It's 2:32 A.M.,
and I'm at the Leibniz Bar, Berlin,
“a city where freedom is spelled like
GRAFFITI, much different from the
World,” as he says, the guy next to me
gulping gin like water, his fourth,
maybe fifth, glass. “Man, it ain't too
bad here,” he says, this twentysomething
guy, his tongue drooling liquor and Austin.
“I always liked it, man. But I do miss the
World. I miss Oreos. Dr. Pepper. Hell, I
miss my boyfriend, well ex, the asshole
who left me when I was in Nam.” His
eye sockets are swollen plums, their pits
twitching more, more with each slurp.
“Y’know, someday I’ll return and woo,
wrangle him back. He must be old now,
wrinkly as me, but that don’t matter.”
I say nothing, sipping water like gin.
“We was artists, y’know. Austin’s best.
We tagged more walls than anyone, man.
But that’s illegal there, unlike here,
a city where freedom is spelled like
GRAFFITI, much different from the—“
I stop him. Block, pivot, parry, stab.
“How’d you end up in Nam?” I pry,
just to try to penetrate him deep inside.
He swallows, like gin’s hallowed. “They
cut me a deal, man. They said I’d serve
no time if I enlisted, so I did. I went to
Nam, and man, it’s a jungle. They wasn’t
lyin’. In the middle of desert—a jungle.
I don’t even know why I’m cryin’.” But
I do, because my eyes are already bleeding,
like the paint we sprayed in Austin, or the
blood that dripped down my ass in prison. I
cry like I did that night, locked up tight,
hoping at least he was alright. I know him
too well, from then, before the War became
his personal Hell. Before he wrote the letter,
bragging about how his “colleague” tortured
detainees and he “let her.” I knew him
before Iraq, before Nam, before his brain
became a dirty bomb. Before he unfurled.
“I ain’t never going back to the World.”
T. Aliano is an eighteen year old recent graduate of Ed W. Clark High School. Although boasting numerous rejections, he had not until now been graced with publication. When not scribbling stories or rhymes, he's usually reading, debating politics, or blogging on Tumblr. He divides his time between Vermont, Nevada, and Austria. He will attend Middlebury College in the Fall.