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tommyb

Registrant
(a chapter)

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(Saturday, 24NOV2018)


'Friends were in town. Some off the grid. They had one amongst them who needed to sleep on my couch. 'Didn't mind.

Upon parking his bike and dropping his hiker's backpack and gear, he looked around the apartment, then centered toward the television. "Dude," he says, as he turns his expression back towards me. "You don't have a game system?"

Blue-eyed with curly-blonde hair, twenty-two years of age, a-little-too-skinny, with a maybe-learned countenance of super-friendliness, as if being proudly off-the-grid had made him more grateful toward kindness, he went to take a shower and change clothes.

Opening the large wooden chest at the end of the bed, 'made up the couch with extra linen and blankets, including a folded stack nearby. 'Then 'minced garlic and chopped onion and placed them in warming olive oil in a cast-iron skillet, having no other ideas for supper.

While making risotto from plain white rice, then adding the-good parmesean and the-good black pepper, plus a little milk as cheat, he sits in a wooden chair adjacent to the kitchen and tells his life story. At first it remains a series of adventures and mishaps, while traveling by foot and by-hitchhiking across huge swaths of the American northeast, midwest, and Montana. Then he tells it a second time, more bluntly, with self-effacing deadpans along the way. The he retells it, where everything he did was wrong, and his relatives and friends could do no wrong.

"'Have a neighbor with a PS3 he never uses," 'tell him.

"Is there a GameStop near here?"

'Next morning, cold settles over the mountains, intending the same winter storm that had me concerned concerning him in the first place.

'Should have seen it the night before when we thought to get provisions from the grocery. 'Used to work there, so some are familiar, but mostly 'notice the private expressions that occur, like they're kindly relieved to see a normal dude who seems to do most of the talking, in this bright-eyed, grinning way he has. 'Usually I shop here alone. 'Forgot it was Thanksgiving two days ago.

On the bus the next morning, 'run into known-for-years-neighbors, previous co-workers, and people from groups. The neighbors are formal and official in their socializing, as if pleased with the Jane-Austen-ness of it, while the co-workers have a strong-joking demeanor, reminescent of the bonds formed in hot kitchens during rush-hours, and the trust when sharing heavy labor.

He sits alone on the back row, me perpendicular to him, watching all of us, keeping himself out of it, but for one curious expression, occuring when a Vietnam-era poet-from-my-building reaches out her hand to squeeze mine, as if with knowing, while never bringing up poetry.

At GameStop most games tend to be around seven dollars. He knows everything. I know nothing. He's like a kid in a candy shop.

Next door at the general store, lots of customers know me, while he stays silent, and I do say, "It's been too long..." alot.

Co-workers happen by with confident purpose and glad smiles, usually with something funny to say, playing into whatever dynamics we have, then begin their bard's-like spiel. 'Swear general store workers wouldn't get along so well if there wasn't such constant, intense drama.

Back on the bus, toward the apartment, he seems like he wants to say something.

'Turned away as we sit across from each other, 'having noticed the lack of critiques. There were no policemen or firefighters, giving that look like they want to keep out of my space, while unable to hide a look of astonished pride. There were no guys-my-age randonly aggressively spitting out a self-satisfied critique. It never matters until that moment of small-town-life where you run into them again, when they suddenly have a look of haughty offense, seemingly having accidentally vetted themselves in front of friends and acquaintances. Most are kind, merely wanting me to know they're a ... fan(?).

'Tried to explain once: he responded, "You sure it's not all in your head?" So maybe we're not friends; he was a guy my age, maybe single. Meanwhile, if he can't imagine being a somewhat-known poet in Carolina, there's no explaining it to him. Supppose he was a social worker. Maybe it was tied to his job.

Things were once more blunt: An univited exchange with a co-worker concerning the poetry, or as they call it, the novel, on average goes like this:

"Why don't you just publish it?"

"How do you know about what you're talking about..."

"Why don't you rewrite it so it's written to us instead of them?"

This is usually returned with a look of astoundment.

"I just don't f_cking get it."

'Stop watching the road, and look toward him, as if checking on him.

"People really like you," he says.

He looks at me smiling and genuine, then turns his head away, as if secretly happy for me, maybe recognizing no one has ever said that to me. He turns his features back towards me with anticipation, the snow beginning outside the windows behind him, mountains moving by. He cocks an eyebrow with that same incredulousness as Dakota.

"Dude," he says, with a slight shake of his head. "Where do you go?"

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tommyb

Registrant
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(Saturday, 22DEC2018)


(afternoon)


... the humility of learning land ... 'Can't imagine more human dignity ... being so grounded. Land, outposts, ports, vantage points. Did the Middle East happen only yesterday ... 'Only takes eighteen years for a male or female humanoid born upon the earth to sponge the last five billion, yet where's Kissinger to school a president ... 'Middle East's about strictness, yo ... Who's the stricter ... Muslims, Jews, Sea Peoples, otherwise known as Philistines, otherwise known as Palestinians. Militant strictness. You know ... them ... Jews ... the beginnings and walking seeds of Western Civilization ... When we stepped away from Africa we were not wandering the desert forever. 'Bout quality, yo, when building an economy. Work don't play.

... the largest population of Israelis remain in Israel. The second largest population of Israelis remain in Iran. The space between them ... Syria, Iraq. Upon Obama pulling out of Iraq, Al Qaeda resurges as ISIS, then moves into Syria. 'Such has been going on since the beginning.

... Land, outposts, ports, vantage points ... 'Best on earth's Afghanistan, yo ... Alexander the Great himself couldn't take it. 'Best training ground for soldiers in the world ... Ours ... Or theirs.

'Get why soldiers can go off the grid so easily. The civilian world remains seen-right-through. In all its hypocrisy.

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tommyb

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(Monday, 24DEC2018)


'Don't know which is more important: sobriety or understanding.

Last night, 'emotions did the deed. 'Thought to sleep early. Four beers down. 'Asleep by seven.

'Waking at one two three, four, what effortless meditation. Unfair. Those who take on the most 'can learn a survivor's habit.

To lie to sleep. To witness the mind. 'Allow the clockwork of no escape with humble humanitity. Then no opiate to pay later.

Is there a sterness to life ... When young, youth frees one of individual habits, the truth asserts itself into the present moment. The rest is shaken off.


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tommyb

Registrant
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(Thursday, 10JAN2019)


(dusk)


Is there a butterfly effect ...

Does everything ripple as if water ...

'To think, the learned, the trusted, the priest, offering the sacrifice, then killing, handling the butchery, then directing, ensuring no food bourne illness, back when the words 'food bourne illness' don't exist.

What's sown's reaped ...

'National Emergency up here, apparently ... 'cept it's 'cause of elsewhere. Once, Africa and South America were quite close. Now the north's the closer.

How things change.

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tommyb

Registrant
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(Saturday, 02FEB2019)


'Shifted to a stack of mattresses. In a dark room. Surely of a government building. City noises drift in from the outside, including the exhaust of an eighteen-wheeler, as if from several stories below.

'Shifted to jungle vegetation under a light, steady rain. It remains always dark and wet, even during the day, the clouds lay so low and thick, the suckling mud of the ground remains little-differentiated by the mist in-between. We die constantly. The several-minute-long booms of giant bombs landing far away and the constant cracks of gunfire never distract the skill and focus and concentration it takes to keep alive. It inspires no pride of character because the dying remains constant and right-near and random. There, a friend, there an acquaintance, there, a beloved, soon it will be --

"--If you shift, we'll both be gone," Willahford says over the plat plat of droplets. "We'll be separated."

"These aren't my memories."

"Then what's with Asia?" he says.

"'Of my relatives,' of World War Two."

Shifted to Melvin's truck, a humid, summer day of Wilton all around. "I've joined the Army to become an officer," Poot is saying, turning his countenance, quick, toward me in the passenger's seat, as he drives. "Law school."

Poot's as cool as cool gets. Good-looking enough, not too tall, wiry with an innocent expression that is actually wizened kindness. We are to deliver the grill to Melvin's for a cookout with Poot's sisters. The party is already on, the elderly black women already finding their spots of witness, getting comfortable, where they will be hailed kindly as the community walks by, greeting, and the back lawn fills.

"Wait," Poot says, after turning a tight corner. "Did we lose the grill?"

All his life, Poot stayed good at both basketball and football, even making it into the local sports pages playing for Fike Highschool. To him Wilton is simple, known like the back of his hand. We step out of the truck, find the grill in the grass on the side of the road, then set it on the truck bed.

'Shifted immediately waking from a deep sleep, again atop a stack of four mattresses, only of different colors and textures as before. A sudden de-ja vuos descends of a premature adolescence, suddenly aware of my nakedness, despite the shorts, that fever of lonely passion fearing inevitably there is no way to win this game begun unbeknownst by the worldly, too worldly to realize it's only what's inside that counts. 'Cannot figure out what's been done to me. With a click, a lamp at a desk with a government computer complete with CAC card flicks on. A middle-aged, graying woman glances at me, then begins typing, serious in her work. The typing does not pause as she turns her head and gives me a hard look.

'Shifted to the rainstorm and its low rumblings of thunder or mortar or both. Willahford gapes at me with astonishment. "Why did I try to harm you?" he says, incredulous. "Why did I try to harm you?" he says, yelling now, the rain splashing off of his head and shoulders. "You never took the white people into account once? Not even now that they come in all skin colors? Not once?"

"I'm over thirteen."

He doesn't understand, nor will he ever, maybe, understand what it was like to survive his people. To witness the last of the vestiges. The cop on the phone with Dawn, good-naturedly chuckling over why would any boy admit that ... The church people. The last vestiges of even American body language, merely a trick of the eye when born within their constant propaganda and storytelling. Until all that was left was ... them.

"I'm a cop," Willahford says. "What could I do?"

Melvin seems not sad or embarrassed or confused with worry, but wide-eyed and blinking. He rubs his brown, bald head with the same habit I'll acquire in several years. "I really didn't know where he was," he says, then takes a swig of Seagram's. "Soldiers travel." He smiles, in that I'm-the-older kind of way, almost as if remembering he has a guest, though I arrive regularly for a breakfast of eggs and sausage and rice mixed up with half-a-stick of butter, and have since the three stealthy, wintry weeks of escaping God's Country. Part of the smile remains a habit of etiquette stemming from hundreds of years of our contrasting Southern American skin tones. "Baghdad," he says. "Just as the war began. Everyone in his unit was killed by a blast except him and another guy. They kicked down doors. Shot everything that moved. Even pets. It took a long time to reach another unit."

'Could shift away from Willahford and the wretched drenching, as my brother taught incidentally as I chased him, and he arrived on the other side of an ocean pummeling the back porch. Secretly Willahford remains sorely missed. Same as with my brother, 'have no control or influence over his arrivals or absences. Plus running into her seems a dire risk: the pulsating heartbeats pressed with the anxiety of want, the tender aggression, even obscenities, as opponents become implicated, impossibly believing time can be made up, as the bone-crushing becomes an earthquake of haunting happiness and gratefulness for one's birth. Always with the same soundtrack, of not only her, but the sobs of weeping coming from an adjacent room. Sometimes a more intense version will stay overplayed, her overly not-lazy in bed, us overly endowed with the essential necessities, until the awful shift to a bed absent her.

"Hey, Ben ..." Poot says, as he does every night we run into each other at the all-night bodega. His expression remains cheery, unapologetic, as if all is understood. Poot's usual routine became fixed and unwavering for a few years, at least. His mornings began at dusk, followed by a drive or walk or cab ride to one of the many official or unofficial juke-joints or clubs frequented by African Americans. The juke-joints were in the country. The clubs, citified. At each he had a usual girl. All night he spent in bed with her, at what some locals called "his day's work," sometimes taking a break and walking to the same bodega near my place, to buy beer. Due to my immaturity and lack of experience there remains little ability for more conversation, only the mutual acknowledgement of a long-gone time before the war and his heroics. We hung out regularly, being the only youngin's present at the get-togethers with Melvin's friends and their wives or girlfriends. He would find me humorously astounding, while I stayed around his high-class-ness and listened to his stories of an early-twenties I would obviously never live out while feeling I was supposed to be. "I like knowing when I'm at A&T you're around," he told me once, finally alluding to our quiet storyboard of brotherhood. At the bodega's counter, he sets the bottles and smiles at my 7-up's, knowing they're for the bottle of Seagrams kept under my kitchen sink, as Poot directed, as opposed to the fridge, "Where others will see it and ask you for some."

"Great to see you," he says.

'Shifted to the click click of typing from the corner. On the other side of a counter, a young-looking, middle-aged Marine files papers in the dark.

'Slid to the edge of the four mattresses. 'Then stand up, barefoot on cold tile, shirtless, unsure, only now aware of my pounding heartbeat. The noises of the building can barely be heard but for the plop plop of footsteps in an otherwise empty government hallway near us. 'Look to the Marine, now in civies, confused of the next move.

"With all you've been through," he says, his countenance merely glancing at mine as he continues filing. "You can stand there as long as you want."

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tommyb

Registrant
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(Monday, 04FEB2019)


"And your mother," the social worker says with her holistic approach, before looking at her pad. Her office stays shaded, with overcast outside the one window, plus it's easier for her to use her computer. "...Dawn, thought you were attempting suicide?"

'Nodded.

"She could hear you downing pills through the phone?"

'Nodded.

"If talking to your mom on the phone causes you to relapse, why did you call her?"

"'I didn't. She called me."

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tommyb

Registrant
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(Tuesday, 05FEB2019)


"All hospitals, whether VA or not, have purchasing agents," she says. "Negotiating with vendors. The vendors want you as a customer. We ask, what can you do for us? We even negotiate shipping and handling ...

"Vendors want you to go with their products, due to quota. And their quotas rise regularly. They match their quota, they keep their jobs. It's very stressful, as I understand it ...

"If the veteran has insurance, the VA charges the insurance company first. The insurance companies are supposed to, naturally, negotiate for lower prices, or at least are supposed to, and the market takes care of itself ...

"When Obama was in, veteran-owned businesses were considered preferred. But after awhile it became obvious that -- for example, one business bought the same insulin for thirty dollars a pop, then upon the VA's ordering, sent it and made their profit off the shipping and handling -- well anyone can do that. Since it went so against the actual free market, whether barter or trade or paper money or what have you, now under Trump, that seems to be slowly going away ...

"The VA uses an FSS list to order their supplies ... I'm not sure which style of negotiation is better ... The private sector's big hospital chains or our FSS list system ... It used to be, where there was a shortage or a surplus, the VA and the private hospital would -- let's say the hospital has too much insulin, which they paid fifty dollars a pop, and the VA has a shortage, so we take fifty bottles, and now we owe the hospital the difference. That doesn't happen anymore because the VA would take months to pay, due to bureaucracy, so that the private hospitals went away from doing that ... "

"Do you think maybe ... the private hospitals, suppliers, and insurance companies might be in cahoots ... Like it's better for the medical industrial complex to keep prices high, because in the end the insurance companies can always force the extra cost upon the consumer ... "

She pauses. " ... That's what I think."

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tommyb

Registrant
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(Wednesday, 06FEB2019)


'Swear the young psychologist looks for psychological reasons to explain me. 'Consider it a lack of imagination.

"And in Basic," she continues. "You overheard a group of privates saying something similar. That they had noticed the beauty of the land around them had heightened?"

'Nodded.

"And when we put you on sleep meds, the lucids are even more intense, but they last about seven hours without interruption?"

'Nodded.

"As opposed to an hour-and-a-half, then another hour of laying there, then repeat ..."

'Nodded.

"And you've been using alcohol to balance out the sleep for about seven years ..."

'Nodded.

No one ever knows what's going on with me. Meanwhile I vet with my too-much-information. 'Better that Darryell stayed out of it: two soldiers using their security clearances to threaten American lives, while the other uses his security clearance to keep them alive ... better Darryell stayed out of it.

Willahford and Royal trying to do harm didn't cause anger. 'Wasn't time. 'Didn't flinch or bat an eye, neither. 'Doesn't matter what the harm was, or would've been. They failed. 'Royal still insists he never had a choice. 'Knew it would take about a year. Hopefully, even making them innocent of having been deeply unAmerican. 'Took sixteen months, instead.

What harmed the most occurred unexpected: the sadness of their marriages ... If that's what happened to them, then .... Sure Willahford was needy, 'didn't understand he'd be wordly and lying and successful til the day he dies, never catching on I could tell he was lying. Sure Royal always would say, What I learned in college was .... 'Cept everything after that was incorrect, but you couldn't correct him because it was what he learned in college. Thing is, if necessary, 'would've paid more.

" ... And you lasted three days, then used an upper so as not to call in, then had to break it with a six pack after work?"

'Nodded.

"And you've been on this lack of sleep meets uppers meets alcohol whirlwind for about four months?"

'Nodded.

"And now, for the last few night you've managed to fall asleep without alcohol?"

'Nodded.

"Let's find a date for your next appointment ..."

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tommyb

Registrant
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(Wednesday, 20MAR2019)


"How do you exist?" he says with a smile, his gear on his shoulder, about to step out the door. "Maybe I'll check on you sometime."

The ones half-off-the-grid come and go due to ever-changing mountain weather. Many are super-Christians, or super-vegans, or super-somethings; few exemplify the Into The Wild once planned for sometime in my twenties.

'Do the healing with a modus operandi of chiding without causing sensitivity, joking without causing offense, demanding conversation stay connected to reality. Sometimes it's the same as God's Country, where the strong one is the generous one, everyone else remains about-themselves, and spaces of having the place to one's self become important. Many are lost male youths, sensitive to the idea they haven't yet seen through all man-made things with their own virgin, un-harmed eyes, seeing there's nothing new under the sun, seeing in hind-sight every sin ever committed. The thirty-somethings require more discipline, being set in their ways, needing to be treated as respectable adults by age alone, while wary of their pasts.

"No, it's a theory of Frued's" a young transient said once with proud accomplishment. "It's why you can't leave a boy in a family of women. They'll do him as much harm as possible due to pen_s envy."

"Not across the board. Even if it is regular."

"This from the one who's getting to Judgement Day innocent of having left a child alone with a female."

He must've come from a similar world as my beginnings. 'Cept God's Country remained always a blatant lie supported with Christian sinful pride by the community. Even to the point of laughing aloud, alone in the brick apartment, June first, 2004.

The tough females tend to keep things smooth. Already reactive to the idea of being expected to sleep with someone, their full-on aggressiveness holds charm. "There's no getting at you," one commented as I attempted roasting peppers in a toaster oven. 'Never knew where she was coming from.

Only one was beautiful. 'Cept once she began to move and speak upon entering the doorway, her beauty paled in comparison. Most with the necessary resources have already succumbed to the commitment to hustling, especially by their thirties. This one seemed to have a secret her own, some sort of fortune stashed away, of which she never alluded.

"In another time and place, huh," she sighed to me once, us alone, relaxed on the couch watching the storm through the enormous windows. "Maybe we'll run into each other."

She seemed to take a certain complement by the way I'd straighten up when she came near, to the disdain of her traveling companions, three of whom stayed elsewhere on the cold nights, another who seemed jealous, all to the detriment of any male comradery. 'Didn't get why anyone would take it personal, the natural body language between people who already have futures of their own, without the other.

One young, confidant male, accustomed to traveling in the company of aging homosexuals due to his "angelic face," stayed awhile. He refused to sleep, or whatever, with any of them, enjoyed the room and board nonetheless, and insisted no one can make anyone do anything they didn't want to do. With exorbitant passion he continued: "Even the act of buying something over a counter. There is a clerk. You're the customer. It is a human interaction as meaningful as any other." 'Something to do with him hiding out off-the-grid, protected from wanting females by his homosexual crowd, until he could see the big picture for what it was. Apparently his single-mother didn't love him enough to discipline him, though he never actually said, then covered herself by turning on him during an adolescence lacking of industriousness but brimming with entitlement and girlfriends only after his sex. 'Never could make sense of him.

With the season having announced its change by way of regular, cloudless blue-blue skies, the warming weather has left one transient, with a female arriving on the cold nights. He paid three-hundred up front, stopped whatever hippie-habit kept him reeking, and took photographs of everything and anything, hoping to one day start a print business. Now he lays on the couch, listening to the Bible read aloud from a recording, seeming to worry about money, upcoming court-dates around the country, and having just turned thirty. The female hails from the super-Christian group, charming enough, holding to the idea of being a life-long traveler, though with the theme of evangelism.

"What are you going to do in a couple weeks," she says, as I finish rearranging the plants, having added a ten pot herb garden with peppers and radishes to spare. "When we're all gone?"

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tommyb

Registrant
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(Friday, 24APR2019)


Notre Dame burns over the week of Easter....

"In view of the order and harmony of all nature...." Lincoln says to his Springfield, Illinois tailor, James W. Keyes. "It would have been more miraculous to have come about by chance, than to have been been created and arranged by some great thinking power."

Religion remains an attempted mirror, trying to get it across in time; maybe remember that instance born when the word became flesh....


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