Homecoming – A short story

(inspired by and based loosely upon Imogen Heap’s song The Moment I Said It)

He stumbles in drunk again. It’s 3:12am. I know because I heard him trip over the coffee table. Again. He starts cursing which wakes up the baby.

I quiet the baby and meet him in the hall. I do not yell at him or get mad because he woke the baby up. I’ve learned my lesson about that. In fact, I still have the bruises to show for it. I try to take him in my arms to comfort him, but he just pushes me away. I try again, in vain. This time, I get a slap across the face for my trouble.

“Why do you do this every night?” I ask.

“Because I CAN!” he yells back. “I don’t know why! Why do you have to question me all the time?”

“Because I love you John,” I reply. “I want you to get better.”

“There’s nothing WRONG WITH ME!” he screams back at me.

The baby starts crying again, but John doesn’t hear it. It’s only been 3 weeks since John got back from Iraq. Our baby was born February 23rd. His tour ended July 15th. Since he’s returned we’ve done nothing but fight. At times, I’ve woken up in the middle of the night and found him rocking in a corner of the living room crying. I wish I knew how to help him.

“You can’t fix me, Charlene!”

“Can’t I at least try?” I ask. “When you come home like this you scare me, John!”

“You don’t know the meaning of the word scared,” he snarls.

“Then tell me, John. Tell me what scared is.”

“Why don’t you just shut the fuck up and go back to bed?” he screams.

He starts toward me. I can see the rage in his eyes. This is not the man I married. Before he shipped to Iraq, John was the sweetest, most caring man a woman could ask for. Now, I don’t know who he is anymore. He scares me every time he gets drunk like this. John never used to drink more than a beer or two before the war. Now, he’ll easily down a fifth of Jack Daniels in a matter of hours.

“How many times have I told you to stop hassling me, Charlene?”

“I’m sorry, John. I’m sorry. Please don’t hurt me.”

He take another step toward me and finally grabs me by the throat.

“How many times, Charlene?”

I can barely breathe with his hand so tight around my neck. He flings me into the wall. I slump to the floor bleeding from a gash on the back of my head where I shattered our wedding picture. I wait curled up on the floor for the beating I fully expect him to deliver. I see him pacing our tiny living room randomly smashing things as he mutters to himself.

“John, please. Please calm down. You love me, baby. Remember?”

For a moment this seems to get through to him. I watch him struggle with himself as tears begin to stream down his cheeks. His clenched fists start shaking at his sides.

“Please, John, let’s just go to bed, baby. I’ll comfort you. I promise. We can talk about what’s wrong in the morning, ” I plead.


The tears begin to flow faster now as his whole body trembles. I’ve never seen him this bad before. If he doesn’t get some help and soon, I’m afraid of what will happen.

In one quick motion he has the gun up and pointed at me. It shakes in his hand. I scramble away from him crying and screaming at him at the same time.

“John, NO! Please, NO, BABY! Please don’t,” I cry.

I’ll never forget how loud that gun sounded in our tiny apartment as it went off. Instead of killing me, he shot himself, not wanting to live with the turmoil in his head. The ambulance and police came a few minutes later to take him away and to get a statement from me. It’s 4:35am, I’m a widow and our child has no father. All because of PTSD and John’s pride.

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