Remi: A Soldier's Story

Guilt is like a wound. If left alone, it festers. Guilt eats deep. But what can you do when you have done something so drastic that can never be undone?

The strong smell assailed my nostrils before I saw him. Like a beacon, it heralded his arrival. He staggered into the house and let out a burp. Gross. He did it again. And again. It seemed to amuse him, and he burst into a fit of raucous laughter. I felt the tears burning at the back of my eye. No, I am not going to cry. He's not worth a single drop of my tears.

He used to be, a voice said. He used to be worth everything. "Remi," I said in a broken whisper. He took no notice of me as he upturned the bottle in his hand into his mouth. I marched up to him and angrily snatched the bottle from his hand. I threw the bottle against the wall and grabbed him by his shirt. The sound of shattering glass, plus my aggressiveness, seemed to sober him up a bit. His eyes which lacked focus were beamed on me now with his mouth hanging open.

"Remi, why won't you talk to me?" I shook him by his shirt and burst into tears. It was only when I felt hot liquid on my face as I lay against his chest that I realized he was crying with me. I looked up at him, and it broke me to see how much pain he had been trying to drown with the alcohol. "It was awful, Bia. I ... I ... never want to remember it. I want it to go away." I pulled him towards me as his broken sobs tore at my heart.

Remi, who loved being in the force so much, quit his job after an operation he headed went wrong, making him lose ten members of his team in a shootout. He blamed himself for it. It's been over a year, and yet Remi has not come to terms with the fact that operations can go wrong sometimes, no matter how prepared you are. He didn't share the details with me, and I did push at first, but I knew that he believed the outcome of the operation was due to a command he gave or failed to give. "I'm not qualified to be in the force." He'd announced after turning in his resignation days later.

No matter how much the bereaved families assured him that they didn't blame him for anything, it changed nothing. Instead, he felt even more guilty that no hate was directed at him. I cupped his face in my hands and, for the umpteenth time, told him, "What happened was not your fault. You're a good leader." He shook his head, "No, I'm not. I am not a good leader." With that, he strode into our bedroom and slammed the door after him.

As we lay side by side in bed that night, I heard him whisper in his sleep, "I'm doing what is best for the team. I'm making the right decision that'll ensure we all get home." Turns out they didn't all get home, and Remi will always blame himself for that.

©️ Musings By Bari-ekwaadoo 🌹

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