I stopped writing. I already knew the story. It’s not because it was common or that I had heard it before. It was just one of those moments when some part of my brain understood, and everything that followed was like watching dominoes fall one by one. I knew the outcome. I knew how it would look. But I had to keep on going to make sure I was correct. Plus I had to pretend to be doing my job.

The nurse who was watching over me stepped in. I’d like to think that she sensed that I was at a loss for what to do. Of course, it could also have been that I'd been sitting mute for a few minutes, as my brain and belly churned.

I watched the nurse walk over to the bed and put a hand on her arm. The woman flinched. The nurse said kindly, “Do you want to talk about it?” The woman didn’t respond. She was looking up, but her eyes weren’t focused anywhere.

“Is there someone you would like to talk with?” The nurse asked.

“My husband.”

It was like a horror movie. I knew we were about to go down into the basement all alone, looking for our friends. The power was out. The storm was rattling the walls, and the ax was glinting in the lightning. I wanted to scream: Don’t go in there!

I didn’t.

“Would you like me to contact him?” asked the nurse.

“He’s dead.”

“I’m so sorry. How did it happen?”

“He was killed in Iraq last month.”

“I’m sorry. My husband is in Iraq too.”

She focused her eyes on the nurse.

“I know it’s not much, but at least he died doing good work, fighting for freedom.”

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