Different Kinds of Darkness
by Evan Guilford-Blake
The war that is the background for what is described in the “letter” that follows, the woman who describes it and the incidents to which she refers are, all, entirely fictional. The physical setting is willfully indefinite. War is not a thing of time, place, generation or specific circumstance. It is, and has always been.
And, regretful to say, will always be.
Dear Rikki –
Good news at long last. They’re sending me home! I tried to call you but I got the goddamn voicemail – we have got to get rid of that message. First thing we do after I walk in the door. After you kiss me, of course, for what will probably be the thousandth time since I get off the plane. That message sounds sooooo sweet. So instead of me – live from 5,000 miles away – you get this. E-mail isn’t the comforting sound of your voice, and I’ll try again later, but I’m so excited I couldn’t wait to tell you. And, besides, I need to practice my typing. Ignore the errors: This keyboard is really small and no way I’m gonna let anyone proofread it.
The other good news, I suppose, is that you won’t have to come. And I’m grateful for that. I mean, it would’ve been awful goddamn hard for you to get in here, let alone just get here, and we couldn’t’ve afforded for you to stay long enough to make the trip worth it.
And besides, I figure I still don’t look so good. I don’t know if I’m ready to have the world see me like this – however this looks. There’s still some pain – the doctor says there will be some pain at least a few more months, maybe now and then after that, because of the nerves. You remember.
But, really, I’m a lot better. The bandages came off this morning! For good! When they said they were going to do it? I kept thinking: The nurse is gonna gasp like in that Twilight Zone show. I’ll never know if she did. I thought they’d let me be awake for the unveiling but, no, I was under. And groggy as hell when I woke up. But now I get to feel my face again. Rik – there are lots of scars. Lots. More than I guessed there was. I mean, I knew there’d be scars, it hurt so much, it was like my skin was getting tore up again and again, but God, I’m so afraid of what I look like. I’m afraid for you to see me. I know I’m ugly, and they can’t do anything reconstructive for years, maybe never, and I don’t want to look like this, I don’t want to look like someone little kids will scream at when they see, like someone you’ll have to hide what you’re feeling when you see. I know you didn’t want me for my looks in the first place, and 19 years is a long time, but, you’re so goddamn beautiful and hey, how people look, it’s always made a difference to me.
I guess it won’t any more, huh?
I guess it’s good I never had kids.
Anyway. I’m making progress in Braille. I still can’t read much, but I got through a whole page today. Took me an hour, I had to go over some of the words 3 or 4 times, but there’s what the therapist calls context: If you figure out the first letter is e and the last one is t you can figure the one between them is probably an a. If it’s a 3 letter word, anyway. I get confused on the longer ones. I forget what letters I read. It’s probably good I’m reading Stephen King. I think the longest word in Salem’s Lot is vampire. And feeling that word – it conjures up lots of images. All of them having to do with darkness. Different kinds of darkness.
I think a lot about darkness. Like being in a tunnel that’s too long to know there is a light at the end. Before I came here, before the explosion and the pain and the wanting to die, I loved it. Lying there with you, late at night, pitch black and all the sounds magnified. Every breath you took, every rustle of the sheets, the tiny tiny sound of my finger tracing the circle around your areola, the licking of your lips before you kissed me. It’s true, you are more aware of sounds when you can’t see. Here, I hear planes, footsteps in the hall, the other women crying, crying out. Sometimes I hear people die. I’m not going to die, Rikki, not for a long time. The doctor says I’m in surprisingly good shape. I oughta be. You can’t train other soldiers for 16 years if you’re not. But it’s gonna be hard to live, I know that. For both of us. When I get back? we should go right away, someplace where they’ll let us really tie the knot. You think? If you’re still willing. And I believe you when you say you are. That’s what’s been keeping me going the last 4 months, knowing there is a light at the end of this tunnel. I might not be able to see it, but I can feel it. It’s warm and it feels safe. I love you, Rik. Thanks for loving me – not because of, not in spite of. Just loving.
I’ll see you soon.
* * * * *
"Different Kinds of Darkness," © Guilford-Blake Corp., was podcast in 2016 by No Extra Words (under the title "Yasmina") and was chosen as the winner of the 2015 Green River Writers short-short fiction competition.
Evan Guilford-Blake writes prose, poetry and plays. His work has appeared in more than 100 journals and anthologies.His prose has won 27 awards and garnered four Pushcart Prize nominations. His scripts have won 46 competitions. Thirty-three are published.
Evan’s published long-form prose includes the novels Animation, The Bluebird Prince, and the award-winning story collection American Blues. He and his wife (and inspiration) Roxanna, a talented jewelry designer and business writer, live in the southeastern US with their beloved rescue mutts, Baldrick and Pip.