A Great War soldier reflects on his secret love for a fellow soldier, and resides himself to both of their fates in the war.
Only some of us wore helmets, many feared they were going to die in the trenches, and others didn’t want to balance a troublesome soup bowl on their scalp. I wore one; I always did even when no bullets pieced the air, they rattled my sanity so. Bosley didn’t, Bosley never did in battle, the shells didn’t frighten him and neither did the Germans blind with rage. He was more of a man then I was, tall and gaunt, fearless, not afraid to show his feelings. God damn I thought every time my eye shifted on his face which was the spitting image of an ancient God.
The trenches where cramped and dirty, surrounded by barbed wire and broken sticks. Many of us peeked our heads from the edge to see if anyone dared to come here. No one did for a while, so the battle field was silent. I worried every second that a spontaneous gunshot would snap, and my heart would flutter. It would make no difference, I though, because my heart practically stopped when ever Bosley would smile at me. “Feeling okay so far?“ There my heart went when he tapped my arm and shifted his body slightly in the trenches.
“Oh, sure.“ He could see me trembling out of fear and compassion. His encouraging smile melted into worry once more as he looked to his right to see a few fellow soldiers staring, one of them rolling their gazes. His hazel eyes, more green than brown, where still fixed on them as he whispered in my injured but still functional ear, “What are they looking at?“
I’m going to hell; this is what I was sure of every morning and every night, how I felt towards Bosley... I also kept optimistic; my hand basket was decorated and ready to go. To be honest, I cried often about it, but I picked up the pieces eventually and shouted to myself, “Be a man!“ Many made me think I wasn’t.
Although there was Bosley, sitting right next to me with his short black hair still neat even through the brutal action and messiness of war. I could say anything right now, I thought, I could say anything and it would never matter. I was positive I was going to die that day; sadly I had a feeling Bosley would, too. I just prayed like hell that he wasn’t going down below with me.
We waited forever, some men even took off their helmets, not me though, I was never sure what was going to happen. Men slept, leaning their backs against the trench walls. Some wrote letters that would never be sent, and still the only noises were the wind whistling above us and uniforms rustling. Some sneezes we didn’t bless, some coughs that where ignored. I suspect some men even died where they sat. They peacefully rested and waited until they were so relaxed just to stop breathing. Bosley, who was also resting while I waited attentively lit a cigarette and slowly stood up, cracking his back on the way up. “Sit down!“ I heard someone whisper.
“You want to play cards or something?“ He quietly proposed while looking down at me.
“Sit down! You’ll be shot!“ The same man whispered angrily. “You might as well take a little stroll on No Man’s Land if you’re feeling a bit more adventurous.“
“Feh,“ he puffed a cloud of smoke into the brisk air, disappearing into the ashen sky. “Nothing it happeni-“he was abruptly silenced by a shell shooting dangerously close to the edge. I shuddered and leaned back into the dirt, realizing that Bosley’s unprotected head was almost blown to bits. Several men hurried up towards the edge, only their eyes peering slightly out of our shelter. Old Bosley was looking, too. “You see anyone?“ My voice quaked as I tugged at his pant leg.
“N-no...“ He said while bending down for his helmet.
“Oh God!“ I shivered and clung to his leg. We weren’t living in the trenches that long, so we had no idea what was to expect.
This constantly happened, some attack moments more intense than others. Some men were beginning to get trench foot, and refused to cut their foot off. I shook my head and choked out a sigh when they finally died from it. They sky was so gray, it was un-godly dull, it was almost like the sun never had come out and never would again. I swear to God, it could have made the shadows under our eyes look lighter. Wind and rain where common, although me and Bosley never moved a muscle, we stayed together all through our days. We didn’t even get up to walk five feet in front of us to get a canteen of water.
It was one day that was the most brutal, where we were at least. There was a certain smell of ash in the air, although no shots have been shared for a while. I clutched my gun, my shining bayonet still unused. More men put on their helmets, even Bosley did. He also sat closer to me than ever before, I worried he knew about my heart, and how it was uncontrollable. He didn’t look at me; he looked up without even blinking. “Is someone coming?“ I shuffled closer to him as he stayed completely silent, except for his blissful but anxious breathing. “Bosley?“
“Hush...“ He rubbed my shoulder while still staring to the ashen sky. I whimpered, I was terrified and did not wish to go to hell yet. I quivered under the hand of fear, I was no longer a twenty three year old man but a boy, and all I wanted was to return home with a soft comfortable bed. “Ohhh...“
Bosley finally made his eyes twitch to me after I moaned and let a single dirty tear role down my face. “Fuck...“ He breathed. “We’ll be veterans when we go home, and be awarded and grow old with our new wives.“
“Wives.“ I sobbed. But I don’t want a wife... I thought to myself when my eyes fluttered straight into his. He gasped... when a cloud of smoke from angry enemy cannons erupted; he picked his jaw back up and fired his new gun for the first time. Many soldiers grew wide eyed and scrambled, as did I as I tried to pick myself up to be standing next to him. Shooting the enemy down as he did. I screamed as I watched a few daring men jump past the barbed wire and lifeless people from months before into No man’s Land only to be killed by a landmine. I couldn’t see a thing in the smoke and shells firing and bursting, but the noise, holy hell! I thought my ears were about to explode along with the screams of dying men. I shot as long as I could before I collapsed on the ground screaming, as if a bullet had broken my bones. No, I just couldn’t fight anymore, I didn’t want to die or see any more men die. I closed my eyes and covered my ears, and trembled, because if I saw Bosley fall to the ground dead I would go completely mad. “Oh God! Oh my fucking God!“ I howled, helpless and utterly frightened. My heart was bouncing all over the place, my lungs also ached, and I wasn’t too sure what to do about it. “Bosley!“ I cried then, but my voice was drowned out by the sound of bombs whistling in the air.
“They’re coming in the trench!“ A few voices shouted through the dusty and constantly moving air. Who is ’they’? I thought.
“They’re coming! They’re coming!“ The voices were more distant and frantic, I was no better. I even screamed the same time they were when I stood back up. Bosley looked at me again and pushed me down with him as another cannon fired and targeted a little too close to us.
My heart was almost completely stopped at that point, I calmed as I watched him lying beside me with his hands wrapped over his head. I wonder if I should do it... my mind was convincing myself that I was absolutely going to die in the middle of combat that day, and that, once again, nothing that I did or said would matter. War was raging, blood poured into the dirt like a river although I had no idea where the enemy would be next, but I did it. I firmly took Bosley’s hands away from his head and pulled then towards me, my fluttering and fearful heart sighed as I kissed him, a thing I wanted to do ever since the first year in collage we spend together, talking about how women only cared about their hair, and gossiping in front of the old water fountain. You can’t even imagine how deeply I fucking blushed when his arms went free...because he wrapped them around me.
I didn’t know if other soldiers were seeing us, they were mostly to busy fearlessly going into No Man’s Land and firing their weapons and cannons. “Faggot.“ They might have judged. “God hates you“ they might have had a chance to think that, too, but they didn’t. After all, in that moment, I didn’t understand why everyone including myself was saying I was going to hell... just for loving someone.
BAM! The only noise that would break a bond as strong as ours, without thinking, I stood up with him and saw him slide down me, his eyes wide and lifeless, blood trickling out of his mouth. I gasped and saw a fresh bullet wound in his back. He slid to his knees...suddenly cold, absolutely dead, I wasn’t too sure whether seeing him kneeling, looking up at the sky and bleeding being so vulnerably at last was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen, or a terrible eye opener. “I...I love you.“ I quietly said as I let him fall to the ground. He was still, and looked ever so peaceful when I shut his eye lids with the side of my hand. I had no idea how a bullet could have come from the sky, but it killed my love.
Rage...hate...distress...the only things I could feel then. I was blind then; I trudged into the bombs and land mine smoke, being pricked by the barbed wire. Fresh tears of sorrow streamed uncontrollably out of my eyes which would never see the world the same way again. “Mother Fuckers!!“ I shouted ’till my throat was ready to burst. “Give me your best shot!!“ I spat on the field as more bombs whistled in the air. “I’ll be here all day!!“ Another gun roared, and its fury made me flinch as I collapsed under the dark hand of death. Men with hard and rounded helmets where pacing towards me...
It turned out I didn’t need that hand basket after all, because in a better place someone was waiting for me...