(chosen words and phrases from Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried)
It was a mid-April bright morning,
He unwrapped the letters smiling,
Held them with the tip of his fingers.
She wrote of her truest feelings for him and how it lingers,
She wrote the best letter there could ever be.
But he wondered what her truest feelings were, exactly.
She signed the letters love but it wasn’t love.
Instead it was, “I’m sorry but I’m gone!”
Though it was painful, he wondered who had been with her that afternoon.
He would slip away into daydreams, just pretending.
Spend the last hour of light pretending,
He would imagine romantic camping trips, he was smiling.
He found this romantic.
Everything seemed part of everything else.
He would feel himself rising.
Stupid, he thought.
Sentimental, too, but just mostly stupid.
He remember kissing her goodnight.
She received the kiss without returning it right.
She looked at him in a sad, sober way
Why so sad?
Why that grayness in her eyes on that beautiful day?
He was quiet for a time, as if counting a pulse,
It was a swallowed-up kind of feeling with a repulse.
The man understood that words were insufficient.
He understood. It was very sad, he thought.
He loved her so much.
His love was too much for him.
No clouds or birds or people.
He felt a kind of falling, falling higher and higher.
All that peace, it felt so good it hurt.
The nights were cold, and the monsoons were wet.
He felt a balance between crazy and almost crazy,
A matter of knowing without going.
He felt the pain. He blamed himself.
Right then, he thought, he should’ve done something brave.
He should’ve risked it.
He hated her. Yes, he did.
Love, too, but it was a hard, hating kind of love.
You couldn’t burn the blame.
You can’t change what can’t be changed.
He was just a kid in a war of love.
He would shut down the daydreams
And the vows he made to her through the stars above.
He would be man about it.
His heart would still beat.
Love was only a way of singing
And did not mean what he sometimes pretended it meant.
But it was worth every ounce.