Category: memories



“13”: A Transient Alter’s Birth, Death, and Power

nuclearchild

Note:
It’s taken some 47 years, and an apparent fugue state lasting 10 weeks to realize that these “old” alters, some leftovers from childhood, still can have an enormous impact on my, or ‘our’ lives, costing friends, money, and trust of family.

But “I” – or rather a number of my own “selves”, figured out something about “our” system of alters, and alter ‘creation’ – that this always shifting system can literally drive us mad, depending on outside forces and internal ethics and drives, some of which are incompatible, others that make no sense, not in this world, or times.  (For example: at the end of this fugue state we found ourselves in a state run mental institution where, true to form, ALL rights and privileges as a human being are denied, including safety of self, and harm from other residents.)

It’s taken a lot of time to figure out WHY some alters have no names.  Instead we’ve always regarded them as ‘numbers’ which can roughly be translated as those alter’s “birth dates”.  They were never given a name because they were to be “transient alters”, or selves to ‘help’ us all over, or through, or under, a rough patch in our lives. Some still exist in a very “alive” and aware state; “Mikie” (an alter which “shields” the young real child) is one of them; so are “13” and “21” (who we suspect later ‘died’ at “24” and then another was ‘born’, but we’re not certain, and it’s getting ahead of my selves.)

“13” had a purpose, but never a name. Neither does 21. Each was created around “that age” to deal with the issues of the time, most notably loneliness, depression, dejection, a sense of being ‘lost’; massive amounts of depressions surrounding problems we were unable to dissolve (caste into forgetfulness) or resolve (figure a ‘nice’ of human way out of things).

Even as a small child ‘I’ was left to our own to deal with my own problems.  That was the BoyInLightform and nature of our house. Difficult emotions were not to be expressed, not even to family.  If you had a problem, YOU had to deal with it, mouth shut, eyes dry and chin up. Even facial expressions had to be controlled.  After all, a hard mouth or frown was considered rebellion, anger allowed, but controlled, and sadness?  Never.  Everything counted, and expressions and body language counted as much as words, if not more.

But I digress. The physical conditioning my parents and Army environment put me through, as well as the “good ol’ boy politics” and shut-mouth clan style abuse went hand in hand with me.  There was a good reason I told my father to stop hugging me when I was 8, though it had nothing to do with my father.  (My mother never hugged, nor ever embraced her own children.)  I was getting them from someone else, not in the nicest of environments, and not in the ways I wanted.  For me sex became an expression of “I love you / I want you as a friend”.  It was always about them, it seems, (a child’s voice/mind echoes in my head, remembering for me) with me doing the performing and them getting the pleasure.

But then again, this has nothing, and yet everything to do with “Thirteen”.


The Story of Thirteen.

By the time ‘I’ was 13 years old we’d come back from overseas, I’d lost all of my best friends, including one whom I’d treasured deeply, and for whom I’d literally would’ve done anything.  We arrived “back home, Stateside”AmericaTown to the same old redneck neighborhood deep in the boondocks where I’d spent my young years between 5 and 10 (with a year off to North Carolina) living in my abuser’s house (they were gone) right next to our old ex-home.  I hated living there.

Arriving late in the fall I was put in a school I hated, for it’s civilian and racist disorder was neither military nor disciplined.  They’d put me in totally the wrong classes – advanced trigonometry for a student who was failing basic math due to all those moves we made, and bookstackremedial reading despite me having tested and proven to have a Junior college reading comprehension and vocabulary level . . . totally twisted ‘me’, the junior rising student, around . . .

I’d read “Run, Jane, run. Watch Spot chase the ball,” in one class while being tortured in band class (I played the sousaphone/tuba; had for a number of years in a concert band over in Germany) . . . the “weird” kid, the one who didn’t know anybody, while being totally lost in math class as well as many others (the students were too disruptive to learn much in any case), only to go home to a gutted neighborhood which possessed only long ago nightmares, and some which had come true . . .

Germanflag

For despite my coming home to my old neighborhood, all my nightmares about had come true.  Nothing was the same.  The sandy country lane was street paved, all good friends gone, remaining friends turned into strangers, or in their own cliche’s & cache’s of good friends running wild while we, the relatively ‘new’ old neighbors, were now considered new in town and having “weird” attitudes and stories these country hicks could not beleive.

To make matters worse, early spring my parents informed me we were moving again, for the umpteenth time in just a handful of years – about 17 in 4, I think it was, and while we staying there waiting for the house to close, it was time to say goodbye again to all our new-old and somewhat rejecting good friends, or at least the few that remained.  But they’d changed so much (or none at all, in some ways) while I’d gone through some experiences “they” (all the other kids in the neighborhood) could not even begin to understand.  SkierFrom skiing in the Alps to roaming through ancient and oft times forbidden Roman ruins; touring Europe, spending time learning war crafts and training with G.I.’s out in the field, sometimes for months at a time (but only during the day, and sometimes at night); seeing my first Blackhawk fly around (upside down, too – how useless that seemed) – learning to sit in the co-pilot seat of a Cobra helicopter and shoot and target the mini-gun . . . war, war, Huey Cobra Front and more war; the East German Wall, Berlin, shot up cars, tank battles, G.I.’s smoking & joking in the field while we made friends and spied on them; the heavy smell of O.D. green canvas giving off that unique Army scent that still says “You’re home . . . sorta.”

Missing that, having no friends, we were were transferred to a new school, and “graduated” to a “real house” – high class compared to the redneck lifestyle, living in a moderated and maintained middle class suburban neighborhood.

My parents had finally caught up with the Jones’s, and we were on our way ‘somewhere’, I reckon, but I was left guessing “what was the plan?” with no knowledge nor plan for the future . . .

ThinIce

Future.  If there was one, I didn’t know anything about it.  Things remained the same mysteries.  Six weeks of in-room restriction for every school infraction in school, including any “D’s” I had earned (no help on the homework, either, and tutoring was out of the question since I’d have to make my way home on my own) – the beatings continued, but were somewhat abated in length and frequency (probably due to the fear the neighbors would hear my brother whining and howling.  I, on the other hand, was a stupidly stubborn and stoic child who would refuse to scream . . . until my father had beat some out of me.)

I installed a wind-chime “alarm” 4 inches inside my bedroom door after being infrequently awakened “alarm style” for failing to get up in a proper manner, trusting in its gentle ring to wake me into rising before someone could grab me and beat the snot out of my sleeping ass . . . (pardon any cussing; 13 is quite a sassy child, in his own strong minded way, which is, I think, part of ‘our’ problem).

It only grew worse from there.

Ripped

How my heart felt at about that time.


 

I knew the moment I walked into the kitchen; I’d suspected something “other than normal” was up smelling the bacon and watching my mom work her way around the kitchen island, complete with counters above and below, forming a rectangular opening through which she’d sometimes throw crockery, dishes, and plates at us.  (We were always left to clean up her mess after a period of long expert ducking and weaving thrown and ofttimes hard objects at us, including some knives some of the times.)

“I’m going to need you boys to give me some more help around here,” she announced, setting a few slices of bacon on her plate.  Disappointment set in as I realized there was none for me and/or my brother, who was being his typically late own self at getting there.  She looked up at me, a fat and chubby kid wearing glasses and teenage zits.

“Your father isn’t going to be telling you what to do anymore,” she said, sitting.  And I knew, RIGHT THEN.

A divorce was coming.

I could smell it as clear as the bacon and my stomach grumbled.  I went around the counter and got my cereal bowl.

“He’s going to try to get you boys on HIS side,” she ‘gently’ explained in her matter-of-fact hard ass way.  “He doesn’t want you to get upset about anything he’s doing . . .”

“Okay mom,” I said, sitting down.  I really didn’t care any more at this point.  The rest would just be a matter of how things went down – form and function.  I knew nothing but this: a divorce was in the offing (though I had no reason to suspect one) and it would be long and ugly and useless.  For, looking up at her surreptitiously, and knowing my own dad too well for his own good as well as mine, (and I don’t mean in any sort of sexual way) – I knew:

This “divorce” would not, could not last.

After all – she was helpless without him, and he was just sort of a son-of-a-bitch and a closet sadist when he wasn’t ignoring us all to the best of his means, which usually meant “studying” – reading those long college books which he was busily marking up with things for me to read and study on my own.  (Psychology mostly, with a good bit on abnormal psych, hypnosis techniques and its limitations thereof, plus a good hit on the sociology side, which I was pretty familiar with by this time, courtesy of my traveling and training all the time.)

She shut up and I ate and went on my own way.   Because if I knew anything about my two torturing parents – one loved to torture the other, or us it seemed(s), all the time – I could sense the co-dependency of their abuse and abusive relationship they were in; their complete dependency on one another to keep feeding them (and taking some) that pain that only decades ago I realized made them (and still does make them) feel somewhat alive . . .

And I KNEW:  It wouldn’t last.  They couldn’t be happy without making each other miserable.  No one in their rational or right mind would put up with it, nor how they ignored, then crippled, their own children in SO many ways, and not only physical.

And so it would be.  About a year to the day after that costly breakfast their divorce was finalize, and on the day after that they were married again.  It was a JP wedding, and I wished for rocks to throw.  I still wish I’d had some.

Enough on that.  Needless to say it took a year, cost the family a lot of money – when the subject of “where do you kids want to go? Live with your father, or at the family home with your mom?” I simply told them: “Whoever my brother goes with? I’m going with the other.”  Because I knew how this would all break down, and I wanted to be a pain in BOTH their asses . . . but my father wouldn’t accept me (he had his own girlfriend and their, now about a year later, problems to deal with) – into his own apartment, and my brother, despite being older, but having such a juvenile mind, chose, as he’d been told to do, his own mother to live with . . .

Harlows Monkeys

Harlow’s Monkeys

So I was doomed to live with my mom while going to this new school I had to contend with – now on the furthest side of town (thank you to ‘busing’ us students all around); plus a whole lot of grief on that end where there were no new-old friends to encounter, and everything (civilian at least) seemed a bit strange, off, and out of kilter a bit.

I had often found my peers childish, and had no interest in their games, sexual or otherwise.  I still liked having fun, but spit balls and meaningless pranks or innuendos were just so much juvenile bullshit to me.

I’d already learned, or knew, more about sex than any of them, or as best I could learn – and I knew a LOT, having read non-fiction books on the subject by endless book – not just ‘sexual’ but about sex, while a younger child overseas, plus having experienced a lot of the stuff even earlier, and during my tour . . .

There was no way I was going to go through those childhood games again, knowing you only get hurt, that everyone leaves in a little while, and most of all they’re gonna betray you.  Everyone always goes, and they always do.  No phone calls, no feelings, and that was not just home – that was anywhere in my life any more . . .


The Machine Is Born

ThinkerI remember the day clearer than most, for it was “when I was born”, or rather gave birth to a new something.  For “I”, 13, or Thirteen, had decided after a long year of deciding that we’d had enough of loneliness and isolation and a life without any friends.  It had taken a whole year of thinking about it to arrive at a solution to our decision, but “I”<13> had finally come to one.

We’d been conversing with another student through “table top” graffiti; that is, communicating through the thick layers of other students’ writings on the ancient desks us students sat at.  Ancient things, relics of a long lost era, bolted to the floor with their ink wells showing through.  Each sat independent of each other.  There were no moving around, for your seat belonged to the student who sat behind you.

Thus is was on this wonderful spring day morning while “I” contemplated all our own life had yielded, and what it had led to.

Love, that was the problem I at once decided, looking around at Mister B’s classroom.  It was the science lab and my first home room class, and I looked forward to seeing Mr. B.  He was after all a first rate science teacher, or he should have.  But instead over the months at this new school – no friends, none at home to speak of either.  I’d been ‘hiding’ out in my room reading, mostly, and mostly despite my own parents objections, due to their own behavior.  They were about in the 5th month of their divorce game by now, and I’d had my share of 6 week restrictions due to my failing grades in pre-algebra from day one now.

But I’d had it by now. Kinda. Sorta.  I was still hanging onto this one last hope – that perhaps a rational man, one who had to have been kind hearted, seeing as he was a preacher and all . . . never mind that he was black, that made no difference in my mind at all.  (Due to that military influence, no doubt.)  Just his position in that school – 7th grade science teacher, and a wonderful (at least to me and my mind at the young age) science lab . . .

I was looking forward to talking to him, too.

But first I wanted to make up my mind about a serious issue which had been plaguing me ever since “we’d” all got home.

What to do with myself and the way I was feeling.

And, I decided, the very best thing was . . .

That’s when the teacher walked in.  I approached him later, but it was too late, and all too disappointingly familiar. Rather than deal with my problems (and a white boy no less, I only realized much later into my teens) he referred me and “my” problem (I told him about my parent’s getting divorced and pretended some confusion as to which way I should go: to live with my father, or mom).

Instead he sent me to a gay ass councelor who couldn’t keep his ass from swinging through the corridors all the way down to his office in the hall, which he kept dimly lit and smelling of suggestion.

That “I” and me and mine did not appreciate at all, and then we ALL knew how the solution went.

If one doesn’t feel anything, then there is no problem.  Go all intellect, and no emotion at all.

In short, become not like a machine, but BE a machine: cold in heart, intellect, and keeping all the “spirits” down.  Allow nothing out by allowing nothing in, nor inwards.

And so, sitting there in Mister B’s class on that wonderful spring morning, devoid, friendless, staring down at the blank words, I thought the thought and “killed” us all.

And damned if I didn’t do it again a time or two, even though 21 (through 24) fought us off. It works sometimes, dredging that old Machine and armor up, putting it ‘on’, drenching ourselves in cold feelings, and shoving all our love, hurts, hates, and emotions aside.

However, as 21-through-24 is bound & apt to tell us: it’s no solution at all, and one that’s gotten a good bit less viable as we’ve gotten older and aquired a family.

As “13” I still feel . . . left behind, unloved, unused, and yet I’m certain I am a ‘part’ of a strong family; however, there’s still “bits” of me (littler ones) left somewhat further behind, and those pains still have some healing – if they ever can be healed of their pain – before we can move on with this.

 


 

Endnote:

Adult alter here: It looks like we’re making some progress; some of those alters we “feel” are left trapped in Germany, and around the world.  People and parts of people – children, horribly disappointed, abused, forced to do things they don’t want, living in an insecure world which they’ve been told – no, they KNOW! – can be blown up in a nuclear explosion at any time, or else the East Germans might come over in their tanks & jets blowing everything up . . . being on the constant aware, prepared, and yet exploring a new country, sometimes several of them in a day, always changing, drifting like a leaf, but I found one, one friend whom I could stand beside (I was about 12 around then) – and then I lost him through no fault of mine, but rather the military and my dad . . .

It just gets more painful from then, and for that we can go to the top of this story.

But I think perhaps you, the reader, can get a feel for how a child can be broken down many a time and made not just into “something else” (for the Army to use if nothing else) but many something else’s, through a groundless friction, keeping them on the move all the time, denying them friends, making them self-sufficient, but aware enough to develop a sense of teamwork – to LEAD a team if it came down to it, killing Russians or whatever it took for them to survive, make it to the coast perhaps, perhaps coming home to America, knowing it would be a ruined land by that time . . .

How do you prepare a child for that kind of outcome while being kind to them all the time?  Most of the G.I.’s and soldiers were – very kind and generous to a fault. But we took advantage to them, and of them, as we were taught, and misdirected their leaders into making mistakes – as we were taught again, sometimes sowing confusion into the ranks . . . all the while playing the deceptive enemy, the children of fellow soldiers sometimes . . . while daring our lives at night on a sentry’s bullet not taking our heads off for stealing ammunition from the ammo dump . . . learning how the CIA reads maps, matching photo ones to topo arrangements . . . how to sow division and chaos amongst enemies and people in general, sabotage, and more . . .

No use; all that education ‘wasted’ and a civilian life?

It just seemed impossible; I had no friends, nor after the Machine wanted more.  I was done with them, everything.  If it was human I condamned it, shutting it aside, and condemning my own feelings until, within a day or so, we had it down.

The Machine had sprung to life.

It would remain, and all of us ‘trapped’ somewhat in it (while still experiencing all the normal feelings a childhood teen might have) until we reached 21 or so.

 

And that was the Birth, Death, and Life of “13” who still lives quite heartily within us at all times.  He is not in the Machine, but apparently not quite happy “here” with the life we lead, which is why, I and my more adult alters think he and 21 “ganged up” on all of us and shut the system down – so they could have a “party” with the body and mind – one which cost me, and us, a lot of thngs.

But I can feel it: they simply, and somewhat selfishly, do not care.

 


Soon after we’d moved into the rental back in the ‘hood it became rather apparent that the old house – a slab floored stick-frame clapboard construction, which was quite weird, given the former and now deceased owner had been a mason.  The toilets kept backing up, vomiting the contents of their bowels and ours across the loose linoleum floors like bad memories of meals once eaten.*

So my dad did what he does best: he called someone in.

And here they come in their big white truck with a tanker behind – and a long, long hose for sucking the sewage up . . .

They park it behind the house, and after poking around with some shovels (I could’ve told ’em where it was at) they found the septic tank.

Digging at it most carefully, they outline the profile; then bringing in a backhoe, they go at it awhile, their ancient machine puffing and chugging like a dinosaur or dragon with a sting tail – lifting buckets of dirt, dumping them aside . . .

And then, finishing the job with the shovels, the expose the concrete lid.  It wasn’t as far down as I expected – but there they were, the workmen (or country bumpkins, from the look of it) – hooking big rusty chains with big rusty hooks to the rusty steel loops set in the concrete . . . then to the backhoe’s bucket . . .

The workmen stood back, and I, who had wisely placed himself in the bedroom, stood looking along with my tiresome brother – protection from the stench which would appear as soon as they lifted the lid.  I was quite sure my protection was futile, given the shallow aluminum framed windows and condition of the house.

Then the lid came up, looming and awesome as the backhoe’s engine gave a big chug and belched smoke, choking down as they gave it the throttle . . .

And then there it stood! it all its awesome and hideous glory: the thing we had been waiting to see: the staring open eye of the pit . . . only instead of there being sewage on top . . .

there was this thick, pink, undulating skin.  Ugly, mottled, smooth, it heaved like a living thing.

Immediately the workmen standing beyond the pit began chuckling, some of them chortling and slapping their knees and giving knowing looks at the house where my parents stood in embarrassed confusion, then comprehension . . .

And as I stood looking at that milky pinky white cloud floating in the museum of past bowel movements and desire, I realized what I was looking at:

the entire pool of the septic tank was covered in a thick floating layer . . . of condoms!

Huge it was.  In more ways than one.

And the workmen apparently thought so, too.  My brother began gagging as the stench oozed into the house despite the closed windows (the seals were no good) – and ran from the room into the interior . . .

while I stood alone, thinking.

Thinking about what HE did and our times together.

He never used a condom for that! I recall thinking.  He always rode me ‘bareback’, down on the dirt, face down in the grit . . .

But there they were: obvious evidence of the previous owners.  Maybe after too many children and not enough family or dollars to support it, they’d gotten a clue.  ‘Or,’ (the thought had occurred to me) – ‘this was from renters before, though after we’d left.’  I don’t know why I a) found it so disgusting, b) it bothered me so much, or c) it kept disturbing ‘me’ (and still does to some extant) so much later on.

But they were certainly gone, and I was here.

As I stood looking – and looking up (I remember looking at the sky a lot – so refreshing, though it was more an overcast blue and gray.)  Smelling that stench.  Reflecting on my past and theirs while relishing somewhat my mid-Western and prudish parent’s embarrassment – yet knowing they the ones, for we had just gotten there.

And yet all those facts didn’t matter, because it didn’t change anything.  My parents were still there and so was my brother (shudder).  Nothing was different.  That’s what we dealt each other.  Outside lay other lives; ones we were imitating, but not quite perfect.  We tried – and tried again.

But it was no use.

It was like I was something foreign here.  Or had come to a foreign land.  Again.

I saw my old best friend once.  I was standing in the sand driveway of the home across the street when he came riding on a motorcycle.  He stopped in front of me and we stared at each other.  I had grown fat, wore glasses – not the kid he knew.  Not a good match for his memories.  And as for him – his curly hair was wild from the wind (he wasn’t wearing any helmet) and his eyes wilder.  Like a feral cat.***

And I knew as soon as I saw him we’d have nothing in common, nothing to do together. We were no longer friends. I no longer knew him, nor he me.  He gave me a long look, a few words, and took off . . .

I saw him again, some thirty years later.  He owns a shop. He’s poor and rash. And he has (or had) a young boy. One of several . . .

and he hangs with his brother, his bigger brother, the one who ‘did’ me (and his little sister when she was four – and he 14 or so).

That thought’s kinda scary . . . but kinda sad.

The End.

(’13’)


Host Notes:
* Some part of me kept trying to connect the ‘vomiting toilets’ with the memories I kept having, only ‘I’ refused to do it (it made the sentences too long) – and it wasn’t the ‘memories’ which were bothering ‘me’ at the age of 13, it was the emotions connected with them – that along with the problems at school
** As a matter-of-fact the description of Jeff’s eyes in the when Matthew first see’s him in the book “The Boy” from when I saw him.  Feral, like a wild cat.

Homecoming


Home.  “Home is where the heart is,” they say.

But what if you have no heart? What if it’s dead and buried?

Ripped

“Home is where you are at; wherever you stand.”

That’s I learned moving around so much.  Home is where you hang your hat – whether it be a tent, a house, apartment, or truck.  ‘Home’ is where your stuff is.

Home.

It was early winter, 1973.  We’d finally arrived.  ‘Home’.  Back in the Good Ol’ U.S. of A.  Coming down the gangway stair from the jet to terra firma, solid ground, and not the four thousand miles of ocean we’d just covered . . .

As per custom and sworn duty, I got on my knees and kissed the dirty white tarmac, then looked up, wiping sand from my lips and spitting grit out.  My mom and dad scolded me for doing that as they attempted to herd us toward Customs in a low white hanger.  There wasn’t much – just long white stretches of concrete lined by pine forest, burned jet fuel’s acrid stench wrinkling your nostrils; the shrill scream then thunder of the distant jets laboring airborne, burning off precious gallons of fuel in dark swirls and leaving acrid  haze behind them . . .

My brother and I struggled across the open tarmac towards the building with our carry-on bags, our parents in embracing us like brackets.  I was 13; we’d just arrived from Germany, and the future was a big blank – just like the blank white wall in front me with the man-door.  The straggling line weaved towards it,  passengers in bunches and gathers, separated by social graces and grim tired faces – making a rather unsteady beeline for . . .

CUSTOMS” it said in plain black block letters over the door in English on a white sign.  Like everything military in which I’d spent the last three years of my life . . .

Customs.

Customs were about to change, that was for sure.  My whole world was about to get different. And I knew it.

I had been briefed going in.  We weren’t going to be living in our own house anymore.  That had been sold. Rather, we were going to be living in our next door neighbor’s house – now a rental, and the one . . .

the one . . .

even then my mind had stumbled.  Those last days were a daze in the ‘hood – Mister W gone: dead. Sarge, his trusty sidekick and companion: gone, dead as well.  My entire family, life, and childhood had been upset in a rapid series of transitions.  Things that had gone wrong.  It has been like shock therapy to my mind.  Then the move . . . nearly four years gone . . .

The Hood.

Our car was waiting for us. A family friend – the people who lived across the street from us – had gone to pick it up from Customs.  She squealed her delight and gave me a good hug, Southern style.  She had always been like a second or third ‘mom’, only much more loving and kinder than my own – and also a lot more sympathetic.  Towards everything.

Then:  The Drive . . .

The change in scenery: we had been in winter, here it was like fall. The Southern pines were green and tall, the grass visible, though splotched brown.

Where was the snow?

I was calm, but also upset.  I had had this Dream . . .

The Hood.

The miles rolled under the tires like a tolling bell.  Not many, for the airport off Tobacco Road, not far from our former home.  The sand hills rolled by, decorated in scrub and barrens.  I saw the run down clapboard houses with shingle and metal roofs, a hunkering trailer park, roads lined with trash and weeds . . .

Not at all like the Germany where I’d been twenty-four hours before.

The Hood – the neighborhood I associate with my childhood (between 5 and 10). When I left, it was a single dirt road lined with a few tract houses sheathed in clapboard or siding, or, as with our former house, redwood. Only one had brick, and it was the envy the neighborhood. It was across from ours and belonged to the family which had befriended ours so many years ago.

As we made the turn, our family friend still chatting about the changes ahead, I tried to access what I knew.

Most of my friends (or former friends, anyway) were gone. The army family up the road – friends I had known for years – had followed us overseas, coming to visit us while on duty. They were still gone, would be for another two years. They were the “other Army family” in the ‘hood. The rest were civilian, having lived civilian lives, and would continue to live them for as long as they lived. Others were gone, teens grown up, moved out . . . scattered to the winds.

My best “childhood friend” was gone – they’d moved soon after we’d left.  Their father was dead and I’d heard their mom had gotten a new husband soon after, and they’d went to live somewhere over in South Carolina.  We were going to be living in their house, renting it next door to our old one.   As we pulled in – on a paved road – I could see it.  Gone was the barn where my girlfriend and I had cuddled and kissed after getting ‘married‘ one day. Gone were the relationships. Gone were the ditches where we used to sink in cool sand while water ran in clear sheets around our knees. . .

So the isolation would remain.  The nearest store – a 7/11 – had been built about five miles away. There was a book mobile which would come around about once a month, but it was slim pickings compared to what I was used to – a real library, PX, and a whole lot of freedom.  Gone were the bus and train.  The only ones left – the only ones I played with as a former child – were the kids across the road.

Worst of all:

We were in HIS house – the same house – as the guy who had groomed and sexually abused us kids.  Sure, he was gone . . . but I remembered, him and his little brother,  my former best friend . . . still I didn’t know it was ‘abuse’, but the pain of his final rejection and betrayals still stung, that whole mess  near the end . . .

Gone – but unresolved.  It was still there.  Fresh, like a wound that bleeds that you can’t see.  And it was affecting everything I was, everything I felt, along with everything else I’d experienced.  As it would for years . . . all of it.

The Temps


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kHD5nd3QLTg

“Back in the U.S.S.R!”  But in my case it was “Back in the U.S. of A!”. For we were going home.  Finally and at last.

We’d moved into the “Temps” on the 5th floor of the German military (U.S. occupied) apartments that had been build for the German military back in “the War”.  These were a long string of single rooms, connected by a long hallway.  There were eight rooms on each side, each with it’s own door, and there were no doors on the end of the hallway.  They just ended there in the stairwell.  So while you were living there you were subject to have people walking through the ‘apartment’ that you lived in – whether you were taking a bath, cooking on a stove (in a separate kitchen, of course) – whatever you do.  Fortunately visitors – wanderers, actually – were rare.  Usually you’d just have a gang of kids pursuing one another – taking the forbidden fifth floor route instead of the one in the basement to cut from one long section of armored apartments to another.  We spent some time there – about one or two months, I reckon – living with those walls that sloped up (because you were near the roof) and with the dormer windows.

Gone were the apartments we had lived in below, with their long bay windows in the living room and balcony.  Man!  What can I say: those German soldiers lived nice compared to what I was used to.  And the walls – almost three foot thick, both to keep out the cold and exploding bombshells.  Everywhere: military. Everything green. O.D. was the color of my blood – or part of it.

The rest ran true red white and blue, though I had come to distrust some of the government.  I’d seen too much of it.  I’d lived under the burdens of this world.  I was looking forward to going back to the home of my childhood – if it still stood.

I’d had nightmares all my life, but I’d started to be plagued by this one.  In it I had gone back to the neighborhood, but everything had changed.  Everyone had changed in it; gone were some of the houses, and everyone would be looking at me strange.  As if I was an alien or Martian.  From another world.  Because it was another world, that rural world in Georgia, and this one . . . this all so foreign (and yet wonderfully strange; I wasn’t afraid to explore: I wanted to).  And the Army thing.

But I was ready to go. Gone past ready. It had to be November . . . that’s when dad always got his main orders (there were plenty of TDY’s, too.  And trips in the field.)  And this time we all were to go back home.

As I lay in my room staring at that sloped ceiling (when I wasn’t wandering the base, now stuck on foot, since almost everything we owned was packed up.  Luckily we were on a small one.  It was used to conduct spy missions on and over the border using Mohawks – planes like this one:

Mohawk w Electronics Pkg

They were used to spy on enemy and stuff.  I used to look at the photos some in the hangers.  There was a lot of neat stuff, but not my school.  THAT was over on/near Old Argonner, a base we used to live.  It was in Hanau, Germany, not real far (I think) from Stuttgart.  We wandered all over the place. Sometimes with the G.I.’s, sometimes in groups, sometimes with tours, often with our parents – or just alone.

We had spent a lot of time in the woods.  And in the bunkers doing military stuff.

but this last year had not been good.  First there’d been the fall of one good friend after another – falling away like leaves in the wind; there one day and gone in the next, until I was alone.  Nothing but new kids to play with; kids I didn’t wanna know.  I’d had enough. I was going home.  My last girlfriend has left 3 months ago.

I was ready, more than ready, to move on.

I’d had it with love and stuff.  I hurt inside.  I’d read a lot of grownup stuff.  I’d cruised the books in the libraries and read about everything I could get my hands on.  The administrators who gave tests all said I’d done really good, with a promising outlook.  One even called me a “lazy genius”.  I read and comprehended on a junior college level, and I wrote almost as well as I read, but I sucked in math.

I played the tuba and did art, but this year had been tough.  This year things were short – you won’t be there long enough’ – and they pulled me out some.  Early, it seems.  My heart wasn’t in it.

My heart wasn’t in anything anymore.

I felt burnt out.

And I lay on my bed and stared at the ceiling and wondered, had my doubts.

Everything is about to change which I’m afraid of, but I can’t stand this death I’m in.

The snow’s started.  It’s looking gray outside.  Inside I feel . . . cool.  Waiting and ready and nervous, and listening to the voices down the hall and staring at my room, with its blood red four square tiles, separated by mortar joints.

We’ll be outta here soon.

I hope and pray.

I look around at the bare room.

Its like my life.  Barren and empty except me.

Barren and empty like me.

13.


It was freezing night, a silver sliver of a moon showing through scattered rents in the racing clouds.  Streetlights threw yellow rays across slushy streets, and stark trees threw spidery silhouettes across the road.  We were walking the deserted streets from dependent’s housing section to the base’s amenities area, my family and I, surrounded by the impersonal military buildings, each with an identifying number, and some by symbols on the signs they wore.  We were on our way to see a movie.

What movie, I can’t recall.  It was on Fleigerhorst, a small military base.  It had it’s own little PX, an old theater, and a cafeteria for enlisted soldiers and people like me: dependents, brought with their father as part of his own army while he served the one we all worked for – in one way or another.  All part of earning a paycheck and doing duty to God, Country, and more . . . a tradition we’d been steeped in since I’d been born.

There wasn’t much to do – no internet, no TV, and only one radio station – but we still found things to do.  I ‘played’ with the G.I.’s, was in Scouts; we met in bunkers, and school dragged on, albeit on a different base.  I commuted on one of those old green shuttle buses, slugging through the crunch snow in the morning, coming back in slush in the afternoon . . . and god forbid you were too late for the last bus. It was a long walk from one base to another, though they had plenty of biking paths.

I had already gotten into trouble once about the theater by going to see “The Yellow Submarine”.  My parents had forbidden it.  They hated the  Beetles, didn’t like rock and roll, and were very conservative.  The only music they listened to was “Mystic Moods” (easy listening) and Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass Band.  I had gotten beaten for going to the movie but I didn’t care.  I’d been beaten so much it didn’t matter.  I was tough, used to them.  It was just another in a long string of ‘spankings’ – all my life.  It seemed normal.  I was used to having my ass pounded.  The trick was hiding it all.  My sense of self. The things I’d done – and was still doing.  And the crimes I’d committed, whatever they were (or were perceived to be) at the time.

But it didn’t matter.  During the “Yellow Submarine” the theater had caught fire.  It was a matinee so the G.I’s weren’t there – they were at work, which is how I managed to get there without my father knowing.  Us kids were sitting there in the semi-darkness when smoke began to billowing out from the bottom corner of the screen, and there were low red flickers behind it.  Us kids shifted restlessly; we were waiting for the movie.  Then a voice came on the PA saying “Stay in your seats! There is no cause for alarm.  The theater is on fire and we have it under control.”

I wasn’t dumb.  I sat there thinking this is a classic nightmare (I’d read enough books to know) – where the theater actually was on fire! – and here all us kids were just calmly sitting eating our popcorn and watching the smoke pour around the screen while the red glow grew brighter.  No panic, no popcorn throwing – just rows of quiet kids watching the scene.  Only in the Army would you see that.  In the civilian world there’d been a riot, people trampling each other as they raced to the doors . . .

But not us.  We were Army kids. We wanted our seventy-five cents worth.  We wouldn’t run until we saw the flames were higher than us.  But . . . true to their word they got the fire put out, we watched the Beetle movie, smelling acrid smoke.  I was happy, but puzzled.  I could not figure out why this movie was forbidden.  It didn’t make sense – the ban, not the cartoon, though the cartoon made little sense either.  However, I came home smelling of smoke and talking about the fire. Bad news: my parents knew what was showing, so I got my beaten and restricted again.  Another few days in my room. (sighing)

But this time it was an ‘approved’ movie.  The whole family was going.

We trudged through the snow and slush to the theater . . . saw some movie . . . and then when we came out I rushed over to the cafeteria and spent some of my own hard earned money for an ice cream.  Walking out to the sidewalk in front of the cafeteria I encountered my dad.  He stood there staring at me.  Then he walked up and with a scornful look snatched the cone from me and dashed it into the trash.

“If you can’t buy enough for everyone you can’t have one,” he said as I looked with horror at the pristine, brand new ice cream planted upside down in the garbage.

And I broke down and cried.

Because here’s the thing:

I had been taught and trained – it had been enforced and beaten into me over and over again: you don’t waste food. Not ever! – not a single crumb.  It’s an issue still for me, big time.  I have a hard time controlling myself when someone wastes food.  Why?

Well, when dad went to Vietnam, or overseas, or TDY, we’d go from thick to thin in a hurry.  Food was . . . hard to come by.  Hunger was an issue.  Money was thin.  I had to work for every dime I had, hauling trash and such.  Why?  Because he would give all his money away! – to missionaries to look good, and whores when he thought they weren’t looking.  With the former he was trying to feed his ego; with the second his selfish self wants – while we went without and he knew it.  Lord knows my mom knew how to complain (and we got the brunt of it, him not being there).  We were not with him.  We were a thousand miles, if not half a world away and more.

Why should he care? Except in a most superficial, distant way . . . the way he often cared for us when he was home – or not ‘disciplining’ us according to his needs . . .

As a result my mom always – always – fought to make ends meat, and barely succeeded. He would fight about her getting more education, fought about it when she had a job.  He wasted money at every turn of a dime.  It go so bad when he was away that sometimes our neighbors would come just to make sure we had food.

Meanwhile dad ate steaks – sometimes in front of us – and ate good.  He never knew a day of hunger and he kept his sweet tooth fed.  Sometimes he would eat steak while the rest of us had plain boiled hotdogs. No buns. Boiled in thin tomato soup, served up on noodles.

And that night that was cold as a freezing moon I ‘felt’ something ‘in me’ change . . . harden a little bit more.


I’ve seen the movie “Hunger Games”, me and my wife.  I wasn’t impressed.

I guess it’s hard to gain an impression of that lifestyle when you’ve lived one as a kid, courtesy of the United States Army and a few other folks.

I grew up in a wartime culture, as lot of my peers did: steeped in the consequences of Vietnam, our father’s fresh from the horror of Korea (and the PTSD symptoms that followed – at the time unrecognized, but visited upon their kids and immediate family sometimes).

I well remember the hunger games.  The real ones.  The ones that WE played – for real.

Kids, gathered or ganged, platooned or assigned, guardian and guerrilla – we came in all kinds, and all kinds of us had our own specialties.  We’d gather in squads or platoons in the woods under the guidance of some counselors, be they military men or civilian, it really didn’t matter.  I even had a Scout Master – Colonel R., from the time I was 14 or so until I grew up and went into the military myself.

We were all a bunch of Army kids – always ‘fighting’, often playing war.  Our Scouts skills consisted of learning a bunch of survival; our overseas training, even more.*

Often the ‘award’ from such a fight was a can of C-Rats – C-Rations, to you civilian folks.  The favorite was fruit cocktail, pound cake (in a can) fell behind as a distant second.

A stack of “Silver Bullets” co-offered by some counselor (gathered from us, of course!) – would be enough for a reward.

To the spoils goes the victor.

They would set the “goody” somewhere (perhaps), divide us into battle groups (divisions, platoons – squads).  Generally the ‘armies’ were divided evenly, but not always.  Sometimes the ‘smart’ kids would be given the little kids to fight with – and the other team would be a lot of big boys.

Very big boys indeed.

I remember laying curled face down in a ravine, knees against my chest as dozens of kids, charging, dove across the ravine, their heels hammering along my spine and ribs.  I served as kind of a footbridge for a lot of them, or so it seemed.  Not that I was there for that, mind you!  I was a spy, and these were my enemies.  They had come up the hill (stealthily, you know), but I had ‘a-spyed’ them, lurking through the bushes, taking little ‘rushes’ from cover to cover, and had sent my young ‘aid’ a runner, about an eight year old kid (I was 14) to go and fetch help, give warning, do something.  Assemble the troops or whatnot.  Set off the alarm.  For I wasn’t the commander – just an infiltrator into enemy territory seeking a few goals.

Often the rules were uneasy.  You were allowed to hurt other kids – but not too badly.  Nothing that needed first aid (and we’re talking here in the serious days, where a small burn or scratch would get you a look of contempt were you to bring it to their attention, much less whine about it.  Kids today are so ‘tender’ . . . but there again, I had such a high pain tolerance (gee, wonder where that came from?  LOL!)

We “played” hard for that little treat, that can of syrupy sweetness, all swathed in green . . . O.D. green, that is, the color of war and canvas.  (How I like the smell of fresh tinted canvas – that military ‘stuff’, thick, green, and sturdy . . . there’s something about it that says . . . something.  Like ‘welcome home’, somewhat . . .)

I remember (and now this was in my older days, when I was 16 and had learned a lot about survival – and torturing folks) – we caught a kid.

He was from the other team, and he knew where in these deep woods (bounded by a highway and stream on one side, a tremendous lake on the other, bordered by woods and mud, and cut-through with ravines like an old man’s face . . .)

So I had him – or rather my helpers – tie him up.

At the first they were amazed when I took his shoe laces and wrapped them tight around his thumbs.  I tied a noose-knot, one that wouldn’t come unbowed, and would tighten whenever he drew it.

And then I showed them how . . .

to tie him up (to a stump) – and then to torture him . . .

without ever leaving a mark.

(That’s kinda funny, seeing as his name INDEED was Mark; Mark T. is all I’ll say for his own protection here . . .)

He had been boggle eyed and incredulous when I had tied him by his thumbs, sneering and saying:  “I’ll get out in no time!”  He was sure of himself, and that he could break those shoe laces.

While he was struggling with his bounds, I turned to my ‘men’ and began telling them – rather, teaching them what to do.

“We’re gonna tickle him,” I said, glancing over my shoulder.  He was sweating now, and his thumbs were hurting – I could seem them turning blue.

He, overhearing that, stopped struggling (whilst I went over and loosen his thumb braces a bit there) – and laughed again.

“Tickle me?!!”  He barked a laugh again.  “That’ll never work!  You can’t hurt me, you know!  Not really.”  And he smiled with a show of self-satisfaction, and leaned back, confident.

I smiled grimly.

He knew little of what was coming.

Turning to my three or four young charges, I looked over my team and said:

“Like this.”

And we began.  We all took turns in tickling him – him bound against the rough bark of an old (and somewhat soggy) tree stump, and those kids taking turns tickling his ribs, and up under his chin – using every trick in the book, even leaves and soft branches.  We had his shoes off, so his foot soles were bared.  At first he couldn’t stop laughing.

Then he couldn’t stop crying.

Then he couldn’t stop himself from peeing himself.

While we all stood around laughing at him he gave us the information we need . . .

Such is the fate, and the victor’s spoils.

He was only a little younger than me, by a year or two.   After ‘extracting’ our information (and me having two swift young runners go back bearing the news, by different ways should one of them get caught) – we found their camp and made havoc on them, taking care not to snap any of their tent poles, but otherwise ‘destroying’ their tents, and pity he who left a bit of food laying out . . . we would take it, every last drop and crumb . . .

Hunger games.

Yeah.

I’ve played them.

.

.

*We were being ‘trained’ to be infiltrators and ‘helpful little hands’ (in some terms guerrillas) for NBC war.  Those skills included, but were not limited to, learning to fire the minigun from a Cobra’s co-pilot seat using a HUD.  Just in case too many Army pilots got wounded . . . during a nuclear war.

The Girlfriend

“You wanna go together?”

“Huh?”, I said, not understanding the question.

“Girlfriend and boyfriend. You wanna be my boyfriend?”

I looked at her, a mushroom shaped girl with long dark hair draped below her shoulders. Her face was fat, a bit like mine, and she sat on a low bench, scuffing her feet in the schoolyard dirt of the playground.

She was fat, like me. I had gained a lot of weight during my trip to this ‘new’ land. The food was great, and the pastries to die for. There was lots of candy in my diet – I was used to doing a lot of work now, hustling to get jobs, anything where I could earn some money. I cut grass. I watched kids. I hauled garbage on a predetermined schedule – and this was back in the old days before plastic bags, and they put everything into paper. Paper could bust out and drop everything on eight sets of stairs; I had learned to be careful.

I thought about it. I thought I knew just about everything there was to know about ‘sex’ – I’d done some reading, too. One of the most valuable books I’d found was in the school library: “Everything A Boy Needs to Know About Sex” – and it pretty much covered it. I read the Girl’s version, too. I wanted to be sure I knew both sides, including their point of view.

Those books were pretty good, too – a lot better than the coach we had, the one who taught sex education in the basement. It looked like the boiler room: dim and dark, stacked with pipes and dark shapes running this way and that, the boys stacked wherever they could fit in the darkness. The coach sat in the middle (it was a poorly lit place, that’s a matter of fact!) and made a few raunchy jokes – just one or two – and set in with a five minute explanation of everything, as if that should cover it. In his mind, anyway. He sort of expected us to know and we did. So for the next thirty minutes or so we sat there – there was a lot of joking, nothing to be done, sat around and then got outta there.

That was the extent of the Army’s ‘to-the-point’ explanation of a sexual education. If you couldn’t get it on the run, you weren’t going to get it anyway else.

So I’m looking this girl in the eye, trying to wrap my head around my feelings – and I don’t have any, not really, not for her. But I’m lonely and bored. Lonely, in a way. I’ve got three months or so left to go (more or less) before we’re shipping Stateside (back home! My other way of life! If anything is left . . . providing dreams don’t come true . . .)

“Okay,” I say, my voice guarded. “I’ll be your boyfriend.”

Because, to put it quite simply, I am not sure. Cultures are always changing – people are in and out of my life like roses, blooming and fading – and I’m not sure how this ‘relationship’ will go. I’ve been bitten and burned by quite a few of them. I’ve lost all of my friends. Either we or they have all moved away . . . But what else are we to do?

Her name is Debbie, by the way (a wonderful coincidence later, you’ll see. Much later, in one of the stories I’m going to be writing.)

She’s a fat girl, just like me.

And lonely, too.

Her friends have all ‘moved’, she’s a short-timer, too. I had just lost my best-ever friend, DB. Later on I learned it was in part due to a betrayal by my father. I was lonely and bored. No one knew me, nor I them, and no one gave a damn. I hung out at the youth center, or in the bunkers, or over at the airport where the spying went on – hanging out, getting into things then getting out again. There was a lot of ‘snooping and pooping’ with the G.I.’s out in the field, plus our ‘games’ and training in the bunkers. There were several beneath the airport, and we became quite big fans of theirs.

Anyway, here’s this girl, asking me out to something . . .

I guess it was more in name than in something else; love (or even ‘like’) that is, if there were remotely any feelings involved. I didn’t love her, not at all – nor, I think, did she, I. I was something for her to hit on and hang onto – something to take up our time.

Having not had much experience with other kids (they kept on moving, shifting around) – she and I became a partners in the ‘permanent’ scene for awhile – going to the Youth Center, touring the woods, until someone gave up or someone had to fly. I think it was her, transferred back to ‘here’ (the good ol’ U.S. of A). A lot of my friendships (and acquaintances – and enemies) came to an end like that: all of a sudden, with the brute force of an Army Officer’s call (or some kind of Orders, anyway).

So we hung out together – bored in school, sitting around, that kind of stuff. There wasn’t a lot of romantic ‘kissing’ going on. There wasn’t any kissing altogether, not for a long time, not until

The Castle.

We went on a trip, one we had to get our parent’s permissions for. It was for a 3 day trip to a castle where we would be staying courtesy of some sort of Christian Fellowship. I didn’t know about the Christian thing until I got there and discovered this was the source (or one of the sources) of all those little religious pamphlets or “cartoons” that I kept discovering. Sometimes one would find one in airports, or in some restroom – they kept a pile of them by some cash registrars sometimes – and always there were ‘funny’ in some horrible tragic kind of way, featuring some goon or loser getting his just dues, maybe sent to Hell (or some other kind of eternal damnation) – then getting Saved (or else going on into Hell anyway). We liked them because they were kinda funny – in a way. Christ was always the Savior. I found them corny – one I remember featured a boy propped against a wall, smoking. I had been smoking for some time . . .

But Debbie and I had been planning this thing for a long time – or it seemed like a long time for kids like us. About three weeks or so I guess . . .

And so it was that her brother (and her BIG brother I’m talking about, mind you!) took it into his head to remind me that we were NOT to “do” anything with his sister (and this is his “little” sister, mind you, so he’s especially protective) – or he’s gonna “whip my ass.”

Fine, I’m thinking, because I’m not planning on “doing” anything or going there (though I probably would, had the opportunity presented itself). I’d already had sex on my mind. I had since I was eight or so.

So we go on this field trip with her.

And it’s a wonderful place, this old castle and all – and we’re given a tour of it, Debbie and I hand in hand, and they assign us segregated sleeping quarters (a long hallway with a bunch of bunks on either side) and/or a “day room” to ‘play’ in.

Now this day room is kinda cool. It’s in the center of a tower, or an old turret, so the room is kind of round and all, and there’s tall windows letting the light in – nice, big windows – and there’s a hidden circular stairway in the middle goes to the top of the castle turret through a square hole with a trapdoor . . . Nobody goes up in that dark old hidey-hole . . .

Except us.

So we do.

Eventually we end up making out – going on top of the turret where she shows me how to ‘do’ things (like rubbing her breasts, which were, I guess, just kinda budding – kinda hard to tell when you’ve got a fat girl there) – and she has me stick my tongue in her mouth, right between her teeth (something that I hadn’t realized, since it wasn’t covered in the book I’d read). So . . . I went along with it . . . but memories of her brother kept popping in my head.

But it was quite beautiful there on the turret in the spring air. And my friend taught me to play cards as well – “War”, it was called, the first card game ever I learned with standard playing cards. I ate my first ‘raw’ egg there – or rather, it was undercooked, or at least by ‘my’ standards (and my momma’s, so therefore I had judged it underdone) – and it was one of the best eggs I ever ate in my life. Boiled, and slightly done, cracked in butter and a whole lot of salt – stir it up . . .

yummm.

But we spent a lot of time in that turret . . . in the darkness under the trap door, groping, fondling, finding one another, not that a lot went on . . .

and discovering the beautiful countryside from on high, between the stones of the turret,

I found a little peace and beauty, holding hands with a girl who wouldn’t cry when I left her.

Berlin: 1972 – Behind the Red Wall


We weren’t supposed to go to Berlin.  The Army forbade it.  They were afraid due to my dad’s job and security rating the Reds might kidnap us and hold us for “intel” ransom – therefore any trip to, from, or through a Warsaw Pact country was strictly forbidden.  This held true for a lot of dependents, something we were constantly aware of.  After all, the enemy was “right over there” with their forbidden chemical weapons, atomic bombs, and engines of war.  Just as we were.  At least one base I know had atomic warheads – and in my late research I found an entry by a G.I. that confirmed it.  And I’m quite sure those were Pershing missiles I saw cruising through our neighborhoods – packed on the back of some old flatbed semis, and covered with green canvas.

But somehow my dad wrangled it – he was good at getting his way sometimes.  He held a position of mid-level power in the field where he worked, a Chief Warrant Officer – WO3 or 4, I believe.  And he was always doing things – strange things, like taking off for a week or so – or months at a time (after we’d come back to the United States) – and the oddest thing of all was how career-wise he didn’t seem to deserve it – though I suppose he did.  However, he had quite a few bad marks on his record during his first decade or so of beginning his career with the Army, including getting locked up in the psych ward on an isolated island where they kept “people like him” away from the general world.  They were often considered too violent – or messed up – to even associate with the Army.  So they kept him locked up for a year after Korea, plus he had numerous complaints and dings on his record, as well as a reputation for backstabbing and random betray (because he could, he said, explaining why he screwed over my best friend’s dad) . . .

And before I knew it I got the news, and we were on a train bound for West Berlin – “the free country” within an enemy state; an isolated segment of the country, like an infection locked within the enemy’s side – for a tourist trip.

I’ll never forget that ride . . .

The German trains were always on time, clean, and friendly.  The coaches were warm, even while the snow fell outside and our breath fogged the windows.  Sometimes when you’d go to the “W.C.” (the bathroom) when you ‘flushed’ you’d see a trapdoor open up under your turd and it would drop out on the ties flipping by – toilet paper strewn, sometimes, especially near the cities . . .

But the dining cars! – the rich thick coffee, bordering on expresso, souped up on caffeine cut with sugar (and heavy on the creamer, please!) – confined to walking the narrow isles of the train watching the landscape go by – the cold blustery winds on the platforms between trains (when there was not a ‘tube’ joining them) – cheeks red like apples while tears frosted in our eyes . . .

But this trip was a little bit different.  For one thing, we had to have our passports.  For another thing, the soldiers got on.

These were the East German soldiers – grim faced men, all of them frowning, running up and down the corridors with Uzi’s in their hands.  Their uniforms were strange to me . . .

We had come to a stop in the middle of the night.  I, asleep in my bunk, was awaken by some commotion and the lack of movement.   I could hear gruff voices in the corridor beyond the wall, and my mom sat up, looking shaken.

“It’s just the East Germans,” she said, opening the door a crack.  This was when I watched the soldiers running by.  They passed, checking the train (but mostly putting on a show, I was to later learn – to impress the Westerners with how tough they were).  They passed, and we moved on . . .

Berlin.

What can I say?  Kennedy went there – and declared himself a doughnut.  Comes from not knowing the language, I know – but when he said “Ich ist ein Berliner!” he was saying he was a doughnut – since a Berliner was a specific type of cream puffed pastry there – however, the Germans understood what he was trying to say – tthey are very good – and tolerant of our attempts at their language – and they applauded him, if not for nothing else than the fact he was trying . . .

We saw the Berlin Wall, Check Point Charlie, and the museum that was there.  There was an old car with more bullet holes than Swiss cheese, and lot of stories about people who had come over, through, or under the wall – and even more poignantly, those who didn’t make it.

I saw that wall – high, hugging a neighborhood in the distance – blank windows, all bricked up, the dragon’s teeth in the ‘no-man’s land’, curling barbed wire . . . knew there were sensors (and mines, it was rumored); there were the East German sentries staring (hard again, as usual) back at us – the curious milling civilian crowd, for the East German wall and Checkpoint Charlie were tourist checkpoints as well – places to go if you were going to see Berlin – and we did.

After that – indeed, during that trip a feeling of sympathy began growing in my heart towards these people, the East Germans across the wall.  You could see – practically smell! – how gray and hard, how restricted, regulated it was.  There were very few people, if any, that I could see.  The buildings were all either brown or grey.  There was none of the color and glamor of West Berlin.  Just what seemed a dismal dull and somewhat lifeless city ‘over there’ that the people who lived there were desperate to be rid of.  But there was nothing they could do – they were powerless – and so was I.  And so I read their stories – wished them luck, wistfully wished that I could help them . . .

and we left East Germany behind.

A Friend Made; A Friend Lost


I guess we’ll call him “Dee.”  D.B. for short.  Something like that.

During my last year in Germany he became my best friend.

We met at a party my parents were hosting in our third floor apartment with its rectangular concrete balcony – thick walled, meant to withstand bomb blasts.  There were basements and tall concrete stairwells going up for five floors, built by our German hosts for their war and troops back in the 1940’s or so.  It was our enemies housing, meant to withstand our attack, with hidden bunkers beneath.  The most massive one was out at the airport – it was rumored to be seven levels deep, with only the first three open.  The others, it was rumored, were flooded and filled with German booby-traps and gear – including airplanes!  Imagine that – someone going down there now with an ROV, finding those old treasures of war.  The Germans were famous for their devotion to the Third Reich – and the idea of a Fourth so much they may have successfully sealed up those gasketed rooms, making them watertight for generations later . . . putting the airplanes (and their ammo, parts, and gear) with them . . . who knows?  I wish I did.  I wish I could attend an exploration there.  But you’d need the German government’s permission . . . and I doubt their going to give it.  They are for burying the past and that sort of thing.

But I’ll always wonder if those rumors were true.  It’s very hard to find out information regarding that airport – or what’s underneath.  But I know what I saw – and D.B., did too – he often accompanied me.

I first met him at that party – we were careful friends, cautiously extending our hands and shaking one another’s – three firm shakes (like you are supposed to) and releasing your grip.  He was half-Japanese and stood about half a head taller than I; narrow framed, narrow face, black framed military glasses just like his dad.  He wore his hair short, as I did mine – not too short!, mind you – for in the winter we tried to grow it long to cover our ears and the back of our neck to ward off the cold.  But he was different . . . smart, lithe, intelligent, sharp – I admired him.  And I think he must have found something to like about me.

My mom and dad had insisted we meet him and his sister.  Their parents were our ‘friend’s’ parents, and apparently we were going to become friends, too.  Whether we liked it or not.  That’s the way it went with these things.  Sometimes you had to play with a child when you did not want to – always proposed to do with something about somebodies rank and social standing.  Sometimes we just played with them because we felt sorry for them, as we did one kid in Germany.  Nobody liked him but me – and I didn’t even like him much, but I befriended him and tolerated him because he was one of the most disliked friends in Germany, and his name was Jeremy (I think).  The kids at school could not stand him because he was half-German, – but I could stand him, so I took him in.  He had to be my friend.  He had no other.  So we took him in under our wing.

He had been born in Germany (like ‘I’ was) but he had lived there a long time – up until his momma had met his dad, some G.I. down at the local bar.  He’d been taken in like a third shoe – one that didn’t fit the mold and the pattern of the family his dad was demanding at home.  He was a bit like me.

So we took him in and took him ‘home’ every once and awhile, this ‘friend’ of ours – feeling sorry for him though he was cocky as hell and wouldn’t hesitate to ask my mom for a sandwich or two from the fridge – though she kinda felt sorry for him, too, so she helped him: feeding him, tolerating him for my sake.

I didn’t like him, too, but I hung onto him for awhile . . . and then we moved and I met this other ‘friend’, the one I told you about.

D.B.

I guess I became that kind of friend to him in some ways – his best friend, but an inferior one in some ways, though he never said anything to make me feel inferior.  I know he liked me.  Perhaps it was my rough & ready attitude.  Perhaps it was because he also had been abused some by an anxious and expectant Japanese mother and a demanding fatherhood figure.  He dad certainly smacked him around some, including his mom and daughter I heard – but those were only rumors.  I know my friend sometimes came with bruises on his face . . . something I understood (although later it would break my heart to see them.)

He was smart and he was tall and he taught me a lot of things about “being human” – I, a child from the swamps and woods of the deep south – though a lot of that had disappeared as I ‘hid’ myself even further . . .

To this day I wear button up shirts because of him.  Odd the effect a friend can have all your life.  I learned to love him.  He was an athlete – agile, able to jump, whereas I had earned the nickname “Tank” because of my way through the woods and countryside when we had to get moving, or were attacking someone . . .

We hung out a LOT together; went on missions, diverted tanks, road bikes, explored hill, dale, countryside, German villages, midnight raids – you name it.  He delved into the more elegant tactics and taught me some more; I was elegant in my own way, though, and much bolder . . .

I would have done anything for him, man.  Really and absolutely.  I loved him.

And then . . .

He stopped coming over . . . stopped coming out at the owl’s hoot in the morning (something he’d shown me how to do) . . . passing me by without a word on the way to classrooms . . . team meetings, that sort of thing . . .

And then he moved.  I went over there one day, knocked on the door, and a stranger appeared.

It was done.

And the beginning of winter . . .

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* ~ an addition to this ‘story’ . . . obviously ‘switching’ from various “points-of-view” . . . last year I found out via a story my brother told me that I lost this friend due to my dad – my dad had betrayed HIS dad (my friend’s) at work, and when asked “Why?” my dad simply said: “Because I could.”   Yeah – he’s that kind of man, really . . .
     but the thing is – in those last few months, he became suddenly much more ‘distant’ – no longer coming out in the early morning to meet me, no longer answering my call.  Not a word from him during their last few weeks there – he shed me like an old skin, moving on without me – and I loved him more than earth itself.  Such is one’s fate when in the Army, and quite young . . . I was only 12 going on 13 and it hurt . . . and it wouldn’t be long before we would be moving, too – coming back here and to the neighborhood I both missed . . . and yet now feared in some dismal way, suspecting my nightmares would soon be coming true . . .

Nightmares CAN Come True


Nightmares CAN Come True

As a kid I was used to having nightmares. I had nightmares all the time. I never even knew what a ‘wish fulfillment’ dream was until I was about fourteen and read up on them – part of the psychology training that my dad was giving me.

Every dream I’ve ever had was a nightmare in some way, up until I was about forty-eight or so. Every last one featured the same old things: death, wars, loss. Loss of one’s loved ones, mostly – after I’d gotten to where I loved them. “The Boy” comes from a dream like that – and in a way you can say it really happened. A ‘life long’ dream that finally came true. I can finally love my inner child, my ‘selves’, that ‘stuff’.

But one in particular stands out. It was the first major reoccurring dream I had. I’ve had several reoccurring dreams – one three nights in a row! You know what that means: it’s supposed to come true. But it didn’t, fortunately. It was one in which I was trapped . . . in an underground stone maze with a friend, and we kept getting killed by these Spaniards dressed in ancient armor. And we’d ‘sit’ and watch our bodies decompose . . . completely down to bone – and then we’d build it back again – and the chase was one. Over and over again, on through the night . . .

I almost felt comfortable with it in the end, feeling myself die at pike’s end – sinking to the mouldering floor, my friend perhaps besides me, or sometimes fighting on . . .

We’d wander those halls, looking for a way out. And there was never one. But it was beautiful in some ways – those old mossy stones – round cutouts above to let the golden white light in, until we’d stumble across the Spaniards, or they would come pursuing us. And then the race was on.

We always lost in the end.

Three times running we had that dream – it was when I was about sixteen. Weird thing it was.

But sometimes dreams – and even nightmares – come true. I’ve had several of them.

The very first one was when I was a kid living over in Germany. We’d been there a total of two years, with another year of running from base to base – meeting kids, abandoning them – or them abandoning us as the Army orders came in; mixing with various societies and cultures . . .

It led to a lot of . . . I don’t know.

Things, I call them.

And one of them was this dream.

In it we had come back to the ‘hood – the object of my hidden desire: to be once again where my true friends did not change, where the neighborhood and everything in it would remain the same. The same dirt road with the same people living up and down it, pretty much as I had left it . . .

But I guess inside my mind ‘someone’ knew . . .

We are standing on the dirt road, looking uphill towards the horizon. It is jagged and pointed with the tops of pine trees, their individual forms hidden in darkness. Our friend comes riding down the road – and lo and behold, it’s our very best friend from when we were a child!

We open our arms to him (feeling somewhat confused now; he’s bigger and his face is broader, and he’s riding a motorcycle, not a bicycle). He stops and looks at me.

He knows who I am – but does not care. He is not the same kid anymore. He doesn’t even live here (and he won’t; they moved soon after us due to a death in their family). He stares. I say “Hey.” He says “Hey,” back.

We are two total strangers.

Same dream, different time: the houses have all changed. Some of them have been built up into huger houses. The road is paved. Everything and everyone I know is gone. Everything seems busy, the yards are all fenced. You can’t walk on the road for the traffic. Crime is high.

In every one I feel that overwhelming sense of loss. “Here” keeps on changing – and I’m sure it will (‘here’ being Germany when I was thirteen), and yet there seems so unstable in my mind . . .

Could it really be true? I started wondering. (This is “13” here.) I could feel my inner child; the inner one: Little Michael & Little Mikie – moving in me, wondering, too, at the dreams I was having.

I went and asked my dad.

He said don’t worry about them. And I didn’t. Or at least I tried not to.

A few days later – or it might have been a few weeks later – I asked my mom.

“Sure,” she said. She was in the kitchen looking around for something, I think it was lunchtime or so. “Everything changes.” She turned around looking at me directly. There was a firmness in her mouth; the lines.

“You mean it won’t all be the same?” I could hear my inner child asking me and so I asked.

“No, of course not,” she replied, turning back to the counter messing with something. There was a large transformer on the counter. It powered the skillet from the German electricity voltage, which was set too high for our appliances. It started to give a big hum. I knew if you lifted it and dropped it a bit – not much! -it would stop humming. Usually. I ignored it and turned back to my mom and my ‘stuff’.

“You know the next door neighbors have left,” she pointed out. “Their momma got remarried not long after we left. And the Smiths are here in Germany.” They were the ‘other’ military family in the hood. There were just the two of us: us and them. The rest had regular dads that came home lots of times; ours didn’t. Sometimes he’d be gone for a loonngg time and we’d have to write letters to him. Sometimes those letters took six weeks to arrive, and just as long to get back. It was the same thing ‘overseas’ – all those letters we’d written took six weeks to ‘get there’ – and get sorted out – and then another six weeks for them to be sent ‘slow ship’ back. Even airmail was slow back then. And phone home? Just forget it. One phone for thousands of people – you had to schedule that stuff.

I wondered about it, what it would be like back home – if we did come back and find it all changed. I wondered a lot as the time grew closer – as November moved in and we were in our last year and ‘stuff’. Having just lost our best friend . . .

In our mind’s eye we started seeing: this was a dream that could come true, this nightmare and ‘stuff’ – meaning the feelings and horrid emotions that went with loss, grief, anguish, loneliness – and this staring-you-in-the-face despair that no matter what you do you will flounder in loss.

And yet our inner child held onto that dream – still does; I can see it in his shining face with his memories of sunshine and running into the wind across the white sand, the cloud puffed sky blue, the sun warm on his back, and the excited calling of his friends ahead; bare feet pounding on the road . . .

He had hoped and hoped that when ‘we’ came back and he came back he could get rid of this thing: all of these ‘false feelings’ and things which did not belong in the ‘hood. That he could shed those parts; shed those feelings – go back.

But as the old saying goes: There is no going back home. It’s never the same as you left it. It always has changed – gotten smaller, or more dismal, or even more depressing. Or it may be that it’s been built up so that you can hardly recognize the thing – all the old houses may even be gone, or so built up and altered you can’t tell a thing: you have to find your address by the number, and not the appearance of the yard and house.

The house may even be gone, and you find yourself staring at an empty field – one that’s soon to become a parking lot and a shopping outlet . . .

We’ve faced those kinds of things. All too many times in our lives. Moving is good: it changes your experiences, expands your mind, develops different outlooks, understanding, and tolerance. You make new friends (but you also might lose old ones), you find new jobs, new hobbies, new occupations . . .

But meanwhile a part of you in the heart of you keeps on calling for his forgotten childhood.

The one you left behind.


Some notes here; things ‘I’ (my adult sides) find interesting.

(Part 1 of what you could call a ‘Dream Journal’. 

I know my nightmares started early with the 2nd dream I ever remember having.  I couldn’t have been more than four years old.  That’s assuming my 1st dream was a dream not a religious experience.

This dream did come true, by the way.  When we got back ALL my best friends were gone.  There remained only the four kids from ‘next door’ across the road, and one was a very young daughter who, with three rough boys around, was a tiny terror to begin with.  (She’s still quite high spirited.)  The road had been paved. No longer the sand ditches to stand in and wade during the middle of summer, pumping our legs up and down in the cool sand until we sank, knee deep in the stuff. Parents and kids would get a laugh driving by – there’d be four or five us ‘standing’ in the sand like dwarfs, smiling and waving.

All that was gone.  The PEOPLE were gone.  Our friends, the Smiths, were still overseas – and wouldn’t be back for years.  People no longer leisurely drove by and waved.  “Our House” was ‘gone‘, my parents having sold it while we were overseas – and so we moved into my molester’s house – where the septic tank had to be drained before they could use it.  When they pulled the lid it was full of pink condoms, a thick skin, so much that the sewer men were laughing and pointing and giving knowing winks to my parents.  My parents were embarrassed, and I stared out the window (to avoid the stink), also embarrassed, because I had learned about this thing, ‘condoms’, while we’d been gone, and what they were used for – and thinking about ‘him’ and what he did . . . that love, that betrayal.  And where he had gone, my best friend, his younger brother . . . the all of them.  Gone.

And the future to be was dim at best.  At times I could see it turning dark as hell.  A thunderstorm was approaching, approaching in my mind. . . .

And yes, I did see my friend – and it was almost exactly as my mind had said.  Almost down to the last detail.  Except the sky was cloudy, gray.  And he drove off . . . sputtering away, then roaring on that old dirt bike of his, engine roaring . . . I never saw him again until much, much later.

Somehow a part of my mind – I don’t know. Was it trying to prepare me for this? Warning me – or trying to warn – the inner child? (again, I am “13”, or at least a part of me is; part of the adults are doing the typing; though I’ve learned since 7th grade . . . sighing).  We had just lost our best friend; gotta girlfriend, knowing we were going to dump her in a while, within a period of a few months (overseas).  She knew it and so did I.  The relationship was formed because we were bored, I guess . . . just a last something to do, and try to assuage the hurting in my heart . . .

Yeah, I’m depressed. I (“13”) am still sorta ‘stuck’ on this thing – and “the Teen” I built with the alternate personality “The Machine” (tough armor) around him. But it kept him “too much inside” shielded against his own emotions . . .

However, that changed the day The Machine Broke Down.

I’ll save that story for another day.