Part Two of Armistice Day reveals a boy who never wore the uniform and who fought his own war for too long…Armistice has been a long time in coming
I woke up in a red telephone booth. A guy name Tommy was kicking me and it hurt like hell. It was also light outside. Tommy, a Chinese guy who sold heroin and crack but only on the phone, apparently thought I was killing his business by passing out in his “office” – you fucking monkey junkie he kept saying. I couldn’t really argue, hell I couldn’t speak, for the blood and the ache behind my eyes.
I had no idea what had happened after I left the bar but I must have called Tommy and begged him for some dope. There might have been a woman involved. A redhead. Maybe not.
I stumbled down Commercial into a drizzle and a rolling sense of despair that yet again here I was, long past the best years, not yet at the end and still just wasting time looking for something that felt like peace but given my way of doing it, tieing off and blacking out, it was always a matter of taking out yet another mortgage on a barren nights sleep in a land where dreams died aborning and the rent was never was fully paid. I could always stay but I could never leave with the price of my seeking a hollow sound, a howling, in my head that gave me no peace at all.
Up ahead I saw obelisk and a bunch of old timers in full drag-no wait, they were in full uniform, blue and brown, watch caps and full dress, and red poppies in every lapel. Talking quietly they were somehow arranged in loose formation, flowers in hand, tears and laughter, an inevitable head count and younger generations in tow, some willingly, some less so, but all respectful enough on a lousy wet morning in november.
Armistice Day is what it was. I saw an old friend, a writer and his family. A guy whose father, a captain of a destroyer in The War who had recently died, and whose loss was both painful and a relief, was lost in thought as he stood holding hands with his daughter and his partner. He was a gentle, somewhat driven soul, a good friend to me until I stole his money and lied straight-faced too many times, a guy who was lost in how to help someone who said he knew the way home but was so clearly lost that there were no words left to describe it. Better to walk away. When he looked up and saw me he did just that as if death was palpable in the rain, in this place and no poppy or poetry would transform his pain into art or forgiveness at that moment.
I turned down the block towards my house, trying best I could to stand upright, to walk with purpose, to somehow honor the fallen, the memory of my father and his principles, my uncle and his horrors on Guadalcanal, my own dreams of combat heroism, and my own eventual refusal to fight in an unjust war, all of it a mess inside me. A roiling stew of loss and anger and dreams gone missing in rain soaked clouds, dope and whiskey, I recognized, maybe for the first time the principles of my childhood and ideas of standing tall had been sold for a twenty dollar rock and that since that day I was in search of my own peace, my own cease fire, an armistice of a very different sort, but a cessation of hostilities that might finally bring quiet to my nights and the possibility of an end to the destruction of my days.
I had been no warrior but it often seemed to me as if I had been with Odysseus, battered on the way home for a long long time. Emily from next door, was maybe 11 at the time. She came up to me as I walked up to my house, and smiled a hello, and told me there was no school that day. It was Armistice Day. She said she was going to get ice cream with her dad when he came back from work. What kind of ice cream did I want? I told her chocolate or coffee. She said she would remember and said thanks and went inside.
I fell asleep to sound of bugles far off playing Taps in the rain and children laughing in the park and when many hours later I was awakened by a knock on the door I realized I had been dreaming about chocolate ice cream in a sugar cone and a red haired girl with green eyes from a long time ago.
All Photos courtesy of Author. ©Michael Lebowitz