I live in Wilton, Tribe of Trees. Some of the ancient people call it “Tribe of Thieves.” Working soldiers came by on holidays, living like trees, dreaming of adventurous skies, coming home to people living by seasons, rooted into the ground. The way they speak their words is Wilton. They sound like young men begging virgin brides from the Old Maid wives of shipped-off soldiers.
The job I was working temporarily had an opening for permanency. I am to officially move two hours away.
Willahford tells his stories honestly, he hides nothing, he does not rehearse, he tells the truth. He seems totally unashamed. He is half-Philippine with a nose similar to mine, with that slight downward curve at the bridge.
He knows he is cool, tried and true. When he smiles his eyes squint up and the Asian in him lights up brilliantly.
“You're not that much older than me,” he scolded me once with a laugh. “Anyway, I'm pretty sure I'm the only person you know.”
Willahford seems to feel a need to distinguish himself, that's why he handled Iraq the way he did. He switched gears and decided to tell the story in a way that fully honored the dead instead of the version he knew.
He acts jealous of my history sometimes, the finality of it.
“Maybe all life is a collection of short stories lived in three D,” I told him once.
I was seven the first time I understood the most appropriate, honorable thing to do was suicide, the ultimate act of protest. I wondered how many years I could put a body through God’s Country and not be culpable. I decided all would be resolved by my twenty-fifth birthday.
I check the knives out; all too dull. Princes can protest to Her, but not Kings. Regardless how behind one is, all that can be done is to fight forward, same as in the after life. Why die early if you know you're going to die. I slice one wrist and not the other. The blood flows faster than I expect, spilling over the beige counter, then the toilet as I turn, bright red against cold porcelain.
It's strange working with a comedian like Billy. It’s his first day with me working on the buildings of the church. I've been working the Wilton church on weekends, Butler on the weekdays. Billy is to take my place.
Today was supposed to not exist. I remember the film Final Destination: fate is fate; what's already been decided will happen. You keep your promises to yourself.
I used a razor blade. The swipe required a familiar wildness.
The Dave Matthews Band performed Crash Into Me. I was surprised how well the timing, they'd all be out that night at their concert at the biker church. No surprise rings of the doorbell and Billy calling my name and saying “Hey, girl!?!” in his funny-fake-gay way.
Come to find out they all canceled at the last minute, didn't go to the concert, they stayed home, but I didn't find out till next morning.
Shifted to Africa. I’m surprised I know her by her air.
A dark man is making noises at me. He is tribal. The edges of his vocal cords don’t make a growl, but a “Ckha Ckha Cko.”
My vocal cords recognize the sounds of his, in an almost-growl, sounds escape my lips: “Cke Cka Ckis,”
I remember my attraction to women began before I was in kindergarten. There were these stories the adults would tell of how I’d see a pretty woman and just start following her.
The adults kept losing me in stores and shopping malls.
All day I watch “Proof,” a play starring Gwyneth Paltrow, taking notes until I can see the script in my head and the exact place the profoundness hits me, on the verge of something. June first settles in, long overdue, me ashamed of it, angry that over and over again I am the last to know the peace of reality, me lost in a fog of real events. I text Willahford to never contact me again. The dusk is gray and golden. That night he texts back, asking how I could ever think he thought he was better than me.
In Billy‘s apartment, drinking beer, he seems to find my long sleeve shirt odd. I never wear long sleeves, even in winter.
I feel clean. The long sleeve covers the bandages. I feel as clean as the protagonist in The Secret History, by Donna Tartt. When I was a teenager I would dream of being that clean. I would read the Bible morning and night praying to remember why.
“And do you shave your head that way … ” Grandma Castro asks, “Or is that -- is that -- real … ”
“Um -- I shave,” I say, as if I were a scientist explaining something predetermined to be complicated. “But it is also real in some places.”
I have never met Grandpa Castro as an adult. “Can I tell you something …” he says angrily. “You look silly in that uniform. They look like pajamas. Why‘d you join the military?”
“They are the best people I have ever known.”
“You know what they are? Bunch ‘a Goddamn alcoholics.”
He tells me we are Italian, then Spanish as his tall, blonde, German prom queen sits beside him stirring coffee. I remember the streets of Palermo and the coast where the water-traveling Greeks landed with awe and surprise because still no one knows how or where those original, land-bound Sicilians came from.
“Both our families come from Indiana,” says Grandma Castro, “For as long as either one of us can remember.”
Later, she tells me about Dawn. “She wasn't into dating, I know that,” she says as I slowly step into the downstairs bathroom. “Our neighbor – when she was a little girl – went over board with her in his lap.”
“And was she the only one of the Castros to have descendants …” I say lowly, leaning retort.
“That's true,” she says softly, then turns and slowly walks down the dark hallway toward the fluorescent-lit kitchen.
Sergeant Major Forester seems worried about Camp Butler’s books as if he is about to fire someone.
Hence I learn Army logistics the backwards way, as a fact-finder, numbers-checker, and eventual auditor.
The uniform is long-sleeved and supposed to be spotless, but I am never-short-sleeved and known for hard work so no one ever questions how I end up looking like I do.
I hide the bandage on my right wrist.
Within her comment Grandma says I am twenty-five as if she’s reminding me.
“I mean, what do you want? Like five years, ten years from now,” Grandpa Castro asks over purposefully Italian dinner. ”What kind of car do you want to drive?”
“What ...” I ask, confused.
“Why didn’t you go into pharmaceuticals?”
“What are you going to do tomorrow?”
“I am to deliver a van of supplies.”
“So you're a delivery boy.”
“You’re never going to be anybody,” he says.
I pause out of confusion. Dawn would've paid any price to ensure her children were never spoken to that way by her parents, that same way her parents spoke to her all her life. I stand up calmly, like a chess player knowing this move is checkmate. “The natural movements of humans are royal. Don’t expect others to cower their shoulders because of their economic stature … “
As I leave, Grandma asks me to promise to come back. I don’t.
At Camp Butler Cray is the only coworker I really talk to.
She is small and thin, kind, twenty-nine years old, with a certain tragic way about her, something about the way she re-situates her blonde hair properly into her cap. She was born and raised in these parts, her parents and homestead only a few miles from the range land. She was a tomboy as a girl. Her older cousin was a teenager and he thought she was cool, treated her like a treasured little sister. He taught her how to drive a truck and how to throw a ball like a boy. She must've been around when he died. While she was a teenager and he was in his twenties, he was a soldier in the National Guard, working at the maintenance shop just in town, when a crane snapped and a connex fell on him.
I help him lift the fallen tree over into the woods.
Afterward, I step up onto the large back porch and notice how all the wood is bare, some with bark still attached and smoothed down by the elements.
“My DAUGHter, lived here,” the landlord, Mr. Thacker, says. “All her ADult life.”
He has already shown me is other houses – all made from scratch by him. One, made from a barn is almost finished, another uses beams “from when they took down the old hospital.” When this was built it began with telephone poles of large-grain wood, packed with nails.
The house has four large rooms. Five, if you count the large room created by the upstairs being a two-bedroom loft. It has two bathrooms, one upstairs, one down, each finely adorned.
“I built it for her. Been building houses ever since,“ he says in his too-loud way. He is taller than me, bigger than me, already proved he was stronger than me. He has loud grey hair shooting all over his head and face.
“She died of lung cancer not too far back.”
The land stretches out for miles. To the South is a field of grass three foot-ball fields in length that lead to a pond. To the North are five large barns of different pastel colors, including one with a second story and another with stables and a chicken coop.
“My wife still goes on the same walks she used to go with my daughter,” he says, quieter this time.
To the East, toward the front of the house, is Camp Butler’s wood line, with a dirt road carved against it. To the West, leading from the old-fashioned back porch, is another field, big enough to need a tractor, for personal use, which he keeps plowed and stocked with seed. Behind it sets a wood line that escapes into the back part of the pond and the sunset.
“So she’ll be the woman who pulls up with the dogs in the mornings.”
I step out onto the front porch, which leads to a garden decorated with homemade ornaments made with exotic pieces from beaches.
I step into the inside to the upstairs with its slanted ceilings and attic, then out onto the balcony to look out above the barns to the horizon. In the valley, tiny lights light a neighbor’s settlement.
“Don’t go in that direction. Stay away from their land,” he says sternly, “That is, if you do decide to move in here, BENjamin. That family is not to be trusted.”
The North land slopes down toward the other family’s land which off in the distance nestles four one story houses and a professional-looking garage.
Suddenly Mr. Thacker’s voice becomes loud, echoing throughout the house. A strong, cold wind bites through me as I step back inside. The upstairs bathroom is small with two doors, each leading into a large bedroom, so that it feels roomy and full of light. The counters are gray and white marble. The wallpaper feels thick and old-fashioned, somehow made out of old newspaper clippings dating from the nineteen thirties and forties.
“ … Drugs … and crime. They are not to be trusted.”
I agree to the rent and write him a check. I ask about electricity and exact address.
“I went to the Durham police department … I talked to the Sherriff … “
We exchange numbers. I step out to the Jeep. We shake hands.
“I own over one hundred-thousand acres around here, including the land that Church is on, and all these people’s homes is on before we sold it … “
I suddenly turn and ask him about the code for the alarm system. He gives me a key to make things more convenient.
“… They are absolutely not to be trusted … Even back to Civil WAR times … “ he continues.
I turn the headlights on, drive forward and turn right as I exit the driveway. I try to remember the two-hour drive back to Wilton. I remember to follow the Christmas lights. The sunset is colorless and dim, heavy with winter clouds.
The Buck, majestic, with his antlers, standing alone, his breath physical because of the cold, the way he stands, the way he looks at me, like he is trying to remind me of something.
“You can tell when someone is trying to say more than they’re saying,” Fargis, a twenty-three year old fellow-soldier helping me move, says to no one as he places the silverware. I helped him acquire some temp work at Butler.
Mrs. Marrissa opens her oven, checks her casserole.
Secretly, over a cigarette outside, he tells me what it was like to grow up in the Philippines with his Dad. “The neighbors hunted my dog right in front of me,” he says. “Then they built a fire, cooked my dog, and served him to me while I was still crying.”
He has blue eyes, an angular face, his lips pulling on his cigarette street-wise. His father recently died. “It took me years to leave that place. It was so twisted,” he says. “The dynamic. His girlfriends would play with me. He caught us once.”
He tells me of his current girlfriend. “She was wild, but isn't anymore. You've seen her. She could be a model. She was embarrassed the first time we had sex, cause her lips were loose and hanging – that's what happens to promiscuous girls. I told her it was fine with me, that I forgave her.”
He asks me what my deal is.
“What do you mean … “ I ask him.
“I wonder if I'm the only person you know.”
Sergeant Pharrell's brother has died of an addiction to Oxycontin. SGT Pharrell is the resident computer geek at Camp Butler, a big, loud, Marine fluent enough in his quick, uncontrolled movements to not knock things over, not fluent enough to converse without overwhelming the talk with jokes and only-self-approved hilarity. He's not really a computer geek; when he's calm he's a different person, the exact picture of a Marine, like a curse lifted.
“I had to move from Virginia to get my family away from my folks,” he confided to me over lunch in his office. “My mother treated her sons like trash – hateful – spends money to keep them on Oxycotton and similar bull – no father. I fight her tooth and nail but my brothers keep dying.”
Later on, Sergeant Major Forester and the usual restaurant-lunch crew pull out of the Camp Butler admin-building parking lot in our Government Service Automobile. In front of us, SGT Pharrell walks down the sidewalk from the admin building to the vault up the hill, his keys jingling in his right hand, his frame lumbering wildly.
“Imagine him acting like him in front of his mother,” SGM Forester says to the Sergeant in the passenger seat as he turns the van's steering wheel and backs us out.
I can't imagine loving SGT Pharrell's mother, like the Sergeant Major's idea of a good, grown son. When I was a kid I would act any other way but genuine in front of my female relatives.
Arkansas is heavy and cool with fog that lasts for weeks at a stretch.
I notice I have more control of her sexuality than she does. I pretend not to notice her stolen glances. She is my age, small, blonde, attractive.
As we walk back and forth to class and deal with each other as next door neighbors she catches me in my boxer briefs, sleepily answering the noisy door because she has been drinking and doesn’t realize this isn’t her room.
I pick up one of the thick white sheets off the floor and lay it across my shoulders as she stumbles into the latrine, closes the door.
In the morning I stand in the same position with same sheet across my shoulders and catch her doing the same thing I had caught her doing before. Sometimes when she looks in the bathroom mirror, she makes a certain vain expression.
Sexuality is about more than just sex, it’s what binds everything together. Something soulful enough to make bonds matter enough to hold the world’s atoms and molecules in place.
Sometimes I think of myself as ancient bones like the ones found deep in the Alps and Himalayas. It’s grounding.
The psychic deep in foggy Arkansas country says in her half-Latino, half-Southern accent: “You live in a world you've created for yourself. You must exit your private perception and step into the place where everything meets …”
While her eyes are still closed she says, “You either have only male guardian angels or you have only one guardian angel and he is a male.”
“Your mother does not remember your conception. It is unclear whether she wanted to give birth to a devil who would enact justice or a savior who knew the Way. Your story falls upon the complexity of the planets and the stars … Whatever obstacle your mother has dealing with … humans? … so do you.
“It is true you are … him? The longer you do not know it the more you make an ass of yourself…
“All others will fall by the way-side, you will be left to defend the race --”
“WHIch race ...” I interject.
“You will only have one wife, a true love.”
“That’s impossible,” I interject. “I already know better. “
“You will have children,” she says sternly.
“I am already aware of the times.”
Her eyes widen for a too-long moment. “Well, your future self knows even better,” she says suddenly. She closes her eyes. “You must put less stock in the end of civilization.”
“Something about you're being a dreamer..." she says near the end.
The drive back from Arkansas continues into the night. The Christmas lights hang heavy with new snow falling through the foothills where I live.
Having access to the internet through Camp Butler means that I have access to Netflix, which I promptly used before I left. I watch eight acclaimed films over the three days of Christmas holiday snowed in at the house.
The only adventures involve learning to use the fire place and learning the different paths throughout the land surrounding the house.
(waking Sunday 17FEB2008)
Whenever anyone drives to the house I’ve moved into, they take a moment to stand in the driveway and gape at it.
“He couldn’t possibly live here,“ I overhear SSG Cray’s husband say.
That night I read the cards before falling asleep. The Emotions and the Subconscious are always at Harmony. Listen to others: in the Underworld birds are called “Dragons” because they are flying dinosaurs. Counsel your own Voice while trusting its most effortless answers. Know your Place because you will Honor the Rest as well as the Self.
There is always the sounds of owls hooting death as I sleep. It is not November so they are not flowers singing about death. I awake to morning light and a woman leaning against the bathroom door between the two upstairs bedrooms. The nipples of her breasts are the color of the blood poppies in her garden outside. They drip with lust.
“Ancient child sacrifice is storytelling, Viktorio,” she says to me as she leans her shoulders against the open door frame.
I sit up, leaning back on my arms. “Maybe the reason why men happen to be around each other is because they share the same flock of women,” I say to her, as if in defense.
She smiles. She looks at her feet, steps forward. “It’s not meant as pressure,” she says.
“The body wouldn't be able to tell the difference – spilt seed is still seed.”
“That's like calling your body an animal,” she says.
“I thought child sacrifice was alluding abortion,” I say cautiously. “Or child celebrities.”
She smiles again. “Abortion like you’re thinking,” she whispers. “Is inconceivable. Women keep the pregnancies from love.”
“It's like dirt itself wants a sacrifice for what happened in that house in God's Country,” I say to her.
She looks away as she repositions her posture, then leans against the door frame again.
“I didn't know dust could get upset. She wants me, and Dawn be glad to give me up.”
Shifted to the Caverns my family visited when I was a kid.
“If I were to remember
To my bones,
I could write,” the half-man, half-skeleton says as he quickly detaches his leg bone and hands it to me.
“If I were to remember.
To my bones,
I could write.
Take my knee bone
And scratch into these cave walls.”
I am explaining, or actually forcing the other soldier to explain to me, exactly how insurance companies cause their bottom lines to increase each quarter.
I allow the role of Jester, feeling certain. The other soldier can’t explain himself, but I still look the worse.
“I see what he’s saying,” says the warrant officer.
I think he said that because he felt he had to.
Turns out the other soldier sells insurance.
“I didn’t know he thought like that,” I overhear Mr. Dean, Camp Butler’s scheduler saying.
The other day I mentioned it to Willahford.
“I would speak up,” he said.
“I have my own responsibilities,” I replied.
Mr. Chandler, one of my favorite people, shows me a few tricks for shooting. “I understand you’re a thinker, but don‘t try to memorize what I‘m saying,” he begins.
I lie on the my stomach, the target six-hundred yards before us across green foothills and misty fog-heavy sky.
The city is a seemingly deserted place. I am there with Ray.
We’re picking up some things. We make a stop by a brown-hued woman’s house.
She wears a red bandana.
There used to be a time when women were pretty and that was all that mattered.
You know, when I was, like, seven.
To not be able to feel .. knowing these moments are important, that I’m missing out, because I can’t feel anything on the other side of my skin … tortures me.
Toughness is hard to learn.. because it is only available to me if I'm in the moment. Once out of the moment, the Toughness is gone.
My actions and behavior will throw me out of Toughness, and I find that I can't feel or think truly. I’ve learned the first thing to do is to stop trying and change position to one of Toughness.
There's no such thing as unhappy. Only Toughness, and not-Tough.
I am being housed in a hotel in Elizabethtown and bussed back and forth from Fort Knox where we are receiving MOS training. “There were four of us,” Oregon tells me in the evening, on the bus ride toward Elizabethtown. “We could've just backed up and taken our injuries when the grenade exploded. We had room and time to survive it.”
I hadn't realized his name was Oregon until he later clarified. I thought people had called him that because he was from Oregon. “Southern California, man,” he said with a sharp tilt of his head and a chuckle. “Mexican names. Mexico's only the lower quarter of the U.S. You know many bilinguals experience a different sense of self depending on which language is used … He threw himself onto it. It made me distrust what being a Marine had done to him and the other younger soldiers. He was honorable, but he should've thought like the three of us had. He'd still be alive.”
I drove the Jeep to Kentucky so we sneak out of bounds to downtown Louisville where blocks of bars are covered by one glass ceiling. “Like when you're a kid and you lie on your stomach with hard-ons in your sleep,” Specialist Rodriguez kindly whispers to me over loud music before grinning slyly. “Curves your dick. You just jerk it off til it's straight.” They call him Pretty Ricky because girls flock to his looks and easy athleticism; he hates it. I'm the only one who never call him that.
“I've seen guys where working out turned them gay,” says Specialist Oregon, suddenly sipping on his drink. “It's because they're thinking like bad girls, thinking what they look like is who they are. They perceive nothing like men.” He takes a long gulp. “Can't go without sex too long, that's all I know. Messes with your head. You've got to play.”
“Just cause she has flesh hanging from her front and a slit between her legs doesn't make someone Awesome,” I tell Oregon. “A guy who thinks he's awesome because he's got a dick is called a dick. The girl would be called a cunt. Since we can't say cunt out loud the female gender doesn't know men already know better, so they play that game and we're expected to play along. Just because the idea of playing along makes me want to vomit, doesn't mean I'm in danger of being gay or messed up, just means I'm mature enough to know Rome is falling.”
"I remember I was having sex and I noticed my dick against my stomach, like in her guts," Oregon says. "It was amazing. I FELT like a man," Oregon continues.
"I'd rather be a man than feel like one," I reply.
"What you gonna do, then?"
"You'd be surprised."
“All I know is the best feeling in the world is shitting and coming at the same time,” Specialist Mouse says with his widest grin. Rodriguez 'bout falls out. “Had to use my left hand though.” Everyone laughs. He's the only African American male in our class, short and scrappy, he always has another story for why he's pissed all the time.
Rodriguez and Oregon start talking in Spanish again and Specialist Pringle rolls her eyes at me with a white smile gleaming from her smooth, chocolate face. She's silently understood as the best looking female in our MOS school but everyone pays attention to the blonde white girl, who is only eighteen and texts Rodriguez regular, but rough around the edges. Sometimes he'll walk away and come back. “Clean living,” SPC Pringle said to me once.
“Don't you hate it when you're watching porn,” SPC Mouse says, leaning into Oregon. “And the guy's ugly?” Oregon laughs.
“I knew I was good for sex when I heard the preacher keep going on about the right hand of God,” SPC Rodriguez tells me. “And some guy he knew with a huge left arm. I stood at one end of the bathroom – to see what I could do – I hit the far end of the shower wall with the force of a geyser.”
“Once I had sex,” I tell SPC Rodriguez. “Is when I realized how easy it was. It's scary, being that easy to turn a woman.” Rodriguez is the only one in the group who ever waits for me to finish. “You'd always have to learn her character first, otherwise you'd never know her character. Plus porn became ridiculous. You notice how none of the girls are turned on, nor any of the dicks anywhere even near hard ..."
SPC Pringle looks at Oregon with Christian tradition. “Like my Momma said: Learn to live without. Enjoy the rest.”
On the way home we stop at a liquor store in the middle of nowhere located in the same size building as a gas station would be elsewhere. I sit in the vehicle alone as another one pulls up beside me. She is my age, blonde, athletically thin and petite with a confident walk and movements, her jeans and work shirt covered in the soot of a coal mine.
My workplace changed while I was gone. Now there are people my age working there on temporary summer jobs. Before, I would rarely see anyone there as young as me, now there are four. I’m a full timer, so they don’t really talk to me; they kind of have their own crew.
Ski stays in the barracks here, so we go out to eat regular. Karen the female, is the most friendly, but in a blanket-sort of way. The big guy, Heady, is loud, aggressive, and seems nice but has a superficial anger about him that makes me think we’d clash. There‘s Royal, my age, who seems cool, and says he’s deploying soon, too. I find him intimidating, despite his easy manner. Blonde and blue-eyed, like something approved by the Third Reich.
Working the weekend, three of us man the radio and counter in Range Control. SPC Carrie surfs the internet for funny videos. “Oh my God, the home schoolers,” she is saying to Sergeant Hastings, who laughs as they reminisce high school. “The things they would say and do,” she continues. “Like they thought what was on television was real.”
I am arrested and they take my shirt. I lay on the cot as the women who work there keep coming in trying to ask me questions and make sense of me, but really they just want to be here with me; they steal glances.
I slyly refuse to answer any questions. I lay there with my hands behind my head.
His movements and sounds are quick, loud, breaking the house’s spell.
“Maybe I could do it,” Royal says to me, surveying the land.
He is above me on the front porch of the house. He steps to look around the corner. “Live as the recluse.”
“Yeah, I grew up here,” he says. “You know Chandler? He was my shooting instructor every weekend. I learned so much from them. Every Saturday I'd be over here doing whatever the shooting teams would let me do.”
He's stopped by on a whim. I'm alone, keeping the range open, though it's empty of shooters, til five, out of formality, but really I volunteered to work the shift so I could type up and print off journal entries. Having access to computers is new, so I haven't decided if I want to start working digital or continue writing in notebooks. Out of compromise, I keep the journal in digits but also print off the pages and tape them into the notebook so that it will not remain half-empty.
He might be blonde, but his hair is so short, hard to tell. He has blue eyes. Something about him; I can't understand why he sends such sadness through me like he's sad when all I can think is if I looked like him, had his pickup truck, and that innocent, charming, good-ole-boy, country-way he has about him, I'd be happy. It's like he knows fate is a tragedy. He's deployed several times, a retired marine, now in his upper-twenties. His girlfriend sits in his pick-up truck just outside. I can see the old Ford 150 through the office windows. She is silent, sitting in the passenger seat, and still, looks like an ideal, like the girl from the films “Twilight”, with dark hair and that way she has of keeping the straight brown hair hanging over half her face and kind of moving it out of the way when something important or telling has just occurred … a kind of ongoing, feminine body language saying specific things.
Though only maybe a dozen people work at Camp Butler during the week, there is an invisible line between the soldiers who take care of the installation and its mission, and the state and federal employees who take care of the land and its buildings. Though I started out on the land-maintenance crew I’ve been doing office work for so long now it’s like I don’t even know them anymore.
They seem to be talking amongst themselves, driving us to Andy’s restaurant where I am to beat Andy’s burger challenge for bets.
“A nice house, a vehicle, plenty of cash …” Bob is saying from the front passenger seat of the work van.
“I mean, if I was a young cat like that,” Jason says from the driver‘s seat, “I’d be working -- sure -- but otherwise I'd be on the prowl for tail.”
“Exactly,” Bob asserts.
It took me a minute to realize they were tying to talk to me. They were trying to relay information.
Touring a high school with Dawn, my body is one I had as a fifteen and sixteen year old.
The high school has a clock-tower/tree. The students are made up of the friends I’ve met over the years.
Shifted to a car in the parking lot of the high school, about to drive away, except it suddenly shifts into reverse and speeds backwards dangerously. I quickly press the brake, turn the key, change the gear shift as the car continues speeding.
SSG Cray’s husband zips through Raleigh traffic, concerned about his niece. Looking out over the water as we cross I wonder about the thirtysomethings and how they don't know how to be.
“I mean, when someone says something ugly to you,” he is saying. “It causes you to feel ugly.”
“It’s already not true, and the person’s feelings would know that,” I say. “For someone without their memory their emotions would be more present than their thoughts. Why couldn't the same be true for someone with their memory.”
“I don’t know. Maybe ... “ he says, flicking his toothpick out the window. “She told us she was a lesbian, but she's always had boyfriends,” he says.
“I heard lesbians and mama’s boys have sex the exact same way.”
He laughs. “I think I’d rather be a misogynist.”
They are doing deployment in-processing at Fort _____, but it is also the House in God‘s Country, and also an eerie one-strip town running along a lake. I remain under Dawn’s watch. I don’t feel normal as I go through the in-processing; I see the other soldiers as the normal ones.
I see Fargis sitting on the back of a truck. I cringe at how good looking and normal he seems. He gives me a look of hate, as the truck drives off. He is sitting on the truck with a bunch of other cool kids and nice-looking girls like a scene from 90210. I keep looking around for a way to escape. I want to swim across the lake.
Madonnas are already loved and working within the true context while whores constantly try to tap in because only within the context does clarity lie.
Maybe there’s a such thing as an Adonis/Animal complex.
Willahford and I are at the Music Awards. There are two other people in our box: two middle aged brown hued women. One is Specialist Pringle.
Willahford and I have not heard from each other in a long time. We haven't said much to each other now that we are in the same box. I sit in front of Willahford. He puts his hand on my head and starts rubbing it. He is interested in the fact that I keep my head shaved now.
I become suspicious of Willahford. He starts to shave my head. He is only able to do it halfway before he is distracted.
I feel like he may have left my head half shaven in order to make me look worse, so I undress and turn on the shower in the corner of the box, shaving properly, in my usual way.
He sits down and watches me shave my head. I want to tell him that I like my head this way. It's just as cool a look as his own. I want to convince him of this, not just tell him.
“Anger is remembrance of what is supposed to be,” I told Willahford once.
“Is that right?” he asked mischievously.
“Haven't you noticed things that won’t change in your lifetime … ”
Something about him, he always sends a wave of sadness through me. He's a cop, actually a member of Butler's public safety, because Butler is a township, not a town, but he's in the position and uniform of a cop. He is brown-hued, wiry, and short, with a clipped, low afro and wide, kind eyes.
Lately he shows around five in the afternoon. He likes to talk about nothing, weather, traffic, upcoming holidays, but he always seems so grateful. When I see him I think how happy I would be with his looks and life.
I’m on my own, so I’m home wherever I happen to be standing.
… Means I’m showing up with baggage.
That cop, the brown-hued, short, wiry one, hung himself. No one understands, especially his co-workers.
He kept coming by, as if by appointment, pretending like it was for our coffee but he knew I'd still be here and be free to talk, me just about to be getting off.
We never talked about anything real. Me wondering how it is he seems so sad with so many things going for him, things the opposite of things I've got going for me.
Later I overhear talk at the local burger joint, one made to look like a novelty from the ninety-sixties when car-hops existed in place of fast food restaurants.
“She was having an affair with the cop,” one waitress says to the other. “The marine was her husband. 'Been going on years now. Now she missing.”
Nancy Grace does an episode concerning, “the gorgeous mother of two, of Sten, North Carolina.”
All throughout town are posters and signs. I drive by her father's place on the way to the capital twice a week. He's spending all his money to find her, has a tent – a “command center” – helicopters flying over the forests. Everyone says she's good as dead.
It takes me a minute to realize how much I know. Then pictures start showing up, those same waves of sadness go through me over and over, first the short, wiry cop's, then the forever-young, blonde marine's.
(Friday, 31OCT2008, Halloween)
The family became royalty, then became a corporation, then a government, then a structure for other families, then a government again, one that could contain even more families, until there were none left. Everyone found their place in the caste system of the present moment, and thanked the stars, the most ancient dust, for their inheritance. Human dignity on the move.
They had sons every year, and for that year the world was perfect until Halloween when it was agreed that it was too easy to trick a baby, with a baby’s value so helpless, human dignity on the rise.
In the middle of the annual Halloween parade roaring down Sixth avenue I’m aware I’m walking around in my inheritance.
That low, rumbling sound,
That pleasant growll …
The shirtless green man steps next to me, yelling in my ear, his arm around my shoulder, his hot breath against my face:
“Obama’s going to win, man!” he hollers over New York City‘s roar.
Turns out Sergeant Major Forester is being forced to retire now that he has reached a certain age. He has known of the possibility but is usually given a waiver by the Army annually.
Sergeant Major Forester wasn’t prepping some scenario in which he would take some sort of action against an enemy but instead prepping his books just in case.
After seventeen months, I finish his books within a week before I am to leave for deployment.
Everybody at work, not to mention everyone in the three small towns so close together – Butler, Creedmur, and Sten – talk about the missing girl, the marine husband, the cop-boyfriend, now in the ground by his own hand.
Eventually they find her body in the woods, though Nancy Grace remains a hated public figure all over town, her exact way of exploitation a bit too much. The husband cops to it though there is no evidence, so he doesn't really have to. Guilt. maybe … or something.
I had this hope that motivated me: try and try and work and study. Through experience I know that that is not a way to live.
Just white-knuckled toughness.
(blunt, slow drum beat, acoustic guitar) “Hey now Hey now and I tell you a Hey now,” the old man sings.