All in all, thank you for all your support and advice on these, patrons! I will, of course, be posting bits of the other drafts as they develop.
[Carrie Borden sits with Sully in a VA Vet Center, a small clinic where therapists and veterans meet. Couches and chairs form a small circle in the lobby. Sully looks defeated. Carrie gets them both a cup of coffee.]
BORDEN: A lot of your buddies are coming up this weekend.
SULLY: They don’t have to do that.
BORDEN: But they are. [handing him the coffee] Here. Drink.
SULLY: [taking the coffee] How long have you been coming here?
BORDEN: About two years. It helps. And they won’t just give you pills.
SULLY: I’ve had my fill of those lately.
BORDEN: [laughs] At least your sense of humor is intact. [beat] Are you still writing?
SULLY: [shaking his head] Kind of fell out of it.
BORDEN: I thought you had some stuff published, were, like, on your way to being a famous writer or something.
SULLY: Nah. I wrote that one story about Boomer, but that’s it. I was working on a novel for a while, but it just kept running into a wall.
BORDEN: I think that’s kind of how it’s supposed to work.
SULLY: Plus, writing made me want to dig up the truth.
BORDEN: That’s good.
SULLY: That backfires. There was this girl who died, an Iraqi, and I couldn’t remember what happened. So I called Ty, our lieutenant. You remember him? [Borden nods] He has a photographic memory, you know, so I figured if anyone could fill me in, it would be him.
SULLY: He lied. He tried to shoulder the burden for me, said he was the one who flipped the trigger, but as he retold the story I started to remember. It was me. I killed her, Borden. And when my daughter died, I couldn’t help but feel like I deserved it.
BORDEN: That must be hard, Sully. I’m sorry you have to bear that burden. [beat] You’re gift, Andrew, it’s more than just for you. It’s for all of us. The people should share that burden with us. And boy do you have a story with the 463rd. You guys left a fucking reputation in-country.
SULLY: None of those rumors are true.
BORDEN: Exactly. They’re stories. You can use them to inspire. Or at least tell them what we went through. I can help you. I was deployed a shit-ton of times. I know a lot of people who’d love to indulge in the rumors about the 463rd.
SULLY: I’m sick of trying to write it out. The words get close, but they never get where they need to be.
BORDEN: Let me ask you this: what’s the hardest part about coming home?
SULLY: It’s lonely.
BORDEN: The army spent millions of dollars turning you and me into soldiers. And what did they invest in our homecoming? A checklist for handing in our gear and a survey about nightmares and thoughts of hurting ourselves. There’s no process that turns us back into civilians. We get Veteran’s Day parades and yellow bumper stickers, and that’s supposed to be enough.
SULLY: What are you getting at?
BORDEN: Writing is a process. And you’re lucky to have it. Maybe the words won’t get all the way there, but they’re a lot farther than being silent and lonely. You can teach people something.
SULLY: What, Borden? What am I supposed to teach people?
BORDEN: In tribal societies, when warriors come home, the community gathers and welcomes them with a ceremony. You know what they do at that ceremony? [Sully shakes his head] They tell war stories.
SULLY: It can’t happen here. They turn Memorial Day into furniture sales and war stories into blockbuster movies.
BORDEN: It’s not “us” and “them,” Sully. It’s “I” and “we,” and we don’t have to do it like that. Tell it like it was, and if a book isn’t working, then write that other idea you had.
SULLY: A play?
BORDEN: Yeah, when we were still in-country, you said you had an idea for a play. So you could really show people what it’s like.
SULLY: [laughs] The Iraq Monologues. I forgot about that.
BORDEN: How were you going to do it?
SULLY: It was going to be perspectives from different soldiers, maybe even an Iraqi.
BORDEN: You get some true stories in there, but mostly fiction. No red, white, and blue, flag-waving nonsense. Just war. What it does. What it means.
SULLY: Who am I to say what war means?
BORDEN: You’re a veteran. And you’re a writer.
SULLY: You really think we could do it?
BORDEN: I think you could do it. But yeah, I’ll help.
SULLY: That does sound like a cool idea.
BORDEN: Of course it’s a cool idea. [laughs] So what do you know about writing plays?
SULLY: I don’t know the first thing.
BORDEN: [laughs] I guess we’ll figure it out.
[Sully nods his head. He and Borden smile at one another as the lights go down.]