so what did you do?

When?

your MOS… what did you do as an officer?

oh that well that was on a guarded installation inside a keyed access vault behind firewalls working on computers that do what computers do inside vaults I heard some of my college buddies were interviewed by people with badges that whole background check for security clearances and that’s what’s funny looking back on it now simply put I had a chip on my shoulder and really I made it untenable for them my college buddies and they behaved as befits their class and I’ve seen it now from the other angle how untenable it gets when you’re dealing with someone with a chip on their shoulder and it makes me think of Cape Fear not the original black and white but the one with Robert Deniro because he’s pretty damn creepy in that movie and though I never related to the violence in the character that’s just another door in the hall I did relate I did identify with being a step away from white trash coming from a family of crackers and yes hearing people speak in tongues around me so arriving at Tulane such as I did and visiting the homes of my college friends like Ben’s home in West Palm Beach (and yes I’m using real names here fuck the pretense I’m too old to be rearranging names and faces and even my own name—Akley—well that was just made up by my grandfather maybe he knew somebody with that name because from what I’ve heard he was a carnie jailed often and he changed his name after a run-in with the law apparently he beat a man to death in a fight and he died drunk when my father was seven an evil-looking sonofabitch I’ve seen pictures of him he looked evil so I might as well use real names here what’s true and factual will become fiction soon anyway…) I learned what I came from was far different than my friends at school I mean hell Tulane ain’t no backwater university it costs a good eighty thousand dollars a year to go there now and here I was on a scholarship humping it out every week at 6am for PT in Audubon Park while my buddies slept off their hangovers marching in the quad in uniform while students passing by made fun of us and yeah I saw their homes how Ben had a maid and a boat docked in the backyard along the inter-coastal waterways which led out to sea how Sam had a nice house in Atlanta and a lake house to share for getaways on spring break even Chuck my Cajun roommate from Sunset owned crawfish ponds on a big spread and his dad was the town doctor so yeah I guess you could say I had a chip on my shoulder and by senior year it got untenable because what I was really doing was channeling Deniro (I am like God and God like me. I am as large as God. He is as small as I. He cannot be above me, nor I beneath him be. –Silesius, 17th century…) and really I was just trying not to be afraid anymore it gave me a sense of power that I thought I lacked and that’s all that a chip on your shoulder is… anyway now I’m grateful for what I’ve come from and now I guess you can say I identify with Johnny Cash how he identified with the poor and downtrodden and that makes me think of Jake… my ex-wife got the news last weekend how he died in his sleep at first his father Keven wouldn’t say but then the stories about the track marks on his arms came out and everybody knew it was a morphine overdose.   I first met Jake when he was about eleven or twelve out at Freedom Farm camping with my ex-wife when she was still married to her first husband. Saying Jake came from a fucked family is an understatement. His mother lives in California and gave him up for her meth habit and I remember he told me he used to always think his mother was coming to get him but she never did and so Kevin took care of him and got him hooked to pills he and Rosie (my ex-wife’s grandma) that’s all they do is pills so that’s how Jake bounced around he either went to stay with his mother who was shooting up meth or he stayed with his father and grandma who were doing pills and I saw him from time to time I saw him grow up over the years always skinny just a dumb naïve kid with a big heart not afraid to work (his father used to take his money to pay his child support for his other kids) and I guess this last time it just got worse for Jake because when he came back from his mother’s the family found out she got him hooked on shooting up morphine and he came back here to try to get off it they even say now he went to church just the Sunday before and got saved the pastor after hearing of the death even called to tell the family that and of course Kevin didn’t have any money to bury him so the last I heard they cremated him were going to spread his ashes in the Kaskaskia—23 years old… that’s how old I was the first time I committed suicide and I think of Rosie now who’s always led a wild life in fact I’ve written about her before how she’s an old woman now damn near in her eighties and she has to live with the memory of that because she took drugs with Jake and like it or not that makes the bond the connection deeper and to find him in bed like that the next morning dead those are the kind of memories my friends from college will never have with their nice houses and the protection of wealth and privilege… No Jakes’s story comes from that other side of life (the other side of the railroad tracks) and maybe I still do have a chip on my shoulder because Jake his life his is the story to be told because it’s beautiful and tragic and if I have to be the voice crying in the wilderness to do that then dammit I’ll be that voice because yes I was an officer but that doesn’t mean I have to be a gentleman…

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