I was reminded of his smile tonight.
It's a smile I've thought about so many times, a smile so vivid, yet as I walk around and "write" in my head, I can never figure out how to describe it.
It was a smile of sadness, of being completely overtired physically and emotionally, of having endured the unimaginable. A smile of someone who had no more tears to give, when the act of crying was beyond pointless. It was a loose-jawed smile, but not slack. He breathed in deep the night air, standing in the arched, empty firehouse doorway. Fourteen responded that morning, only four came back. Who knows if he was one of the four, wondering why he was so lucky, but having to live with the grief that comes with such an unimaginable loss from such an unimaginable event.
"Surreal" is maybe an overused term, or one that isn't used correctly in these types of situations, but those times can only be summed up as surreal. I walked around that afternoon thinking how odd it was that the same thing was on everybody's mind. Not odd, but surreal. Surreal, but not unexpected. Can the expected be surreal by definition? Je ne sais pas.
I don't want to get too much into details about how things were back then, not just that day, but in the days following that day. Not yet. Perhaps another time I'll write more of those times, but not tonight.
I just want to find the right way to convey that smile, though maybe it's best left unconveyed, or maybe it was never meant to be conveyed in the first place.
And yet it will remain in my mind an unforgettable artifact from that unforgettable day.