The Writer Talks Over a Bedside

“Oh, papa,” I groaned, lowering my forehead to his hand. Now I was crying in earnest. “Why didn’t you say anything sooner?”

“I was exposed to something known as Agent Orange,” papa continued, and now he coughed. “It’s a dangerous chemical – you don’t want to know what it can do.”

I lifted my head to see papa’s eyes glazed over with memory.

“All those poor children – they didn’t do anything wrong, and yet they suffered the repercussions of a war that had nothing to do with them.”

“Papa, you shouldn’t speak of such things – it’ll only make you more depressed.”

“Aidan, you don’t know what I’ve seen.” Now there were tears streaking his cheeks. “So much torture and illness and poverty. How can we do this to each other?”

“It’s not exactly the most appropriate time for existential questions,” I offered, trying to lighten up the mood.

“You’re so much like her,” papa said, squeezing his eyes shut. “So much…sometimes I have to remind myself she’s not here.”

I clutched his hand tighter, praying.

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