Image of Viet Nam Soldier (name unknown)
For My Dear Friend, Ed
The other day I bought a bottle of cologne at a discount store. There were so many to choose from, after a while, they all started smelling like toxic fumes. I decided I liked words better than smells, so, I chose a “title” that grabbed me. It had a cheeky name and the stuff was supposed to smell like some dewy country singer. I don’t like country music per say, but I liked the name of “her” fumes. Marketing sells, even cleverly titled stink water has a soul I suppose. The name of her aromatic swamp water product was “soul 2 soul” it grabbed me, it smelled as good as any of the others, so, I was shamelessly seduced me into shelling out a few dollars to smell like some long legged blond yodeling in her cowboy boots. Just like every other poor slob at Wally world, I bought something I didn’t need or care about because it was cleverly marketed, this made me feel all American, it did. As stupid as this sounds, the trashy name possessed me for hours. Soul 2 Soul, yes, I like this. I shall think about this. I shall spray myself down with Soul 2 Soul after my bath, before Poppa arrives in the evenings, and before bed every night, yes I will! I will smell like a young blond folksy songbird in my cheeky cologne, I’m feelin’ it, I am!
Sometimes, the smallest silliest dalliances turn out to be evocative railways into the soul. Soul 2 Soul stink water made me begin to consider my friends and lovers over the decades of my life. How brief our togetherness had been, yet, how stoutly the memories have endured the ravages of time. Only yesterday, an old friend and lover called me up on the phone, he walked out of a long and lengthy mist of time in order to do the deed.
He explained that he was freshly released from prison and that he was at the Veterans Center twenty miles away and soon to be homeless. This man is a highly decorated Viet Nam Veteran. As an eighteen year old kid, he carried bleeding soldiers from the fiery jungle under heavy fire fighting. He has an honorable soul; he did not leave that soul back in Viet Nam, it is still his soul, no matter what has transpired over the last four decades.
He and I were once “soul 2 soul” He used to recite poetry to me and tell me that I was beautiful. His kisses were damp and fleshy. His skin glistened darkly and his eyes were warm and knowing. He was full of desire and kindness.
He was not a bad man then; he is not a bad man now, Ed couldn’t ever be a bad man. So, how had he managed to end up with a “rap sheet” about a mile long for nothing more than copious shoplifting and vagrancy charges over the past thirty years? I guess life is hard for him in ways that I can never know, in ways that I can never understand?
I’ve asked him of course, I have asked him many times, I have visited him in prison too. He has never failed to keep in touch, he and my husband share the same birthday, if he doesn’t call that day, or on Veterans Day, we know that he is in prison.
He has been to our house, he has met our children, and he has even stayed here a few cold nights when he had nowhere else to eat or sleep. Soon, he moves on and the years pass, if I don’t hear from him, I check the prison mug shots and there he is, with each new incarceration, there is an older, paler version of the glistening man that I once knew.
We don’t always speak of it when he calls, but, he and I both know that the brutality of his war time experiences sent him home with more than lapels splattered with ribbons of valor and sleeves weighted with medals. There are terminal storms inside of him, moment to moment thunder crashes and lightning flashes that split his reality; there are ongoing jungle battles, where limp bloody boys dangle from his youthful arms and die on his shoulders, on his chest, Soul 2 Soul.