by Vic Nogay
If I could sit with him in the morning mist of a bloodfield, the two of us having lived through the night before, having survived the battle only to know there would be another, I would. We would rest with our backs to a tree, clasping our trigger hands, exchanging silent confessions, watching the haze sunder from a mass into its parts—wet earth, and the true fog of an autumn morning; the steam off hot blood swirling above soft puddling pools from a life’s receding tide; the ghosts of men letting go.
But I have my own sufferings. I cannot fight his fight.
On rare mornings when he is given leave—a few days’ respite—I wake early and listen for his heavy boots clomping on the cobbled path. When I hear him coming, gnarled and angry, I part the curtain only as far as my pinky finger can bend and peer out the window. That sodden cocktail of dewy earth and human parts follows him home. I watch, bewitched, as it burns away in the daylight.
When he is here, his crusader’s heart finds a perch for repose. The life returns to his eyes, he smiles, and the hair on his arms salutes at my touch. He seems to age in reverse and gets younger by the moment. He locks his warrior in the spare room, and is born again as lover, father, friend. The longer he stays, youth finds me, too. I breathe, I sleep, my wrinkles smooth, my lips ripen.
We spend these clear, unhaunted days on the hillside near our home where the curve of the earth calls us like a promise. But when the war resumes as it always does, the unliving mist awakens and he wears it like a skin. He goes to serve in the echoey dark with the nebulous shroud as his armor, and there is no place left for me.
Tonight, he dressed to return to the fight, praying for a death with the same breath he held as he kissed me goodbye. Curling tendrils of vapor reached out to me while he lingered, leaving a woolly chill on my skin. When he had gone, I touched my fingers to my lips to hold in his kiss; my mouth was slick with blood.
Vic Nogay writes to explore her traumas, misremembrances, and Ohio, where she is from. She is an animal cruelty investigator and a mother. Her work appears in perhappened, Versification, Free Flash Fiction, Ellipsis Zine, and other journals. Twitter: @vicnogay. Read: linktr.ee/vicnogay.