A Broken Man

Door handle.

He was filled with excitement. His body was weary. He was clean-shaven for the first time in days. He had just stepped off the plane. He thumbed a ride and now stood in front of the bright red door. What would she say? How would she look?

Oh the memories of her hair, her perfume. The touch of her skin. So soft behind the ears. Wrists that were so tiny and delicate. He had not seen her for over a year. Although letters had been written when there was time it was not the same. His name was Matt and he had been serving in the military for the last six years.

He had served his country well. He had earned many pins and badges. His rank moved up the longer he served. He had went in through a volunteer program. He went in as a skinny wet behind the ears kid and came out a man.

His buddies said that he was the one that would succeed in the outside. He worked the hardest. When others were afraid during the night they went to him. He shared tears for homesickness. He cried at lost lives. He listened while others read aloud letters from back home.

He had started out as a KP, kitchen duty. He peeled hundreds of potatoes by hand every day. He scrambled dozens of eggs and buttered thousands of slices of toast. He did dishes. He scrubbed floors. He even scrubbed toilets.

He could perform exercises quicker than any other man in his troop. He had built himself a name. He had earned respect. When someone mentioned his last name, people sat up and listened.

Eight months ago Matt  was leading his troop into bad areas. Mysteries in the grounds greeted them, but with great skills they always completed their mission. This was his last mission to do and then he was being sent to another location. This was the last time he was going to lead these guys forward.

An explosion rumbled behind them and the last one following got hit. Matt, without thinking ran into harm’s way to save his fellow-man. Another explosion went off and it got his arm and one leg.

He still managed to save this man’s life and his own, but the scars of that final moment in action will be forever lived. Now standing in front of the door, he took his one arm and straightened his tie. He adjusted his hat to make sure it was on straight.

He looked down at the empty sleeve where at one time a limb showed through the cuffs. It was empty now. He had a limp when he walked but he was alive. He had received an honorable discharge.

He had made it. He had traveled many miles to be standing here. He knocked on the door and stood as tall as he could. No one answered. He knocked again, and still silence greeted him.

He didn’t have a key. He had left that behind long ago. His hand reached for the door handle. He tried turning it and it opened easily. It was quiet when he stood inside the door. He gently closed it not wanting to ruin the surprise. He licked his lips in anticipation of giving his wife the biggest kiss she had ever had.

He tiptoed through the familiar rooms and when he came to their bedroom door it was standing partially open. His knees became weak. Tears flowed from his eyes. His heart beat so hard it seemed to push itself through his chest.

He had went into the military a skinny kid and had fought with the best. He had earned the respect from his platoon. But no training on earth had prepared him for this. There was the lady who had kept him going. Her picture was always in his pocket. His memories of her brought him smiles and softened his heart.

The image had been broken. The glass cracked  the mirror in his mind. There was his wife lying in the arms of another man. He turned and took his hat off. He dropped his face. He let his limp feel its full force. He walked back out the way he had come in. Slowly closing the door behind him, a broken man.