Saturday, 23 June 2007

The Veterans

I sold out all my morals. broke every code I could. It took a few years. I didnt even know it was my intent to do so until I managed to hit some kind of personal low. I was lying to people I liked, I was playing dirty games, I would fuck over anyone for personal gain and I would go to any lengths if I thought I could get away with it. I was cunning scum, so cunning, people didnt even know. I didnt fully understand what was driving my behaviour, but somehow I felt it was a necessary evil. I felt eventually all would be revealed, I wasnt sure why.

I didnt enjoy it at all but this didnt stop me. If your woman gave me the eye I would be in there, you wouldnt even know. If you bad mouthed me in a bar, I would be round the back a week later and when you came out, you wouldnt see it coming, wouldnt know what hit you. I wasnt interested in money, I wasnt interested in stealing material things at all. I was just interested in some kind of control of things. Knowing I was on top maybe. Feeling that the world was mine because I could take from it without anyone even knowing. Like a thief, like a pirate, I felt justified because the world took from me without question. I didnt use charm, I guess I had pretty much lost that along the way. Instead, I just bulldozed in with a sense of abandon so exquisite, that while I committed my crime, I cared for nothing. It was maybe some kind of high. I was getting high on debasing my own moral code.

Finally I had simply had enough. It was time to quit. Time to account and atone for my sins. I didnt think they were sins, I still dont, they were just the behaviours of a man who had let the animal within take over. I had done enough, I had stripped myself of all innocence. I was a veteran of the world. I had done everything. Now I had to figure out how to return.

Stopping wasnt so hard, it was just a case of letting the good in you rise to the surface again and take the reigns. It felt a lot better, things felt lighter, I could smile again with a genuine smile. I could like people again. There was just one problem; I had crossed the lines, it didnt matter that no one else knew, it was that the experience was in me, and that was something I would never be able to remove; The experience.

'I once killed a man' I told a girl who I had been seeing for a while, we had been getting to know each other and truths were sneaking out. I felt I was giving up far more than she but I didnt mind that. I figured people needed to cling onto the privacy sometimes to stay afloat, to stay safe from the sharks. I felt I might be a dangerous kind of fish though I didnt have cold eyes of black, still I belonged in the deep. I really wasnt sure what I was. I knew underneath my sickness I was a good, kind, genuine, person, but I also knew I had teeth and a bad habit that could get out of control on occasion and wreak havoc. Murder was no sweat to me if I felt it justified. She didnt understand this. She hadnt seen what the world could do to a person. Her life had been hard, but nothing compared to mine. She had no idea what crossing the lines meant. She was a doe. My words made her go quiet. I think she even felt a little afraid.
'I didnt want to but I had to' I said but it didnt help matters. She was looking edgy.
'Look honey, sometimes guys fight, we get forced into it and you dont get a choice, it is kill or be killed, I dont like it but I have to deal with the game when it comes around' I was getting a little exasperated. I wanted her to understand. I felt a heat in me, heat of annoyance. Innocent people had to know what those who lost their innocence were suffering. But she wanted to go home then, I could sense it. Drawn to me by my wildness, she had gotten out of her depth and now she was afraid. I looked in her eyes, I could see she thought I was a crazy man.

This was unexpected to me. I guess I thought I was some kind of hero. Truth was, I had sunk into low life ways and was marked by them. I was one of them. I didnt know how to heal the wrongs I had done. I was alone then, more alone than ever before and tied up with secrets I would never be able to share. I was finally one of the damned.
Well that's just great! I thought, What on earth have I gotten myself into?

I now had a shit load of enemies who would never let up. I was damned but worse, I was hunted and that wouldnt ever change. Life was a god damn one way street. I couldnt understand what had drawn me to seek out the position I now held. I was strong, sure, but I would never be whole until I found a way back to the beginning again. I wasnt sure it could be done. I had to figure out something.

I was sat drinking a latte in a Cafe on Third St in Santa Monica. I would sit there sometimes on the way back from the beach. I liked to watch the people passing by or the buskers doing their thing. It was an interesting street. A guy hovered beside me, when I realised he wasnt moving I looked up at him. I knew it was a beg coming and prepared to give him the look.
The look had gotten me called an asshole but hadnt gotten me in a fight...yet. It was only a matter of time but I was intent on being a good person. I was re-educating myself on moral behaviour. Even so, I didnt like to be begged from.

'You got a buck Mister' he said. normally this would annoy me but I hadnt been expecting to see a Vietnam veteran when I looked up. This made things a little different. I guess everyone has their story but we all know these guy suffered genuinely so they come with a stamp of authentication where being a deserved bum is concerned. Even so, as we know from dog training, it is bad form to give charity for nothing, a guy should be given the right to earn his money. So I said,

'Maybe, but it will cost you a story'

'What do you mean a story maaaan.' he asked looking a little annoyed.

'I give you a buck for your story' I said.
'It's worth more than a buck motherfucker' he said.

And it went on like this for a while until we agreed a price of 5 bucks and he would tell me something of interest.

'Where's your family?' I asked him. He looked annoyed but I could see he wanted that 5 bucks. I felt kind of bad but then at the same time I didnt. He had started this whole thing.
'Dead' he said blankly.
'Why are you on the streets?' I asked him
He had a flat cap army style, camouflaged pants and a jacket with some patch stitched on it with a dogs head I couldnt quite make out, I guessed he probably hadnt changed since the war ended. If indeed it had ended for him.
'Did you ever kill a man?' I asked him and he prickled. for a minute I thought he was going to hit me so I braced myself. I hoped he wouldnt just break my neck, somehow I felt I almost deserved it for asking him something so personal, so likely to cause a guy to go nuts. I was good at such questions. The punch didnt come. He just screwed up his face. I felt for a moment he looked like a kid when he did it, looked innocent, hurt, childlike, but I knew the man in front of me could kill, my instincts sensed it. I was fucking with some very dangerous and possibly stupid material but I needed to know. He didnt answer. He just struggled with something inside and was about to move off when I said
'I have, thats why I asked, I am sorry I probably shouldnt have'
He stopped moving and looked back at me then, looked into my eyes. The penny dropped I could see it.
'You seen some shit too aint you boy?' he said
'I guess' I replied.
'So how come you do so well for yourself' he said motioning towards my cycling shorts and freshly washed top.
'I dont' I said 'I am fucked up on the inside'

Some people moved around me to get to a table a little further away, they were well dressed and gave the Vietnam guy a wide berth and a dirty look as they did so, they didnt like him being in the cafe garden area.
'Go fuck yourselves you prim uptight assholes' I said to them. I wasnt quite sure why, I guess I was getting carried away with trying to bond with this guy. I didnt know why I was doing that either. I was just letting something loose. I was a little scared too.
They looked shocked and left the garden. But I felt no guilt. I doubted they had ever had to do anything in their well formed lives other than go to the bank to withdraw cash for a new car/house/face lift/cock implant. Experience spoke. You didnt pull faces like that at people who did time in Vietnam. They were the whole reason you were living your fat assed life in cafes not being frogmarched by Nazi's or Korean Militants round a concentration camp while your wife was impregnated and your kids cut up for DNA experiments. Shit happened. The world needed educating. I felt I had been surprisingly kind in retrospect. The Vet hadnt noticed, he was clearly used to being abused. I didnt much care anyway, I was in this for my own reasons.

So we sat there maybe an hour. He told me some shit about holding his best friends head in his hands after they set off a booby trap bomb. Told me about his dream of fighting for his country and how different the reality had been. He wasnt sane, the guy had some seriously shit stuff loose in his head. He had been lower, seen darker stuff than me and I gulped in a few moments. He tired of my questions and the effect they were having on him and demanded his 5 bucks. I gave him ten. He didnt say thanks, he didnt have to. I didnt say anything either. I just wanted to meet someone more fucked up than me. I felt better then. I knew maybe I could make it back somehow.

'The Buddha talked of morality as being the true beauty of a person.
It is the goodness that really shines on the inside of a person.
This is one of the greatest contributions we can give to the world,
for our non-harming offers the gift of safety and trust to all those around us.'
- Joseph Goldstein

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