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Friendship Sad

He had always said he would go home. From the very first day, when he had snuck out the upstairs window in the twilight, he had promised in his note that he would return when he could. And in the meantime, when he could not be there in person, he would stay in contact, sending letters and souvenirs from the places he got to. He had kept it up to a certain extent, trudging into towns whilst not on patrol and spending too much money on the postage of a letter he had written by the light of a burning shed and which was written by a sharp twig dipped repeatedly in a mud puddle at his side. After watching the supply plane - on which he had stashed his fifth letter - hurtle toward the ground and end its life in a mushroom cloud of heat, he had given up.

After an especially unsuccessful mission, he found he was given a new home, at least a new place he seemed to be based for the foreseeable future. Being in prison broke him in more ways than he knew he was complete in the first place, and he began to regret not staying in the safety and the familiarity of his original home. With comfort and friends and a sheltered 9 to 5. But the walls became familiar, he began to know which corridor to turn down next, and which corner of the outside court had sunshine at this time of the day, and he wondered if this really was home. Admittedly he hadn’t chosen it, but if he were to live out his days here maybe it would take that place in his life by default.

On leaving the army, his obvious choice was to head back to where he was beforehand, but he got caught up, as anyone who knew him by this stage would expect, in the plans of people much scarier than him. So he stayed, he sent his letters at progressively longer intervals, and he told himself that he was his home, or that he didn’t need a home, or that he would find a home when he felt that was what he needed, or that he had a home waiting for him to return to whenever he needed. None of the lies felt true.

Change came yet again in the form of a place he was told was now home. It didn’t feel like it, it was all foreign to him now, he hadn’t been in the UK for so long. Too many people had keys to his front door, he hadn’t even been able to decide himself which of the company flats he would prefer to inhabit, and there was not a moment of silence. The city lived outside his window and it didn’t stop for anything. But with time, he began to recognise it, began to feel those feelings he had about prison, that possibly now that he knew every inch of it so well, that it must surely be home. 

Back in the same country, and with an income and freedom more significant than ever before, the letters which had almost stopped at this point turned into phone calls. They in turn, turned into invitations back for Christmas that he called off at the last minute on the grounds of work, whether that was true or not. Once, a brother he had almost forgotten existed was in town for business, and would he like to meet him for dinner and catch up as it had been so long? He felt he was certain he would not like that, but he went anyway and was proved right.

If he was lucky, other people would share their home with him on special occasions. Once or twice he had been invited back for Christmas by a friend, sharing in the family photographs on the mantelpiece, the presents under the tree addressed from Nan, and the old childhood bedrooms with names written on doors. Nevertheless, he felt a sense of belonging was a bit of a reach of a thing to claim here. They may have run around these corridors as snotty toddlers, but that no longer seemed to fit. The clothes left behind at their parents’ houses never seemed to suit his friends anymore. It was no longer who they were.

Sometimes in his dreams, he would see his old house, the one he still felt some kind of betrayal towards whenever he thought too much when walking through whichever door had become his current front door. The dreams never seemed to center around the house, it was always just the backdrop for something altogether stranger, but it was the house that he dwelt on when he awoke in the morning. He had never forgotten the layout in detail, he could never. The place was a part of him, his first stubbed toes, his first favourite hiding places. He thought home was meant to be the people anyway, not the place.

The people, he knew, must have all spread by now. Last he had heard, it was just his parents remaining in the house all by themselves, and he knew that meant they would not be there much longer. That was what people did, they watched the offspring fly the nest and then they downsized to a little cottage in a coastal town, and there they decomposed. He didn’t want to admit to himself that the house would have changed. It would never be the same without the people in it. The people who would also never be the same either. Half of whom were not alive, or who now had large families of their own. He wanted to be able to let go of it all, to treat it as a memory, a part of his past. But somehow the want to go back was always there, cropping up whenever he smelt fresh bread or watched a child walking home from school with their laces untied.

He had always said he would go home. But that home didn’t exist anymore. It was a place that used to exist in his memories, a place he could never get back. Because now it is too late, he doesn’t have a home.

June 11, 2021 22:06

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