I walk my daily patrol like a fearsome warrior, dressed in my combat helmet and protective gear. I point my rifle out for all to see, and the people around me cringe.
But, inside, I’m just a kid from Kansas, or Detroit, or L.A. I’m scared as hell, wondering if someone will dart out of an alley with a deadly weapon pointed at me.
I wonder when that bullet will be meant for me.
Women walk tentatively past me, their eyes cast down. They are innocent bystanders, but all I see are potential adversaries. I wonder if one of them is secretly waiting to blow up everything within a hundred yards.
I wonder when that bomb will be meant for me.
I walk like I know where I am going. Like I am the king of the hill. But I’ve seen one too many of my buddies step on mines, and the sprawling body parts and shrapnel are not something a kid like me should experience.
I wonder if my next step might be my last.
So many people, bullets, mines, and explosives. So many images of death. They play with my mind, tense my muscles, disturb my sleep. I wake up in the morning wondering…
…is today is the day that I die?
Then, just like that, it is all over. I get on a plane and fly halfway around the world to return back home. Jet speed doesn’t feel fast enough.
But, even though I am physically back home, my mind can’t seem to leave behind the memories and images of war. Relationships, careers, and even daily routines are more difficult. It’s hard to concentrate. Hard to connect.
It’s easier to disconnect from my old life and live on the streets. But, even here, the wondering continues.
I’ve heard of teens with baseball bats who roam the streets, ready to pound the life out of people sleeping on the sidewalks.
I wonder if I am next?
Life on the streets is similar to my warrior days. People stroll by, but I don’t know if they are friend or foe. Is that a gun in their hand…or an umbrella?
I sometimes wish I could become invisible, so I could hide from the realities of the street. Perhaps that would protect me from thugs who want to hurt people just for being in their way.
Like my days overseas, the scent of sickness, violence, and hunger surround me. Maybe the bombs, mines, and explosives are no longer my reality…but death is still in the air.
Even now, living on the streets of America, I sometimes wonder…
…is today the day that I die?
Maybe, someday, I will be able to stop wondering.