by Mark Antony Rossi
I completed my semi-autobiographical fiction collection “Something Happens When We Die” and I began wondering the cost of the violence I became a part of during the Cold War days of West Germany. The women I slept with just to help me through the night. The woman I was afraid of saying “I Love You” and let her go to the arms of another man. Many years later she died painfully of cancer and while I visited her, I still couldn’t say those words. A chest full of medals for killing only proved I was a coward when it really counted. Once. Twice. Three times because she gave me back the crystal Eiffel tower pendant, I gave it to her in Paris. And a sealed envelope with a letter inside.
It is easier to believe she never loved me. To navigate around my selfish crime and secretly blame her. I’ve held too many secrets for too long. But I loved that woman for the eight months we shared together. And the pain of that loss never left my bloodstream. The fact that I am not an alcoholic is for the simple reason that I don’t want to forget her in my thoughts. I don’t want to stop crying because then she truly is gone. Her husband remarried. Who will be left to wait for her?
I know not the answer because my post-stress trauma doesn’t give me hallucinations of her; only strangers, only uninteresting dead people; not the woman I love. Maybe one day I will see her since it’s the only chance I will have with her. To talk to her. She was a healer for this Republic. And I am a killer. They gave her nothing for saving lives. They gave me a medal for taking them. When I pass I will not be allowed to see her. People like me are not allowed to be with people like her —in the afterlife.
So I wait. And I write. And I wonder what night she will come and sit with me for a few moments. I only need a small amount of time. I have a couple of things to say. And I am ready to say them. Is happiness possible? It might be if we can stop making past mistakes over and over again. Making the same mistakes not for the loss of memory but for loss of will. The actions of my service in secret for this country were good and bad. I will stand on Judgment Day without regret.
These other sins are unpardonable. You cannot be a man if you cannot honor the woman you claim to love. Regardless if she loved you back. My last thoughts of her dying in that wheelchair are starkly vivid. She looked so happy like she hadn’t been in the long, long time. We laughed. We remembered our days and nights together. We said goodbye. And her family wheeled her off into a special van, but I will not say goodbye even if it takes away my happiness, my sanity, and my sobriety.
Maybe she will visit me and we can open up that letter– together. I have a feeling I’m going to have to lean on her as I read it aloud. I would like to be stronger but God is needed in Afghanistan. So I write. And I wait. And I help others. Good writers. Wounded veterans. Stray animals. None of them know I am a fraud. Waiting on a beautiful ghost in a Spanish robe. Waiting on a spirit when I doubt God’s existence at least once a week. She belongs in a better place. And I think she can’t visit because I am the man you leave to get to the other man who stays. Is there happiness in second place? Ask the second man who landed on the moon. If you can remember his name.
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