Saturday, March 24, 2007

And Another One . . .

So, during my day job as a proofreader, I come across very interesting reads from time to time. About a week ago I had to proofread an article that was a a part of a reader for an English class. The article was taken from Tim O'Brien's "The Vietnam in Me" published in The New York Times. In it, O'Brien talked about how he was best friends, brothers, really, with a fellow black soldier and how they would write letters to each other's sisters. On top of that, the black soldier died during the war, and he had to deal with the aftermath of that.

How could the plot bunny not strike?

So here I am, about a week later, fleshing out the beginnings of this new story. Do I really need another one when I'm currently working on three WiPs right now? Probably not. But damn, I had to write something about it, even if it's just this. I just thought that little blurb in that article had so much potential that I couldn't let it go. I stopped what I was doing and wrote notes, in fact.

Anyway, here is a little something I wrote. It has no title, but what else is new? Inspirational credit to that article. Woebegones to the bunny, and Lord give me strength to myself!



Vietnam Story © 2007 Savannah J. Frierson

April 15, 1975

Dear Addy,

I . . . don’t know what to say. I have no words to tell you, none that will help mend the gaping hole in your heart, one much larger than the one in my own. Every time I close my eyes I see it, hear it, smell it, even taste it. I touch his scarred flesh, watch the light die out in his eyes, and I had let out a yell that I know surely made the devil himself tremble.

He should. He took Dwayne away from me . . . you . . . us . . .

It’s been a year, and I miss him. I miss him so much. I wasn’t aware such a thing was possible. He was my sanity in that godforsaken place, and would have gone completely under had it not been for the memories he left me.

And you.

He left me you, whether you would like to believe it or not. I probably shouldn’t even say something like that to you, considering your age and the fact you’re all the way in Mississippi and I might not ever make it out of Vietnam. And even if I did . . . what? I don’t know, I probably shouldn’t even entertain thoughts of years into the future, let alone five minutes, and you’re so young . . .

I had had dreams of meeting you. Dwayne and I would tease each other about being in-laws someday. He’d tease me about giving him black nieces and nephews and I’d tease him about giving him white ones, and then he would say he didn’t have a white sister because both of his parents were black. We’d laugh so long over our jokes, but I do remember one time, about two days before he was killed, when we had a serious discussion of what we would like to happen when we got out. I’d told him I’d like to meet his family . . . meet the people who were responsible for creating and raising the best human being I’d ever known. I had told him I wanted to meet you, Addy, the girl whose letters seemed to be of a hand much older than fifteen . . . the girl who Dwayne said was his soul . . . the girl who sent us the best oatmeal cookies we’d ever had, period. I wanted to meet you, Addy, to see if the connection we had forged through hour pages and pages of letters would translate face-to-face.

I think it would. I wait on bated breath for your letters, Addy, more so than for when my sister writes. I think Dwayne figured out I was falling in love with you even before I did, though he didn’t press the issue because we were halfway around the world and he thought . . . well, I’m not sure. I think he was more concerned about the age thing than the race thing, but since we could change neither, he could hardly fault me for it.

This has turned into a confession letter, it seems. I had wanted to talk about how much Dwayne has meant and would always mean, but instead I’m pouring my heart out to you . . . to a girl who shouldn’t mean so much to me, yet does. Seems death makes you think about life really hard, and you, Addy, represent life to me. I can never tell you how much I appreciate your letters of normalcy, silliness, and even pettiness. Your story about your mother not allowing you to buy those shoes and you buying them anyway, only to have them stolen . . . I shouldn’t have laughed, but it was so refreshing to read. And then your “boy problem” letters . . . Jesus, Addy, I kept wondering why I would get a mild irritation whenever I read about boys not paying attention to you or your unrequited crushes. At first, it had been of brotherly affection, as neither I nor Dwayne could understand why a boy wouldn’t like the best girl in the world, but some time, some how, that affection turned not so brotherly.

You’re young, Addy. I shouldn’t feel the way I do for you, and yet . . .

Dwayne didn’t say anything as he died, but he did give me a smile. He smiled. I remember the first time he’d smiled at me, too. The drill sergeant had been busting my chops because of my name . . . thinking I was born with a silver spoon up in my mouth and my ass, and that was why I was lagging behind so much. It burned me even more because he was right, and I had to prove to everyone I could pull my weight just as much as the next guy. Your brother came up to me and gave me a silly grin, slung his arm around my shoulder, and stayed with me until we finished the obstacle course. Sarg made us do too many push ups to count afterwards, but we were brothers for life after that. This eighteen-year-old boy, fresh out of high school, and me, a twenty-two-year-old college graduate—what a pair we made. We were tighter than glue, and the guys started calling us Salt and Pepper, except Dwayne was Salt and I was Pepper. We even had a handshake to go with it, since we were Salt and Pepper . . . we had to have a shake, or “shakers”.

It was corny, but it was wonderful.

There are rumblings of a massive withdrawal. Part of me hopes they’re true, and the other part hopes they drop and atom bomb and take me with this godforsaken country. It isn’t healthy for me to think that way, is it, Addy? Nor is it for me to dump this on you. You are young . . . you are young, Addy. So young. But you have a birthday coming up soon, don’t you, in June? Sixteen. I’ll bet you’ll get all beautiful and have a grand party. I remember when Erica turned sixteen. It was the most god-awful party I had to attend, but I was twelve at the time, and dressing up was never my idea of fun!

Or maybe you won’t have a party at all. It’ll be a quiet affair? Quiet might be more your style, Addy, isn’t it? You like to keep to yourself, although Dwayne and I told you to have more fun. You should. You’re young. Life’s too short and too precious to just let it tick away. Being here has at least taught me that much, and Dwayne’s death . . .

He’d just turned twenty! You know that, and I know that. Not even old enough to drink in some states, but he’s old enough to get blown the hell up? That’s the most ridiculous, asinine thing I’ve ever heard! My father is a damn state representative, surely he should know better! But he did, didn’t he? It was why he didn’t want me to enlist in the first place, why he insisted I’d get paltry assignments that wouldn’t require me to put my life on the line. I had told Dwayne I’d be with him until the end, and though I had meant the war, Dwayne had to one up me and mean his life.


I love him, Addy. I still talk to him. I go outside and sit by the tent or the barracks, and I just talk to him. The fellas leave me alone. All of us have lost someone, they understand. But he was my confidante, my little brother . . . my big brother. He was larger than life, Dwayne, and so smart. He should’ve been in college instead of the jungles, but he didn’t have a state rep for a dad who could pull some strings. He was poor and black from Mississippi. Expendable. He wasn’t, though, was he Addy? Your big brother wasn’t expendable at all. He should be with me, sitting with me, writing a letter to Erica with another marriage proposal in it, and he should be telling me not to be sweet talking you, because, as he would say, “White boys are slick.”

I’m about as slick as tar, Addy, aren’t I? (laughs) Well, with you, I am. I’ve always been frank and brutally honest. You made me forget you were thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, almost sixteen. You’re exceedingly bright, Addy, do you know that? I hope you get into a really good school. You should start thinking about college, it’s not too soon. You’re going to be a junior this coming fall. You should take tests, try out for scholarships, shoot for the stars! You could do well at any school you wanted—Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Berkeley. I wouldn’t be adverse if you came out West. At least by then you won’t be so young anymore.

Damn it! I need to stop. Perhaps I’m just lonely. Can I be frank? Well, franker? There are men here who go into the villages and . . . I shouldn’t say everything, but suffice to say, the girls with whom they spend time are younger than you, by a lot sometimes. It makes me sick, and then I think myself a hypocrite. Here I am, twenty-five years old, having severely inappropriate feelings for you, someone on the dawn of sixteen. Perhaps I’m . . . no. I’m not. I know what I feel, whether it is right or not. I also know there are extenuating circumstances helping me along, but, it doesn’t change the fact I found you way earlier than I think the universe was supposed to let me find you. Maybe you were supposed to be a professor or a lawyer that I’d meet ten years down the road. We’d connect, hit it off, and I’d know you were the one for me. But no. It didn’t happen that way. Or maybe it happened exactly as it should’ve, knowing that these letters would be all we would ever have of each other before I meet the same, dismal fate as your brother and you try to fashion a life without us in it.

I’m being incredible morbid and morose and maudlin. I apologize. Eventually I’ll stop feeling sorry for myself. Besides, I could’ve had it worse. I could have been without these letters you’ve been writing to me, even a year after your brother’s death. I just got your last one, too, and I read it every night before I go to sleep. You could’ve let our connection die that fateful day last April, but instead, you kept in touch with me, like a good little sister would.

I love you, Addy. God help me, and God help you, but I love you, Addy. I thank you. Without you and Erica, I think I would’ve turned a gun to myself already, or gone mine hunting so I could end this madness. Erica wrote me recently and told me you and she are in correspondence now. I bet you haven’t told anyone either, have you, Addy? You wouldn’t be the type to brag about famous actress Erica Foster taking out the time to write to little ol’ you, would you? Apparently Erica had felt a little fondness for Dwayne herself. Something about you Ellisons, huh? Have us fit to be tied whether you want us to be or not. Dwayne flirted shamelessly, but you . . . you were just your sweet, wonderful self. I needed sweet and wonderful in this hellhole, Addy. Thank you for providing it for me.

Wow. The sun is coming up now. I’d spent all night writing a letter to you that I actually have no intention to ever mail. Isn’t that funny? Incredibly sad? Both? I should end this, then, and catch an hour of sleep before going on patrol. Damn this insomnia, but at least it gave me a chance to talk to you, even if you’ll never read this or listen.

Stay sweet, wonderful, and beautiful my Addy-girl. I love you.

All my heart and soul,

Eric Lyle Foster


Lexi said...

I'm in love, already. And it's even sweeter because I'M sixteen, so I feel that I can probably relate to Addy even more so.

The fact that you mentioned Dwayne not being old enough to drink but able to be blown up was even MORE ironic. Reason being, because I'm writing a persuasive essay on whether or not to lower the drinking age. I actually want to keep it the way it is, since it doesn't matter because people are going to find ways to drink anyway. It's just the high school students that concern me.

Anywho, I'm off topic. I'd LOVE for you to continue with this even though I know you're bogged down with other works. If you want, keep on coming with the plot bunnies. I love them. I can't get enough of them. GREAT JOB.

Josephine said...

Oh Sav.

I don't even know where to begin..hell.

I don't know if I want to cry or run out the door and be sixteen again and go find a certain much too old for me man..

It does happen though doesn't it? No matter what society says about your age, sometimes we become women before we even know it..and sometimes we fall in love with someone who doesn't want to see us as a woman, even though he knows we've become one.

It's so nice to see a story that's grounded in truth, in the realities of the world, we don't always have a choice when it comes to who we fall in love with..

Waiting patiently for when you kick start this one..really waiting..