Deer in headlights

2008 August 1
tags: , ,
by Hedon

About a month ago, I was standing at the deli counter of a convenience store that has truck parking in Indianapolis. I was waiting for our hot wings to finish cooking, so I was basically just staring into space. Then I noticed this young man walk up to the counter. He looked like he was a Senior in High School. Or maybe first year of college. He walked slowly. As if he were dazed.

The young girl behind the counter obviously knew him, as she greeted him by name. Mike. That was the name she used. She asked how Mike was doing and he seemed to shake himself mentally and answered, “I just found out I’ve got to go back to Iraq. I’m leaving tomorrow.”

The girl looked shocked and said, “But you’re done. You’ve already done yours. Now you’re home. Because you’re done.”

He looked at her. Well, he looked toward her. He didn’t actually make eye contact with the stammering girl. He said flatly, “We have to go back. Tomorrow. I don’t want to die. If we go back I will die in Iraq.”

The young girl pulled herself together enough to mouth all the platitudes one mouths at a time like that while she refused his money and paid for his Coke. I’m convinced he didn’t hear a word she said. As he turned to go, he stared right at me. Right through me. Stared blankly into his future.

Mike didn’t even look old enough to buy a bottle of beer, but he had served his country honorably. And come home thinking his duty had been discharged faithfully and now he could carry on with his life. Only to be broadsided by this news that left him visibly staggered.

Looking like a deer in headlights.

I can’t get his face out of my mind.

2 Responses
  1. 2008 October 8
    Belledog permalink

    Beautifully written and too haunting. I hope Mike makes it back home safely. In one piece, no TBI, no prosthetics. No memories that steal his peace of mind in later life. God damn this war and this president who put Mike into it. Twice.

  2. 2008 October 11

    I do, too. It’s been a long time now and his face is still popping up in my mind whenever I hear anything about Iraq. If I believed in a hell I would damn Bush to hell in a heartbeat.

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