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You folded me paper cranes before you left on deployment. You said, this one, made from parchment and pins, is a wish. This one (a bit of ragged blue) is for luck. This one (cut from a magazine) is to remember me by. This one, red, is for my love. Remember me when I'm gone. I'll be back soon, and we'll unpack all our things and start our family.

When you came back in a box with your tags and your service records, I didn't find the strings of lopsided fowl until after the funeral, when they gave me your flag and I went to put it away into the chest with my schoolbooks and your old uniforms. Seeing them there, like a tangle of wings and strings, I couldn't help myself.

So I hope burnt offerings really do reach heaven or wherever good soldiers go when they die. The day after the funeral, I folded all your service records, the intake, the MOS assignment, the unit assignment, the doctor's remarks, into paper cranes. My creases aren't as good as yours (I wasn't the one getting a D in History because I was busy folding animals out of my textbook), but it's all paper and fragile, and it all burns the same in the end.

The first one I light is the parchment and pins, for a wish, and no matter how hard I stare at the melting pins and the black and golden serpents of papery ashes, the flecks of smoke and sparks don't conjure you back from the ground or heaven.