By Deborah Simmons Harris
Nick began to respond to ibuprofen, the fierce temperature backing
stubbornly away to about 103 degrees. The gas man fixed a wayward
part on the icy furnace and, guilty, I supposed because of his
initial behavior, offered me the advantage of the Gold Service Plan
that allowed him to repair the mischievous thing, charging only for
the hardware. Having heard my conversation with the doctor about
blood, fever, oxygen and Falluja, he had dismissed his earlier
ornery demeanor and sheepishly asked me to thank my husband for his
service to the country.
We had heat, lower temperatures and heart rates, and higher oxygen
levels. A bit more encouraged, I thought we might live.
Having crawled so vulnerably through one of the most challenging
nights of my life, I changed my sweaty, soiled gown and sank down on
the side of the unmade bed to watch the scrolling news bar at the
bottom of the 24-hour news channel. I relied on it to stream much
ado about nothing across the screen when I hadn’t heard from Victor
in a while. If there was nothing too bad there, I convinced myself
that he must be safe.
…helicopter crashes…Iraq…cause not released by the military…31
Marines on-board…confirmed dead…
My G-d, whatever happened to the simple life; the one of boring
housework, girlfriend gossip, complaining about the neighbors,
grocery shopping, what’s-for-dinner, worrying over bills, and the
blah-blah-blah of committee meetings? The life in which I was simply
waiting for Godot?
Thirty-one was about the size of Victor’s platoon. Hope drained from
my spirit as my heart seemed to thump to my stomach. I ran to the
computer, not knowing what else to do. I needed resolution. I
couldn’t take the fear anymore. It was grabbing me from too many
“Where are you?” the typed words screeched in the email box. “Are
you OK? Just reply with anything. I need to know if you’re safe!”
Despite the nine-hour time difference and the miles that separated
our worlds, he was there. On base and at the computer. Alive. Words
never felt so good.
“What’s the matter, Babe?”
Ridiculously relieved, I anxiously related the scrolling news story.
Isolated from most of the troops, he had heard nothing of it. I
rambled about the night, the sick kids, the furnace.
“I’m glad you are OK.” The email emitted concern. He attached a
picture then, showing his Marines in the area I told him the crash
had occurred, the sky orange and ominous, thick with swirling sand.
They breathed in sand there like we breathed in ice here. The
picture was taken a few days before fellow Marines had met an
“We were just headed there again in one of the birds,” his words,
luscious to me now, continued, “but had to turn back because of the
sand storm.” The sense of relief was so strong, it was like a
massage to my aching body.
Love you, miss you, we both concurred, as I
headed back to the beckoning of Josh’s alarms and Nick’s now
stronger moans, awakened with a new appreciation for the essential
elements in Beckett’s treatise on life: the hope and endurance
portrayed by the squabbling banter of two homeless men who found a
way to carry on, no matter what might come – and better off for not