“So when did you start smoking?”

            Schultz hands it through the bars.  He still looks sick and his head is shaved.  His eyes deep-set.  David has a chair pulled up to the cell.  A tray of eaten over food by his feet.  He has Jonathon Bonner’s guitar in his lap.  He’s wearing his uniform neatly pressed.  When he passes the joint he strums a few chords and then rests his arms on top, his right hand hanging over the bullet hole.  Schultz has already asked about that, and David doesn’t really say, but now he answers.

            “It was a girl.  I started because of a girl, and then I liked it.  I liked how it made me think about my music…  This used to be another musician’s guitar.  He brought it to my father’s pawn shop when I was nine years old, and when I was fifteen it saved my life I guess—from a ricochet… the other bullet my brother took.  He’s in France now I think.  Course now with the war on he could be someplace else…  He was the first one to talk to me about girls.  When we’d be sitting in my father’s pawn shop…  Funny how you have to humble yourself—you know.  You have to humble yourself to get any of a woman’s favors.  You have to give up being a man.  I think he knew that which is why he wanted to be one.  And sometimes it’s worth it.  Sometimes it ain’t–feeling there’s some sort of injustice to that…  No, I’m a drinker, man.  Especially since I use this, to take the edge off.  But it was a woman—yeah…  You go in.  You go into a woman, and then you got to give up.  You got to give up to them.  And when you do that, when you do that sincerely, a woman gives you more than what you gave up—you know.  Even if you gather some of her bad habits along the way, you ain’t the same.  You ain’t the same in what you knew before.  Ain’t no mystery no more.  Ain’t no more fear.  Just either pride or a woman’s friendship…  Didn’t you have any?  Any girlfriends back at home?  It really ain’t no secret.  Every man knows he can’t be a woman, but life makes a whole lot more sense when you try to get to know one…”

            And it went on like this.  Their conversations.  Schultz telling stories.  David telling some.  And soon they knew each other’s histories.  They knew each other’s pasts.  And though Schultz was older and an officer—a pilot—he took the role of the younger man.  Listening to David as if his advice and opinions were something new, something to ponder, mixed with that perverse desire to want the opposite because even if what David had to say was true he was different and it didn’t apply to him.  His silence sometimes not necessarily agreement, and his hesitance to propose another point of view not necessarily because he didn’t have one—David aware of this—Schultz was just sick, and like anyone weak around someone that’s strong, even if that person has less education, less experience, you listen and have a tendency to think the way they do.  David was charismatic to Schultz.  He was black and he was American.  And they had the music in common.  David was just a veteran smoker by then.  Schultz wasn’t…

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