The Recognizable Sky

by Victor D Sandiego | Published: Oct 03, 2023

They call it shrapnel in my head but it’s a needle in my cerebral cortex that stitches my thoughts into patterns I recognize when the meat cleaver opens my heart and kills all the ghosts that hide out there, Doc.

And Doc says we’ll figure it out together, but something outside my perception yammers to come in and I ratchet his words into another cubicle of my mind. Outside, a cloudless day stands erect and birds fill the air.

Wasn’t always like this. Used to walk jungle on lookout for landmines with my sense of direction on full automatic and my ears on the enemy frequency of the day. Wasn’t hanging from the rafters. Now days go bang and my bladder goes busted.

Forget it, says Doc.

Where were you? And a long answer filled with explosives drives itself into my skull where all the rap songs go to die because we ran out of tickets to an understanding.

It no longer seems real. Once upon a time – and Doc says you can’t say that, but I say it anyway – the world flew across my eyes with its rainbows and beauty pageants but then another conflict made everybody cry for retribution and we sailed off to another perfect piece of war. But it was a bill of goods without a payday and we left body parts and goodness face down in a monsoon of muddy fields.

How’s your new job? says Doc, and before I can twitch a finger an animal instinct leaps from my teeth and I make howling noises with my mouth and eyes and Doc jumps back in his chair for a second before he remembers, I suppose, that my cuffs are made of high grade steel.

It’s okay, I mange to mutter, but my leftover sanity has bits of mold stuck to it and I may be in need of a new set of chromosomes soon. After all, every each of us needs a change now and then.

Did you take out the trash? asks Doc and the phone rings.

Yes, he says. Okay. Right away. And the twisted pair of yellow and green covered copper connection runs out the window where I see in the distance a corporal in fatigues with wire cutters poised to end the conversation.

Peace enters the room through the back door and sits next to me. I remember a show on TV when I was a kid where everybody in town wore ugly faces to cover their beauty inside because they feared exposure. At the time, I could relate. At the time, I could see their pain emanating from their bodies and gradually fading into ditches that fed pipes that carried the waste of time and talent to the sea.

That’s a lovely dream, says Doc.

Not a dream, Doc. A screenplay that started false and became true. A tale of retaliation that grew into obsession. A story of young men made mad through the sheer exercise of will. Everybody loved it.

By everybody you mean?

All the closet boys and all the senators that buggered them. All the bankers who sat on thrones made of stocks and bonds. All the teachers who taught that resistance is a recipe for disaster. All the historians who said it can’t happen here, again.

What else did you want?

To stand up and read the dial on the thermostat.

You killed them, says Doc. It wasn’t a question.

Of course. The only cure for an illogical response is another illogical response. Full mag. Otherwise we spend an entire lifetime wondering where we went wrong. Why did we take that left turn in front of the train?

And that’s what it’s all come down to. A series of days.

There was more.

Indeed. A lot of us thought we’d come back whole but that was the optimism of few years and hard dicks. We all read the same books.

A door opened. And another and another. Then they closed as twenty years became thirty and forty turned its back on the suicides to declare them acceptable because sometimes you need to take the easy way out.

You’ll never know the difference if you weren’t there. And with that Doc shuts his mouth and stares through the window as a fleet of canvas trucks pass. When the last one rumbles onto the parade grounds, he bites his lip and offers an apology for his sterile clipboard and his incessant pen. But a job is a job.

Yes, a job. We all have one and mine now is to find out where I left a piece of myself. It’s out there somewhere and maybe I can stitch it back on with the needle in my cerebral cortex that sutures my thoughts into patterns. After all, I still recognize the sky.

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