You go back when you can’t deal. It’s kind of like jail, when you come back, you commit a crime so that you don’t have to face anything.
There’re only so many days of polishing the boots you have at your home, while your wife is making excuses to go to The Home Depot. “What do you think I did when you weren’t around?” she said.
She fucked your neighbor. Not that it was a bad fuck or that your neighbor was a bad guy. It was just that you weren’t around. You can’t stand it. You don’t know which is worse, being here or being there but one thing you do know: you must salute those with more shit on their arms than you have and the ones with less must salute you. When you left for your second tour and pulled out of the driveway, you remember the neighbor saluting you mechanically. A salute from a civilian doesn’t mean anything. You told him he didn’t have to do that. The rules should be easy.
When you were home you marched in parades. Some of them were only you and the mayor, riding around in a convertible. They honored you at the local supermarkets and once at a minor league hockey game. You skated around and dropped a puck. Then a fight broke out which you couldn’t take. As you and your wife left (you leave nearly everyplace quickly these days), a fan yelled that you were a narcissist, to which your wife remarked, “Are hockey fans always that smart?”
At night you drank and held your gun. You don’t put in up to your head or anything but you thought that wouldn’t it be great if the thing could shoot the booze right into your system. It would be the Marine way, things that don’t misfire. The lesser cavalry men have flipped out and shot up Afghan civilians but never, as a Marine, could you. You had to be tough and take it. Maybe you kill her and then yourself. No, no, you could tough it out, one more tour, just one more tour.
When you announced you had signed up again, she said she was leaving you. It was too late and you had your game face on, ready to deploy. You told her that it doesn’t matter, and that you have a new unit. “You’re free to go,” you said, and that you no longer love her. Hell, neither of you love anything much these days but there’s a bag you slung over your shoulder which you tossed into the car. You alone, shoot the house the middle finger. Did you know, not to salute while deployed in the field, to prevent enemy snipers from identifying officers? Yes, you did. You did know that.