The gin was his way of hiding from the world, and Archie very much wanted to hide. He wanted to hide from his memories, from the nightmares, and from the ‘concerned citizens’ that attempted to make his life better by telling the things he should do for himself. He often thought of asking them why in god’s name did they think he could do those things? If he was capable, he wouldn’t be in this absolute craphole now would he?
Instead of screaming, he would duck his head, nod at the right moments, and then move on as soon as the person wound down. No use sticking around to hear everything again. He ran a hand across the stubble on his face, grumbling yet again about having to see his haunted eyes in the mirror. He trudged the ten steps to the bathroom, with it’s toilet and leaky stand-in-the-corner shower. He didn’t look up, not wanting to acknowledge his own reflection.
He reached over to pick up the razor, and stopped. He lowered his hand, and in a fit of courage, raised his head. His reflection stared accusingly back at him. The sunken eyes bruised all the way around from lack of sleep.
The more he stared, the more angry and despairing he became. His rage beat impotently on his brain until the pain of it all closed his eyes and forced his arms around his body, trying to stem the self recrimination. He had lived, his buddies hadn’t. He lost a leg, and they lost their lives. How in all creation was that fair?!
In a fit of blind, screaming despair, he threw his clothes on in a frenzy of activity, pulled his one boot on, and stumbled out the door, leaving it unlocked as he kept his hand jammed in his pocket where the 9mm pistol sat, lethal and crying to be used. He panned on answering those cries, the ones in his head that he couldn’t stand any more. The eyes of his squad, the one he had been responsible for, and failed.
It was time to make the voices go away. He turned east on Granville street, and began walking, head down, hurrying away from the emptiness he’d tried to live with. Granville arced to the northeast, and eventually crossed a rail line. This was what Archie had been looking for since he’d woken up. He had a purpose, he had a plan. He was on the way to execute that plan, follow through, where so many things he’d started never had.
He turned onto the rails; two shiny silver ribbons on top of blackish brown wood. The track went east, then angled slightly north of east, cutting a straight line through the dense green and over the soft earth. It was easy to walk, and he did it, his mind focused on silencing the yammering in his brain, and getting the guilt of living off of him.
It was hours before he slowed and took a look about him. He’d gone close on to evening. The sun was a swollen yellow-orange tick just above the trees when he finally halted walking. He wondered if his place had been stripped yet. Art shrugged, it didn’t matter any more, it was a part of his life, just like the rest he was going to get rid of.
The crickets, frogs, and alligators offered their voices to the fast-coming night. It was nothing like Afghanistan. There jackals might yip or yodel at night, but mostly it was the unceasing wind that ran icy fingers into his clothing, and had him burrowing into his cot when he wasn’t part of a patrol.