Growing up is a confusing process, you have no idea it’s happening until it’s almost over. For me it was like the dark ages, everything sucked.
Middle school was one of the worst and best times of my life.
While I had some of the closest friends that I’d ever had, I also had a scourge of depression that always seemed to find a way to swallow me whole.
My past wasn’t the greatest, that coupled with teenage hormones made that depression seep deep into my psyche.
I won’t lie I often thought of suicide, at home I became more and more introverted, yet nobody noticed and that didn’t help the situation.
Everyday was worse than the last, for five years, there was contemplation and attempts of suicide.
It wasn’t that I hated anything in particular, I hated everything; my parents lack of caring ,loneliness that dogged me, the emptiness that was me, and myself.
Events from my past terrorized my mind every time I closed my eyes, often times, quietly, I cried until my eyes closed completely and nightmares took.
Over those years I lost my faith, this had to do with all of those times that I was in so much pain I begged for someone to save me, anyone to help me burden my pain,
and that never happened. Eventually I started begging God to kill me in anyway a car, lightning, heck even a murderer, I didn’t care at that point anything besides life was mercy.
After all of that I felt the most chilling emptiness, I was hollowed and left with nothing.
By that time I’d tried fashioning rope, we didn’t have any and I was ten at the time so sadly the ropes I created always broke.
Of five of those years I had four suicide attempts, still nobody noticed.
After those five eternal years passed I finally came out of that long depression.
I was happy with only a few mental breaks every several months, it didn’t happen often so I didn’t think it was worth any notice.
About the time I hit high school I had adjusted quite well.
Everything had leveled out quite nicely, I was 6’0 well enough built with sandy brown hair and hazel eyes, I’d made friends not close friends , but friends all the same.
I thought I was fine, yet every now and again deep down I realized I wasn’t, even the people I cared about like Sarai one of my friends whom I admit I might’ve liked a bit,
had no inkling of who I really was in the end I was just existing someone who didn’t care what happened to them it just didn’t matter.
Just listing through life that’s how I spent years, until one day, my senior year, I was drafted.
I had no feelings towards this nothing mattered, the training was tough and sometimes very painful, but at least I finally had the opportunity I may finally find some peace in death an exit.
The first few weeks were harsh, waking up early which isn’t my strong suit, the exercise and trust me the words that spewed from our sergeants mouth would make an angel cry.
The unspoken slogan we all learned was to either put up or shut up, do exactly as you’re told when you’re told there were no niceties it was mindless and I liked that,
being a machine was something I practiced daily anyways just not in the same way… I needed an exit this was a necessity either a way to live or my way to die.
Friends were not hard to find. Though I was a quiet person we were all in this together we were a team relying on each other was natural to us.
Most of the time it was hot, the wind kicked up throwing sand in my eyes all I could see were blurry colors, orange, yellow,and faded brown appeared in between blinks.
The equipment I carried felt exaggerated in the heat. “Hey Ray this sand tastes just like the dirt your mom sends” Tommy yells back to Ray
“ yeah, yeah up yours Tommy boy” Ray yells in response. Ray was more serious than Tommy and easily my favorite between my two friends, he often prayed even though he didn’t believe in God.
Tommy and Ray were to my left Ray further back than Tommy almost forming a triangular I found Tommy joked too much that’s why Ray occasionally made fun of him ,
but Tommy had serious moments as well. Sometimes I think Tommy joked to forget that he was here with people who’d kill him in a heartbeat, the sun that blared down on him, joking covered up fear.
“Michael where was it we said would be perfect to fish?” What? Where did the conversation end up? Dammit I wasn't paying attention.
“Um I think we said Alaska, I hear it's beautiful up there” At this Tommy laughed.
“Beautiful huh? Jeez Michael you sound like a woman”
“Eh? What's wrong with being a woman? You don't like girls Tommy?” I replied jokingly.
“ Yeah anyways if Michael were a woman I think he's the quietest one I've ever-”
Crack! Echoes of a shot rang through the air like a bell, a second, one second was all it took. A spray of warmth hit the sensitive part of my neck.
Turning to my left my eyes laid upon Tommy's face, we’d both been walking next to Ray, but since I was farther ahead the blood flecks sprayed the back of my neck whereas Tommy,
Tommy's face was clear to see and it's a face I will never forget.
His face had Ray’s blood sprayed on it, the coat of blood looked like a bad piece of art, his expression showed a dazed confused stupor,
eyes wide mouth agape as if he'd broken a vase and just got caught by his mom. We both looked at each other clueless, but then slowly Tommy's face turned to one of realization.
“Run!” Tommy yelled, still confused I jumped into action. By this time, in this tiny sandy village, in this tiny place, in just one second, my eyes opened to the real world.
This event was nothing new, war is nothing new, people affected and broken by our child,our abomination we gifted the name war, is nothing new, and yet it was new to me.
With one shot, a pull of a trigger, Ray’s life ended.
He was simply gone leaving an empty body splayed behind me, I thought it was a dream I hoped it was a dream, but reality set in and an abrupt panicky emptiness panged in my stomach.
I met Ray in training, we were in the same unit, we were allies, he was someone I could trust, I did trust, I shared my past and he shared his I’d have to say though I never did say this,
but he was my best friend someone who was always there to lean on, I had to leave his body behind me. I couldn’t even be with him in his last breath.
Was this my job? Was I here to merely bear witness to pain? At this thought a wealth of rage built up, blood dark, simmering rage.
My mind had been set I was going to find the man who shot Ray, and God help him when I did.
Tommy and I were still in the area, but we’d ducked inside a tiny abandoned house.
“ Tommy where’d that shot come from?” I asked
“Right out there” he nudged his head to a building further down across the way.
My eyes set on the empty street, empty even though it was midday. Rushing from the little nook we were in, I left before Tommy could even get the words out that would stop me.
I scanned the eery street,wind blew with a whooshing howl and my closed world felt even lonelier.
Glancing from left to right as I moved forward,I spotted movement from an alley in the same direction the shot had been fired,
sure of myself that I’d caught Ray’s murderer I ran to that dark alleyway, but what awaited me was an ordeal I wasn’t capable of handling.
Created by two building, an alleyway nice and pretty sat narrowly filled in by shadow. Clothes hung on a clothesline to dry in the sun.
Everywhere surrounding this alley was peaceful, as if everyone had just decided the sky was blue, the sun warm, and the breeze just right so why not take a nap.
On occasion you’d see one of those weren’t quite tired, take a pleasant stroll down the beaten dirt street managing to pass a scene so tragic the world should’ve wept.
When I got into that cool alley I saw before me a trembling young boy, he looked to be about six or seven.
I looked into wide brown eyes streaming with tears, they held fear, and his tiny hands held a revolver. My anger stopped replaced with confusion he looked so scared.
I wanted to hold him in my arms and tell him he was safe he didn’t have to be afraid, I wouldn’t hurt him.
My vision blurred and for a brief moment I saw myself images of my past smudging and blending with the present.
A young me crouched in that same position shaking the same way, listening for the front door to bang open signaling my father’s arrival from the bar.
What I saw on this boy’s face was the same fear I’d worn on mine when my father shouted at my mother when my mother screamed as he rammed a fist into her stomach and she collapsed on the floor,
as his foot jutted out striking her in the stomach again and again.
My mother covered her stomach that held my baby sister inside trying to protect the little girl not yet born, she protected the unborn child as much as she could,
not that my father cared he shoved her into the cold porcelain bathtub still hitting as hard and as much as he could. I wanted to protect my mother too, I was her child after all.