In Central Park, he sat on the bench. A man who appears to have that mature easy masculinity that makes him turn heads whenever he ventures out. Wide shoulders and a broad chest, seam popping biceps and sweeping thighs. He looks like the dreams of a young Schwarzenegger . There’s a trace of crows feet around his eyes and his white blonde hair is greying at the temples. To passersby he looks odd to be feeding the pigeons but he smiles when I walk up and sit on the bench next to him.
He lied about his age, fourteen years old and doing Basic. A harder stronger life than a family of eight packed into a pair of rooms. A non com bawling in your face is easier than a mother’s futile bitter tears. Realising that your father loved you because he pulled his punches.
His selection for the first iteration of the Ally Programme was a promise of an additional sixteen dollars a month. New clothes for the siblings.
What emerged was someone else entirely. Additional nerve receptors, carbons in his bones and grafted muscle tissue. Cormac McCarthy wrote in Blood Meridian.
War is the ultimate trade and man it’s ultimate practitioner
You look at him and get it. It’s the ideal of the soldier. A grease gun and a cause is all he ever asked for. He got a body and a brain that operated on all cylinders, which was just as good.
He bore the weight of hope well. So well that when the US sought to press it’s advantage, it broke him by degrees.
It takes a drink to get him talking. A pill for the dreams to stop.
Ninety years old now and dragging the memories behind him like a length of chain. He was a warrior who became a soldier. Briefed by men with shrivelled consciences, persuaded of actions that had him commit himself to psychiatric care, treated with a deference that pained him. He retreated into memory and wholly became the symbol until the Pantheon took on board sponsors and his two fisted heroism was incompatible with the mission statements and the deference to news cycles.
Now he appears at conventions and as a talking head on news. He dates women and avoids the knowing gaze of their great grandmothers. He swears he’s at peace.
‘You must be desperate, son’
My shrug betrays me and he smiles. It’s an expression you’d hope to see before battle and yet my feelings remain entirely conflicted. He shakes the breadcrumbs off his fingers and begins to listen.