It’s been a long time coming
It’s going to be a long time gone
But you know that the darkest hour
Is always just before the dawn… Crosby, Stills & Nash –“ Long Time Gone”
Sometimes at night, after the last light has been doused, I panic. I reach into the dark hoping my fingers will brush against something I can hold onto.
I sleep like a drug addict. I don’t know awake from asleep until the dreams start.
Twilight—an open field—pouring rain. Helicopters overhead searching for a landing zone. I am following a white-haired general in a dress uniform. In the middle of the field there’s a gigantic wooden stage, and on the stage, Jimi Hendrix outlined in a blue spotlight. He’s all alone—bobbing up and down, wrenching the tremolo bar on his Stratocaster almost to the breaking point. He’s plugged into a wall of black amplifiers as tall as the New York City skyline, and he’s pulling impossible sounds out of his guitar: machine guns, whistling rockets, bombs bursting in air—“The Star-Spangled Banner” from hell. As we move closer to the stage, we come upon a huge lake of brown mud covered with dead bodies. The general wades in and motions for me to follow. I hesitate. He reaches out grabs my arm and yanks me into the muck. The corpses are lying on their backs, arms straight out from their shoulders, feet together, as if they’ve been posed. I try to tell him that I don’t belong here—that I’m too old—that I can’t look at any more of this shit. But he just points to another body, and shouts, “Sergeant, take a closer look. We’ve got to get a body count.” When I get down on my knees, I notice that all of the dead men are marines with missing faces. Their dog tags are gone. Only the blood-spattered chains remain around their necks. I fall forward, face down in the mire. I cannot breathe.
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