by Joseph S. Pete
Fireworks erupted across the sepulchral night sky, boom, boom, boom, boom.
McColin’s girlfriend drew him close, drew her fingers through his hair. He was once Pvt. McColin, but no longer.
“You’ll be okay,” she cooed. “You’ll be fine.”
“I know. I know.”
Her kindness, though misplaced, was too much for him.
Tears trickled down his cheeks as his mind cast back to that Iraqi desert and his platoon mates who never made it home. He shuddered with sobs. His chest heaved with sorrow.
“You don’t know what I did. You don’t know what I did over there.”
“It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. You’re with me now. You’re here now.” She slid her fingers through his hair. “It’s okay. Everything’s going to be okay.”
He composed himself, and got so still he could feel drops of sweat caterpillaring down his belly. He realized no matter what he did, no matter how many trees he planted, spatulas of nourishment he ladled at the soup kitchen, no matter how many panels of drywall he hoisted at Habitat for Humanity, no matter how many meals he packed for United Way, and no matter how much good he did for others, it would never be okay. It would never be okay.