Happens All the Time

He had a regular production line  going. His Dell computer sat aside the small Ikea desk, it’s printer atop it right next to an Acer monitor. He was face down on the keyboard, his right hand gripping a Glock 9mm instead of the mouse. No one was ever going to use the computer again, not with all of the blood and bits of gray matter stuck to it, running inside where small gaps allowed the fluid to penetrate. A stack of resumes were neatly aligned with the corner of the desk, a pile of maybe 20 of them. There was a box of envelopes and a roll of stamps on the desk too. It was obvious that he’d been looking for work and going at it systematically.

In the closet off the tiny bedroom, his BDUs were neatly hung next to his dress uniform. Shoes and boots standing in formation on the floor. A dresser held jeans, shirts, socks and underwear, all neatly stacked. The bathroom was spotless, just a partially used bar of soap in a dish by the sink, another in a soap dish in the shower. His little kitchenette was neat and  a few photos were stuck to the ‘fridge with magnets that looked like military paraphernalia. Boots, stripes, patches, –all reproduced in miniature and probably came from a recruiting office somewhere. Looking in the ‘fridge showed lots of empty space, a half gallon milk container and the remains of something from Taco Time. In a cupboard was a bottle of Johnnie Walker Red. Maybe four fingers from full, the guy wasn’t a heavy drinker.  Over the desk was a photo of him standing in a line of his buddies. They were smiling as if caught mid-laugh, each with their arms on the shoulders of the man next to him. In the background sat an out of focus Humvee. The picture was a study in beige.

The detective who caught the case was looking through some letters that had also been stacked neatly on the desk. Like everything else they were spotted with the life blood of the dead soldier. They all said basically the same thing; they thanked him for applying and spoke of how economic downturn left no room for new hires. Some said his recent experiences didn’t qualify him for the work he’d applied for. Frowning, the detective had already discovered that the soldier was a highly capable young man who ascended to a leadership position quickly in the military. He had worked maintaining and operating the robots they used  to check out suspected bombs, defusing them when they were found. The guy definitely had balls, that was for sure. You don’t do a job like that if you’re a shrinking violet.

The apartment wasn’t much to look at. Maybe 500 square feet if you counted the closet. A clean but older model Chevy was parked in the slot assigned to the apartment. Officers had checked it out and found nothing inside it but the registration and insurance papers. Next to his bed was a small framed photo of a girl. She was pretty without being beautiful. The photo was black and white but it looked like her hair was light brown. No way to tell the eye color. The detective wondered if she was a girlfriend or sister. No way to know. Not yet.

The detective had the job of telling his parents. Their names, Mom and Dad were in his Samsung smart phone. Reverse checking their number gave him the address and he made his way across town to tell the parents what no cop ever wanted to tell parents. That their son had survived a war, only t come home and take how own life. During the drive, the detective wondered if they’d ever find the reason for the suicide. A general picture could be conjured, but it was always impossible to find the thing, the one thing that had been the final straw. That one single happenstance that caused a bright future to be darkened so quickly and with such finality.

They were devastated, of course. They sat in their living room, holding each other’s hands, tears on their cheeks. Their eyes going from frantic side to side searching to finally change into that dead look. Their faces somehow both deadpan and yet twisted in a hellish emotional agony. No, he didn’t have any enemies. He’d left those behind in the Gulf. No, he wasn’t having trouble with a girlfriend. He’d had one when he deployed the first time, some four years and three deployments ago. But it had been long over with, she just couldn’t wait on him to come home to her. His sister had been trying to introduce him to some of her girlfriends. That explained the bedside photo. He’d been trying to find work and not having any luck. He’d been hunting for work steadily foe the three months since his discharge. His father explained that the young man had spent his days at the search, following any leads he could get. He’d signed up for one of those companies who helped people find work, but so far had not benefited from the money he’d had to pay them. The father said he was doing two and sometimes three interviews a day –up until a few days ago. When asked, he’d told his parents he was backing off a little Taking a break. He might, he said, do a little fishing.

But fishing isn’t what he did. He’d sat around his house a few days, reading one of the books found in his apartment. He had no television. If he was watching any video, it would have to be on the computer. But whatever he spent his time doing, he’d finished it up by sitting at his desk and putting a single shot through his right temple. A course of action that way too many veterans of our wars take. His death would be in the news; not by name, of course. The count of reported suicides merely incremented by one. The case would close as self-inflicted gunshot and the world would go on without him.