How I missed the war

I get a lot more done when Peggy is away because her presence is a distraction. During this absence, I’ve been roofing our new deck during the day and making crackers and soups at night. When I’m working in the kitchen, I watch films one after the other. Tonight, I watched two war documentaries. The first was The Corporal’s Diary, which was about an American soldier who died in Iraq, and the second was Heroes of Iwo Jima. In a few minutes, I’ll go to bed and continue my nightly reading of a newly-released book entitled Survivor: Auschwitz, the Death March, and My Fight for Freedom, which is surely the last first-person account of a Nazi death camp that the world will ever see.

When I was younger, I sometimes experienced regret that I had never gone to war because I saw it as a rite of passage like no other, and because it enables men to bond closely with other men. Yet, I went to great lengths to avoid the only war I had a chance at. I’m not sure whether I did this because I thought that only suckers voluntarily went to Vietnam, or because I had no stomach for any war. I suspect the former because, unlike World War II, which made at least a little sense to me, and during which those who didn’t fight were viewed with suspicion, I never felt the least inner desire or societal pressure to go to Vietnam, although I felt a lot of pressure from the draft board, which was forever eliminating my latest exemption in what seemed like a cat and mouse game with me being the mouse. When it seemed as if the cat finally had me cornered, my doctor wrote to the draft board saying that I had passed several kidney stones, so I was reclassified from 1A (kiss your ass goodbye) to 4F (we wouldn’t draft a worthless fucker like you no matter what) for a year, and by the time that year ended, the war was winding down. I was surprised to learn that I had suffered from kidney stones, but I wasn’t about to argue.

Tonight, as I cried my way through Heroes of Iwo Jima, I glanced over at Brewsky and was startled to discover that he was watching me with an expression of consternation unlike any I had ever seen in him, and I knew it was because he didn’t understand my tears. I very much wanted to tell him what was going on for me, but how does one describe feelings about war to a cat? Not very well, I shouldn’t think. When the war films were over, I watched another documentary, The Cruise, which was about a NYC tour bus guide. This guy had depth, honesty, creativity, sensitivity, eloquence, and a unique world-view, which is to say that he was everything I would like to be when I’m around people but am not. Of course, it’s a lot harder to be all those things given that I mostly avoid people. Like this morning, I got to feeling lonely, what with Peggy being gone, so, it being Sunday, I thought about either visiting the new Unitarian Church or calling someone about getting together, but I decided against either because they seemed like too much work. That decision being out of the way, my friend Cliff called to ask if he could come over, but I didn't answer the phone. About an hour later, I called him back, and we took a walk. It was good, but there’s such a wide gap between myself and others that I sometimes think about seeing people in the same way I think about taking medicine. I know it’s good for me, but it’s not altogether pleasant, although it can sometimes be very pleasant indeed, which is another parallel between people and drugs.