They say the war is over. I say it’s bologna, you know why? Let me tell you; I put up my soldier’s gear and adopted civilian clothes, and it’s hard to imagine that there was a time I used to wear them before. Re-entering society, I have to remind myself that there are no tripwires in the hallway of my home; that there’s no Vietcong waiting patiently for me in my bathroom. The doorbell rings—quick—I hide under the table, criticizing myself for not grabbing the kitchen knife in case “they” break down the door. It’s my children and my wife, thank God. Instead of saying hi, I walk to the front porch to smoke and I return to the war. The war in my head. The same war every day, when I go to the grocery store to buy a pack of meat or the evening when, as I fall asleep, my dead friend whispers into my ear “ Mission failed” and I have to whisper back, “no, fuck this, you’re going to stay alive.”
To others I look normal, hell I even smile when I feel “stable” but inside I’m wondering if you’re going to pull a knife on me or my family, or if you’ll just shoot me in the back. It’s a wonder I managed to keep a wife for a year now and have a couple children, but in reality, I feel far away from them.
And my country says that we deserve respect when the everyday civilian looks down on us, on me, and spits in my face; “baby killer,” murderer,” that’s my reward, being denied jobs, relationships, being denied the moniker of “human being.” And sometimes I believe it; I’m too stubborn for a shrink thought because then I would be admitting defeat.
So, I exist for now, being a father to my son and ignoring the jungle smell that comes up once in awhile; the sound of an m48 tank, when it was really a Chevy truck passing by. When my little boy wants to sit on my shoulders, I pick him up and the jungle comes back to my mind, my friend is dying from a bullet wound and I have to carry him on my shoulders running from death.
“Daddy, you are not moving,” and I wake up, smile and say, “We’ll pretend to be giant monsters today.”