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Purple Heart Fatigue (standard:Psychological fiction, 934 words)
Author: Reid LaurenceAdded: Aug 31 2007Views/Reads: 2554/0Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
I don't want to be the one who can't see the forest for the trees. I want to see things as they really are, and all you need to do is to take a trip to your neighborhood grocery store. That in itself is clue enough...

Driving myself to the neighborhood grocery store, I pulled in to the
same old spot as usual, put the car in ‘park' and turned off the 
ignition. Looking through my window, and up at the sky, I could hardly 
tell if it was night or day. It was one of those forty degree, late 
fall days where the sun never shows itself, but neither does the moon 
or stars. One of those days when you feel like the whole world's in 
limbo, just waiting for something to happen, but just what it is, is 
anybody's guess. It's just a feeling I suppose. The kind of feeling 
that something should happen, but never quite does. 

Just getting up and out of my car was an effort these days, but as I
pushed myself away from the steering wheel, stood erect and slammed the 
door closed, I tried to remind myself how lucky I was to be alive. 
‘What about the guys that didn't make it?' I thought. ‘The ones that 
came back in pine boxes. How about them?' But the antithesis of my 
short lived optimism always seemed to work better for me then the 
thesis and I usually concluded that I too would have been better off 

‘At least if I were dead,' I thought. ‘People wouldn't have to worry
about me anymore. There'd be an end to this, an end to my suffering and 
pessimism, and it would've been an honorable end too. None of this 
going around feeling sorry for myself. The feeling that I left a piece 
of myself back there in Iraq. Feelings that pills or psychoanalysis 
will just never heal over. What the hell,' I continued, as I stepped 
with what force I could apply on the big, black pad of the electronic 
door. ‘It's not really me people are seeing now when they look at me. 
At least, I know I don't see myself the way I used to. When I look in 
the mirror to shave, I don't see the happy young man with boundless 
energy I used to see, just twelve months prior. I feel like some kind 
of crummy insect... hard on the outside and just a bunch of mush on the 
inside. And every time I lay down at night to go to sleep, I replay the 
day I got wounded over and over again, like that's gonna help or change 
things, but that's impossible and I know it. And every night I come to 
the same conclusion; get up, take another sleeping pill and lay there 
staring at the ceiling again until the sun comes up. But now, with the 
weather changing the way it is, even that doesn't happen. So here I am, 
stuck in limbo, not really among the living, but not counted among the 
dead either... 

I wondered to myself if one of the sharp old politicians whose idea it
was to send us to war would care to walk for a few minutes in my shoes. 
I wondered - as I took note of the stares that came my way from 
customers and employees alike - what they would think if they could see 
for one minute what I've seen. The memories I have to share that no one 
wants to hear. Memories of flying limbs; shrapnel from roadside bombs 
tearing flesh like a rag tears along a seam; babies crying; mothers 
turned prostitute, starving, begging, praying. Praying for an end to it 
all, but the next day is just a duplicate of the last, and a just and 
fitting end never comes. 

“Reid!” Came a voice from behind me, startling me, making me turn in its
direction. “I knew it was you, you old son-of-a-gun. How ya do'in?” 
asked a neighborhood friend I hadn't seen since I'd left town. “You 
look great!” he added, just to be nice I thought. “Why didn't you tell 
me you were home? We could be out there play'in golf like we used to... 
right? How about it? Hey, call me sometime. Don't be a stranger,” he 
continued, as he patted me with some reserve on my left shoulder. 

“Sure,” I replied. “It'll be fun. I'll give you a buzz. Give my best to
the wife,” I said, watching him walk away to an opposite side of the 
big supermarket. ‘How could he be so callous?' I thought, as I turned 
away. But then, how could I expect him to know what I'd been through. 
He was just a guy. Just a regular Joe in the neighborhood. He didn't 
have to go. He got lucky. I can't blame him though, I wanted to go. I 
didn't realize the sacrifices I'd be making when I left. I was just so 
caught up in a wave of revenge and anger. I wanted so much to do what I 
thought was right. I wanted to make my parents and grandparents proud 
of me. I wanted to show them that the time they'd invested in me was 
well spent. But mostly, I wanted to show them what a good American I 

‘Whatever... it's done. It's over. Get over it,' I told myself, as I had
so many times before. But as I got back to my car and pushed my 
shopping cart toward the trunk as I usually did, I couldn't help taking 
another look at the sticker on the rear bumper. ‘These Colors Don't 
Run!” it said. But as I looked down at my missing left leg and leaned 
my crutch up against the car, I knew I, at least, would  never run 


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