He arrived home in one of those military convoy jeeps that you see sometimes. He had called two days earlier to announce his soon to be arrival home. Liam didnt state the reason for his sudden return from Iraq, and I wasnt about to ask. He stepped through the threshold of our home, with the afternoon sun rays creating an otherworldly halo around his face. Liam's features had drastically changed, and although he was smiling at me, his thoughts were surely not that of joy. His eyes were sunken, cold, with dark rings under his eyes. He was skinny, although more muscular, and more exhausted than I had ever seen him before. I suppose war would do that to a man. He dropped his bags on the living room carpet, and opened his arms to my embrace. Oh how it felt to have him there in my arms again. It had only been a year since the army had called him away from me, but it seemed a lifetime of agony. I clutched at his jacket never wanting to let go, although he smelled of dirt, gunpowder...and blood.
He gave me one last squeeze before he relinqueshed me again. Our son came running into the room, his eyes and face ablaze with the happiness of seeing his father again. Ryan ran full tilt toward Liam's leg, clutching it fiercly with a grip only a child can have. Liam laughed, and Ryan pulled away. He gained a stern look that was most unbefitting of him, and stood stock still, feet together, back straight, saluting his father proudly. This only seemed to make Liam laugh harder. "Welcome home sir!" My little Ryan shouted proudly, unable to mask his grin any longer than those few seconds. "At ease soldier." Liam sighed. He bent down to clutch his son, scooping him up into his arms and hoisting him over his head to place him on his shoulders. While our son giggled and ruffled Liam's hair, he looked at me with those eyes; the eyes of a man gone away to war, and come back someone different. He made for the couch and I grabbed his bags, hauling them to the laundry room.
At dinner Liam ate little; only enough to sustain himself. He smiled across the table at me. "This is the best food I've tasted in a year." He took another small bite of steak, and set down his fork. I took his plate and Ryan's to the kitchen, saving Liam's neaten portion for perhaps later. I shooed Ryan off to bed, finally coaking him to bush his teeth. I made my way back to the kitchen, but Liam was no longer there. I wandered the house, and finally found him in our bedroom, paging through an old photo album. "Honey...are you alright?" I had meant to ask this earlier, but the timing never seemed right. He did not answer, but continued to flip through the pictures.
"Liam?" He seemed to cringe at his name. He shut the photo album, and shoved it away from him, covering his face with his hands.
I watched in horror as my strong Liam began to cry, tears straming down his pale cheeks. "Thats not what they called me over there." He hissed out through his sobs. "They had such terrible words...infidel...devil..." He spat the words like poison from his mouth. "I cannot convey the rest to your innocent ears.It is to malicious to hear. It burn the ear and spoils the heart and leaves you with a craving for their blood to be spilt on your hands." He was choking now, unable to breath. I drew closer, wanting only to clasp his shoulder and shake this evil from him as it clutched tighter around his heart. He threw out a hand, stopping me in my tracks. Tears streamed down my face as well now. How do you comfort a man so deep in hatred for others and himself? His actions? "Do not come near me." He rasped. "My mind takes me back there at unexpected moments. I feel some misgiving that I may harm you...please I do not wish this." His muscles tightened, and he cried out in such anguish I feared the seams of his heart would tear open. "This war..." He cried... "Has destroyed me, and all I love." He looked up at me then and tears rolled down his cheeks. "Im sorry. So sorry."