|One evening, I sat at the bar idly watching TV when a commercial filled the screen with something about Los Vegas. The man next to me stood up, he was angry.
I recognized him, a good man. I sat up and paid attention. Like all who gather here, he was much younger than I, but it does not matter; we wear the same medals. He wore the black badge of his calling. It was stamped with a caduceus, a navy corpsman; FMF: Field Marine Force.
Once young, I was one of them and wondered if it all really meant anything. I have now endured long enough to witness the beginning of yet another war. Thirty years and I still wear the uniform. I am old now, and among the young, I appear older still... ancient, some might say. My aged features I have earned-- with gallant company I walked upon the seas and down countless confused paths. Seeking revenge, the corpsman and I endured many perilous journeys without regret. He was at the beginning and I was at the end of a search for glory. We never found it.
Now I seek comfort and fellowship in a seedy white building, VFW the sign says. They all call me Pop, and I am honored. I listen to everything they have to say; there is no guilt nor pride that I will not understand or forgive.
I will tell you what the corpsman said so you will understand him better. I'm sure you know him.
"If I hear one more time that "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas," I am going to vomit! Those damn stupid commercials. I swear I am going to rip that high-definition, pornographic screen off the wall!"
"I prefer not to live in a land of liars! THE GREAT BLOODY NOWHERE! Where there is always some pathetic, self-justification for not doing the right thing."
"In other lands; far away... I have been in the company of those who could take their honor to Vegas and bring it out alive. Men you could trust with your life."
"And is this really my business? Her husband is spending the children's college fund on his mistress. Am I responsible for all the truth in the world?"
"My sweetest friend, she deserves to be treated better. Will I dare to make her world my business? Dare to be the friend she deserves.I'll not care that every man in my liar's club will call me a snitch and they will desert me like rats from flames.
"Why don't I give a damn about such men? I don't know how it happened, but I've grown frightened and faithless... But it's alright, she has better friends than I."
" Things didn't work out the way I planned. Being a soldier does not make you anything you could label. It only means that maybe someone said, 'I've got your back,' and then died proving it. At that moment you realize what a cheat you have been and what a self-serving ball-less wonder you are. Once I had a life worth telling the story. Now I bore everyone with my liar's world. Now I understand why I don't have any friends left. Friends to tell me the truth, to inform me what an ass I have become."
"And, one, good, decent man is dead; he saved my life. He didn't have any fashionable alibis, he just did the right thing. I said I was sorry, and he believed me."
"Should the day come when a decent human being is condemned for his pain; will you stand up for him, even if everyone you know will throw garbage at you for doing so. What right have they! If I pull my shipmate from the curb, what then? I am no better than he and he is better than the crowd who jeer at him. He is my brother and we stood together. I hear men say it all the time, they promise to be faithful friends and that they will stand forever together. THEY DO NOT KNOW WHAT IT MEANS!"
"Someday, back in the real world, where it's a world full of impostors; will l remember that once I was one of them? The men who steal almost everything they have and don't give a damn for the harm done. They who are afraid of being called a loser for caring; since caring is for the weak. The ones left with no one to steal from except each other and they keep score laughing; "Everything counts if you don't get caught." What the hell does that mean? Why do so many men say such things?!"
I felt the corpsman put his hand on my shoulder looking for the strength. His hand was shaking and he swayed a bit. He continued:
"Not all lies are evil. We tell our children there are no real monsters but it is all a fraud. There are monsters, more evil than a gentler god would allow... And it is all the worse because the worst of them look just like us. Evil is not a metaphor, it is a child's smoking bones chained to the ground; attesting, to its grim-- very real, reality."
"What can we say of such things that anyone could understand, and if we had the words, would we use them? Would you? Would you frighten the ones you love to prove your worth."
My friend resumed... faltering a bit, like a ghost had passed by. He drew his hand over his eyes to make it go away.
" I remember men who embraced their mistakes and did not repeat them over and over until they have no life but a trail of wreckage marking their path. I remember who they are. Friends who know the difference between what is right and what is wrong. Who give a damn about that difference. I will find them. I will make myself worthy."
I said, "I am going to Vegas, let's go together."