The bakery is all metals with deep blue aprons and spotless white cloths.
Teddy closes the door. The box of dough falls on his head. No one is there to witness it.
“How did you do that?” he asks me through laughter. “How did you know I was going to make those exact movements?”
“I know your movements ...“ I reply. “I can hear your shackles.”
"But you were homeschooled," says the woman in charge of Wilton College's GED and high school diploma program. "These programs were never intended for you."
She nervously looks over my paperwork again. "We can accept you as a student here, but we wouldn't know what to do with -- Here it is. Once the placement test hit trigonometry you finally got a question wrong. On the English side, the program simply ran out of questions."
She leads me to the financial aid office. The white-haired, mustached man seems annoyed.
"I'm over eighteen," I tell him. "Under the Americans' law I'm considered human now."
"He cannot receive any school aid until he is twenty-four unless he has parents," he says, giving me a look. "That is the law."
“Well, I’ve never known no brown-skinned woman who wasn’t having sex.” Mrs. D__ says in reference to Mrs. K__. “No matter what age.”
Mrs. D__ is amiable, loud, abrasive, loyal when it came to skin’s hues. Mrs. K__ tells me stories of back when Ray Charles did regular concerts in Wilton and how she was one of the young, brown-hued women who would take the same Wilton train, just unloaded of soldiers, to New York to work as nannies for wealthy Jewish families.
“Good ole, Teddy,” she says. “That poor boy.”
“I try to help him. But he won’t listen,” I say, perking up as an oven timer buzzes. I step away to adjust the dough.
I barely hear her say: “You try to tell him how to steal away.”
“Well, there’s nine-eleven and all, but that should not effect your schooling benefits,” the recruiter says.
Sitting in front of his desk, leafing through his pamphlet, I feel the military is entrusted, so of course whatever happens is what was supposed to have happened: the right thing. The standing army’s system itself would act like a buffer from making mistakes.
“The National Guard does not deploy,” the recruiter says.
While civilians seem to uphold the moral code of Eros the most, and the merchants and professionals a code of extortion, and the religious use literature and implications built upon Eros and Naturalism – leaving them double-edged, as if they were the leading Pagans of the world – my natural code is more like a burgeoning collection of the most valuable highest standards.
“That’s why they call it the National, Guard,” he says.
“This is thievery,” the woman says to no one.
She is not-quite-elderly, standing at the booth inside Wilton's historic downtown buildings, again explaining how her electric bill has no connection to reality.
I sit, waiting to pay my electric bill – business – especially food, heat, and electricity – is a controlled enterprise, same as bootlegging in God's Country. While God's Country remains rural, Wilton traded her share-cropping fields for suburbs and industry, already accustomed, habit-wise, to such a social structure. To the outside Wilton has a problem with lobbyists. Inside, one wonders how a person could be susceptible to a lobbyist kindly explaining the world to you.
“The price of gas … oil,” the blonde woman across the counter is saying.
“Did you ever manage to get away?“ Tyrone asks.
“The last time I got close. I could hear the truck station but I wasn’t sure the right direction. It was all dark country roads … A pack a dogs got me.”
“The police didn’t notice I was all bloodied up … Anyways, dog teeth don’t feel like you’d think they would.”
His expression pauses thoughtfully and when I notice it I pause, too. He turns back to working on the bread dough. I turn back to the doughnuts.
It is Doe’s plan. Knowing her is like knowing two people. The main protestor in the group would be the one running things all along. One of her loneliest friendships here is with the jester: the man who brings the bread every morning. His raspy, Yankee clip always calls me “Mr. Clean.”
In early Wilton, Doe had been a great poet. She married a working man. As soon as I met him I understood he was proof, in-the-flesh. He had the gall to go to Hell with her, because that was where she was staying. He come out with his whole face scarred up and his flesh grown so sinewy he could have been a tree. They had been married, divorced, then married again, each time to each other, giving birth to their children along the way. Now they were nesting in the suburbs, working-class, living well. In her youth she was a guest speaker at funerals, weddings, and vigils. Her poetry matured into the casting of spells until she remembered the wordless cards that came before.
With her familiar cackle, Mrs. K__ calls in sick to management. They are pleasantly surprised by the sound of her sleepy voice and fall for Doe’s Old Crone tarot card.
I excel at the double work load. Later, Mrs. K__ offers to work extra the next weekend. Management is displeased, wondering what an old woman could do extra. I call in sick at the proper time, twice in a row.
Covertly, Mrs. K__ doesn‘t work either of my shifts; they are divvied up. Doe allows the lies and favors around her, but acts like she’s taking mental notes. Mrs. K__ may be walking history, but rumor has it Doe’s living in ancient times.
MEPS is an hour drive through dark hill country bespectacled with lit up shrines to the late racer. The old RX-7 zips and zooms, never coasting except on highways.
Teddy is the evidence. All his money going to his mother, her relatives, her other children, and on and on away from him.
There are complications. Teddy’s mother won’t let him free. Teddy pays her off.
The two S’s: Mrs. S__ and Mrs. S__, snoop around during the operation. They are friend-enemies whose relationship status matches well with the workplace economy.
The manager is new, as always, but might as well be a wild animal, picking up on erroneous signals Doe didn’t mean to cast.
The First Sergeant calls a formation and has all the new recruits post in front and introduce themselves.
I have been here a few months, so when I introduce myself, I begin with, “I’ve been here awhile, and most of you already know me but .. “
The formation chuckles.
Two Specialists are in charge of our group until all of us have shipped out. They mostly talk to each other and enjoy being of rank as we sit in the classroom.
I don't say much; I hate a bully.
“It was only after that I realized, “ one Specialist says to the other. “Wherever I go, no matter what they look like or how they act, the first wave of girls are the teases, then come the bullies, then, if you haven't pulled your dick out yet, the real women come along.”
We are eating chow with the other recruits, most from the suburbs. He is half Filipino and half Irish, so he stands out.
I sit down at a table of soldiers who have all been sitting there awhile. After they get up I sit alone at the table, still eating.
Sing____ looks across at me and says, “You know you don’t have to sit over there, alone. You can sit over here with us.”
She wants to know what I’m up to. Her brown skin smells of cocoa butter and shea tree.
“It’s ... an opportunity,” I whisper to her.
The cooler is dark, only lit by the cracked door. The room is small and outside of the cameras. Figure Doe must know these things already.
“A new job,” I whisper. “S__ owns the cast iron works business on Goldsboro. He is what allows me to quit my job before I leave for Basic.”
Doe remains in the open doorway. I sit on an empty rack. Whenever whispering an argument I naturally stay below her. Otherwise, I act like a young king while she remains my experienced, investigative journalist. She was born to be where she is standing, so she does not know she is our union leader.
“It was a covert operation just getting me enough time off to do the physical,” I whisper to her. “What do you think it’s going to be like when I get back from basic training.”
Drills are two day-long each. I cannot afford to drive that far home, so I stay the night at the armory. Later, so does Sing___. We work out, trying to see who will develop a chest first.
I have a Mazda RX-7 that Melvin sold me. It is my best thing. Sing___ is into street racing. He takes me into the capital city. I race through tight tunnels and alleyways and curvy, walled-in, once-were-highways. He is turned around in the passenger seat, cheering as I pull ahead of the pursuing car, its headlights filling the back window.
Late night, Sing's mother gets a hold of my hands, ruined. She's supposed to be reading my palms but says instead,“These are the hands of a man.”
'Been taking a cab to work each night, because I've been working on the RX-7. It is always the same driver, a brown-hued woman who cannot be out during the day or the sun will harm her skin.
“An elderly black woman at the corner of South and Lynch,” she explains. “I give her a ride regularly, the same old woman giving the same address. Each time I try to convince the old woman but she refuses to understand she is dead.
“There’s this fourteen year old who used false papers to get work. The cops still ain’t figured out he’s a child. Each time they release him from prison he asks me if he can rob me so he can get back because it’s the only place he has ever known.”
Sing lives in the historic district. It is icy and white.
Sing___ is good looking, with an athletic look. He shows me how he makes the bulk of his money from fixing computers. He confesses to me his love of playing cards with Japanese cartoon characters on them and brings me to a shack card-shop with a room in back where the game is played.
He acts as if he is secretly confessing a penchant for murder and is walking me through a crime scene, carefully studying my expressions, looking for judgment.
Before he directs me and the RX7 to the shack, he says, “Have you ever had something about you that was so nerdy, you never told anyone? Do you have anything like that?”
“I mean -- what I’m trying to say -- this is my notice.” I say, not understanding.
He accepts, and leaves abruptly. He arrives back from the restroom with reddened, moist eyes.
Good ole’ Teddy.
The building used to be a car dealership where all the cars were parked in an indoor parking garage with long curving ramps connecting each floor instead of stairs.
“I take night classes in welding, but it's a secret,” Matthew tells me on the second floor where the cast iron creations are painted with an industrial sprayer. “That's how it works in trades like this. The teacher doesn't want the student to steal his customers or get his own piece of the market.”
“It’s been almost three years. That job was turning into a life,” I say to her.
'Was surprised a co-worker, especially of the age of Mrs. K__, would walk so many blocks to my new job to speak with me.
She is dressed well, per usual, standing with her spine knife-straight. “For her every day is Easter,“ Doe told me once. “Every night, winter solstice.”
I am sloppily impressive; Cain is like a monkey on my back.
“S___ pushed me against the wall,” Grace says of S__, my new boss. “I knee’d him and got away.”
Hers was the third story to get around involving him and sexual assault.
In a franchise restaurant, bar, and grill, I confront him about my sister.
Finally, he stops denying, claims I’m being a baby. Word is he’s a grower in good with the cops. He knows I won’t hit him. We’re in public. I’m bigger, stronger, and younger than him. I could have punched him and trusted the cops and judges to take my side.
“Well, there is no record in the system of you ever quitting,” the woman says.
“I mean -- yes -- I did. Two weeks ago, a week’s notice. I worked in the bakery.”
She looks at the computer screen for another moment. “Yes, you’re on staff in the bakery, sir. Looks like you‘re working on your third year here.”
As always, I was first into the bakery that morning. I work in the dark. Lights attract customers. Funny how no one seems surprised I am covering my own shift; no one even checked at the last minute.
'Turned twenty-one at midnight and will ship off for the Army at two pm.
I buy my first drink with Grace at the restaurant where my recruiter is to pick me up and take me to the Military Enlistment Processing Center in the Capital.
She dates guys like me. I say I date girls like her; really I do not date at all.
“It can't be right,” she says with her infectious laugh. “Let's not talk about it anymore.”
He rises from the front-leaning rest properly.
“I haven’t taught you anything yet, so don’t try to show me anything … “ the Drill Sergeant growls to him.
“You are walking TOO Fast!” the Drill Sergeant hollers between chow hall buffets.
This place is a breath of fresh air.
In-processing is a lot of waiting in lines and organized Physical Training. At night there are fire guard shifts where I am partnered with another recruit and walk the dark aisles of sleepers.
My partner is a nice kid, hopeful and bright-eyed. I surprise myself using my actual voice and expressions naturally.
“I was prom king back home,” he says. “I just want to serve my country, make love to my wife – when I meet her – and raise my kids.”
“You'll be the first one out. It's called the shark attack,” the short, bug-eyed, Latino kid from Callie says over the roar and hum of the bus. It is packed full of recruits. I am crammed against the door, two duffel bags hanging from my shoulders. We are the first bus and I will be the first recruit to step out.
“The Drill Sergeants will all come at you at once, they’re gonna be right in your face, you won’t understand what they're yelling, they'll be telling you to stand on your number with your gear,” he says as the bus doors open. “Don’t let any of it touch the ground, okay, man?”
“NEVer call me SIR!” a drill sergeant blasts from nowhere as the doors open.
“I am your Drill Sergeant,” other drill sergeants chime in. “You will call me Drill Sergeant.”
“WE are not OFFICERS,” as other more necessary commands are given from a loudspeaker. “We WORK for a living.”
Due to the war, an inconvenience has the rest of our recruits arriving tomorrow to face the same Drill Sergeants as they get off the same buses.
While usually four platoons of forty recruits each exit the buses to be trained by three Drill Sergeants per platoon, this afternoon each platoon of six, seven, or eight privates continues to be shark-attacked by each platoon's three Drill Sergeants: the junior, the senior, and the lead.
"Okay," our senior Drill Sergeant says upstairs in the concrete barracks. "We're going to the beach. Turn up the thermostat there would ya' Battle?"
In my platoon, we are called The Seven.
While I am feeling down and on edge, Kevin passes me a note during briefing -- a dangerous and risky crime.
It says: “Hey, brother, what's up. This sh-t's real, and I know we're all going to make it, just think about getting some p-ssy for when you get out. Stick in there and keep your head up.”
The four of us double time as instructed to the barracks in formation to grab Drill Sergeant a clipboard from his office. We double time back to the chow hall with a different one calling chant -- he wanted to give it a try. As we arrive at the chow hall's concrete entrance area, some Privates, maybe week five, are pulling duty cleaning equipment. As we slow down at the end of our approach a blonde says, "You guy's week one?"
We nod affirmative.
"You'll start noticing it's just a game."
"You will sleep with your blankets tucked into the mattress," Drill Sergeant says, pacing aisles.
"One of my best soldiers woke one morning with a bleeding butt."
At evening chow, I am feeling down because I have caught a fever. I cannot swallow and sit in the chow hall staring at my food. The recruit across from me risks his meal by saying “You've got to eat, man.”
I try not to move my lips: “I can't swallow. I have a fever.”
“Put your hand out under the table.” He hands me a pill and I swallow it.
I finish my food. The fever breaks that night.
“Like how you are with him,“ says the kid from down the aisle pointing to my battle buddy, struggling.
“He says he’s a college ROTC. He knows what he’s doing,“ I say as I continue working on my locker. “Ask him.”
This kid is always getting into fights with me. He never steps near me. This time he does.
I take quick, large steps toward him.
He backs up. People start noticing. Through his peripheral, he notices, but wants to say something before they can hear. “While you always have to do everything so ‘perfect.’”
“And you know what?” the junior Drill Sergeant lectures us before marching us the four miles to our fellow soldier's wake. “His locker was in perfect order when we opened it to pack it up. His bed was made so that a quarter bounced right off.”
On the way back we are guided through an alternate route through woods and foothills. In column formation we forge a river, passing beside a bridge.
“No matter how hard we make Basic Training,” the Drill Sergeant demands. “War is harder.”
"Tomorrow there will be a blood drive," Drill Sergeant says, stepping soberly toward the barracks exit. "Be as patriotic as you like."
He turns his head back toward us in disciplined stillness and silence.
"I had a great recruit who gave blood once," he says. "Then all of the sudden he has hepatitis. Army booted him, gave him nothin."
When Kevin's canteen is out of water, he drinks out of mine. When I run out of water, I drink out of his.
Despite my feeling no connection to church, sometimes I spend my only time off at Basic there just so I can see Kevin and Capastani.
“You know there's girls out there,” whispers Jason, blonde and blue-eyed as Van, the best personality in our platoon, the natural spokesman, the beaten one who can smell it on me, always acts like we're instant friends. “Bunch of mystics, slowly going crazy,” I whisper back; us grinning.
Again in a group of soldiers who needs someone to enter First Sergeant's liar, adjacent the drill hall floor, I am chosen, as if it were assumed.
After entering the glass doors I see one side is the 1SG's desk, on the other, the Commander's, a quarterback graduated from Westpoint.
At some point I forget to stay at Parade Rest and use my hands as I speak.
“Now you took from America – however many minutes it was that you weren't being a soldier,” the Commander says, brushing his Lieutenant and the other Drill Sergeant's harsh words aside. “So your group will give it back with extra duties until chow.”
“He stops running suddenly so I stop running,” a Private whispers to me in the church latrine before service. “He says, I can't breathe, then slowly collapses and dies. Your junior Drill Sergeant was released from the hospital following treatment for pneumonia a week before shark attack.”
“Some people are living in the Old Testament,” the preacher says from the pulpit. “So now everyone knows not to repeat the Old Testament, Some people are living in the New Testament, Figuring things out, Just on the verge of realizing a few things they’re not ready to accept yet.”
He wipes his brow even though the air conditioning is thick.
“And some people -- who fight -- believe the New Testament shouldn’t be repeated either.”
Like a pack of thieves, they hang out on the bunks, some just out of surgery, some with broken limbs, some with crimes that have sent them on their way home.
“What you do?”
I yawn and squint my eyes at the pack of them around my bottom bunk. I answer: “Flu.”
“Imagine if someone went around articulating the male human condition,” he says to me as if he were giving a pitch. “Walking around preaching that he was the son of God.”
I lean forward in the office chair, placing my elbows on the desk. The basement windows are dirty. It‘s snowing outside.
“Uh huh,” I say to his expectant look.
“Did you know who your father was when you were born, exactly the moment you were born, could you say his name? Did it matter?”
"Mars," I reply.
"Oh ... we got ourselves a wise guy."
We were to meet right here. Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
I want to tell him so much, all these little waves of something physical I notice sometimes, try to hold onto … Like a man can do anything. That's what's scary: maybe humility will take that away. They make you personality-less, position less, your chest and face in the mud, your arms on fire, pushing against land in elements neither of which are home anymore. You're not allowed what the rest is. You have no culture, no philosophy, no opinion, even though you're the one with the good knowledge in an ever changing world. You pay for the father, the mother, the sisters, the brothers, everything they ever did, every thought, every comfort they took. You do the opposite of what they do, the ones back there in that mental bubble called civility. You're here in a real world that requires being pushed back against. While they fear as casually as breathing and use the word God as if the sound alone gave them human dignity, you respect instead, finding a physical human dignity flesh always knew was there, deep down where the heart beats.
With a violent howl the snow pummels the earth and settlements, twisting and turning in the air, bashing against walls and windows as if the men had been nieve to build them.
Sing isn’t where he said he’d be.
“I helped my neighbor change his tire and caught myself reverting back to our old way,” Drill Sergeant says lowly, in the dark, us Privates catching our breaths after being smoked for having had a flashlight on after hours.
“When I came home from military training there was something new carried inside me, something I understood was to be upheld. I treated him with more respect, he treated me with more respect.”
Believing in God … then Trusting in God … like a force field around my FOEcus as he lies to me and I know it.
“But he did nothing wrong,” a PVT on the other side says suddenly, in defense of me, though we are all in the front-leaning-rest.
“Perfect men are unforgiving,” Drill Sergeant says in answer as he nears me. “In war perfection is the requirement, so we put up with officers.”
He passes by me and my bunk, his black boots shiny in my peripheral.
“We’ve put together what we call the Practical Man’s Religion.“ the energetic man says as he turns to a nearby chair and begins pulling brochures and pamphlets out of a leather satchel. He slaps the desk before me. “WHAT! MAN’S! Got the energy to sit around talking to ghosts? Men want Up-To-Date! -- religious information!"
Televisions line the opposite wall from the lone desk I'm sitting at, acting as a set to his pitch. I recognize the Nuremberg holocaust footage on one, then footage from nine eleven, including silhouettes of jumpers against morning sky. "But you have dignity now," Susan Sarandon says to Sean Penn from one screen. "Nobody can take that from you. You are a son of God."
“Some people grow up more survivalist-ic than others, more materialistic. They have a stronger connection to money … greed … evil … can’t trust someone born without food around … They’d be great business men though. You know a place where people born hungry would do well?”
“Where … “ I ask.
He pounds the desk. “CAP!italism, my boy!”'
During the required twenty-one kilometer march in full battle-rattle I trip, my face bloodied from landing in my rifle, my stomach against the gravel trail winding through Oklahoma as dawn breaks over Fort Sil's lights in the valley. I quickly get up and stepping, hoping the rear of the column of marching soldiers will not have to pay with extra steps to keep up.
Drill Sergeant, with his wide-brimmed hat, marches between the two columns. He looks at me due to the sound.
The bus gears up in the dead of night. I half-sit, half-lay under my gear against a bus seat as soliders are being bussed to transport for the holidays.
An African-American my age sits to the left and in front. He moves to hide light ... from a cell phone. Something I'd never seen in real life before.
Every Military Occupational Specialty asks you at least to reinvent the wheel. An objective is given, then nothing but land and sky and teammates. Only then does the military teach you their way, which is your way, along with all the information they've managed to collect on the subject.
During Advanced Individual Training I keep Goebells nearby. All I can read of his journals are the introduction. The book is like a good luck charm, keeping me aware of the propaganda around me.
Regularly exhausted, I tend to read in order to fall asleep. Only military books are allowed here but I have a hard-backed novel that passes because of the title. I edit it to fall asleep. The other soldiers in my class are horrified when they see me crossing out huge portions of what they think is a military history book on the “Buffalo Soldiers.”
Do things right, and no one yells paragraphs in your face; there are no pushups. Do things wrong, endure the brainwashing.
“But sometimes it’s like you encourage them --” Rudebaker says.
“-- You just got done thanking me … ” I interject.
“It’s like you want each drill sergeant to know there’s no amount of abuse that will do the job.”
Private First Class Hatcher is one of my favorite people. On pass we stick together.
Hatcher's natural, expert comedic timing keeps him popular, so we are a convenient match.
“I left home for the military after this one night where this guy was implying I was gay,” he says as we act as road blocks for the Colonel's morning run. “I told him off but no one at the party would back me up, you know?”
“Is that required … “ I ask him quietly as the dawn begins to break.
“A man is only as good as his people,” he says. “The fear you might be a homosexual is what makes you a homosexual, you know? The fear you might be a loser is what makes you a loser. That's the fear he was trying to give to me. And they were laughing.”
“You’re such a follower,” Schmdt says to me laughingly, as we walk to Lutheran church services. I hear Prairie Home Companion in his accent, I hear Minnesota and cold, white air.
“The best followers end up being the best leaders,” I retort.
“Brainwashed, you are,” he jokes.
“What's a priest, but an extremely kind Drill Sergeant.”
On the bus, in our dress greens, one soldier points at someone in civilian clothes outside. “Thinks he's in Hollywood,” he jokes.
Cold wind bites through the empty drill hall as I punch payphone numbers.
“Well, I guess some of the things we did for you must’ve worked out,” Dawn says.
“I graduated despite you,” I reply.
( back from AIT)
“Well you’ve certainly filled out,” Coy’s wife says to me coyly, as a I swipe my time card.
“I still don’t feel normal,” I say to Grace in the passenger seat. We ride open-air in the convertible through untouched country toward more early morning yard sales.
“I have this grow-up date. I’m going to be officially grown before June 1st.”
“Grow up date,” she sighs, her dirty blonde hair blowing in the wind. “That's hilarious.”
(Driving through country)
“So Celie isn't Celie because of the lesbian thing,” I ask him and SFC Battle from the driver's seat. “She's not allowed that, even though it's what's true. She's been raped, beaten, and worked by her husband and she is not allowed the least of human rights.”
“She allows the acts of MAN to affect her nature,” he says.
“You know what you should do? You should write a book,” says Staff Sergeant Battle over the sounds of the open windows of the HMMWV. “And keep it on a shelf. Maybe then you’ll be free.”
“There would’ve been someone who came before me,” I say. “Someone who would’ve already done that.”
"You know I remember when you used to TALK," says Mrs. Ruth out of nowhere as we sit in the general store's break room. She has been the store's office clerk for over fifteen years. She's the one who answers the phone and makes the store pages because she has such a voice for it. She rises to leave as she says, "I miss those days."
He talked about ‘white people’ a lot, people who had never claimed me, pointing out their ignorance and their obliviousness. He reminded me of the way Melvin and Rob__ and Big B would laugh and joke, with that underlying amazement for the white-boy-American-slave. His attitudes, though skin-colored oriented, were technically correct, requiring genius to poke holes in his arguments. During two weeks of training at the Military Academy, we were roommates. It was unusual because we were of such different ranks.
He knew what Tolle knew without knowing Tolle, what Ralph Ellison knew, without knowing Ralph Ellison, he knew what Toni Morrison knew without knowing Morrison. He was well-raised, from a wealthy black family.
“Someone who comes from that,” he says. “There’s no way they’ll ever be normal.”
His words named my skin in the same way he had named my abilities, my qualities, my possibilities. Him naming my skin did something to my hearing, so that the sounds around me became dulled. No one was allowed to give my skin a name, not even those with my same skin. It's petty, meaningless, except I hadn't realized the naming of everything else had already been done by that house in God's Country, a place now one place among infinite. I remember being in the horror of that place while unable to articulate the horror it was laid so thick and heavy. Sweet it was to have escaped from God's Country, to experience a such a thing as mornings, afternoons, and nights free. Those days were the feeling the sound sweet alluded to when it was first discovered and the original note escaped lips. They were boxing me in with their definitions. Meanwhile to judge is to know for certain, centering would-be-knowledge within a web of continual erroneous connections. I was boxing myself in judging others, using my own terminology. Unfair. Low self esteem must be the definition of ugly. Despite God's Country, the outside world remains a dangerous place where lies could be told just as well. It was sweet to have been done such injustice by relatives and feel the fact of it instead of the pain. I thought no injustice had been done, my life having been the only life I had ever known. I believe it effortlessly now, all the pain it must’ve been all along, to have been a slave, just the pain of being slightly aware of the injustice would’ve easily been too-much-pain for functionality, because by then so much would’ve happened, so many moments endured silently amidst the lies and storytelling of relatives as pain compounds.
'Heard the ground and air talking to each other, a buzzing all around, invisible digits flowing through me, I felt the ground beat. I felt so physical I could almost stop my heartbeat and start it up again, then wonder which of us did that, this new awareness of my older self, that devil, king of yesterday, or me, the youngest, Son.
Maybe this is what they call present, but really this is what they call everything, this place everyone keeps trying to refer to, imply, articulate, somehow. There is an awareness of death, namely, my own, future death ... a strange feeling of a question of hopelessness. I answer: enjoy.
I feel like my Grandpa, now that I’m living in a place with air conditioning. While growing up I figured central air conditioning was something earned by the time you were old; I used to perceive his greenhouse and plant business the same way. Now that I live in a greenhouse of an apartment, time seems to be speeding up instead of slowing down, this private-knowing seems earned-too-quickly, but what’s a day to God, really. God unknown always, and as such entrusted as God, Man unknowing always, and as such entrusted as Man.
I figure my Grandpa was mourning, since he kept all those plants. When I was little it didn’t occur to me to think about what it must be doing to Grandpa, his wife dying with less dignity than he could bear. He married a few years later. I never met her. I guess I didn’t want to know one way or the other if his heart had really been broken or not. When I was younger I lived in a kind of fog, oblivious to my own power and what it must’ve been like for him to have a grandson. But then I never really saw him again.
By that age I would’ve already become the older me: that little-boy-warrior long shifted to the genius of war. He knew he was in danger, so much danger silence was the most efficient way. I was the only son, in a family that was the only family, neither side with close relatives, living in a state of braced. I would silently rock myself to sleep as a kid. If I did it vocally I would get hit for it. Whenever I awoke from sleeping it was because I had felt a hand unclasp mine. By then I had been sleeping in a bed for years, usually on my side, with one hand underneath my head and pillow. I always awoke just before the feel and sound of the hand letting go and slightly moving across my bed sheet. I hadn’t realized someone was holding my hand, but then whoever it was let go. I asked Grandma Morris who was doing that. She told me it was God’s hand. I figure I frightened Grandma, too, with my undead behavior, silent and calm during the day, in an effortlessly confident way, while rocking and moaning myself to sleep each night.
Maybe reason has occurred, snapping me out of the hierarchical English libraries of my youth and allowing the Eastern intuition of my Mongolian ancestors. The undeniable, physical realization of what's left of me narrows my focus into a second to second Knowing. Tomorrow society could change to Native American or something akin to Star Trek and still nothing changes. God could turn out to not exist or prove to exist – still nothing changes. The majority of Life cannot be put into words – any scientist of any time can affirm that – doesn't mean you don't know what life is. There is no such thing as 'finding God' -- acquiring the 'inheritance' of having all-knowledge by divine inspiration. Maybe to the ultimate truth emotions are arbitrary but I remain aware they are what makes the human race one unit. It took me awhile to figure out what water was. I was so far into old age by the time I did, I felt devilishly deep, so into the ground I understood what it meant to be undead forever, God so far away it was possible for water to be alien to this planet.
To me twenty-one is old age, because it is the oldest I have ever been, and my standards are high, because I have been taught that at any moment you might die and have to stand before God, ready for inspection. At sixteen, realizing my memory frighteningly disappearing I began taking notes, with date and time and later a flowing narrative, but always inevitably found them to the be the most dangerous acts possible. 'Should've never let on I couldn't remember before the age of twelve. They pounced on their own to cover-up the horrific. For someone who has not put themselves first, to do so must seem the worst act. Once there sin seems silly; the sensibility to do no harm remains. It was on June 1st, 2004 at twenty-one years of age No one, nothing could cause me to forget self-defense. I was a mafia of one, instead of an army of one. Again the street signs shifted into ancient markings from cave walls, these moments so ancient, twenty-one never seemed so young before.
By Dawn requiring her permission before someone could love her, I remain overly highly trained when it comes to women. I notice the more I respect my father the freer I am from being like him. When I refrain from remembering Ray I always know I’m doing better than he did. When I see the world through Ray’s eyes I can make out the part that is him and the part that is my inheritance, a manhood connected to the male line but leaves the line untouched. It’s as if the male line were a huge path full of stories supposedly unwritten. When I stand in line I realize the stories are written, my blood so specific, the dead rise. It feels like murder to be consciously different, so certain of which stories are mine and which stories aren’t, certain This is manhood, as opposed to That. Biology tries to thwart me, but materialism seems too silly, regardless the wisdom gleaned from the senselessness of God’s Country. Intellect cannot do the job, nor written word, because information is arbitrary, lining up arbitrary habits while common sense is a perception humble enough to be a soul. Only love works, so only love makes sense. Being born already-loving your relatives must be the most dangerous way to be born. 'Must be what they mean by innocence. I had thought my relatives' confidence and aggression meant they were highly intelligent and gifted, so I held to that standard. All along love wasn’t something I hadn’t earned yet, it was something stolen from me, thievery committed against me in a way I hadn’t been able to decode.