During my Afghanistan deployment in the winter of 2006,
I was tasked as a guard in a prison that house “Personal Under Control”
-PUC’s as we called them,
Who were freshly caught off missions by our soldiers.
Sometimes they’d come in all blooded up and the doctor would provide care and document their wounds.
One night, a 13 year old boy came in.
He had brown eyes, black hair, and brown skin.
He could’ve been my little Mexican brother.
He had been with his father and uncle who had been killed by our men.
The command and integrators were trying to figure who he was,
Name, background, family connections, what he was doing there.
And what to do with him.
He was in a cell in a building completely separated from the other PUC’s.
Us guards would bring him Oreo’s, soda, and other treats from the dining facility.
We set up a little TV with a Playstation and we’d play video games him.
He would be happy to see and very pleasant.
One day, I came in for my shift and he was just gone.
I never learned what happened to him.
But he comes into my mind from time to time.
I wonder if he is still alive or has been killed in that war torn country.
I wonder if our simple acts of kindness made him softer toward us and he joined the Afghan Army to protect his homeland.
Or was he embittered and joined the Taliban to take revenge on the American occupier.
This war was made up many mysterious moments like this.
We’re on target, I’m pulling security in my Stryker. We’ve been on missions all night, I’m struggling to keep my eyes open. My head is bobbing up and down.
I reach into my cargo pocket, And pull out an 8oz Rip-Its. Pull the tab, release it’s promising pssssst. Tip my head back and slug a huge chug.
The caffeine infusion hits my brain, My eyes once so sleepy, burst open and alert. My mind once fogged, now clear. My head no longer bobbing chaotically. Now in a disciplined swivel taking note of my surroundings.
Dawn approaches, our hunting session draws to a close. We make it back to base. A toast to you Rip-Its, my golden friend. An essential part of my combat kit.
On freshly washed white sheets,
Wrapped in my rich red blanket.
With my lover laying on my chest.
Cats cuddle at our feet.
The mattress is a vessel into the world of dreams.
I’m deep in wonderful sleep.
Content in the solitude of slumber,
Time reinvigorating my mind,
My body is resting, but my imagination runs wild.
Crystal clear and logical adventures,
That once awakened will seem crazy.
I hold these hours dear,
Prioritize them I must,
Because too few of them will make it tough,
To chase those dreams in reality.
Eddie was number 27 and a cornerback on the football team.
He was a senior and this had been his first year playing.
I was a sophomore, a couple years younger
We’re both on the junior varsity team,
Neither of us were exceptionally talented at the sport,
Our weekly practice routine consisted of getting our ass kicked by the varsity team.
Tough kids, bonding over our scrappy, fool hearted football player existence.
The year is 2001, we’re on the sidelines of an away game versus Los Alamitos.
We’re talking about the girls we liked at our school,
But we were too much of pansies to talk to.
Eddie most likely just made one of his low-key, hilarious impersonations of our coach.
One of the water girls taps us on the shoulder and tells us to pose for a picture,
We turn around and sling our arms around each other and smile.
Our attention goes back to the game,
Discreetly goofing around on the sidelines,
As we wonder when the coach is going to put us in.
“Hey Mexican! Go long!” He yells as he gets ready to pass me the football.
It was almost midnight and we’re playing a pick-up game with a few friends.
Our field: the parking lot of a defunct Levitz furniture store in Huntington Beach.
I’d run and catch the ball, then drive it in for a touchdown.
We’d celebrated as if we had actually pulled that off in a real game.
As graduation approached, Eddie wondered what his next step in life would be.
He didn’t want to join the military and wasn’t sure what to study in college.
He did know he had fallen head over heels in love with a girl and wanted a family.
He was proud when he got an $11 an hour job at the QuickSilver warehouse.
Occasionally, I’d see him riding his bike to work and I would honk at him as I passed by.
The next school year, on my way to the weight room I see his girlfriend.
She has a handmade poster of Eddie as an angel scribbled with signatures.
He was the passenger in a car that lost control and wrapped itself around a tree.
The cemetery workers places the last patch of grass over his grave,
I watch his mother pull out the blades of grass trying to reach him through the earth.
We wouldn’t grow up to be wild men together like we were wild boys.
Rip open my heart and show the world the most tender parts of myself.
A tale of a lost love, personal failures, or the echoes of a war.
Dive into the details of which has left a mark upon me.
I’ll give you my insightful, whimsically fresh perspective.
I’m a real artist.
Get chicks to be impressed by my secret layers and soft side.
Get the bro’s to totally relate and get hit in the feels.
Get that glimmering sense of self-worth by the barrage of likes.
Social media acceptance and approval. I am on top of the world.
I feel like a real artist.
Face the blank page again.
Trying to tap into something raw inside. Bitches dig when I write something raw.
Moving those fingers, vomit words and hope they stick together.
Fucking garbage. *Delete. Delete. Delete.*
I ain’t no artist.
Time heals a lot of wounds. Scars no longer visible.
What once rocked me to my very core, is but a memory of a tremor.
The nightmares are no longer as frequent.
Tranquil acceptance fills me when I look at those pictures.
Maybe these are just excuses. As I find the courage to tap into something raw.
In order to prove that I’m still an artist.
He mounts his motorcycle,
Blood heavy with alcohol and weed.
He has no care for the stupidity of his actions.
His mind has gone to a dark place.
He wonders about the point of it all.
Whether it will be better to just let go.
He races down the freeway,
Zooming in between cars,
Keeping his iron steed steady.
His mind is a whirlwind of thoughts.
His usual sweet, friendly, and joyful demeanor,
Drowned in whiskey.
Anger, hatred, frustration, jealousy, rage,
Pain, loss, heartbreak, sadness,
Now reign supreme over all his emotions.
The darkness he buries deep inside,
Is now maliciously intent on destroying him.
The wind blows the tears from his face.
At the top of his lungs he curses those who have wronged him,
The events which have left permanent scars on his heart and soul,
He raises his left hand up and flips the world the bird.
He is free.
He pulls up to his home,
Kicks down the kick stand, dismounts, and lovingly caresses her.
There are no ghastly consequences tonight for his recklessness.
“Thanks for getting me home alive, babe,” he says to his beauty.
His temperament is cooled by her.
He lies down on his bed and passes out.
At 3 a.m. on a bench in a park on the shores of Lake Michigan,
I wrote a poem to my former love.
It poured out of me and had me crying for a few minutes upon completion.
The tears eventually dried up,
Acceptance of that lost love settled inside of me,
As the cold breeze of the lake hit me.
I laid out on a picnic table with my sleeping pad and sleeping bag,
Seeking to rest my exhausted heart and body.
As I was dozing off, a raindrop hit my forehead.
I awoke, looking up into the once star filled sky,
Now covered with the looming clouds of a storm.
Rain poured down from the heavens,
Drenching myself, my sleeping pad, my sleeping bag, and my motorcycle.
I packed up my things, rode my motorcycle across the street to a McDonalds,
Wet, shivering cold, and tired, I ate breakfast as I waited out the storm.
A couple of hours later,
The storm passed, the sun began to rise,
I rode back to that picnic table and slept.
I awoke to a majestic blue sky,
A gentle breeze, the chirping of birds,
The water from the storm dried up.
I knew I would be okay.
I wake up still wearing my jeans,
I didn’t piss myself this time at least.
Room’s thrashed, emptied beer cans scattered throughout.
It’s 2 p.m. on a Tuesday.
Another night wasted getting wasted.
I have nowhere to be; I have no one to be with.
Eighteen, nineteen, twenty empty cans are stuffed into a garbage bag.
There is a comfort in escaping my frustrations with myself,
My frustrations with loneliness and reality,
Seeking refuge in vice.
Sweet serpent drink, whose poison kisses my lips.
Your cool embrace a reliable comfort in my life.
Women come and go, boozing remains.
Jobs come and go, boozing remains.
Cities come and go, boozing remains
Even when I muster the strength to resist your temptation,
Boredom, annoyances, celebration, life eventually strikes,
Causing me to seek your poison kisses once more,
Their gentle touch enhancing reality,
Distorting its undesirable aspects,
Allowing one to lose themselves in the abyss of the mind,
Wasting another night getting wasted.
A week ago, at the grizzled age of 30,
I reconnected with you, my love from the age of 25.
I wish you knew me as the man I am today,
Instead of the vulgar, drunken fool who was easily pissed
The one who chased away love at the age of 26.
I blame myself each and everyday,
For letting my ego chase away such an understanding lover,
One who understood my temperament and quirks,
Like no other.
I write this to you,
The former love of my life,
The one I met at 25.
Tears flowing down my cheek,
I apologize that my ego was so weak.
Two days with you was a tease of the life I could’ve had,
One I keep dreaming and longing for really bad,
But reality has kicked my ass,
And let me know the time of our romance has passed.
The realist in me says let go of all hope,
The romantic in me is willing to look like a dope,
But neither of those matter anymore,
Because I have lost the love my life,
The one I met at 25.
“I’m a fucking beast,” I say to myself,
I take those first steps running up Buffalo Hill.
There is always some college student slowly walking up it,
Occasionally, it’s a chick whose glorious ass I get lost in,
I’m reminded of what I want in my life.
More often, it’s a scrawny nerd unaware of the world around him,
I’m reminded of what I don’t want to become.
Buffalo Hill will make a man out of you.
When the body is in pain, it’s best to let the mind wander.
Halfway up, my mind runs rampant.
Thoughts of women past, family, friends, war, motorcycle trips,
Parking tickets, writing, money, and schemes for pussy.
Buffalo Hill will make a man out of you.
I’m approaching the final incline,
My stride becomes faster, eyes focus, bellowing grunts.
I reach the peak, smile as I stare down on conquered land.
Nice warm up. I continue my run.
Buffalo Hill will make a man out of you.