I’ve stopped again, although this time I managed half a page. I don’t know why I bothered though. It’s half a page of nonsense, of my talking about the sky. I’ve been obsessed with the clouds lately. I’ve been looking up and seeing them and wondering what they think when our bombers go by. Somedays they’re so thick the sky is black. They block the sunlight.
The bombers I mean. Not the clouds.
And I don’t know if it’s just my imagination or not, but it seems like no matter what, the clouds are always going the other way. Those serene clusters of white hurry away from our destruction of the Earth below. Maybe they’re cousins, the clouds and the ground. Who knows. I try not to spend too much time thinking about it.
And now my wondering is layered in worry, doubt. I only have half a page of clean paper to write on, and I’ve already wasted most of that on clouds. Paper isn’t easy to come by. I shouldn’t waste it. I can already tell this note will end up with the others in my coat pocket.
But I have to try, don’t I? I have to write. You told me to write.
Normandy was hard. I’m sure you’ve heard. Carl didn’t make it. In some ways, neither did I. I’m still here, still alive, but I’m beginning to forget what that means. My mind keeps wandering. I keep looking at the sky, at the bombers flying one way and the clouds rushing the other, and I don’t understand what’s happening.
There’s one note I almost sent. One I tried to keep simple. It just says I’m alive, but even sending that doesn’t feel sincere. What if something happens on its way to you? What if by the time you read it, the note stops being true?
And if the truth held, to what does it matter?
You’re there. I’m here. Yours are days filled with oppressive worry, waiting for letters that never come. And I march on under speeding clouds and droning bombers, stepping over vaporized towns and dead soldiers.
Am I supposed to tell you that the nights are getting colder? That we’ve begun looting bodies for better jackets, better shoes? What difference does it make if yesterday’s grenade took a lucky bounce from the stone wall I ducked behind, bouncing away instead of toward with an explosion so loud it still knocked me down? The guy to my right lost his arm. Well, had it taken anyway. He didn’t lose it. We found most of it later, after he died. Not that we were trying. We just needed the ammunition left behind. Things like that are too valuable.
Carl told me to send them. Just send them. You need to know I’m alright.
Interesting choice of words. Alright.
Maybe that’s what I’m waiting for, to be alright. I don’t know if either of us has that much time.
I think I understand why the clouds are always going the other way. They don’t want to see it. They don’t want to be there. Like parents sick of listening to their children scream and fight. I want to go the other way too. Each body I step over, and I want to turn and follow the clouds. The ground is their cousin. The dead soldiers are mine.
All of this beautiful country is covered in pain, yet the birds still sing.
They say it’s a big deal we’ve taken Paris. They say the war is almost through.
They say a lot of things.
When I was a boy they used to say that babies were brought down by storks that lived in the sky, but that’s not true. I’ve seen what lives in the sky, and what comes from up there doesn’t bring babies down. It takes them away.
Carl is right. Was right (I keep forgetting). I need to send the letters. I need to let you know I’m still alive. I’ll send the one I’ve already written, the short one. The easy one. I’m alive. Anything more and I’d have to find more paper, and I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to search collapsed homes and basements for things. I always find something else. Another long-lost cousin.
I’ll send the letter, but maybe not today. No. I’ll wait to send it when I know it’s true.