The flickering street light on the corner of Higgins and 34th Street finds its glow, as the Arizona darkness seeps its way into the city. The turbulent skies rumble, angrily churning and intermixing their grey and ebony forces together like a charging army, releasing their agitation in the form of rain. The relentless heat of this August night quickly begins a cooling trend with the intensity of the torrential rain. The paved streets and roadways mysteriously release their hidden energy, perhaps from fear or obligation, allowing an eerie fog to settle.
A city bus on its 11:45 route comes to a stop at the intersection. The door opens, allowing a man carrying a duffle bag to exit the bus. He is wearing a long thin grey army coat tied at his waist. His brown trousers are cuffed, enhancing the polished shoes he is wearing. Setting his bag down and turning to the bus driver, the man nods as he reaches for his Camel cigarettes. The driver returns the nod, and the door closes.
The smell of diesel fuel filtering into the night air follows the city bus as it continues on 34th Street. Striking a wooden match on the side of his duffle bag, the man draws smoke from the cigarette, inhaling deeply, relieving the tension of the long trip. He straightens his garrison cap and reaches for his duffle bag, then steps onto the cobblestone street. Placing the cigarette in his mouth, with both hands he raises the collar of his long coat, preventing any rain from trickling down his back. The sudden movement of his arms sends a coldness across his wet shoulders. A chill, which has sewn into his body and mind over the past four years of war. The chill outweighs the inevitable nightmares.
The watching street light dims in the pounding rain as he discards the cigarette, and it falls onto the cobblestones at the street corner. Puddles of water begin pooling together into a steady stream of rainwater, which finds the discarded Camel cigarette, carrying it in silence into the city gutter. Walking across the street, he finds cover under the awning of Chow’s Chinese Restaurant, a place he frequently ate, years ago. He smiles to himself and his thoughts warm while he walks toward the old fire hydrant on the corner. The paint may have faded, but his heart has not. He runs his index finger over the heart shape that remains carved into the hydrant. His pulse quickens, igniting a longing, his tears mix with the falling raindrops. The man’s fingers continue touching the names that he carved into the heart shape, which seems to be a lifetime ago. Soon he will be home. Home at last, in the arms of his wife and high school sweetheart, Barbara.
I am the man in this story. The man, who stepped off the 11:45 bus on the corner of Higgins and 34th Street, that rainy August night, 1945. A soldier who came home from four years of war.
I sense I 'm being watched and judged from above, feeling the rusty nails of a crucifixion that are being pounded into my heart, with every breath I take.
I have awoken from many restless nights filled with haunting nightmares and body sweats, caused by war, and my return home. Countless cigarettes and a trail of empty bottles, that I consumed to calm my guilt, have followed me on my relentless journey. I know the night terrors will soon slip into day regrets, and the recurring hauntings will eat at my soul, like spreading cancer. I have no control over my past deeds or destiny and need to tell my story before the guilt overwhelms me, and I lose what sanity I retain. I am Richard Noble, Private 1st Class, and this is my story.
(PLease CLICK onto the Heart shape LIKE button on left side of the screen. CLICK onto-- Add to Reading List)