Old Wounds


colette_icon.gif pines_icon.gif

Scene Title Old Wounds
Synopsis Martin Pines' veteran support group gets a new member.
Date July 6, 2018

Church of the Ascension

"…when I finally came back, it just… I didn't recognize anything."

Fluorescent lights illuminate an old stone basement. High basement windows rest near the dusty ceiling, where exposed pipes and wiring are constant reminders that this is an ancillary space. Metal folding chairs are arranged in a circle, filled with slouching and sullen figures, a mix of men and women, evolved and non-evolved; listening.

"I um. It was hard, watching it all happen on the news. By the time I was able to get back to the states it just— everything's gone. I used to live in the Bronx. It's just… it's all gone."

Among the circle, there is one man who listens that has heard a permutation of these stories time and again for years. Martin Pines is the oldest person in the room, possibly the oldest person living in the Safe Zone. Here, though, he's the old soldier. A veteran among veterans, who remembers with perfect clarity every tragic story he's been told over his long life. It's both an incredible weight, and an incredible responsibility.

"I've— I've been living in a trailer, down in Jamaic— er— F-Ferrymen's Bay. I don't know what to do. Nothing feels real."

Right now, the attention in the circle is focused on Wilson Brown, a US Marine who was stranded in Afghanistan during the Second American Civil War, and returned home to find the world he knew had ceased to exist. Pines, sitting across from him, leans forward just a little and folds his hands, arms resting on his knees. He listens to Wilson's story, to the hurt and confusion, and recalls a time he'd heard a similar story of tragedy and loss, of isolation and dissolution. It was a long time ago, but the lesson remains the same.

"Wilson," Martin says with his soft, grandfatherly tone. "That's a hard deal, what you're going through." With a look to the others in the circle, watching them nod along, Pines brushes his palms together and slowly lets his attention settle back to Wilson. "Back in '45, I had a friend who immigrated from the UK before the Blitz." Martin's brows furrow together. "He was a good guy — an architect, not a fighter — and he…" Pines trails off as he notices someone new step in through the basement door, leaning against the door frame. A couple of the others turn to see her, a familiar if silent specter in these meetings. Dark hair, blind eyes and yet seeing, tattoos everywhere. Pines offers Colette Demsky a mild smile, then looks back to Wilson.

"My buddy, he went back to London in the winter of '45. His home was…" Martin motions with a hand in a flat line in front of himself. "Just gone. He'd write to me, tell me about how the block he grew up on was just gone. Bombed flat by the Nazis." Martin lowers his hand, folding them again. "Every couple months, I'd get a letter from him. He had a hard time of it too, recognizing his home after someone'd taken a hammer to it." Martin looks down to the floor, momentarily thoughtful and silent, then looks back up to Wilson. "Then I stopped hearing from him. After about… six months? He just stopped writing."

A silent tension builds in the room, and Wilson looks around at the others, then Martin. "What… what happened to him?" He fears the worst, the fate of the soldiers of his generation returning home from a war no one wanted to fight; traumatized by their experiences and left out to dry by the government. The silent tragedies before the civil war. "Did he— "

Martin doesn't let him finish that dark thought. "He was an architect." Martin finally reminds with a motion of one hand moving left to right with slow up and down variations. "It took him six months to remember who he was, t'mourn for the things he'd lost, for the past that couldn't ever be again…" Martin stops the gesture and folds his hands again. "But he was an architect, and he realized that London wasn't going t'rebuild itself. That everyone had lost something, and the only way to get that back was by building something better in its place."

As Martin makes eye contact with Wilson, both are silent. On the periphery of the room, Colette finally makes her way in from the door, meandering bootfalls mostly silent against the scuffed, concrete floor. As she makes her way to the folding table with a coffee pot and cups calling her name, Martin offers her a brief look, then squares his focus back on Wilson. "You were an MP, right?"

"Yeah," Wilson says with an incline of his head and a wringing of his hands together.

"There isn't nothing in this city that hasn't been replaced once or twice, or— three times?" Martin smiles a toothy smile. "I was born here in the 20s, and let me tell you as rough as this city is, she's still a sight better than she was in the 1970s." That elicits a round of laughter from everyone sitting in the circle, even from Colette as she pours her coffee. Martin catches that moment, tucks it away to remember what made her smile, and turns his attention back to Wilson.

"I'm not saying the only way t'feel better is to rebuild," Martin explains, "but you can take what it is you know and use it to make something bad into something better. Maybe one day the Bronx won't be the way it is, maybe it'll be a memorial, maybe it'll be a Starbucks — God knows we could use one of those." Another short burst of laughter, and this time Colette grimaces and holds up her small paper cup of awful, cheap coffee in recognition and salute. "But what I'm saying is, maybe it's not about what we lose, right? Maybe it's about what we can do moving ahead. We can't stay in the foxhole for the rest of our lives, one day we gotta climb out of the trenches and say… I've fought this war long enough." Colette looks into her coffee as she listens to Martin, then looks over to Wilson to gauge his reaction.

Wilson, nodding silently along, look sup to Martin. "So, what, join the MPs? I only got a GED, I never went to college, never learned a trade. I've been in and out of a desert all my life." Colette looks over at Wilson, and sees Martin looking at the others to see if any of his brothers-in-arms will come up with a suggestion. Looking down into her coffee, Colette finds an answer in her muted reflection.

"When's the last time you saw a cop?" Colette asks to the room, then looks up at Wilson who shakes his head. It had been a long while. "Most of the Blue died in the bombings, or went away after the city fell. They're reopening the academy next year, training people, real police. Not the MPs. Locals." One of Colette's brows raises slowly, and she looks to Martin who is just mildly smiling and nodding along.

Wilson, brows pinched, watches Colette for a moment. Then, as she looks back down to her coffee she finds an addendum. "Do it," as if it weren't obvious. "The worst they'll do is say no, but you were an MP. You've served. This isn't a war zone and the folks here aren't enemies, but— but this city needs people who'll look after it. People who grew up here, who… who remember what New York used to be." Those blind eyes briefly flick to Martin. "People who care," then back to Wilson. "People who understand what it's like."

"I didn't know that," Wilson says quietly, "about the NYPD. About the academy." His eyes find his hands, wringing together again. Martin feels the empty end of Wilson's sentence, and looks from him to Colette, then motions to one of the folding chairs that hasn't been taken in the circle. Colette eyes it, then the rest of the veterans sitting around and waiting to see what she'll do. It's the first time she's spoken up, the second time she's bothered to come into the room before the end of the meeting.

"If you were waiting for some fool thing like earning a seat in the circle," Martin says with a lopsided smile, "why don't you come pull up a chair. I'm sure it might be nice to have you sitting with us, rather than…" he motions to the door. Colette, hesitant and uncertain, waits for a few moments of silence and then glances back down into her small cup of coffee. With a deep breath, she steps forward and moves between two of the unoccupied chairs and slowly takes a seat.

Martin smiles as she settles in, looking between her and Wilson as he leaps back and claps his hands down on his knees. "It's a good day when somebody takes the step to join us. It's brave. Listening's hard, and talking's even harder…" he says with a look around at everyone gathered in the circle. "Why don't you introduce yourself?" That question elicits a look from Colette to Martin, then down to the floor.

For a few moments Colette is silent, save for the scuff and creak of folding chairs and the gurgle of the coffee pot behind her. Then, looking up with a slowly exhaled breath she says, "Demsky, Colette. I work for Wolfhound, fought in the Battle of Boulder, ex-Ferryman…" her brows knit together, worry lacing her features up until there's no real reaction to everything. Just a murmuration of welcoming greetings in a half dozen unfamiliar voices. Warily, Colette raises her brows and looks around at everyone in the circle.

"Thanks for joining us, Colette." Martin flashes one more smile, then looks over to another young veteran seated in the circle. "Kim," he motions to someone new, "last week you said your sister's baby was due any day. How's the family?"

The conversations continue, the circle remains unfilled, but in the basement of the Church of Ascension a group of people find peace in their shared challenges and the kind words of a man who will always remember their stories…

…even after they're gone.

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