Santayana said, “Only the dead have seen the end of the war.” We have grown adept at wars, no longer global in scope, but ubiquitous in frequency.
Mine was fought in the rice paddies of Vietnam, and on the campus where we struggled valiantly and vainly to protest, and when that failed, in the heat of Texas, marching about, going thankfully nowhere, shipped to Niagara Falls when the Air Force could think of nothing better to do with the likes of me.
I didn’t die, know several who did and sadly know Santayana was right for Bierce said it best, “In international affairs, a period of cheating between two periods of fighting.”
Technology has effectively destroyed the intimate dinner parties that once were the core of a social life.
You fretted over whether the souffle would collapse, if the wine was chilled to the right temperature, if the entree was back timed sufficiently to allow time for the hors d’oeuvres and if the guests would arrive at the scheduled time.
Now it is a fear that Grubhub or Doordash will be late, that you must remember to hide the packaging from the heat and serve appetizers and if it will be nice enough to eat outside, or if you will need to check vaccination cards.
The dog refuses to walk around the house and check the driveway, and so the shells will rain on the village as they do each time she senses fear.
She has a sight beyond that I can fathom, curled under the heat vent, as though the cries of children carry in her dreams, her tail dances against the grate.
On most nights when she makes her final trip, the automatic light over the garage flips on and we can all sleep peacefully until we realize that God has chosen a furry surrogate, lives resting between her paws.
The Air Force shaved our heads, was it because of the heat of a San Antonio summer or that we’ll all look equally like fools, and easier for Sarge to maintain unit cohesiveness in his rag tag band of semi-successful Army avoiders.
Now we all wear masks and assume we all look equally foolish, knowing the virus cares nothing for cohesiveness, and normal is insignia only to dreams and at times life is shit on a shingle now.
We want our childhoods back, before the war, before the barracks and bad food, before expectations, and those few imposed could be ignored at minimal parental retribution, we want what never really existed, it is our right.
We marched and sang “Suicide is Painless”, never believed it for a moment, but now we consider it in passing as we walk down the shortening pier into the ocean of darkness.
First published in Circumference, Issue 4, June 2021
The moon hid from me last night in a cloudless sky, and only a week from full, so we both knew it was there, peeking for a brief moment from behind the old oak in the neighbors yard. It wasn’t the first time the moon had done this, it will not be the last either, I am certain, but I do remember the time in 1970, the heat of San Antonio in mid-summer more oppressive than usual and only the old barracks for the moon to use as hiding place. Yet it hid, and that night I didn’t mind Lying in the base hospital, where the nurses ignored me for the seriously wounded, as they should reading the orders issued that day transferring me to the Reserves as my fellow air policemen in my training squadron were calling home, most in shock, to announce that their plan to avoid Vietnam by enlisting would soon be scattered on the tarmac of Da Nang Air Base.
It’s the little things, she says, that bite you, and while he truly doesn’t want to believe this, for it ought to be the big things that cause the problems, he knows she is right. He recalls that a simple thing like an address everyone knows is 123 3 X Street is true for all save the power company which says it is still 98 Y Street, although they cannot hope to explain why this is so. How many other addresses for this place are there, how many things go wrong because someone wants it to be this while everyone else assumes that. So you sit and wait for the power company to bring light into your world and warmth into your life with winter closing in rapidly.
There is a heaviness to the sky a weightiness belied by the gray of the clouds, even the departing sun seems to whisper that it will be replaced by rain in short order. You feel the weight bearing down, as the heat of the day dissipates, and although the first drops have not yet fallen, you know that it is best to be within when the rain begins for it will do so without warning and with little care for your presence, for this is how Spring demands your attention.
Mingling with the wind, my dreams are carried off into the night before I have fully finished viewing them. The heavy heat of summer has seeps through the windows, a blanket I cannot throw off almost smothering, until it, too, is soon washed away by the rivulets of sweat soaking into the sheets. I reach out for my fleeting dreams, try to pull them back. But the wind laughs, whispers, “I am beyond your control and what I steal belongs to all but he from whom I took it, but I leave you other dreams from other dreamers in its stead.”
Night alters sound in ways we can never precisely determine. It is possible our hearing changes with the flight of the sun, but the moon scoffs at this premise. A train rattling across the landscape in the heat of day becomes a musical instrument in the relative silence of night, playing a melody that insuates itself into dreams. Birds raucous by morning are sirens in the night, drawing you from sleep onto the rocky shores of sudden wakefulness, the darkness a strangely unwelcome companion. But it is the breathing of a lover sleeping next to you that caresses you, and you slide deeper into Morpheus’ grasp.
Settling into perfect stillness, each of us in our brown robes on brown chairs, benches, cushions, note his entry is somewhere between the thundering of a forgotten storm or the garbage trucks crawling slowly down the street. Despite the early morning heat there is no breeze, only a large moth comes through the open windows and dances around the rice paper light shades. The incense hangs over the burner on the altar waiting to be carried into the room. You return to thoughts of thoughtlessness, invite ideas to come and quickly leave. You grow heavy sinking into the earth, your weight suddenly great. The moth grows bored and slips out the window.