Your run turns into an abrupt slow walk. You walk. You walk the rest of the way. You walk because you know you don’t have to run anymore. You try to slow down your breathing, but the heart beats way too fast. You realize, you’re not sure if you care. The seconds hand on your wristwatch moves at its own pace. Slows when it wants. Quickens when it needs. You feel the sun on your face. The wind between your fingers. You feel, ahead. Like you’re leaving everything behind. You are. You taste the mountain air on your lips. Not the first time. Something’s different. Something in the air. Something, pleasant. Something welcoming. Something that has been put off for far too long. Like the first breath at the end of examinations. Like at the end of the world. Free. Freedom. Tastes like freedom. Tastes like freedom, and feels like home. Aah. Home. Wife and children. Girlfriend. Parents. Friends. What you fight for. What you go back to. There’s always something worth dying for. Worth living for.
You stare at the ground. At the line that changes everything. You pause to consider your options. Forever. The difference in seconds. Forever. You cross it. Step over. And look ahead. Is it really over? Everyone is sitting down in the mud. Shower less for weeks. Peace on their faces. Smoking that last cigarette together. A sign of good things to come. No jokes in the air. No talk. Nothing but silence. Some close their eyes without fear after a long time. Feeling what it was like once. Feeling it again. That rush of calm. The one without baggage. The one that worried about the future when the world came to sight again. Some keep them open. Wanting to see the world at the end of days. All staring at a spot. The first thing that mattered. Each his own. A photograph. The heavens. The rifle. A speck of dirt. The shoes. Trifles in such a huge world moving at such a pace. It takes more than a few breaths. You see the world, and close your eyes. Taking that long, satisfying breath. Yes. Its over.
All the good things come to mind. All at once. Like being in a candy store as a kid. Not knowing what to choose. It takes time for you to slow everything down. Appreciate one memory at a time. Picture everything down to the colour of your socks. Waking up in the morning in a bed. Nothing but smiles all around. Daily showers. Comfort. Her. Going to work everyday. Coming back. Relaxing on the couch with a coke in hand, watching the game. Her. Having barbeques on the weekend. Taking the kids to school. Watch them grow into wannabe’s and misunderstood teens. Generation x. Paying your bills. Leading a boring, dull and safe life. Her. It’s too much to take in. You feel like you’re going to collapse from all the beauty. Everything that is to come. The promise. What they call the American Dream in the States. What we called heaven on earth during the last 5 years. You want it. You want it so bad. Especially now that it’s so close you can almost taste it. In the wind. Like freedom. Life’s flavours. Just the good ones. All at once.
But then they come to mind. The one’s that never made it. The real heroes. One with the earth. You think about the lives waiting for them back home. The hopeful faces at the doorstep. You think about their last words. The reasons for doing what they did. Those who died saving your life. Your precious, little life. You promise to lead a good life for them. To live on. To cure cancer. To nourish Ethiopia. To end discrimination. To fight for human rights. To end all wars. Something worthy of a nod from Alfred Nobel. At this point, everything seems possible. Everything. Anything that will prove your worth and value. The reason you made it out alive. Your purpose. Someday ahead, you will know to ask the question. “Why me?” Why not the man on my right? My left? You ask questions because no one can answer them. It will kill you. The nightmares. The looks on their faces. The past. We all deserved to go home. The only difference is, some are already there. Waiting.
Dropping your rifle, you raise your palms. Stare directly into them. They shake. Uncontrollably. Relieved of such a weight. All the blood on them. Foreign, and domestic. Friend and foe. Makes no difference. It’s all red. Like an American beauty. Nowhere near the same feeling, if looked upon. Hard to see the beauty behind things when what you’re staring at is another man’s life force. The hands. They stop shaking. The power they held. To give, and to take away. To pass judgment. To pull the trigger. You wonder if god will forgive you for what you have done to each other. To yourselves. Yet you know, deep down, it had to be done. One million had to die. 6 billion would live. You seek solace in the fact that you served your country. Your family. Yet you are changed forever. What got broken here, doesn’t go back together again. This blood will never come off. Not off these hands. Not off these clothes. Not ever. Not unless you can take back every bullet. Every life.
Bonds of brotherhood. The fight for peace. The man next to you. Knowing that you have him covered. All the things you are leaving behind. You’ve crossed the line. Is it worth leaving behind? There was something behind it all. The death. The destruction. The mayhem. The filth. The greed. You discovered equality. Every man is the same. It’s what he does, that defines him. There were no Christians. No sons of Abraham. No Muhammads. No Sikhs. We were all brothers. Brothers in arms. We wanted the same things in life. Took pleasure in the same moments. Dreamed the same dreams. You ask yourself if you could give it all up just to go home. You ask yourself if you can walk away and never look back. You ask yourself if life will still be the same again. You know the answer before you even finish the question. You drop your rifle. Take off your helmet. Pause a minute. And turn around. Give it all one look before it becomes a figment of your past that you will never speak of again. The laughter of the men. The pain in their voice. The sorrow in our hearts. Knowing now what the human race is capable of. You look back. You look back.