The Wild Horse
By Helen Lemus
Profanity, Adult themes
Concrete path lifts before me and my toes point upwards towards the sky as I walk, walk and walk. I’m going home. I guarded the poppy fields outside of Afghanistan for the U.S. for us. It seems that I was never really a part of “us.” Now, I am back home and the backpack is so heavy because of all that stuff. There are changes of clothing, presents, books and a liter of water. Most people buy a little bottle of water every time they get thirsty leaving a Hansel and Gretel trail of plastic to their homes. I am four miles from my home. It’s nice to think in miles again. Kilometers almost pissed me off.
My body smells of exertion. Ok, it just stinks of b.o. I ran out of deo my second week over there. I spent the extra cash on uppers to meet the requirements. I had to stay awake. We all stank up the place. It was like a pig farm. The sweat dried on our cold bodies beneath uniforms making them stiff like cardboard. When I first enlisted, I used to iron everything with plenty of starch. Now, I just want someone else to do that for me. I guess that I got tired. My whole military experience consisted of doing what I didn’t want to do when I didn’t want to do it for reasons I wasn’t supposed to know about. When you don’t know for sure, your mind fills in the blanks. The poppies must have been there for us. They made the horse so we could ride it.
Now, I just walk past the colorful storefronts and try not to notice all the people noticing me. One boy jumps in front of me and tries to salute me. I walk around him but not before I smile. Cute kid. He had a Miami Heat t-shirt on. That’s the basketball team that I like. Basketball. I will get to watch basketball. I need to get home. I look up at the flaming sun. It must be about noon. I thought about the Major. He never spoke to me except for that day that I had bumped into him at camp.
“Lousy spec,” he had said. “Can’t you stay out of people’s way,” I had been a little preoccupied that day. My mother had written to say that my dad had died because the doctors had not seen the tumor.
“Damn doctors,” I had said. It had made her cry. I had felt even worse. As if.
I am now two miles from home. The people at the V.A. had cautioned me. They had warned me to make sure that I took my medicines and slept well. They told me to make sure that I stayed out of the sun. Then, they asked me to leave the hospital because I wasn’t sick anymore. The sun outside is brutal. I had forgotten about Miami weather. I keep walking. Where am I going? Home.
I stop in front of the pawn shop and drop to one knee. I pull out the bottle of water and take a long swig grateful for the liquid. The heat is coming up from the concrete and down from the the merciless sky. I wish for a cloudy sky, a breeze, a place to rest. Soon. There is a man in a white t-shirt in front of the gas station. He has a small child with him who was asking for money. The man sits on a MacArthur Dairy milk crate and watches while taking long drags off his cigarette. No way.
“What are you doing?” it sounds like my voice but it is deeper than I remember.
“None of your fucking business, man. Keep walking,” he says defiantly. He looks away, a dismissal.
“I repeat. What are you doing,” I say.
“It’s my life. He is my son. It’s none of your damn business,” he says. I grab him and pick him up. He spits. I punch him over and over until I can’t see his eyes anymore. He tries to punch me but it doesn’t work real well for him. He keeps hitting my hard body and can’t get to my face. He collapses. The boy runs toward us and drops next to his father. The mess on the floor is urinating. I pull back my boot so that the stuff doesn’t get on my boots. “Why are you so man?” asks the boy. I have no words.
I keep walking. I wait for sirens, but no police arrive.
“Baby,” my mother says when she opens the door.
“Mom, I brought you some gold from Turkey,” my voice says. I had practiced.
“Come in, baby. You’re home. You’re finally home,” she says. There is a scent of her cinnamon candles in the air. “Thank God you’re home.” I did.