“Red + White”

The heart monitor’s trig functions don’t match the beats from my chest. We used to beat together. 

Dunkirk was a blessing. I met you when my brother-in-arms lost his head. A paradox. Your white scrubs – why did they make you wear white when you always turned red? A Red Cross nurse’s work is never done. I never should have been in that hospital;I wasn’t on my deathbed. But here you are now, not dressed in the whiteness of scrubs but in the whiteness of a hospital gown, lying on your own deathbed.

I try to caress your wrinkled cheek, but your head tills it away. You’re a child, not liking to be touched. Blood triggers you since the war. Any Band-Aid filled affair of our sons was my rodeo. Blood should trigger me too, but you watched amputations and the nasty cuts, so you are excused. 

You were a middle-aged 19-year-old. A paradox. Why did you decide to put a hand around my back, when you were told by your dictator supervisor to not talk to soldiers? Maybe you pitied me. Me and my dead brother. I love that about you. The delicate hands that saved the lives of a whole battalion caressed my back the night we snuck on the roof. And I nearly shoved it away. 

Dunkirk was never a battle to be won (a mere “miracle”), but it made all the difference in morale. Why am I still thinking of this? This reminiscing shouldn’t be done when your wife is dying, dammit! We got married despite our parents’ objections. Forbidden love; we were Romeo and Juliet. I promised to spend a million nights on a roof with you, caressing your back. 

We never argue. I never hit you; you never threw a vase at me. But that night I needed to scream at you. The kids were asleep, you reminded me. Yes, the kids just so happen to always be asleep when we want to argue. Our love was too perfect. Our psychotic, suburban fever dream was too much. I should have been the one dead on the stretcher. My brother would have preferred this hell anyway. 

Always recalling, Juliet. Never letting go or forgetting. You are an elephant, not a human. A paradox. Instead of throwing that vase, a reminder of all my wrongs against you come back in the coldest stare. I despise you. Your delicate, blessed-by-God hands could have strangled me. Never addressing anything wrong is forbidden. In essence, Dunkirk was a German victory. 

And yet you are so powerless, just lying in your little hospital bed, with no eyes open to judge me and my wrongness. It’s not fair to be unkind to you on your deathbed, my dear. But you must admit, it’s been a wild ride.

“You are lovely, Juliet.”

The trig functions have become constant. You lie still in your bed. 

To me, Dunkirk is a perpetual battle, with no determinate outcome.