I knew even then that you were a broken man. I knew what you had been through in that awful war, but never really understood what it was like for you. You lost all your friends there in the mud, came home to a country that didn’t want you back, and found that your wife had left you. That would have destroyed anyone, but not you. It wasn’t until so many years went by that I understood why. It didn’t matter to you, none of it, because you never really came home.
You hid yourself so deeply in that bottle, and it was only when I would join you there that I’d see the real you. You were kind, and far too gentle for what you’d seen. I knew even then that you were broken, but I never did know just how badly.
When I had to leave, I said goodbye, but didn’t know it was anything more than “I’ll see you later”. I should have known that without me there to help you…but I was too young to think that way. I heard that you lost your job. A week later they found your body in the motel with empty bottles strewn about the room. I’ll always feel that if I had stayed, you might have made it home eventually. I’ll always feel I had some responsibility I didn’t live up to. I’ll always regret that I didn’t know that I had really said goodbye.