Confessions IX & X
When I was an EMT, I had this shock when I didn’t have bad dreams when people died.
In the military, the ghosts were squalls. There were tempests of phantoms.
I really thought about why. I think it was because there was no control in the
military. One day your co-worker was there, the next dead. It was fast. People
who died in the civilian world, they were seventy-something, eighty-something.
They’d lived. We had a kid who committed suicide, but he wanted to do that.
That’s how I had to look at it. I didn’t want to end up suicidal myself. In the
military, this is true, one of my drill instructors drowned one of the recruits. He
held him down until it wasn’t neurological sequelae. No, he held him down until it
was midnight. We had eighteen guys die in the military. I counted
them. I had a little notebook. I wrote their names. I could go into the closet
right now and pull that book out. I went to Freight & Salvage today to buy a Moth
ticket and I asked if they had any vet discounts and she told me, “No, we’re all the same
here.” We’re all the same here. What you’ve done in the past doesn’t matter.
I worked in a prison psych ward. How the hell do I explain that to you? It was
in Florida. There were guys in there who would rip their stomachs open. You
could see their colons. You could see their intestines. They’d look at me
and smile, Can I go to the hospital?
I used to walk ten miles to Marquette as a kid. Then I’d walk ten miles back. There
wasn’t anything else to do.
On the way to a baseball game, a group of kids beat me until my shoulder blade was
disconnected. They stopped when they saw that. I remember walking away and one of
the kids followed me, staring at me like I was an art piece, as if he had made something
beautiful. He said something to me and I just said, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, and I kept
walking in the direction where I thought the clinic was. I could tell my shoulder was
at a forty-five degree angle. I looked like a monster. The blood was everywhere.
The glove was in my good hand. I remember walking and I felt empty and
proud. This is true—I actually remember thinking, You’re not going to kill me, no
one can ever kill me and the sun was like a railroad on fire.
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