A Mirror Image

Bombs screamed.

Shrapnel flew.

Friends and comrades blew apart.

Albert jolted awake and lay there in a cold sweat.

Where am I?

Am I still in the foxhole?

No.

Too clean.

Too soft.

A coffin, then.

I’m dead.

The shrapnel hit me, tore me, broke me.

I’m dead.

Just like my friends, I’m dead.

But.

I’m breathing. I’m still breathing.

I’m.

I’m alive?

Maybe I’m in the hospital still.

He glanced around at the painted walls, at the ceiling fan, at the fancy light fixture.

No. This isn’t the hospital.

So?

Where am I?

He glanced to his left.

His wife slept beside him.

Home.

This is home.

I am home.

The war is gone.

The war is not here.

He rubbed the sides of his head.

It’s just all up in here.

He uncovered himself and took a deep breath.

I can do this.

He rolled to the edge of the bed and carefully set his feet on the floor.

This shouldn’t be so hard.

Why is this so hard?

I hate that this is so hard!

He pulled himself into a sit.

I can do this.

Albert leaned forward and wobbled up into a stand. He thought desperately about his walker, which he had left stranded in the bathroom last night.

I can do this.

Darn it! I can do this!

I hate this.

This shouldn’t be so hard.

I hate this!

I can do this.

He raised his foot and set it down.

One step.

He raised his other foot and set it down.

Two step.

His mouth twitched as he remembered dancing with his wife on their wedding day.

He raised his foot again.

Set it down.

Raised his foot.

Set it down.

Heavy, clomping steps forward.

Tears welled in his eyes as he remembered outrunning all of the other kids in his class.

Clomp.

Clomp.

Heavy.

Heavy.

Clomp.

Clomp.

Tears left trails down his face as he remembered walking in the woods. So easily. He didn’t even have to think about his feet. It was just a natural thing. Something he took for granted.

He left the bedroom and stopped in the hallway. He spread his hand on the wall.

It isn’t fair.

Why am I still alive?

Why aren’t I dead like them? My friends. My dear friends. All gone. But not me.

No.

Not me. I’m trapped in this broken body.

God, why did you spare me?

He raised his head and looked at the picture on the wall right next to his hand.

It was a picture of him standing with his hand spread on the wall. His other hand was on his hip. He grinned roguishly at the photographer.

He felt like he was looking at a mirror image of himself.

But the mirror had gotten something wrong.

On one side, he was happy and whole.

The other side, he was miserable and broken.

I will never be that man again.

I will never be that happy and carefree.

I will never be whole.

His wife stepped out into the hallway. “Al? What are you doing, sweetie?”

He stared at the picture, unable to respond.

She came closer and stroked his back. “Hey.”

He closed his eyes and relished the feel of her touch. “I had another bad dream.”

“Do you want to talk about it?”

He thought about the screams and the sounds of death. The thick smell of death and blood.

He shook his head.

“That’s okay. Whenever you’re ready, I’ll listen. You know that, right?”

He nodded. “Jill.” He paused. “I’m a mess. I’m broken and shattered. I’m not good for anything anymore. I can barely even walk. You should just throw me away. Stuff me into some retirement home. Forget about me. Find someone else. Someone full of vitality. Someone who’s still alive.”

“No. Al, I love you.” She kissed the middle of his back. “Even your broken parts. You’re my husband. The only one I love. We’ll work our way through this. You and me. I know it won’t be easy for either of us. I know there will be anger and hurt. But I will hang on to you. I will not throw you away.” She wrapped her arms around his waist.

He released the wall and leaned back against her. “I love you too.”

 

 

December Writing Prompts

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