TWO LOCAL MEN KILLED IN FIGHTING IN IRAQ
That was the one of the headlines yesterday in the Columbus Dispatch. It’s now been repeated around the country so often over the past few years that I think most of the populace is taking it for granted or have at least grown somewhat immune to it. The outrage over the war seems to have faded and the death and injuries that are a commonplace occurrence seem to have blended into the background or at best hum softly like elevator music hardly going noticed.
Unless you're the one that's trapped in the elevator…
No, it wasn’t him, thank God. It was a member of his unit though and that’s close enough.
She comes from one of those large Irish families. In total, I think there are seven or eight kids. When you add to that all of the uncles, aunts, cousins, nephews, nieces and other assorted family members you’ve got yourself quite the tribe. The neighborhood I (and most of them) live in is what you might call close knit. You can hardly run to the grocery store or post office or even go get a cup of coffee without bumping into one of them.
Her face is etched in pain and worry as she nurses her beer at the local watering hole. She calls out for a shot of something, anything, to help erase the thoughts that must be echoing inside her head. Words that one time might have soothed her and offered up some much needed reassurance seem hollow and her eyes are brimming with tears just waiting to be spilled. The story runs on the news at six.
The regulars gathered at the bar have fallen silent, their eyes glued to the television and the bartender puts the juke box on mute. They sit in their assigned seats at one end of bar and ignore the folks who have just walked in. Fuck the other customers, the ones who don’t call this place home. They can spare five minutes from their lives so that we might try and honor one of our own.
It doesn’t even take the five minutes. The story is done in less than three. The fallen deserve better than that.
Nobody knows what to say to break the silence. Glasses are raised and heads are nodded in her direction. She breathes in and lets out a sigh and acknowledges everybody with a smile that is feeble at best. She seems better for a while but all of us know that it’s only temporary. The ghost of her conscience will probably come calling sometime during the night and she’ll sit up and worry and wonder what the hell is going on in a place so far away and if he’ll come back in one piece or if he’ll come back at all.
The dam breaks when we go outside to have a smoke. It’s a beautiful day, the sun is shining and there’s hardly a cloud in the early evening sky but it’s raining tears.
Hugs and helplessness.