'...that’s when it hit me. I was home...'
It took about two weeks for them to sort out bringing me home, I had to prove I was at the Base at the time of the attack and that I was who I said I was, and then they had to get permission from other people in other sections of the government to allow me back into America. It was total bullshit; if they’d given me $100 I could have just grabbed the next flight from the local airport. But they insisted the government ‘escort’ me home…
The plane wasn’t like the military one I came to Qatar in, it was a full on private Jet, I sat down before we took off in a really comfortable white leather chair when a man dressed in a black suit and a red tie with an American flag pin on the left side of his blazer, I assumed he was a government official of some kind. “Mr Iero, I’d like to apologies on behalf of the US Military for not being of any assistance sooner…” he paused, I sat up in my chair slightly “It’s no problem, the main thing is I’m alive and you did help me, you weren’t to know I was wondering the desert.” The man nodded and smiled “Well if there’s anything you need, it’s a long flight back.” He was about to turn around but I spoke again before he did “Actually, I have to ask, Lieutenant Jared Leto, he died during the base attack, he’s the reason I’m alive, can you…like give his family a medal or something in his name…” I trailed off; the man smiled and nodded “consider it done.” Then the man left and walked through a door at the other end of the plane.
I don’t really remember much of the flight home; I slept for most of it, accept for when the man spoke to me and when a stewardess woke me up to tell me we were landing and that I needed to put my seatbelt on, so I did and that’s when it hit me. I was home, okay not in Jersey, I landed in Washington but still I was in America, where there were people everywhere, and food and water and clothes. I looked out of the window before getting off the plane and there were cameras and news reporters, but they were ushered away by government security so they wouldn’t see me, I didn’t really want publicity for being the only survivor, I wanted to go home and sleep, but I knew it’d be a long time before that happened. After I got off the plane I was taken into a building where I was greeted by tall blonde woman with heavy eye makeup, I shook her hand and she smiled “Hello Mr Iero, I’m Jennifer Batten, Welcome back to the US; I hope your flight was okay.” I nodded and she smiled again “I’m afraid, the first thing we’ll have to do is take you to the local hospital, to remove the shrapnel from your arms, legs and torso…” she said politely, to be honest I was waiting for someone to take me to the hospital, god knows how deep this shit was digging into my body.
We got to the local hospital and I was taken through endless white walled corridors until they told me to sit on one of the hospital beds, after about 15 minutes a doctor came in and asked me to lie down, I did obediently and he then gassed me so I’d pass out, I’m guessing that was so he didn’t have to inject me everywhere there was shrapnel.
I woke up probably a few hours later and there was a kind of curtain across my neck so I couldn’t see the rest of my body, I’m glad it was there, I think I’d have been sick if I saw what they’d been doing, it occurred to me that to get to the shrapnel they’d have to have opened old wounds, yeah I was very happy he’d knocked me out. When I came too properly and my blurry vision focused I saw the Doctor smiling down at me “You’re all better, Mr Iero, I’ve just got to strap you up and you’re free to go.” I nodded with a sigh of relief.
After I was released, still wearing my ripped uniform, Jennifer was waiting outside for me in a Black Mercedes. The US doesn’t have any money, but they can splash out on Government Mercedes? Oh how I’ve missed fucked up America. I got into the car and Jennifer looked at me “Is there anyone you want us to call? Friends, Family?” she asked kindly, I shook my head “no, I want to surprise them…” I said smiling slightly, and Jennifer nodded and smiled too
It was weird, I felt like the fucking president or something being driven around everywhere and having people in suits follow me everywhere around government buildings, but it was nice I guess, it was a long time since I had people around me, I smiled to myself, god I missed smiling, I’m going to smile so much now I’m going to look like the fucking Cheshire cat. Then the car started to move, and I fell to sleep again, hoping it’d make the journey seem shorter.
I woke up and the car had pulled up outside my house, Jennifer smiled and nodded her head toward the car door “Well this is your stop, Look after Yourself and I hope we don’t have to see each other again anytime soon…” I nodded and smiled and clambered out of the car, I walked up the path and took the spare key from under the mat; I unlocked the door and walked inside. I’ve really, really fucking missed this place, I took a deep breath and walked up stairs to the bathroom, I cleaned myself up a little being careful not to put too much pressure on the bruising and scarring that was left around my face and then I walked back down stairs slowly checking the time on the clock in hall on my way down, it was nine thirty, smiling to myself, I walked back out the front door shutting it behind me, placing the key back under the mat and began to walk down the dimly lit street,I felt like a stranger, in a strange land, I wasn’t used to that old smell of car emissions and alcohol as I walked on route to Gerard and Mikey’s house.
I was about half way there when I realised, they could be really angry with me when I see them, they could actually hate me, he attack was listed as no survivors. They’ve probably thought I was dead for the last 2 and a half months, and now I’m just about to turn up on their doorstep after not hearing from me for so long, it makes me feel really guilty, but then again, I had no way of contacting anyone until I met that police officer in the city a few weeks ago and I wasn’t going to ask to borrow his cell so I could call Gerard, I needed to get home, I know Jennifer offered to call someone for me, but I didn’t want them to be told by someone else, he’d probably think it’s some sick joke until he actually saw me, and I wouldn’t want him to think that, it’s really hurt him, so that’s why I’m going to his house, as a surprise, so he can’t think it’s a joke, so he knows I’m alive, and so he knows I still care about him.
I came to the end of their street and took a deep breath, I kept to the darker side of the sidewalk so if they were near the window of the main room, they still couldn’t see me, I eventually walked up their little path and up to the door, I was so nervous, I was so excited I could puke, but I tried not to, that’d be unpleasant, I knocked on the door gently and I heard Alicia inside ask ‘who the fuck is that?’ I waited a few seconds and the door opened slowly revealing Mikey’s face, which when he saw me changed from expressionless to one of complete shock. “Hi…” I said I couldn’t control myself I was grinning like an idiot and tears started rolling down my face and Mikey’s arms wrapped themselves around me and mine around him “Oh My God I thought you were dead! I’ve missed you so much!” I could hear his voice cracking when he started to cry and I felt the tears fall onto my shoulder, then he let go of me and his mom shouted from the main room “Mikey who is it?” Mikey placed a hand on my shoulder and smiled, he then walked me into the main room where Alicia and Mikey’s mom were sitting bewildered they both kind of jumped on me and hugged me shouting things like “I thought you were dead!” and “It’s a fucking miracle!” which came from who I don’t know but when they let me go I took in a deep breath and after about half an hour of rambling on about how much I've been missed and them talking about my tattoos they’d calmed down to the extent they could sit down again, I sat down next to Mikey on the couch, and the Houdini can running through the kitchen and jumped up onto my lap, I sat stroking him I was still smiling and every now and again another tear would force itself down my cheeks Mikey was the first to speak “So…what happened, they said there were no survivors…” I nodded “I know, I was ordered to run by a higher ranking officer, so I did and I was wondering the desert for two months until I found the city that got me home…” I was staring at the table and I could see Alicia smiling at me out of the corner of my eye “you know Frank, Gerard’s upstairs, he’s well turned into a bit of a hermit recently…” she said giggling my head shot up at the mention of his name and I turned to Mikey “He didn’t drop out of college did he?” Mikey shook his head “No, there are refurbishments at the college and he has the month off until it’s done, he’s just been in his room since he got here really…” I nodded and he smiled at me nodding toward the doorway “Go and see him.” He ordered me, I nodded and smiled slightly and made my way upstairs to Gerard’s room.