Personal Trenches

by Matt DeVirgiliis

He deployed for Iraq February 4th. A quick goodbye in Gmail. No mush; no bravery. Just see you in six. I marked each month's anniversary with a countdown — 5 months left, 4 months, so on.

The headlines were my source of information and contact. Four Soldiers Killed in Baghdad read one. Seven Ambushed in Fallujah. I'd read them, look for his name, and maybe clip it out. It put me there; put me in touch with him.

After the first month, he emailed and gave me an update. He ran late-night patrols — left at about 1am — and got back around 2am Eastern Time. He said he'd be online more because Iraqis were taking the calls.  Poor bastards were losing legs, getting ripped in half; their parade now. So I'd stay awake until he logged onto Gchat, until I saw the little green light next to his name. Staring. Waiting. Sometimes he came on. Sometimes nothing. Worrying.

The months passed and the contact slowed. He was busy. I was busy. The articles became sparse. Other, better shit happened — Snooki punched a ho.

It had been weeks and I sat in the back of the theater as the credits for The Hurt Locker rolled up the screen. Others filed out, talked about the acting and special effects. I stared for a while. Bitch of a war. Where's the sacrifice? They ate their popcorn, were entertained. I stayed up until 2 every morning. I wiped my damp cheek with my sleeve and left.

This story was originally published for 52/250.