I returned home from a trip to Georgia just in time to watch the breaking news online as the last US troops left Iraq and closed the gate behind them. Closed that rust white symbol of the end of a war. It never made it to the top of the “news pulse” on CNN’s website, which seemed about right to me. My girlfriend is gone back to Mississippi for the holidays and I found myself alone in my apartment and jet lagged. I had a party with all of my dead friends last night, we drank and danced and they told me about what could have been, that they wished they could live my life, simple. I told them that I wished we could be together and they laughed and sang, “Only the good die young…you stupid sonovabitch.” When we had had too much to drink they began to lay into me for bitching about their sacrifice on a blog as the highlight of my day, that some things were not for me to say.
They closed that rusty gate and America keeps on trucking. My grandmother wrote on a link I had posted that we should have never been there in the first place. Usually such bland sentences make me want to choke a random person but I remember that it is the grandmothers of the fallen who have to continue on and that the way she feels is a sort of genetic transference from mothers and grandmothers that must date back to the beginning of time. “Why do these men go off to die when we spent so much time raising and loving them?” I hear her heart.
Alone in a cold apartment with imaginations of people who were once as real as me and they whisper at me to stay away. “Go to school!” they all yelled at me. And they are young forever but this war is over and I will not be for long. I found myself thinking, that at least there is still Afghanistan so that my service will have some sort of prolonged relevance to American society but I remember that it never did in the first place. I pick up the phone in 2003 and my dad is back from his reporting of the initial invasion of Iraq, and he will make my high school graduation. I think about all of the parents who went to their son's high school graduations to send them off soon to die and their story was always the same as mine. Some shrink will be forever questioning what I mean when I say that I don’t want to feel better about it, this is how I keep them with me, in a haunting feeling I let ferment, the feeling of the death of a good friend. “It meant something to me grandma!” I want to yell, but who is listening?
I will clock into work tonight and clock out when I am done. The dead dancers have left my building again with a message, “It is always like this, it was always like this. Now go home kid!” No words will fill in between the lines, no tears will resurrect anything other than a void and no news coverage means any more to a stranger than it does to me. I will wake in the morning cold to light a smoke and I will remember when you will not. The only thing that has changed is someone’s son does not have to die in Iraq tomorrow.