I wasn’t wearing any socks when I heard an all to familiar knocking at the door. At least that’s what I thought about as I reached for the door knob. Ah, but perception, perception is everything. C’est la vie, I said to my reflection in the window pane as I opened the door. What stood before me was my imagination. The actual physical description of this for your sake I will call him man, is of no consequence. He was what ever I choose him to be.
At my door stood a man no taller than I with black hair and eyes that have seen the others. The others being that which can not be described by mere words, therefore I will not try to give light to that which cannot be explained. But again for your sake I will liken them to fire which as you know changes color based on the temperature of the heat at its core.
“good to see you kid” he quipped as he casually walked through the door.
“feelings mutual” I responded . “we are waiting for one more guest” I said guiding him to my library. “they should be here shortly, may I interest you in something to drink?”
Water with a lemon” he said while gazing around the room.
I walked to the bar thinking only of my bare feet. I had realized while running only hours before that this whole meeting was completely under my control. I could be standing completely naked and not feel the least bit anxious. True power comes only in the form of interpersonal thoughts.
“do you smoke?” I asked my new guest.
“yes” he replied as I brought over a green felt box to the coffee table.
“I have several different types of cigarettes and cigars, as well as hasish from morocco and marijuana from” I paused, “somewhere from the northeast, I can’t remember exactly where but I assure you its good.”
He leaned forward glancing in the box. He was about to say something through a smile when again there was a knock at the door.
“excuse me” I said heading for the door.
I knew what she was going to look like, although the mind has a wonderful capacity for facts and images the first sight of the possible is always a jolt.
Through the window pane in the door I could see the outline of her. When I opened the door she was for the briefest of moments standing with only her profile to me. That image alone makes my heart become the most noticeable aspect of my being. Helen may have had the face that sailed a thousand ships but this creation of mine, this figment of my ideal was stunning.
“I have been waiting in rapt anticipation for your arrival”. I beamed.
“I’m glad to be here” she said looking directly at me, her dark long hair glistening in the moon light. “ But, rapt anticipation” she came closer, lightly touching my should with her left hand. “Your going to have a little trouble saying what ever it is you have to say using words like that just to impress.” She twirled her finger “whom ever it is you feel you need to impress.”
“Perfect” I said more to myself than her.
“ I assume he’s in the library”, she said without looking back at me. All to well knowing that I was admiring the other side of her profile.
I caught up to her and was about to lead her into the library when she stopped me.
“lets go outside” she said sliding her arm under mine.
Arm and arm stride for stride we walked out onto the veranda. Looking out over the bay all the lights a reflection of the universe, the universe a reflection of the bay.
“ how is your mother doing” she said light two cigarettes, Marlboro lights, and handing me one. She had taken her hand away but was now leaning in close, our arms touching.
“ I had a chance to see them for a day last Saturday. I could have told them to stay longer but in truth I didn’t want to deal with it.”
“why” she asked tilting her head and exhaling away from me.
I watched the smoke, thick and puffy dissipate into nothing as though it was never even there to begin with and said
“I’m not entirely sure.” I continued “as trite as this may sound part of it had to do with smoking.”
“They know you smoke” she asked
“Yes, but they don’t approve”
“so when your with them you try not to smoke” she said more knowing than questioning.
So your mind in trying not to think about smoking means that your thinking about it even more thus taking you away from the present and into the future when your away from you parent and free to feed your addiction.”
She seemed to have said it all in one breath.
“Not surprising that you hit that dead on the nose, but its not just that.” I said taking her hand and leading her to the swing on the side of the house.
She sat crossing her legs towards me revealing through the part in her white chiffon perfect skin and beautiful feet in blue sandals.
In that instant I remembered watching my parents on the couch. Each laying at opposite ends. My mom reading the latest people magazine, my dad napping, all the while unconsciously rubbing her feet.
“I have incredible parents I said, shifting my gaze to my hands. “they have done a wonderful job in helping me become the young man I am today. You see they never told me I had to do anything, they simply set boundaries and led by example, they are the ideal. She smiled, reaching out and touching my cheek. ”When I am around them I don’t have to worry about anything….which is wonderful, don’t get me wrong….but I’m embarking on this journey by myself, for myself and sad as it is to say they would have been a burden” In a voice full of self loathing I continued. “All morning I have likened leaving my mothers embrace to being born. Leaving the safety of the familiar. This time not to school or summer camp or college but to War. This time alone, of my own estimate I must survive in the most hostile environment I have ever encountered. One where through no malleable fault of my own other people will find God in my destruction.”
Even though I felt out of breath I reached for my pack of smokes. She already had one lit and handed it to me.
She guided my face to hers stared deeply into my eyes and kissed me on the mouth. There was nothing sexual about it but I felt my whole being swell. Our lips parted but she held my gaze.
Lets go inside.” She said softly. Taking my arm again she let me lead her into the house.
We walked the 15 or so yards into the house. I asked her if she needed anything she didn’t so we entered the library
With my hand in the small of her back I said. “Aphrodite, this is Mars, Mars, this is Aphrodite.
In the blink of an eye I found myself standing next to Mars and Aphrodite sitting on the couch. I looked at both of them confused.
Mars slapped me on the shoulder and with a laugh said. “We know each other.” They smiled at each other and Aphrodite winked at me.
Mars walked over to the couch , gave Aphrodite a playful pat on the knee and reached for what looked like a huge cigar.
“now” he said with a heavy sigh. “ lets get fucking stoned
A shared escape from the structural confines of the standard day to day is above all else a bonding experience. Being bracketed by the north and south poles of motivations, My mind was having a difficult time accounting for all the possibilities.
As the weed came back around to me I smiled thinking about the possible conversations we could have. Being the ring leader of this reality imagined I myself felt humbled at the infinite possibilities.
I exhaled and was then racked by a fit of coughing. I heard Mars laugh.
Aphrodite swatted his leg, smiling she handed me some water.
“Oh man” I said trying to relax “Mars what did you just do to me.” I felt the room expand and contract as though I was the center of the universe. I relaxed back into the chair and watched Aphrodite take several hits and pass the smoke to Mars. I felt completely calm, clear headed and safe.
Mars tapped the blunt on the astray sighed and chuckled to himself.
“You Know” he said while staring up at the ceiling, “there is a huge difference between this stuff and all other forms of escape. Perception is reality however fragile its still all there really is. You can never really know anything, other than what you believe and I believe this to be the perfect drug. It takes away the many different parallels of thought and focuses your mind on one thing. In that time you are free to truly grasp the power of your mind.”
Aphrodite took the flower from her hair and set it on the table in front of her. The pink and white of the petals accentuated by the black reflective surface of the table top.
I stared at it trying to imagine the infinite wisdom it possessed. People seem to be driven by two things beauty and destruction. All emotions seem to reside in-between those parameters.
“Mars” I said “ what is your take on the notion of fear?”
“what are you scared of?” he asked resting his chin between his thumb and forefinger.
“I remember sitting in my condo about a month ago talking with my sister about my up and coming deployment. I told her that the only think I was really scared of was being in a situation and not reacting. Freezing up as it where.”
“what did she say” Aphrodite asked.
“ Without hesitation she looked right at me and said, you can’t freeze up, it will be way to hot over there.”
I closed my eyes reliving the moment. She was sitting to my left on the couch playing that new numbers game soduku.
“ I remember being rendered speechless by her statement, as though she knew it was coming and had prepared the perfect response.”
“Fear is a biological defense mechanism that has evolved over millions of years to give your body that extra edge when the mind feels threatened.” Mars added “ the fear you have known up to this point in your life has been necessary in preparing you to go to war. However” he paused “you have yet to experience true fear of death. Within this next year you will find yourself in situations were you will feel and know the massive scope and debilitating capacities of fear. Let us discuss it more down the road.”
“OK, that makes sense,” I said “but what about this. Earlier, one of the guys I’m with brother was on leave from Iraq. He stopped by in the barracks and gave us a brief rundown on the situation over there as he sees it.”
I went on to describe how my buddies brother described how the guys over there simply wanted to do there time without getting blown up. He sat on the end of a cot smiling as only a man who has seen the others can. In-between his statement of sarcasm and cynicism I wondered what we all must look like to him. Guys with silly hopes and ideas about a foreign land. Full of hopes and dreams of making a difference. Trained in tactics that have long become obsolete.
He told us that the standard SOPs for responding to an IED have been scrapped. “no one stops anymore and pulls security because the insurgents have learned our tactics and set daisy chain IEDs where they know we are going to dismount. One convoy lost 6 guys by IEDs placed in all the places they knew we were going to be after the initial explosion.”
Even though we were all discussing the deaths of fellow soldiers we all laughed. Each of us thinking: I hope that doesn’t happen to me.
He continued. “Did ya’ll hear about the apache helicopter that went down? We saw it happen from our AO and called it in. We told higher we could go in and secure the area but army regs didn’t allow it. Even though we were the closest units to the site by far it wasn’t our sector. Regs must be followed so a unit an hour away was called. By the time they got there all they found was two blood trails and tire tracks. Shit, we all new that the next time we would hear about them was on Al Jazera and sure as shit two days later there's a video of two pilots being dragged down the streets burning.”
There was no laughter this time. He seemed to since to lull and added. “The army of course said the video couldn’t be confirmed. Yeah like the two burning white guys might not be the pilots from two days ago.”
As to why that quip was funny I’m not sure. Something about suffering as long as it is at someone else’s expense is usually funny.
“You think the army is gong to tell the families of those guys that the reason they debuted on Iraqi TV is because some officer worrying about his possible promotion didn’t want to break regs and do his fucking job.
Again, although we all laughed, I saw the frustration. Who knows whether or not it’s a good or bad thing to mask human frailty with laughter….I guess it’s better than crying.
As attentive as I wanted them to be Mars and Aphrodite listened. I hadn’t stopped talking for several minutes so I recommended that we go outside and take a walk down to the bay.
ARMOR DOWN UPDATES
This post was guided by the 110th stanza of the Art of Peace, a book written by Morihei Ueshiba
Armor Down is backing Legislation "H.R. 3516" AKA "The Veterans and Armed Forces’ Health Promotion Act of 2013".
This bill will
• Expand the scope of holistic care education and research for signature wounds such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).
• Establish complementary and alternative medicine pilot programs for mental health and pain management treatment for veterans.
• Create a grant pilot program to upgrade Veteran Service Organization facilities, expanding the reach of wellness services directly into economically strained communities.
Show your support for this legislation by signing this petition.
A new comedy on Fox, called Enlisted is really funny. Check it out.
Folk singer Big Cat Wilson created this song which was inspired by Armor Down.
Mindful Memorial Day is coming in May.
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