How quickly things have fallen apart. It’s only day 4 here in the trenches but it feels like it could be day 14, or 54. The air reeks of Vick’s and sweat and phlegm breath. I barely have the strength to check my boots at night before collapsing, half-dressed and almost already asleep, only to be awoken a handful of hours later by the machine gun patter of toddler feet in the hazy night.
I have been fighting for days on little sleep, subsisting on frozen convenience foods, and last night one of my companions became grievously wounded. Succumbing to the injury, she collapsed across me, pinning me in place.
Exhausted, hungry, I had no recourse but to huddle immobile and keep my spirits up as best as I could, thinking thoughts of home at Christmastime. She regained consciousness long enough for me to grab a few cold bites of a stale sandwich, then together we began the journey of another long and painful night. She tossed and turned in a fever delirium, up and down, sleeping no more than a handful of hours at a time. I fetched cooling cloths and medicine, and tried not to think too longingly of my own pallet.
I had no idea the common cold could be so crippling. I had no idea the words ‘I no feel good’, said enough times and at disgusting enough hours, would cause me to want to turn my weapon against my own, or myself. I have entertained several fantasies about what I would like to do to the enemy who parks their tank immediately in front of our tents at 3 am, blaring their radio and engaging their tank alarm, waking up a sick child which then causes a coughing fit and 45-minute awake period. The fighting this week has been hard, made more so because of the lack of sleep, but we had several critical pushes I was forced to endure, despite the fact my distraction was more a hindrance than a help in several cases. My communiqués to superior officers have suffered, and I know I have fallen short of my troop.
In three short days I will be shipping out to colder climes, abandoning my stricken comrade to take a post north of the city of Boston. I’ve heard tell the rations are much better, and there are not nearly as many nightly air raids, although by day the fighting will be even more grueling, and I am ill-prepared for the hand-to-hand combat that is sure to ensue. The young soldier will be in good hands with the local medics, and although this does little to assuage the guilt of leaving a fallen man behind, I am hopeful that the worst of it should be over by then.
This damn war can’t last forever.