A gynasium full of students is never this quiet.
Some in the know keep quiet. The rest look to each other, looks of ignorance, looks of fear, looks of a tantalizing greed for information. I’m just sitting here, in the know as it were. Some of my friends are staring blankly ahead, other look like their holding back tears with a flimsy grasp. A small group of kids are loud as they sit down, unknowingly disturbing the grief. They are quickly silenced when they realize theirs are the only voices echoing. They look upon their neighbors in a fear of chastisement, but only feel a thick, encompassing air that smothers them.
I don’t really feel anything, and to feel something would almost seem an insult. Instead, I watch as a young group of girls approach the microphone. They are not yet crying. They are not yet shuddering, moaning, wiping transparent misery from their faces.
One of the girls tries to speak; her utterance a shaky, stuttered version of a voice. She tries to begin again, but must be led back by her friends, unable to use her voice. She is wrapped in arms of shared pain, the connection a kind of wrecking ball, destroying her will of control. Her tears paint a rorshach image on her friend's shoulder.
Another begins to speak, her voice a little stronger, a little more capable of conveying the knowledge some don’t want to hear, some reaching for with hungry fingers, others waiting for the truth to crash into them like a hammer; the words the eyes to see, for to see is finally to believe. It’s real for me though; nothing new, nothing surprisingly horrible.
Ana is dead.
I didn’t know her. Yes, perhaps her and I shared a grade, some classes, and possibly a few words. If not a few words, then a glance, or a look, or merely a recognition. I can’t quite recall if I’ve ever even seen her before today. Or at least, I have, but the reality of her life wasn’t realized until I heard today that she is dead.
The eulogy - of such a sort that can only be spoken to a gymnasium of students - is a little longer than it should be. Not that I’m cold-hearted or anything, but I have a distaste for prolonged emotional stress that would, in any other case, be a bit more overlooked. A young girl dying from cancer isn’t anything new, but no matter how often it occurs, the pain still feels brand new, like buying the newest model car and even though you’ve seen it on the streets before, it doesn’t feel new until you have it.
When the speech is finished, filled with tears and moans and hugs and pain, the kids file out. People I’ve never seen before, and probably people Ana has never met, are crying in the corner, clinging to one another, as if the pain were theirs to grasp.
She tiptoed quietly across the glassy, wet pavement in front of her home. She quickly stopped as she heard the sound of her front door. Breathing softly and quietly as she could, she turned around and saw a man stick his head out of the door, look around and re-enter the home. She looked down towards the street with a sigh of relief. She saw a pale, skinny girl, whose straight brown and hot pink hair slipped down into her tear-stained eyes. This couldn't be her, but it was. This was what she had done to herself. She looked up and continued to walk. Her walking slowly becoming faster, more hurried. Her phone rang and she slid her small hand into her pocket, pressing a button and answering it.
-"Hello?" No response.
Suddenly, whoever was on the other end began to softly cry.
-"I knew you wouldn't answer. It seems crazy, but I thought that if I heard your voice, you'd come back to me."
-"Jack?! Jack! I'm here! I'm fine!"
-"Your dad keeps looking for you. Everytime he hears a noise, he checks."
-"JACK! Why can't you hear me?! I'm here!"
-"I can't sleep anymore, baby, I need you here. I guess I'll never see you again. Some wishes don't come true. Besides at the funeral, I'll never see your eyes again. I love you always."
Her phone hit the cold, hard ground as she dropped to her knees. She really did it, this time...
You know how people have out-of-body experiences? I'm having one right now. Myself is sitting on the couch in the back of the coffee shop. I, right next to me. I look at myself and I see right through the wall that i built so long ao. Dad told me never to cry, never to show weakness. But, I did, and I do. I'm not afraid to say that I cry. A lot. In front of others? No way. I look back into my life and see my pain. I hate being this way. I hate those scars and I hate how I've let you people get under my skin. There was a time where I saw myself as a person. Now? I see a painting. Splattered paint and strangled emotions. Certainly not a Picasso or a Michelangelo, but something of some value.
I don't know exactly what value, but something, I mean I've got to be worth something, right?
Give me a minute here.
To the kids in school; I know that I'm different and, in your words, weird. Please, don't give me crap about it. It's how I get over stuff.
To the kids on the bus; Don't start with me, please. My best friend just killed himself.
To the freshman; I know your backpacks are heavy, but don't let that affect you. You are the next generation. No prenny-throwing, senior will change that.
And to my so-called "father;" I have nothing to say to you.
To myself; Hi, there. Do me a favor? Would you just live? Forget the kids, forget your...dad, forget all of the abuse and tears. Just live.
Some call it "love." Some call it a fallacy. Some call it "karma." Some call it a mess. I call it life. It is a mess and it most definitely is a fallacy, but in reality, it is all that we have. It's the only inkling of hope that we hold.
You and I, we have something in common. We're both lost; not lost like a puppy, lost like a soul. We're holding on for dear life, and if we let go...
I'm still sitting in the back of the coffee shop with myself. I'm trying to make sense of this all.
Stop, stop making sense of it. Breathe in a out. Slowly. Live.
Some say it is the time of your life. I'm not so sure.
The Life or Death of the Military
During the Vietnam War the hardworking nurses of the military had very important but difficult jobs to perform. They weren’t recognized for their efforts but they were probably the most important people in the military during the Vietnam War.
One difficult duty the nurses performed was making life and death decisions in the short span of 30 seconds. They were not used to this because back in the states the doctors made all the decisions for the nurses, and the nurses just carried them out. These decisions had to be made fast because in the heat of battle the nurses had to keep up with all the wounded that were pouring in.
Most nurses had to work 12 hour shifts, six days a week, and they rarely got any breaks in between. Since half the time the doctors weren't even available to help with the really bad stuff the nurses had to make do with what they had. This went on for 12 months for each nurse depending on how long their tour was. If the nurses were married however, the Army was compassionate and tried to keep the couples as close to each other as possible. When a nurse got pregnant the Army usually had them go home unless they wanted to stay. The nurses usually went back to the states though to have their babies and just waited until their husbands got home from the war. Although some of those nurses did go back after they had their babies to help out some more in the war effort. If I were the Army I would have promoted those nurses for staying in Vietnam even though they were pregnant.
Some women were very lucky and were able to rank higher than just a nurse during their military careers. Even though almost all of the nurses didn’t get higher rankings there were a lucky few who got to be a General. One nurse, Jeanne Holm, got awarded a second General star for all the hard work that she did in the Vietnam War. After a while though Congress passed a law saying that the nurses in Vietnam couldn't get ranked higher than Chief Nurse. I think that this was especially unfair because these nurses worked hard, if not harder, than some of the soldiers and they didn’t even have anything to show for it. Especially when they cared so well for all those wounded men.
Nurses had to work in all sorts of different environments and conditions. Some environments were Air fields, Air Lift Helicopters, and Field Hospitals of the Army. The nurses had to be familiar with all sorts of different illnesses too. Such as malaria, viral hepatitis, diarrheal diseases, skin diseases, and fevers of unknown origins. Between January of 1965 to December of 1970 all the clinics admitted a total of 133,447 wounded soldiers. Out of all the wounded 97,659 had to be hospitalized immediately otherwise they could have died. Most of the wounds the nurses saw were created by air rifles, rocket propelled grenades and booby traps from the North Vietnamese. This would have made the soldiers very careful and alert, possible even paranoid. So, the nurses couldn't wake up the soldiers the way they would have woken anyone else up.
evinced only by the stimulation in a sway,
in an eventual chafe;
the short-lived breath of renewal passing through.
inoutinout — the wounds reminisce.
they smile wide in nostalgia
and weep a salted pink.
serein, and she remembers.
he had a likeness to sand, slipping
like time; she had a soul like a soldier,
still going, searching back
confidant lost in combat:
I'm making a choice to be out of touch...leave me be,
he said, he said, he said—
but the essence burrowed deeper than realization
could dig, than acceptance could seep;
it stole away like an infidel,
as a memory withstanding
the rotted, pungent stench of
as a hope doused in impossibility, still kicking.
its place of seclusion pernicious to the touch and
thumbed only when honesty supersedes sensibility,
a phantom ache where you did reside:
soulmate, dry your eyes
you were my shadow and now
I walk unbalanced,
the sun ceases to exist as its evidence
and you have outlined my convictions
blue fluxes navy
in effervescent splash dances
complacent with your words,
skin pigment laced pink
stains and tinges grey
while trails of liner treadway
fade with your name
still, my head mimics
dramatic scenery within film strips,
of horroresque cinematics
so sluggishly shaking horizontal
still, after weeks proceeding months
in the near completion of one-hundred-days
strings frayed garrote my heart
in utter asphyxiation
and still, my breath undulates
I tiptoe into plasmic veils
and now my shadow seems less vivid,
always careening to outline behind
I don't need a replica,
I just want a friend
this piece is a poetic collaboration between brett & I. we decided to write something free-form, alternating authors every two or three lines.
[more elaborate introduction forthcoming]
Watch, where you’re going!” you sneer at me and move on with your nose up.
“sorry…” I mumble back, picking up my books
Actually you ran into me. I was standing at my locker, not like you even care.
You see me in the halls every day; I sit in the desk behind you in history, and have a locker down the hall from you.
Do you know I’m homeless?
My dad, brother, sister and I stay in abandoned buildings. Our family didn’t split up when we lost our house, and I think it’s better that way. It still feels a little like home because we somehow manage to have a few rules existing.
The rules are simply: go to school as much as you can and don’t fight or get arrested.
Before we were evicted we were a proper “use-a-napkin and write-your-thank-you-letters” kind of family.
But that was before dad was considered a disposable part of the company. That was before all the bills and their ever-so-pleasant collectors. That was before the power was cut and our tap ran dry, and a nice blue paper was nailed to our door.
Don’t think this all happened overnight, oh no, this was a prolonged suffering. My dad fought every step of the way, “just some more time” he’d say. Oh dad, why would time make an exception for us?
That gave me time to prepare though.
Step 1: Go through the stages of grief and then accept the fact that you’re moving into a new sort of residence (probably a refrigerator box)
Step 2: Practice. To get what you need you are going to have to steal, lie and beg. No need to dance around it. Homeless people tend to acquire sticky fingers. I wasn’t always a thief though, but you reach a certain breaking point. Like when that blanket in the store is so soft and warm and the temperature is dropping outside. 44 degrees… 37… 33… and there’s your breaking point. So people should check their pockets when they walk past me, and pat me down at every store exit, but they don’t.
Still, stores are only good to an extent. Homes are the real bonanza.
Breaking into houses is best during the day when most are at work. Usually it takes a little patience and surveillance. Now contrary to popular belief, we aren’t about to break into your house and rob you blind. That would put you and the police on red alert and it would have been a one-time thing. No. We are subtle. We’ll observe the house: When do the adults leave for work? The kids for school? Are there security codes? A dog? We need to get to know you in order for you to be the “hosting” family. We don’t take everything, just some crackers in the back of your pantry, a blanket from the bottom of the linen closet, and the shirt that you never wear. Nothing big enough to notice, just the stuff you forgot about already. We’ll stay with you for maybe a month or two, and then leave. You’ll never even realize we were there.
Those are the days I miss school.
And although I may have stolen many things, I still have a conscience and I won’t forget those I’ve taken from. I made a list of all the names (taken from IDs)