Bitter Sweet

Harsh realities find us when we’re least expecting them. A few minutes ago, her world had been perfect. Sitting in her cousin’s living room, cheering on her country in the London Olympics marathon, she was visiting to see her cousin’s new baby. The plan was to have lunch, play with the baby a little, and then go on her merry way back home.

An hour into the marathon, casual conversation flowing lazily, like a breeze on a very sunny day, a new visitor comes in. He takes a sit, introductions are brief, and he’s part of the family in some way. Suddenly the conversation sails away from the lazy flow, storming off to the ugly side of the world. Her country is apparently at war, helping a bordering country try to fix its problems and the man seated across her is neck deep in it. Literally, he sleeps in a hole in a trench at the front line. He tells tales of watching the stars, marveling at their beauty, the next minute; he is defending his country’s freedom with rounds of fire toward an enemy who is as determined to kill him.

Hundreds of enemies coming at him, more fighting, sleepless nights, bombs bursting over his head, more trenches and holes. Suddenly, watching the marathon seems so useless, such an insipid exercise compared to what he sacrifices on a daily basis. Harsh realities hit home in such strange moments. As he leaves an hour later, she murmurs,

“Stay safe,” her tone silent, soft, full of regret. But, his eyes are jaded, he has seen too much to feel the soft, his soul is hardened by the brutal human nature he meets daily fighting for our comfortable lives.  Our sweet freedoms that we enjoy without much thought for his discomfort.

Her country almost wins the Olympic Marathon, and although they come in second, she’s grateful for one little thing she can smile about. That and the happy baby who has finally emerged after hours of sleep, dripping with innocence, not knowing that at the borders ravaged souls defend the country they live in. She holds the baby close and prays that the baby never knows, never has to deal with the harsh realities of life.


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