Thursday, November 6, 2014

sorrry i'm late

"I'm sorry I'm late," I say to my husband, "but I didn't want to come anyway." He sighs and waves me in the door. I sign the ledger, this is the veterans' center and why am I signing in anyway? I am not a security risk but I could be and I have been. I marched in a lot of anti-war protests in college and I know my picture is in more than a few FBI files. I hope my hair looked good.

I have agreed to attend a buffet luncheon with all the guys. Symbols of male aggression adorn the walls, weapons, military uniforms, a grenade on someone's desk. Nothing is color coordinated but I know these men have carefully and intentionally designed this getaway place to comfort and calm the ongoing battles in their heads.

There are several roasters of meat, atop a pool table,  piles and piles of meat, mountains of meat, too much meat, a gluttony of meat.  Randy, an Afghanistan vet is being applauded for providing all this animal protein. I hear him tell the guys his grandmother died in April 2013. He gathered up all the meat from her funeral dinner, bagged it and threw it in the freezer. Until now. Here it is for consumption, I will avoid those crock pots, they smell oily and unnatural.

The only vegetables are canned corn and Van Camp pork and beans. This is all I will put on my plate. One of the guys puts his hand in a roaster and pulls out a greasy grey pork rib and plops it on my plate. "You're gonna want to eat one of these," he says. When no one is looking I transfer it to Dave's plate. I'm fairly certain the big guy's stomach acid is much more intensely concentrated than mine. I've seen him eat sloppy joes slathered in peanut butter and mayonnaise with sliced pickles.

 The man sitting next to me is a Korean veteran and he is 84 years old. Why do old guys always have that dusty-looking skin? You just want to take a rag soaked in furniture polish to them.  He is dressed in a plaid blazer and sweater vest, corduroy trousers. I remember old black and white photos of great grandfathers playing cards around the kitchen table, factory laborers dressed in Sunday suit coats and ties, this generation liked to dress up. Thank god that's changed.

He has funny stories, he used to be a county supervisor so you know he has funny stories. His red nose looks like mutilated pink play dough, he must like the drink.  He says, why must I always be the oldest guy in the room? Come back on Wednesday, I tell him. My father, all of 90 years, stops by to play euchre. I notice his dinner-sized plate is heaped with cherry cream something and cookies plus potato chips. How he lived to be a great age on this diet is a mystery for the ages. I like it here.

I munch my corn and beans and look around the room. Some of the men are disheveled, clothing stained with holes and they never look up from their plates. They are here because they are hungry, they have no interest in socializing. Their fingers are drumming on the table, feet tapping tapping tapping, always always movement.  I remember the first date with my spouse. His knee never stopped bouncing for the entire two-hour movie.


1 comment:

Arizaphale said...

I cannot imagine the aftermath of combat experience. The BA's boyfriend has been to Afghanistan but seems ok. Maybe he just internalises things well? Maybe he will be the guy drumming in years to come....