Black American Bedtime

My wife walks down the hall and asks me to put my hand in her pocket.

I comply.

She's asking what the day has given -- more specifically "If [I] know what [I] have been given?" For all the fresh air, unlimited clothes drying on the line, and the beauty of a sand yard.

Ummm... I try to tell her that I am grateful. "I even collected the spiders (with a vacuum using your lingerie,) See?"

She wants to see the jar where I put the spiders. It's a Vlassic jar that once housed salt, garlic, "natural spices" and pickles. "That's good. That's very fine work, Lester."

I left little air holes.

She takes me to the bathroom and adds bubbles. A rubber ducky comes out and we squeeze it together. For a minute, our hands clasp and we squeeze the yellow duck into a small and deformed version of himself. The yellow rubber ducky continues to smile and wifey goes for a fresh towel.

I scrub behind the ears like a big boy. I'm not afraid to get my hair wet and lean back to where the water comes over.

Then I'm in a Fallujah bunker, again. We are all supposed to pretend that we are corpses, back down in our own pits, waiting for the ear horn. There are no hills in parts of the desert. We had to improvise but the targets were late.

No one blares the ear horn. The volley of shots goes back and forth and then the enemy combatant takes fire moments after he has released the safety pin in his grenade.

Everything goes boom!

 "Does Lester need to make a boom boom?"

I get it. Can't quite control the things my mouth says and how my body moves. I'm in a head aquarium and just tapping on glass. It's a shock value for the body. Like the muscles and speech simply will go away. Just go away.

Margarett has those hollow eyes, the ones that saw God in the night and can't explain the meeting on the hill. Or else she's sleepless. The Army pays better for bereavement and lost limbs. They can't quite put a number on Shell Shock. Her head is thicker than mine. I feel like floating.

There is no romance left when I try to pitch forward. A Registered Nurse for this situation is not on the menu. My dad said he would drive up from Arizona and do the duty. If I could feel it, I would want to die.

How does coffee still smell in the morn? Does it pry through the places that get hard in the night? Does it warm the gullet or scald the smile? I can't remember. Margarett is on double strength.

For fun, we drive over to the Veteran Affairs hospital at least twice a week. Since the national discussion of free health care and Hilary, I'm told that the Army doctors have gotten better. Don't know. No point of comparison for me. I got my Shell Shock late in life, 24.

I think it's been five years but everyone has the same amount of candles after the cake starts looking like a battlefield. Those twisty yellow, red and white swirled candles? They look like dead guys that don't know they're dead. Half the people in combat who get shot actually stand for a few breaths of air. Some forget they were just candles and try to flicker.

The body is robust. The body is infinitely capable.

Margaret passes me the remote but I am literally too stupid to realize if I want Sesame Street or the Wall Street Journal. Thoughts come later after the feelings. The mind needs time to adjust. The arms and legs do what they want to do. Sometimes I look like a happy seal just flapping.

Viktor Frankl once got random people on his therapist's couch and asked: "Why don't you kill yourself?"

He didn't hand them a gun or a knife He wasn't asking them if they were failures. Instead, he cut through the years of self-pity and asked 'What do you need to do in this life?'


I need to get out of this encasement, the fog, the "L" word. "la.t.." lad-n... latency? Yes. That is the correct word because someone said it aloud. Some time ago.

I will remember my muscles

I will complete all the stretches

I will suck up any complications

I will take care of her. My Margaret.

I will


Baby like? Baby-ism. That "I" word is long. (infantilism.) That's me, a second round as a three years old. If Margaret could get the good times again, I know she would see the beauty in our arrangement. She always wanted kids.

I'd take her dancing. She'd put her hand in my hand, instead of my hand in her pocket. We'd hit that prom-styled dance floor and just ignore everyone else. She'd look up into my eyes. She'd look up. To my eyes.


It's really not Margaret's fault that she is a single mother wife. Like a good soldier she waited 4 years.

In fact, she still waits. The men have to come to the door because 

Registered nurses do not babysit at $6 an hour. 

I think she's found a steady. He sells Oldsmobile and wants nothing to do with war. I like that he brings over Flowers, even if they are from a convenience store. My wife adjusts the volume to the television to be very loud.

Loud is very good in this situation. Though it's only so pleasant to hear the familiar creak of the box springs.. someone is getting life.

I am just so grateful when sleep comes. Even if there is a howling, tensive, anger — I know that Margaret will stop *whatever* she's doing. Because that's what a single mother wife has to do.

She rocks me to sleep and still waits 20 minutes to make sure it takes. She smells like a girl again. Her pleasant cooing is happy, alas. 

Do fish know that the ocean is so large? Do fish have any feelings before they get swallowed.

November 28, 2022 22:19

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Wendy Kaminski
00:37 Nov 29, 2022

Wow, the imagery you've captured in this is so powerful and both heartbreaking and at times hopeful. I especially found the candle comparison compelling and thought-provoking. Some of my Guardianship wards are also veterans; thank you for giving them a voice and putting a face to some of the many the issues they must endure. Respect.


01:21 Nov 29, 2022

Thank you ,Mrs Wendy.


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00:07 Nov 29, 2022

Thank you Scott c.


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13:47 Dec 12, 2022

I'm very sorry to have been away. I come back and there is such beauty from the people here. Thank you for exploding my day. I'll tell Mr. C Day that I learned whatfor "the heartbeats for it knows not what."


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Edward Latham
12:51 Dec 08, 2022

This was a whirlwind of imagery that really allowed me to understand what Lester was feeling, and that is, after all, a main aim of writing, so well done!


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Rebecca Miles
09:53 Dec 04, 2022

If this is what you can write after just one class I can only say this: ditch the classes and just write! Moving, raw, imagery to communicate what Lester has been through and is going through. I'm following you right now!


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E. B. Bullet
19:31 Dec 03, 2022

This is HEAVY, but I think you masterfully brought it together. The voice of who Lester used to be and who he is now intertwine throughout the narration and it's a fascinating, heartbreaking read. Except it doesn't feel heartbreaking for Lester, like he doesn't have the capacity to feel that deeply about his situation. Incredible work!


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Michał Przywara
23:11 Nov 29, 2022

This is fantastic. Very strong voice, and a powerful sense of being stuck, of being kind of dazed, numb. Fighting inertia. Others pointed out lines like, "I'm in a head aquarium and just tapping on glass." Rightfully so, great image. Lots of the language here is great. The struggle with "infantilism", the "I will" mantra. Musings on Frankl. Bodies forgetting they're candles. It's a fight to come back to life. I don't think I've read this POV before. Moving, thought provoking. Thanks for sharing!


04:19 Nov 30, 2022

That's high praise. Thank you for being so encouraging.


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Liv Chocolate
07:16 Nov 29, 2022

"I'm in a head aquarium and just tapping on glass." This line is everything. Beautifully written. Looking forward to read more of your work.


07:53 Nov 29, 2022

Thank you Ms. Chocolate.


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Delbert Griffith
01:11 Nov 29, 2022

This is a well-written, heart-breaking story that just invades the soul and grabs it with both fists. The ugly/beautiful thoughts peppered my senses and left me a little disoriented; the imagery was so potent that it made me dizzy. You, sir, are an author. Nicely done!


01:25 Nov 29, 2022

That's very giving. I've only had one class. I'm no author. Thank you for making a guy feel beautiful.


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