Within him, there was a vacant yearning
where he dwelled having given up. I don’t
know when. I can’t venture a guess, but
I have the thought that at one time, he was
more alive with this desire. For a woman?
How can I rightly say? I feel though that
it was a long wanting, the way it left
him devoid of life.
And that was when we met, there in his
private room, we two, where I learned
of his desire to return home. I was a young,
foolish intern, and I thought I had answers
for “home.” To go to art class, to play
checkers with his neighbors, in other
words to create a “home” there among
the dying and feeble.
But this was just recruitment he said.
And the battle lay ahead. I thought this
was senility perhaps. And so I brought
a checker board to his room.
A room that smelled of urine from the
hall. He taught me every way he knew
to cheat at checkers. My presence taught
him what he already knew – life carries on,
there would always be more soldiers.
After six months, I went to play checkers,
and he cheated me. “He’s gone home,”
the nurse declared. I looked down at my
gift for his Kwanzaa.
I thought he and I might have found his
“home.” I thought home was friendship
and empathy. But it was neither. It was
the sea where they spread his ashes on
the water. And it was not the sea at all.