And then, just like that, as Adam emerges and she sees how lost he appears, even scared, her mood breaks, and she is once again allowing in possibility and all the hurt that comes with it.
On the way home, they pass the little airport where Adam returned from the war.
There were ceremonies when the others came home, raucous celebrations in a Fort Riley gym filled with spangly women, flag-waving children, and signs. "Welcome home, Daddy." "Welcome home, heroes." Straight from the war, the soldiers would march into the gym, in formation, and when they were dismissed a few minutes later, there would be a great rush as the order of the place dissolved into screams and embraces. It happened every time, again and again, as all of the Fort Riley soldiers returned, and at one of the ceremonies, everyone spilled out of the gym and into a perfect Kansas day: blue sky, buttercups in the summer grass, a gentle breeze, and then an unexpected puff of wind. It blew the caps off of men and lifted the flowery skirt of one of the young wives, exposing the thong she had chosen for this day and the new butterfly tattoo she had gotten, and instead of smoothing her skirt back into place, she laughed as she felt it rise like a kite above her shoulders, and the soldier she was with couldn't stop staring and grinning, and everyone around them laughed, knowing what would be coming next, the sex, the desire, the relief that he was home safely, the poetry in the plains, and could there have been a moment further from the one that Adam had when he arrived?
No ceremony, no signs, no spangly dressjust Saskia pressed against a window of the terminal, watching him get off a plane. He descended the steps with the other passengers onto the tarmac, and Saskia thought: He's a skeleton. She had been hoping so hard. Now she knew.
As for Adam, as he walked across the tarmac, he wished he were on crutches and covered in bandages. The great soldier, returning from war. He felt ashamed. He walked into the terminal. He dreaded what Saskia would think of him. Now he saw her. She was smiling her beautiful smile. All of a sudden, he wanted to run to her. Here was his moment of welcome, his chance at absolution, and that was when he noticed the woman standing next to Saskia. He had never seen her before, but she seemed to know him because she was rushing toward him, on the verge of tears.
"Can you tell me what happened to my husband?" she was saying. "Can you tell me what happened?"
That was how he came home. Those were his welcoming words.
Copyright © 2013 by David Finkel
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