The wrong theme at the wrong time.
Prelude and Overture.
We sat around for about a half an hour before anything even remotely
interesting happened. In all of the times that I had been forced to sit
around waiting for something to happen prior to this there had always been a
common thread of urgency in the air. A sort of public idea that you were
waiting for whatever it was to happen so that important things could go on,
that life could move forward and all would be in order and right with the
world. Typical southern California day with bright sun, cloudless sky, and
the promise of decent surf should I feel like going later. The thought
crossed my mind, that much I remember. Surfing versus standing in front
of the base chapel in summer whites and waiting for the doors to open so we
can attend a funeral.
Nearly all of the people here representing some seventy-five percent of the
command are enlisted personnel. This is appropriate since we are after
all burying one of our own. Most of the officers know better than to show
up, still a few like Matt's division officer, the Maintenance officer and
his Chief are here. Scattered in the crowd of seventy or so are a handful
of Chiefs making the rounds through small knots of somber faced charges.
The doors finally open and the crowd slowly drifts into the building like
slow dust. For me, this is something that I do not particularly want to do
but I am doing it anyway at the behest of two other people. I do not like
funerals, (actually I hate them with the white hot intensity of a thousand
suns,) simply because of the way that they always run down at the end. In
all honesty I hate to sound like a clod, but I can't stand denominational
funeral or memorial services. They're gone, let it go and swallow the
I do not deal well with people dying.
Something unsuitable to fill the void.
Silence pervades the small and dusty patio in front of Pete's barracks
room on MCAS Tustin. Far enough from Los Angeles that you don't lose
your mind yet close enough that you can still lose it for a weekend if that
is what you really want. Slowly scraping the grit underneath his right foot
into a series of parallel lines, Pete and I are staring at the fading sun
and waiting for one another to speak. Both of us are very much aware of why
I am there and why neither of us speaks into the warm summer evening air. I
arrived and he silently motioned me onto the patio to where we have been
standing in silence since, a mixture of apprehension and tact muffling what
we both know.
"Suicide." Pete says solemnly, looking up from his labors in the sand
toward the squat shape of a CH-53E passing in the distance. The low thrum
from the seven-bladed rotor head growls just above the audible level making
it loud enough to be a temporary distraction from this odd little catharsis
and nothing more. "Dumbass."
"Eric told me." I mention quietly, remembering the face of the dead man.
Pete, Eric and I had been classmates through school, along with the man
who's name I cannot bring myself to mention. "Went home after that JAG
investigation started and did himself."
"What a dumb fucker." Pete laughs quietly at the enormity of the situation.
He looks like Henry Rollins only slightly shorter and more intimidating.
I have seen Pete angry twice and wished both times that I hadn't been around
despite the fact that I was not the target of his wrath.
"Thought you ought to know." Flatly without remorse, we dance on the edge
"I don't know Yurei, should've expected it." Pete says winding through
"Somebody." Softer now, barely audible behind the droning sound of rotors
on the apron a full mile away. "If it wasn't Dave, it would have been
Try and run now, your feet nailed through the floor.
Second Overture and Finale.
The commanding officer is halfway through his speech mainly made
up of things that someone told him about Matt. That he was a good guy, an
asset to the command, a promising sailor. Some officers make stock speeches
at funerals because they believe it will garner them more respect from the
troops, as if the Pope were to stoop down and kiss a few children here and
there. On the other hand, the vast minority take the time to write
something original and then attempt to sound sincere while doing it, not
like the man standing in front of the seated white uniforms scattered
throughout the church. This one sounds like he is late for another meeting
and could really care that Matt died accidentally while off duty, could
really care that up until about ninety-six hours ago was a living human
being. It occurs to me that this particular officer is probably more
worried about the fact that he still has to figure out how to put the right
spin on the accident that killed Matt so it won't look too bad on his next
fitness report. The woman sitting next to me weeps softly and keeps digging
her nails into the polyester fabric covering my knee providing sharp
punctuation to the lies being spewed forth from the pulpit. I look around
and notice several others bristling in the same way, the faces all saying
the same thing.
We've had enough now. We do not deal well with people dying. This guy
was our friend, more than that he was a human being. Denigrating him to the
point where he becomes a fallen martyr and then hoping that we won't
notice isn't going to impress anyone anytime soon. Go back to your
office, your golf game, your meetings. He was one of ours, don't come
down here with a bunch of flowery crap and call him the equal of the any
person to walk the face of the earth. Don't pretend that you know who we
are just because someone gave you a copy of the last two evaluations to come
down the pipe.
The CO has to say these words because it is his duty, if he did not show up
we would show a no less visible degree of hostility towards his absence. He
is there partially as a target for our collective frustration arising from a
futile ending and partially because duty dictates he must.
Taps bleeds through stained plastic windows depicting two thousand years
of religious oppression mixed with the fallen closer to our own cause.
Battleships and aircraft carriers sanctified by the holy struggle of
democracy mingle with the saints canonized for warring over theocracy.
There it occurs to me for the first time that god, in whatever form, might
not give the slightest damn about warships, guns and planes. However we
invoke that name the first time we begin to slaughter one another for
ideology, real estate and what boils down to nothing more than the inability
of a group of people to act like civil human beings. Immediately on the
heels of this realization I consider the fact that if the world were a
little more reasonable, if people were more apt to light barbecues with
versus of dropping napalm then fewer people might wind up roasted in the
end. Such is not the case and I am not out of a job, unfortunately.
The casualties of peace are somehow more real than in war, we remember
the humanity lost instead of forgetting the loss in a crush to bury the past
with the dead. The notes are bittersweet in the Friday summer morning, two
miles away people are conniving their way out of work. They have no idea
about Dave, about Matt, about any of the others. It isn't their place.
If there was no Navy then people wouldn't walk into propeller arcs, get
sucked up intakes, plow their planes nose first into the ocean at eight
hundred miles an hour for no apparent reason. If there was no Navy then
people wouldn't be blown up three thousand miles from home by unreasonable
assholes on both sides, there would be no suicides, no pain, no anger, no
hatred. Life would be so much better if we could just get rid of the
military, disarm everyone and then send the good soldiers home. Society
would benefit manifold ways too complex to even fathom if we could take all
of the guns away, wrap it all up in a plastic wax shine on the hood of an
electric car. No one would even think to dissent against the new government
waging peace, no one would think that censorship in the name of the
collective happiness would hurt anyone either. I could go home and stop
worrying about redemption and the price of a sofa because I could just have
one. To deny me as much would be tantamount to putting a knife in my spine,
and we cannot have any of that. You can hug your child because of nuclear
arms. Try not to forget that in the revisionist orgy going on as of late
that there was a time when we were threatened and a great number of people
were killed on both sides. By the same token, if in the end everyone's dead
then there is no right and wrong.
"Sorry bro." Taps finishes and I whisper into the air, break from
attention and mash thin onyx black sunglasses onto the bridge of my nose.
Walking down the pew I wait for god, wait for conscience,
consciousness, maybe oxygen.
"Don't forget their faces Yurei. Don't forget them because someday you're
going where they are." The chapel is far too cold and I need that cigarette
really badly now.
This doesn't ever really happen so easily.
Coda from the Director's Cut.
Almost five years later I am watching the sun crawl through
craggy stones and stained glass windows belonging to the façade of a
cathedral in downtown Melbourne, Australia. I am tempted to duck in
from the street amidst the traffic of the business day. Stopping feet short
and retreating from the flagstones, I feel as though I am going somewhere
that I am not entirely welcome. God and I haven't been on speaking terms
for some years now; I sort of poke my middle finger at the sky every now
and again to piss the old bastard off to evoke a mental resolution to
terrestrial difficulties. In return for this him, her, them or it reminds
me not to do this by causing the airplane to break in various aggravating
ways. I settle onto a park bench facing the physical structure representing
an unknown salvation, duck against the gusting winds and light a cigarette.
Amber light filters from the sky to paint the granite face blocks a dulled
version of the same color. Inhaling deeply I wonder about the intervening
time between when I began to seriously doubt the possibility of salvation
and now, whether it is possible to find your way out of such a
self-constructed labyrinth. After all I am the one that built the thing,
which means I should know how to go about extracting myself from the
situation. Down the old corridors and away from the guilt of the past
brought on by too many days spent at work believing that there wasn't
anything called home. The myth written by your own mind is the most
difficult to doubt.
Displaced by a soul, divorced by a past, surrendered to the whim of
conviction and given one last desperate stab at returning. Slight sliding
guitar washes through the headphones gently nestled in a pair of ears to
serve as a reminder that I can always go home. The life and death,
everything rising eventually put to ground by the same pair of hands. Sound
of two planks being brought together; follow the slight rise and rapid fall
of the hammer to start off the reaction.
Spreading crimson pulls the angst to the grass, I watch it pass with no
trace of emotion. The twin smiles briefly, closes his eyes and says nothing
more of redemption. Stiffening against the wind I wonder if it was such a
good idea to let go of so much so quickly. Three weeks away and all I can
think of are the times and trials of not having to worry about any of this
anymore. There are no endings, just a series of muted crescendos built
around the acceleration to the next breakdown and quickening. Now she says
that there is a way. I am lost, faithless. Stunned in the face of an
invitation to hello in the morning.
God laughs in the face of the tattered vestiges of Guilt's life, seals the
body away in a granite vault to drag the skeleton out again at some time in
the future. I once screamed at someone in anger that they could lie to me
and call me human all they wanted and it would change nothing. Home, where
is home, why is it that everyone has one of these things?
'It was just time.'
"You again?" Not a hallucination, this one just an old daydream.
'You managed to eat Guilt, who were you expecting? Doubt?'
"No." I was to be perfectly honest. He knows the lie and smiles slowly
from the green iron bench facing mine. "Maybe Ed."
'Not here.' Subtle pause to step up and kneel on a gnarled Cholla cactus
cane momentarily, curtseying around considerable girth restricted by a cheap
suit and topped by thinning white hair. It snaps back into the usual mirror
after a leering smile from gravestone teeth. 'Not here, yet.'
"And what is it you want now?"
'The usual, a conversation.'
"Fuck directly off. You're a goddamn figment of my imagination."
'You're the one day dreaming.'
'It was just time, they had to go.'
"You got a point or is this more gibberish like usual?" Temper flaring as
the opposite languidly lights a cigarette.
'Yurei, you're a fucking child of the bomb.'
"Again, so?" I elect to follow suit, it always pisses this one off when I
mirror their movement.
'Don't you ever think about that?'
'I'm in your head, asshole.'
'It's a free concert from now on.' I had no idea I could look quite so
sarcastic. Need to watch that in the future. 'Look, I know what you're
"Forgot about that."
'You didn't.' Twisting briefly in their seat, they split briefly into twins
and tap a foot encased in sizeable brown hiking boots to a snippet of Death
in Vegas. 'Anyway, I digress. Look, we're all getting tired of this
'You, you dumbass.'
"You can't call me a dumbass." The sudden sluice of anger makes little if
any sense, considering what I am arguing with at the moment. "You're
supposed to be helping me, at any rate."
'We are.' Her voice. Just once, just enough.
"Don't do that." Constricting enough to force a thin shriek from enamel, my
jaw grinds in sudden protest. "That's not playing by the rules."
'I live in your head, I play by your rules.' Laughing again, they do
handsprings on the grass after kicking over the signs telling them not to do
as much. The inexplicable and pointless sudden motion reminds me of K's
Assistants. 'You read The Castle, where'd the hell you think we got
"Look, if you're going to screw around." Threatening with a single hand
purring through the pages of a book nestled in a large battered black
messenger bag at my side. "I can just go get some coffee and read for a
'Okay.' They settle in a huff, many hundreds standing on each other's
shoulders. The pile wobbles, collapses and then condenses into a single
figure with minimal wasted motion. 'Check it. You either get your head out
of your ass or we're going to drive you nuts.'
"I'm still dunno what you're after here." Scratching my head provides no
insight into this train of thought, other than I have a deep-seated desire
to kick my own ass. "Really."
'You're about as fucked up as a football bat, know that?' They smile, all
at once and alone. 'Just accept her.'
"What the hell's that s'posed to mean?" Roaring I grab at fading lapels of
an orange shirt hanging loosely over the same overly baggy green fatigue
pants. Almost translucent now, maybe not enough time to finish this and get
'You're not going to have your time for quite awhile.' Gone now, still
seated on the bench and watching the smoke curling away from enough for a
last drag on the cigarette. 'It won't be so bad to live in the interim.'
Thanks to the staff of Molly Bloom's (Bay St. two blocks from
the T intersection at the end,) in Melbourne for making Toohey's available
in sufficient quantity that this made sense at the time that I thought of
it. Also thanks to Jason and a few others on Melbourne's finest for
exposing me to St. Kilde, 'Mell-bin,' George for the stop to grab food when
I was 'quite pissed.'
Scotty: "Wanna beer?"
Yurei: "It's nine 'o fucking clock in the morning."
Scotty: "Hell, fuck it."
Yurei: "It's five 'o clock in Denver. I guess we can drink liquor."
Mack: "Whose is this anyway?"
Mack: "Fuck it, I owe him one."
Yurei: "Will someone get me a goddamn beer?"
Yurei: "Okay, that's it. We're getting shitty before noon."
Mack: "I'm still drunk from last night."
Yurei: "Oh this is not going to end well."