i’m back at west point riding a motorcycle down the stairs. i don’t know where the motorcycle came from. it’s not mine. it’s not even running. i’m rolling around on it in neutral. going down things. leaning back and working the brakes, waiting to crash. as soon as i get to the bottom of one set of stairs, i come to more stairs. so i just keep going. i am trying to avoid hitting anyone and trying to be inconspicuous about it. i have returned to west point for something. to get medical treatment? to get food? to ask for help? i’m all alone. guards stop me and demand identification. yes, i have it, i say. i fumble in my wallet. i’m sure i have it. but my fingers start to tremble and i can see the guards looking at one another. i can’t find any id. i see someone i recognize. but he keeps on going like he doesn’t see me. what are they going to do with me? they take me into a building that resembles a headquarters/detention pod with concrete floors and question me. what am i doing here? how did i get here? i don’t know. i can’t answer their questions.
i haven’t been back to west point in almost 20 years. my last experience there was being placed in restrictive quarters while they processed my separation papers. my shoelaces and belt were confiscated for suicide prevention measures. i had my own bathroom which i didn’t have to clean. i didn’t know what to do with all my uniforms. i stuffed them in a drawer and left them there. a lieutenant colonel summoned me to inform me that my discharge papers were being upgraded so that i would not be deemed ineligible for future service. i didn’t care one way or the other. it probably meant less paperwork for him. on the morning of my departure i went to the watch tower and signed out of an official ledger. it was a muggy spring day. i felt delirious. i slashed the sleeves off my bdu’s with a pocket knife and left on foot. i walked the railroad tracks to bear mountain bridge. i was going to climb the bridge to get across the hudson. near highland falls a squad car pulled up alongside and a deputy questioned me. i showed him my military id. he turned it over several times in his fingers. i must have looked strange with my cut fatigues. he let me go. i passed a turtle that had been killed by a train and took a picture of it.
i was only 21. i had no idea my whole life lay ahead of me.
a year later i was cutting powder charges and blowing up the new mexico desert with 100 pound artillery shells. old munitions that had to be fired or retired. you could see the rounds spitting out of the gun tubes and streaking across the sky if you looked real close. it didn’t seem to matter much where they landed. it was just open desert.
i woke up hard and empty. clawed my way up the mountain for comfort. away from the sound of guns.