- Text Size +
Wednesday morning I woke up to the smell of eggs, bacon and coffee for the fourth time since we'd gone shopping on Sunday. It was kind of nice having Brian around, I thought, as I stretched, cat-like, across the bed and reached to flip on the lamp by the bedside table.
Brian seemed to be settling into a routine at my place, too. And he'd stopped shouting in surprise every time the iguana made an appearance. In fact, now that he had the Lysol wipes to buffer him, he seemed to be making friends with Jerome.
I'd moved the iguana heating lamp into the living room so that he made more appearances. Normally, he sunbathed in my bedroom, and therefore other than under the lamp I only saw him once in a blue moon. He was forever scuttling into hiding places undetected. Brian had thought it was strange how many times he'd been to my house before without seeing Jerome before until, after knowing he was there, he saw how antisocial the iguana really was. But now that the lamp was in the living room, Jerome was forced to interact with us, usually being followed by Brian, who used his foot to drag a Lysol wipe along the floor right behind him.
This morning, though, Jerome was curled up on the end of the bed like a dog, waving his long tongue at me.
"Morning Jerome," I said when the lamp turned on and I caught sight of him. He continued to wag his tongue. I struggled to my feet and waddled into the kitchen.
Brian was standing at the stove flipping scrambled eggs around with a spatula. All he needed was an apron. "You've become quite the domestic goddess," I said teasingly.
Brian turned around, laughing, and grabbed a mug of steaming coffee, which he put before me, and pushed the newspaper, already folded to the funnies, in my direction. "Anything for my little shnookums," he said in a high, thickly southern voice.
I laughed and scanned the paper for Garfield while Brian finished making breakfast and doling it out onto two plates.
"So, I was thinking," Brian announced as he slid the plate in front of me and I refolded the paper.
"That's always dangerous," I joked.
Brian stuck his tongue out in a very childish manner, then pointed at me with his fork as he sat down, "You have literally seen every major historical event of the century unfold right before your eyes. Like every single one."
I shrugged. "Sort of. Not really, though. I mean a lot of it was so far off that I didn't hear about it until years afterward or only read about it in the paper. Living through the time it happened doesn't necessarily pose any edge than reading it in a history book did. Half the shit I've lived through they've found out more about since it happened, so the history books are more accurate than the papers and rumors were."
Brian thought about this a moment, then nodded, consenting to understand what I meant. But he pressed on, "Were you ever involved in anything, I dunno, crazy-famous before?"
"Other than the Backstreet Boys, you mean?" I asked, laughing.
"Yeah, other than BSB," Brian answered me seriously.
He'd been peppering me with similar questions all week, which made me feel good because the more Brian wanted to know, the more I believed that he believed me.
"Sure, I guess I have."
He shifted excitedly, "Like what? Like what?"
"I've fought in wars," I shrugged, "Like I was at Normandy... But all the action was over by the time I got there. It was just a bloodbath."
The beach and the ocean had literally been dyed red. Bodies strewn across the beach. We had all fallen silent, staring at the massacre. I was 18 at the time, in 1944, and it was... too much... War, I decided, was gross and fruitless. Repetitive. Awful. Meaningless.
"Is that when you got shot?" Brian asked, having already asked what the closest to dying I'd ever been was.
"Yeah," I answered, "By this French soldier guy."
Neither of us were innocent. Not the US, not France, not anyone.
Brian leaned in, shoveling eggs into his mouth.
"It was no big deal, I mean I was just doing what I do, you know? I was trying to stop people from dying."
"You must've been like freaking amazing over there!" Brian yelped suddenly, connecting my ability to the possibilities. "Dude, you probably saved a shitload of soldiers!"
I laughed and shook my head, looking down at the plate in front of me. "Nothing spectacular. Nothing like medal-winning or anything. I wasn't all Forrest Gump about it."
My buddy had actually been in the line of fire. Leo. I pushed him down and took it in the back. He'd dragged me off the beach, and we'd been rescued by a French woman, who had sympathy for us. She hid us, risked her life for us from the troops that searched the area for escapees.
Later in life, Leo married her and took her back to America. They lived in Queens. I'd seen them once, while I was with Claire. Leo recognized me, commented how much I looked like his army buddy, who had died on his birthday back in 1957. "He lived through Normandy, but died overnight in his sleep... and nobody ever knew why."
"I'm sorry," I'd said.
Claire had asked me in bed the story about Normandy, and I'd told her. She'd called me her G.I. Joe.

"That's intense," Brian leaned back in his chair. "Were you scared?"
I shrugged. "I thought I was invincible. I was scared to lose my best friends." Brian's eyes met mine. "I was just as scared as I would be if it'd been you or AJ or Howie or Kevin next to me."
"Was Claire waiting for you at home?" he asked.
I shook my head, "I didn't meet Claire until 1958," I reminded him.
"What else did you see firsthand?" he asked.
"I dunno, Bri," I answered, "Like I said for the most part I was just a normal guy, living normal lives. Lives that were interrupted every seventeen years. Then I'd float around, usually homeless, until I found someone to take me in, and build my life all over again. Some of them were easier to leave than others, the lives I mean. Others, I would've stayed in forever if I could've."
"What was your favorite cycle?" Brian asked.
I stared at him.
"If I could've kept Claire, it would've been this one." I said apologetically.
Brian nodded and looked down at the half eaten breakfast in front of him, poking at the eggs and bacon with his fork. "You've had a million friends, I bet, a lot of lovers, too, probably. What was so special about Claire?"
"She was my soulmate," I answered, without even a moment of hesitation.
Chapter End Notes:
The character of Leo and the story about the French girl was based on a true story that my grandfather actually lived. I used a lot of the comments in Nick's thoughts here that my grandfather used when he described Normandy to us. So, because of that, this fragment of Nick's memory is in memory of Leo J. Martin, who died in 1996.