write at all.
Back here in Canada we knew the war could only be getting harder for the boys to fight, but I knew mine was coming home soon -- that was most of what I really cared about; that does sound selfish but it’s honest. His contract was almost up, he was coming home.
It was in about the last two months of his contract that he really stopped writing. I thought it was okay though, even if I had no letters to read, I could count down the days until I would see my one true lover again.
Now I sit here in the reflecting room, remembering all this for that one true lover who never did come home.
I watched those young men get off the bus one by one -- men who had left us as boys and come back all grown up and in uniform. I watched their faces light up when they saw their families -- the pure joy that being in Canada brought them was magical to see. I watched for the face that would light up when it saw me standing here. While I fiddled with the beautiful engagement ring on my left hand ring finger, I waited -- Oh, the engagement ring.
I’ m fiddling with it now as I stare over the smooth reflecting pool. This pool and its still water has come to represent death in my mind today. The ring he -- Dustin -- gave to me only three short weeks before he left… Because he loved me and he wanted me to wear that ring to show everyone that I was his and that I would be his forever.
Everyone admired this ring -- told me I was a lucky girl to have caught myself such a “fine young man” when the ring was from my soldier, my passionate patriot. Everyone smiled at me and complimented the ring when in a matter of time he would come home.
But now he is dead. And nobody can stand to look at the ring, when anybody’s eyes fall upon my face today, they are sad. Now they don’t say I’m lucky at all for my soldier will not come home.
That sparkling ring, while I sit here, slips from my pale and shaking fingers and I realize how the tears are pouring down my cheeks to land in the pool I look over. That’s where the ring lands, in the pool. It breaks the surface gently -- like a diamond teardrop. I watch as it sinks peacefully down to rest on the bottom. It sparkles -- like his eyes used to sparkle.
A new wave of sorrow crashes over me as my mind conjures up an image of his sparkling blue eyes. My breath is short as I remember how those perfect eyes used to shine when they looked into mine… how just one glance from him could make my heart stop…
The ring is settled on the bottom of the pool now -- it looks like a frozen, diamond teardrop beneath the water; cried for the loss of a love and eternally preserved by sorrow.