* * *
When we were younger and in high-school Andy and I would sit next to each other on the bus and share earbud headphones as we listened to classical guitar music and Pearl Jam. It was routine. When we both became comfortable with our high-school social surroundings we started bringing our guitars to school. We would practice trading off blues solos in our English teacher’s classroom during lunch. We knew we weren’t awesome or anything but our English teacher enjoyed it and eventually asked us to perform a live version of Juanes’s ‘A Dios Le Pido’ for a huge Pan American Student Forum conference in San Antonio.
This was a big deal to us, so we asked our friend Serg to join as a 2nd rhythm guitarist with me on lead. We began to rehearse and as the focused after school guitar practices unraveled into a blur we knew we had the song down. It would be our first time playing in front of a crowd of that size, but we were excited.
The week of the conference came and at the height of it all my Spanish teacher called me into her classroom and told me I couldn’t go on the school trip because I was flunking her class. Serg had to learn the leads and I had to stay behind. It was ok though because they brought the house down, but I did feel their disappointment in me. To make up for it I told myself i’d somehow find a way to overcome it and eventually play to a larger crowd to prove to myself I wasn’t a failure. They told me I was stupid and to let it go, so I did.
* * *
Last night I experienced a nightmare that disrupted me into consciousness. What I dreamt about felt meaningless, but my heart was shivering and kept me from sleep, so I decided I would start reading a new book. I turned on my light and began War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning by Chris Hedges. The main idea is basically in the title, but an ember of prose in the intro seemed to hover around what i’m presuming to be one of the burning, major themes: the idea that pain and suffering has the tendency to lead many into a state of hyper self-awareness. It echoes what Dostoyvesky displayed throughout much of his canon, which is a trope in literature i’ve grown to enjoy. The intro went on. Conflict, or ‘war’ can ‘give us purpose, meaning, a reason for living’ and essentially make the redundancies of our every day lives absolutely trivial and meaningless (Hedges 3). I closed the book and then took a warm shower while trying to remember the dream I’d already forgotten.
* * *
Through the looking glass I could see it was sunny outside. Young girls in tight blouses were walking in groups of twos and threes and their loop earrings would coruscate in the wind. It looked nice. I was inside though. Air-conditioning and the electric stale of florescent light was beating out the natural light in the corner of the building I was in, but I was in good spirt. A student sat down and waited for tutoring, so I smiled and sat down next to him. He was wearing a cap and an old black t-shirt and had an American eagle tattoo on his forearm. Each of the eagle’s wings was patterned and colored with stars and stripes. He was a veteran of the Iraq war and before I knew it I was involved in a tense tutoring session. He was writing a paper on the roots of his family tree, but he repeatedly dodged the subject, finding enthusiasm only in telling me about his physical war wounds. This scar, he’d say, is from a bullet. I’d point at others. A sharpnel scar. A marking where his wrist bone snapped and tore through his skin. He would laugh nervously about them and stare me in the eyes. He symbolized his wounds with a myriad of memories- memories of pain and hate, but also with the meaningful familial relationship he said he developed with his troops in Iraq. Although I was intrigued with his stories, I had to put an end to the awkward skirmish surmounting between us as a result of me trying to get him to focus. We shook hands and I sat down to help the next student.
* * *
I came home later in the afternoon and tossed my keys onto the countertop next to the morning newspaper. I usually read it in the afternoon when I get home, so I shuffled it around to read the text while I leaned on the counter. On the front page was a headline about a soldier from Brownsville who was slain in Iraq. I looked at the photo and stood up. I recognized the blocky head underneath the camo garb. It was Andy. When we were younger and in high-school him and his brother used to take me to and from school in their small red pick-up truck. Sometimes on the way home we would stop at a panaderia that was near a church to grab some sweet bread and milk. I read through the article about Andy and found out that his older brother eventually became a Priest, but that he couldn’t finish the interview with the reporter. He reportedly fades out, not finishing his thoughts.