Dog Tag – Matthew Borczon

He was stoic through the procedure. All the while we talked about deployments, his in Iraq and mine in
Afghanistan. He said it was while he was there that they found his cancer. How he was lucky, in a way
that he went as he might not have done anything about the symptoms if he was still stateside. He went
on to ask me when my unit was deploying next. His was slated to go next year; mine was at least two
years away. He got dressed and was thanking the young nurse who was at the desk when he turns and
asks me if I heard about that Amandorra kid? The sailor was a college student who had hung himself in
his dorm room last week. “Damn, have I ever” I said, kid was a corpsman and had just left active duty to
go to school. It was my reserve center that got the call to contact his family. Now my phone has been
ringing off the hook with Chiefs and officers all wanting to know how I am doing. “I didn’t even know the
kid” I said, I am just the last guy to get back so now they finally notice that nobody had taken the time
to ask me about adjusting back to civilian life. “They call so often I am starting to get pissed off” I said,
“nobody thinks about it until something bad happens and then they can’t leave your shit alone”. He
finishes tying his boots and heads for the door, “Don’t worry they will forget you soon enough, they
always do” He grabs his coat from the rack and leaves. The nurse I am working with at the office turns to
me and asks “Do you guys have like radar for each other”? I look at her surprised. “ He never said he was
Army, you never said you were Navy, you just started talking about which war you were in like you knew
it by telepathy”? “I don’t know, I guess we just get used to the smell of our own”. She seems to accept
this and starts to clean up the instruments. It is almost five o clock and the Doctor has already left for
the day so we can close as soon as things are done. I should have told her that it was the desert boots he
had with his clothes that tipped me off he was Army. You don’t see them on civilians as a rule. That he
still wears them lets me know he has not been home long. That he still has his dog tag tied into his laces
means something else. You do this so they can identify your leg if you step on an IED. I knew when I saw
it that the cancer this guy was fighting was not the only thing he was afraid of. I don’t wear my boots
anymore they just sit in my closet, but my dog tag is still there.

Matthew borczon is the Author of a clock of human bones available through the yellow chair review. and the upcoming Battle lines through Epic rites press. He publishes widely in the small press.

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