Letter From Milo: Poor Wayne, Dead and Gone

January 22nd, 2018

A couple of weeks ago I was sharing a few bottles of wine with a very good friend, who I’ll call Bruce Diksas, to spare him any embarrassment. We were mildly intoxicated, sitting in my back yard, enjoying the fading sunshine and the early evening breezes.

Later, there were steaks to be grilled, potatoes to be baked, a salad to be tossed and more bottles to be opened. There may have even been a little something to smoke, too.

It should have been a wonderful evening – except that it wasn’t.

You see, there was a phone call we were going to make and neither of us was looking forward to it.

“Should we give him a call now?”

“Let’s wait a while. Have another glass of wine. We’ll call in a few minutes.”

“Good idea.”

“Man, I hate this shit.”

“I’m not too fucking happy about it, either.”

The call we were fearful of making was to our old and dear friend, Wayne Gray, who was dying of lung cancer in Venice Beach, California. We had made the same call the week before and it was heartbreaking. His ex-wife, Mila, who had taken Wayne in when he needed help most, was in tears when she answered. She was so choked up that it was difficult to understand her, but she managed to convey the information that Wayne was too weak to use the phone. Besides, he had lost the use of his voice. He had also lost the use of his arms and legs.

“Tell Wayne we love him!” I shouted into the phone before losing the connection.

That was not a good day. When I told Bruce what Mila had told me, he sadly shook his head. Neither of us spoke for a while. There was nothing to say.

My intuition told me this was not going to be a good day, either. I had a hunch Bruce felt the same way. Between the two of us there were a lot of long silences, plenty of sighs, much head scratching and a fair amount of gazing off into the distance. Finally, Bruce broke the silence. “Hey, did I ever tell you the story about the time this mean-looking biker caught Wayne giving his girl a back rub in Oxford’s?”

“About 100 times. But I’d like to hear it again.”

“It was about three in the morning. We had been drinking most of the day and were having a nightcap at Oxford’s. Wayne spots this chick and…”

Wayne was one of the first people I met in Chicago. And, for a time, he was my roommate. In the early ‘70s, Wayne, Bruce and I shared a coach house on Burling, just south of Armitage. The rent was $80 a month, roughly $27 each. Some months we had trouble coming up with the money. Those were not our peak earning years.

It was through Wayne and Bruce that I met everyone of consequence on the North Side of Chicago. They introduced me to bartenders, drug dealers, bookies, gamblers, artists, writers, musicians, cab drivers, hot dog vendors, quite a few very attractive waitresses and a good criminal lawyer. Many of these fine folks are friends to this day.

“Should we make the call?”

“In a minute. Let’s have another glass of wine first.”

“Good idea.”

“Hey,” I said, “did I ever tell you about the time Crazy Angela tried to do Wayne in with a beer bottle?”

“About 100 times. But I wouldn’t mind hearing it again.”

“It must have been about five in the morning. I was asleep when these wild noises woke me up. They were coming from Wayne’s room. So I get up to check it out and there’s Crazy Angela sitting on top of Wayne and smacking him with a beer bottle. Wayne’s trying to reason with her but she keeps on trying…”

Wayne was an extremely intelligent man but he hid his intelligence behind an endearingly goofy exterior. As a young man he felt the call and spent a year or two in a Benedictine monastery before coming to his senses. He explained that he was concerned that his fondness for fucking women might interfere with his responsibilities at the priory.

Wayne went on to earn a Master’s Degree in mathematics and, for a time, made his living in the insurance business. His true calling, however, was massage. When he and his then-wife, Mila, relocated to California, in the early ‘80s, Wayne bought a first-class massage table and set himself up as an unlicensed, unbonded, independent, outdoor massage specialist on the Boardwalk at Venice Beach. Rumor had it that his favorite customers were women.

Bruce reached over with the wine bottle, filled our glasses, and said, “Fuck it, let’s make that call.”

“Might as well.”

When Mila answered the phone she said that Wayne had passed away a few days earlier. She told me that she hadn’t called me because she was still in shock. She had Wayne’s body cremated and planned to take his ashes back to her home in the Philippines. When she died she was going to have his ashes buried with her.

The Old Bastard in the Shiny Suit came for Wayne on the evening of August 5th, 2010. I wish I could have seen him once more before he died. His friendship was precious to me.

I believe it was W.C. Fields who said, “It’s a tough old world. You’re lucky to get out of it alive.”

After I told Bruce what Mila had told me, neither of us spoke for a while. We were each sifting through our memory banks, calling up bits and pieces of Wayne’s life. Finally, I broke the silence.

“Hey, did I ever tell you about the weekend Wayne worked as a doorman at the Black Pussycat tavern on Clark Street.?”

“About a 100 times. But I’d like to hear it again.”

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Letter From Milo: Word for Word

January 15th, 2018

I published my second indie e-book, a novel called “Wassermann Gardens,” two years ago, and nobody seemed to give a shit.

The book did not appear on any best seller lists. The paparazzi aren’t hounding me. I haven’t heard from any film producers. None of the talk shows invited me to make an appearance.

Needless to say, I was hugely disappointed. Where’s the fame? Where’s the glory? Where are the money and the chicks?

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. Indie e-books don’t sell nearly as well as traditionally published books.

I tried to go the traditional route with my first book, a novel about a young gambler, which I titled “Schoolboy,” by trying to find a literary agent to represent my interests. I made contact with an agent in New York who said he might be able to sell it if I made a few “minor” changes.

“What kind of changes?”

“First, the story’s too long. You need to cut about 20,000 words.”

“Are you shitting me? That’s a fifth of the book.”

“Second, I think you should consider using a pen name.”

“Change my name? Why in the fuck would I do something like that?”

“Your name’s too hard to pronounce. It won’t fit on a marquee.”

“Well, that’s not going to happen.”

I spent some time trying to find another agent, but found the process demeaning, beneath my dignity, and gave it up after a few months. Taking the advice of a friend, I published “Schoolboy” independently, as a digital book. It’s available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and 30 other sites.

About a year ago, I was contacted by the owner of a small-time Los Angeles publishing company, which served mainly as an outlet for his own writing. The publisher, who I’ll call Jerry, was a fan of my blogs at The Third City. He asked if I had any full-length manuscripts that he could consider for publication.

I sent Jerry a copy of “Wassermann Gardens.” He called me a couple of days later, raving about the book.

“Oh, man,” he exclaimed, “this is a great story. It’s got everything, natural disasters, violence, madness, disease, young men in desperate circumstances, a bloody escape attempt. It would make a wonderful movie. I’ve got some contacts at the studios. I’ll see what I can do. I’m thinking Shia Labeouf in the lead role.”

“Ah, Jerry, let’s concentrate on the book. We can worry about the movie later.”

“Sure, sure, no problem. I’ll start the editing process…”

“The editing process?”

“Yeah, it needs to be edited. I’ll send the first few chapters in a week.”

When the edited pages arrived, I noticed that Jerry had added a sentence to the opening chapter. The scene is about two men finding a suicide victim. The sentence Jerry added had one of the men asking, “Did he shit his pants?”

I immediately called Jerry. “Why did you put in that line about the guy shitting his pants?” I asked.

“I thought it added a little color to the story.”

“Jerry,” I said, patiently, “every man shits his pants when he dies. People that have seen a lot of death, like the soldiers in the story, know this from experience and would never ask such a thing. It is, in fact, a ridiculous question.”

“Okay.”

“I don’t mind you doing an edit, for grammar or punctuation, but please don’t add anything to the writing. I don’t want or need a co-writer.”

“Sure, no problem.”

I couldn’t believe it. When the next edited chapters came in the mail, Jerry had, once again, added some of his own writing. And the sentences he inserted into the manuscript just didn’t work. They didn’t make sense. I figured he didn’t understand the story or else his writer’s ego made him want to leave his own fingerprints on the novel. Either way, it was unacceptable.

When I called him I said, “Jerry, you’re a hard-headed fucker. I asked you not to add any of your own writing to the story, but you did it anyway.”

“I’m just trying to make it a better book.”

“You’re making it worse. Publish it as is, word for word, or I’m out.”

“But I always edit the writers I publish.”

“Well, then, we’ve both wasted a lot of time. Goodbye.”

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Letter From Milo: Sweet Dreams

January 8th, 2018

I’ve always considered myself fortunate in that, unlike many veterans, I don’t think I’ve had very many lasting effects from my tour of duty in Vietnam. There are a few health issues relating from my exposure to Agent Orange and I’m still leery of crowds and averse to loud noises. But, on the whole, I think I’ve escaped relatively unscathed from that wretched experience.

Some vets weren’t so lucky. The hard luck stories of Vietnam veterans have almost passed into the realm of urban myth. I don’t know the truth of the matter, but ‘Nam vets allegedly had higher murder, suicide and incarceration rates than the general public. They were more likely to die from auto accidents, drug overdoses, domestic disputes, alcohol related accidents and broken hearts than the average Joe or Josephine.

If there was any credence to the stories, the streets of America were littered with the bodies of Vietnam veterans.

The physical toll on veterans was bad enough, but even worse, in my opinion, was the mental damage. To hear tell, our nations mental hospitals were crammed with crazed, drooling, haunted, deranged ‘Nam vets, all stuffed to the gills with every medication known to man. The ones that weren’t institutionalized were living in caves in Idaho, wandering the streets with all of their possessions in shopping carts, or begging for spare change at busy intersections.

As I mentioned earlier, I consider myself extremely fortunate that I wasn’t permanently physically or mentally damaged in that war. I wasn’t shot or blown up, bitten by a step-and-half snake (if bitten, you can take about a step and a half before dying) or hurt in any of the dozens of ways it was possible to be maimed. Contrary to many opinions, my mental capabilities seem to have survived without major damage, too. In short, I don’t exhibit any of the after-effects that plague so many veterans.

Except one.

You see, every few months I have this horrifying dream about Vietnam. It’s not a violent dream. It’s not about combat or violence of any sort. The dreams works on a deeper level, but it still terrifies me.

In this dream I get drafted again. I’m not the 19-year-old kid I was when I first got drafted in 1968. I am what I am, an aging man, balding, burned-out, gaseous, funky and dealing with health issues. There is no way on earth I should be draft material. Plus, I had been drafted into the Army 40 years earlier. How could I possibly be drafted again? It’s like double jeopardy. But, hey, this is a dream. It’s not supposed to make sense.

Anyway, in this dream I’m standing on a street among a large group of young men, moving slowly toward a line of yellow school buses. We are being herded onto the buses by a bunch of tough looking drill sergeants, all wearing Smokey the Bear hats and mirrored sunglasses and smacking riding crops into the palms of their hands.

“Keep it moving,” they bark at us, “Come on, shitheads, we haven’t got all day. Keep it moving.”

Now, the last thing I want to do is get on one of those buses. I know that if I get on a bus I am totally and completely fucked, as doomed as a man can be. The next stop would be Vietnam or some place exactly like it. I also know that this time I won’t get out alive.

I decide to reason with the drill sergeants. I’ve got paperwork with me, discharge papers, birth certificate, etc.

“Look here, fellas,” I say, trying to get them to look at my papers. “There’s been some sort of mistake. I’ve already been drafted once, 40 years ago. Plus, I’m too old for this shit. This can’t be right. It’s probably illegal to draft somebody twice. I mean, there’s got to be an age limit…”

Nothing I say makes a bit of difference. The drill sergeants have a job to do and that’s to fill up the buses with cannon fodder. They’ve got their orders.

“Keep it moving. Let’s go. Single file. There’s a war going on and we don’t want you boys to miss it. Keep it moving.”

As I get closer to the buses I begin to panic. I know that once I get on a bus I won’t get off again until I’m in a war zone. I think about running, but I look around and see that there are soldiers everywhere, all carrying automatic weapons, just waiting to shoot anybody who tries to run away. There’s nothing I can do. I am truly screwed.

Soon there is just one other poor bastard between me and the door of a bus. I start to hyperventilate. I’m close to tears. I’m falling apart. There’s no hope for me. It’s all over. There’s no doubt in my mind that I am facing certain doom. The Fat Lady is practicing her scales.

Just as I get ready to step onto the bus I wake up.

At first I don’t know where I am. I’m drenched in sweat, gasping for breath. Then, I realize where I am and begin to calm down. I’m in my bed, in my little bungalow on the north side of Chicago. My wife is sleeping peacefully next to me. My children are asleep in their rooms, blissfully unaware of their old man’s nightmare. The dog is sleeping at the foot of the bed. I don’t know and don’t care about the cat’s whereabouts.

And there is not a bus in sight.

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Letter From Milo: Computer Indignities

January 1st, 2018

My computer died about a week and a half ago, and it may have been the best thing that ever happened to me. Losing the computer may have saved my sanity.

For the last four months I had not left my basement, where my computer is located. I spent my days playing low-stakes internet poker and my nights surfing the web for porn. Once a week I’d spend a few minutes writing my regular blog for The Third City.

In those four months I did not shower or shave, or wear anything other than the ratty bathrobe I picked up in the Philippines more than 30 years ago. The floor around my desk was littered with cigarette butts, empty fifths of Old Crow and moldy take-out cartons from Mr. Fong’s Chop Suey Palace on Western Avenue.

I was watching one of my favorite movies, an epic called “Lunch at the Nunnery” when the computer gave up the digital ghost. Early in the film, just when the mustachioed pizza driver delivered several large pies to a convent full of long-legged busty nuns, the computer made some strange popping and sizzling sounds, then the monitor slowly faded to black. I tried to reboot it a couple of times, but I was wasting my time.

My computer had received its last email, made its final Google query, and caught its last virus. It was dead and gone forever.

I was devastated, in complete shock. How could I survive without a computer? What would become of me? Computers have been an important part of my personal and professional life for many years. It’s the way I stay in contact with people and handle my business. Without a computer I’d have to talk to people on the phone, or write letters, or, God forbid, actually have to meet them in person.

I was lightheaded and shaky when I walked up the basement stairs to the kitchen. My wife, the lovely Mrs. Milo, seemed surprised to see me.

“What are you doing up here?” she asked.

“Computer died.”

“Oh, dear! Are you okay?”

“I, ah, think so.”

“Maybe you should take a nap.”

I took my wife’s excellent advice and slept for 28 hours straight. I was still weak when I woke up, but felt much better after a shave and a long hot shower. In fact, I felt so good I decided to take a walk. As I was heading for the front door, the lovely Mrs. Milo said, “What are you doing?”

“I thought I’d take a walk.”

“Are you serious? You’re going outside? Can you wait just a second while I get my camera?”

I walked over to Lincoln Square, where I had a good lunch, browsed in a book store, stopped in a bar for a beer, and spent a pleasant hour chatting with the regulars about the Bulls, Sox and Cubs.

I felt like a regular guy, doing regular things. Maybe there was an existence beyond the digital world. Maybe I was wasting my life staring at a computer monitor all day and night. There had to be more to life than internet poker, porn, and celebrity gossip. I decided, right then and there, that I was NOT going to get another computer. I would never again be a slave to an electronic gadget.

I was congratulating myself on having made a wise, life-changing decision, when my cell phone rang. It was Benny Jay, my esteemed colleague here at The Third City.

“Hey, Milo, what are you writing for your Monday blog?”

“Nothing. My computer died and I’ve decided not to get another one.”

“What about our blog site?”

“Fuck the blog site. I’m done with it.”

“Man, you can’t do that. Your blog is important to a lot of people. Thousands of The Third City’s readers count on you to enrich their miserable existences. Besides, I heard a rumor that you’re being considered for a MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant, which, I understand, comes with a very handsome check. You’re not going to throw all that away, are you?”

As much as I hated to admit it, Benny was right. When I took on the job of The Third City’s Society, Lifestyle and Religion columnist, I also took on a public trust. Our readers rely on me for sound advice, fearless opinions and spiritual enlightenment. I didn’t have it in me to let our loyal readers down. I hate to disappoint people, even though I do it regularly. Besides, I didn’t want to blow my shot at the MacArthur Grant. I can really use the dough.

Despite serious misgivings, I decided to get another computer. I checked around, hoping to get a good deal on a used machine.

I talked to a Russian guy who offered to sell me a used Soviet-era computer, manufactured with genuine leather parts, for 50 bucks. He said he’d throw in the hamsters for free. I talked to a Nigerian guy who said he had an excellent computer which had only been used to scam little old ladies out of their life savings. I also negotiated with a Puerto Rican dude who offered to sell me his sister’s computer, but he was asking too much money.

In the end, I decided to buy a new Dell, a fine American machine, made in China and assembled in Mexico.

After The Third’s City’s IT wizard set my new machine up in my basement, it was time to get back to work. As I started toward the basement stairs, the lovely Mrs. Milo said, “Do you want your ratty Filipino bathrobe? I just washed it.”

“Thanks, dear, that’s very thoughtful of you.”

“Would you like me to order some food from the Chop Suey Palace?”

“That would be nice.”

“I believe there are still a couple of fifths of Old Crow in your filing cabinet.”

“Good. I expect they’ll come in handy.”

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Letter From Milo: If I Were a Carpenter…

December 25th, 2017

Every once in a while I get a song stuck in my head. It’s not a bad thing if it’s a decent number, but God forbid I should get fixated on a worthless ditty like In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida. A day or two with that ridiculous tune rumbling in my head would probably be the end of me.

Recently, I got obsessed with If I Were a Carpenter, written and recorded by the late Tim Hardin. I walked around the house humming the tune for most of the day, occasionally breaking into song, belting out the lyrics in my loud, manly and pleasing baritone.

For some reason this aggravated the lovely Mrs. Milo. “Will you please stop that?”

“Stop what, honey?”

“Stop singing that stupid song. You’re scaring the cat.”

“That rotten cat can go fuck himself. The dog doesn’t seem to mind my singing.”

“Milo, in case you’ve forgotten, the dog lost its hearing about two years ago.”

I don’t know what my wife’s got against Tim Hardin, but I’ve always enjoyed his music. His best songs have an ache to them, a melancholy sense of loss and longing, that appeals to my sentimental Slavic soul.

Hardin had a hot streak in the 60’s. Those were the years he wrote If I were a Carpenter and Reason to Believe, as well as a personal favorite, The Lady Came From Baltimore. His songs were covered by artists as diverse as Bobby Darin, Rod Stewart, Johnny Cash and Joan Baez. Hardin even appeared at Woodstock, in 1969, playing his songs to an audience of a half million people.

Hot streaks don’t last forever. By the middle 1970s, Hardin was washed up, a mental and physical wreck. He was also in dire financial straits. He had no income from his song catalog because he had sold the rights to his music a few years earlier to settle a pressing problem.

The problem was heroin, a drug he had become very fond of while in the military and stationed in Vietnam, during the early years of the war. The fondness grew into an all-consuming obsession and it stayed with him the rest of his life. He was, by all reports, a degenerate junkie, erratic and unreliable, prone to putting on terrible performances, that’s if he even bothered showing up at all. He became virtually unemployable. By the late 1970s he was reduced to playing second rate clubs for chump change.

In early December of 1980 I was sitting out a snowstorm with the help of some bourbon and reefer, when I got a call from a dear friend. “Hey, Milo, are you doing anything tonight?”

“Nothing special.”

“I’ve got a couple of free tickets to see Tim Hardin at the Quiet Knight. You want to go?”

“Sounds good.”

Maybe it was the bad weather, but I doubt more than 40 people showed up for the show. The upside of the sparse crowd was that my friend and I got a good table, close to the stage.

Hardin appeared about 30 minutes late. It might have been better if he had never showed up at all. He looked terrible — bloated, pasty, in dire need of grooming and a bath. And he was obviously high, riding with the white witch.

Hardin stumbled through the first few songs, mumbling the lyrics, hitting sour notes on his guitar, nearly nodding off in the middle of a tune. A few people walked out after he stopped to lazily scratch himself in the middle of Reason to Believe. Others began to heckle him, “Come on, Tim, pick it up, man.”

I didn’t want to be there. It was painful watching Tim Hardin trying to put on a show. He had once been a well-paid, popular and honored entertainer. Now, he was just a lost soul, a ghost of glories past, incapable of even going through the motions.

I was thinking about leaving. I didn’t want to be a party to this train wreck any longer. Then Tim started playing If I Were a Carpenter and the fucker nailed it. He stood tall and straight, closed his eyes, and sang:

If I were a carpenter
And you were a lady
Would you marry me anyway
Would you have my baby

His voice was sweet and clear. His guitar playing was crisp. He sang the song like it was his testament, the one pure and true thing in his life. It was the song that defined him and he seemed determined not to fuck it up. He gave the audience the best he had. And when he finished, he was spent. Tim Hardin had nothing more to give. He fumbled through another song or two, made an incomprehensible apology, and left the stage. There was no applause.

About three weeks later, on December 29, 1980, to be precise, Tim Hardin died of a heroin overdose.

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Letter From Milo: Sissy Man Blues

December 18th, 2017

As hard as it may be for my loyal readers to believe, there have been long periods in my life when I simply could not get laid. Yes, it’s true, there were actually times when even the great Milo could not get any pussy.

I suppose every man has his dry spells. The great Charles Bukowski once wrote that in the prime of his life, from his late 20s to his mid 30s, he did not get laid for eight long, dreadful years. Now, I’ve never had the misfortune to suffer through an eight-year drought, but there have been sexless periods in my life that were lengthy enough to give new meaning to the term “blue bag recycling.”

Even the most industrious, hardworking, persistent pussy magnets sometimes experience a “disruption in the force.”

My colleagues here at The Third City are not immune to the no-pussy blues. For example, that talentless hack, Benny Jay, has not gotten laid since 1987. He has gone on record as saying, “I don’t miss it one bit, either.”

Jon Randolph, the lowlife who poses as a photographer for this site, said there was a time in his life when he could have walked into a Jenny Craig meeting with a pocketful of Snickers bars and still not gotten a piece of ass.

Jim Siergey called us from the Betty Ford Center, where, he told us, sexual activity is pretty much of a dead issue. He said it wouldn’t be fun anyway. The Betty Ford Center only allows the missionary position, with doggie style permitted every other Saturday, from noon to 4:00 pm.

Pussy deprivation hits home in different ways. Some men turn to drugs or alcohol. Some become degenerate gamblers. Some masturbate themselves into insane asylums. Others spend their days and nights surfing porn sites.

The worst cases are those pathetic wretches who take up blogging in lieu of sex, and that, my friends, is the very poorest of poor substitutes.

The only advice I can give to a man badly in need of a woman is to keep trying. Never give up. Somewhere, someplace, there’s a woman sitting on a bar stool just waiting for you to come up to her and say, “Hey mama, why is a sweet young thing like you out so late on a school night?”

If that doesn’t work you can always consider becoming temporarily gay or bi-sexual. That way you can basically double your odds of getting some action. The great Kokomo Arnold, a bluesman who passed away in the 30’s, even wrote a song about this particular situation called “Sissy Man Blues.”

“Lord, I woke up this morning with my pork grinding business in my hand,

Says I woke up this morning with my pork grinding business in my hand,

Lord if you can’t send me no woman,

Please send me some sissy man.”

Another option to consider when it comes to getting laid is beastiality. There are a lot of small farms just across the state line in Indiana. In my experience I’ve discovered it’s best to avoid the poultry farms and stick to the…

HOLD IT!

This is Mrs. Milo. I just passed by the computer, saw what Milo was writing and chased him away from the keyboard with the Taser I keep handy for occasions like this. What a load of disgusting, filthy crap. Here he is, sitting around in his ratty bathrobe, hasn’t showered in three or four days, reeks of booze and cigarettes and he’s trying to pass himself off as some kind of expert on love and sex. The only thing he’s an expert on is getting drunk and making a fool of himself. I’d laugh if it wasn’t so pathetic. The sad thing is that he’s getting worse as he’s gets older. Anybody that takes his advice on sex or anything else for that matter is a bigger idiot than he is. I don’t know what I ever saw in him. What a miserable loser he turned out to be. The same goes for the rest of those morons at The Third City.

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Letter From Milo: Mickey and Bonnie

December 11th, 2017

Mickey came home from Vietnam in February of 1970, just a few days short of his 21st birthday. He had been an infantryman, a rifle-toting grunt who had slogged through mountains and swamps, bombed out rice paddies and impenetrable jungles. He had seen and done things that no person should ever see or do. Some of the memories would never leave him.

Back home, Mickey was at loose ends. He didn’t know what to do. He was lost and confused. His old friends, high school buddies, seemed like childish strangers. He wasn’t sleeping well and was eating poorly. Even his mother’s cooking, which he had always relished, was tasteless to him.

Mickey spent most of his time in his car, driving aimlessly, listening to the radio and smoking lots of marijuana. Sometimes he’d pick up a six-pack or a pint of whiskey and drive out to the beach, where he’d find an isolated spot near the shore of Lake Michigan, park his car, and watch the waves roll in and out for hours at a time. The sound of waves lapping at the shoreline soothed him and often he would fall asleep, lulled by the rhythm of the tides.

Mickey knew there was something wrong with him but he couldn’t figure out on the problem. The term Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder hadn’t been coined yet. If he had known about PTSD he might have tried to get some help, although Mickey was by nature a self-contained type and probably wouldn’t have asked for help even if he knew he needed it.

After being home for a few months, the time had come for Mickey to make a decision. He could either get a job in one of the local factories or do something else. He opted for something else. He decided to take advantage of the GI Bill and go to college for a year or so, just to clear his head. Maybe he would get a new perspective on things. Maybe his demons wouldn’t follow him to southern Indiana. Maybe he could outrun his past. Maybe.

His first months at college were not much different from the life he had been living in his hometown. Mickey wandered around in a daze, keeping his head down, unable to reach out to people, unwilling to expose himself more than absolutely necessary. He attended classes sporadically, spent time drinking alone in the local taverns and smoked pot to take his mind off of, well, who knows what. He may as well have been a ghost, his presence unnoticed except for those whose senses were attuned to the high and lonesome end of the misery spectrum.

And then Mickey met Bonnie.

She was a beautiful, long-legged art student, a farm girl from southern Indiana. She saw something in Mickey that he thought had been lost and gone forever. She saw a spark of intelligence, a glimmer of humanity that he thought no longer existed. For some reason she decided that he was someone worthwhile, someone she wanted to know better.

Bonnie took Mickey under her lovely wing. They became friends, and then they became more than friends. She had a kind and generous nature and, more than that, she seemed to have an intuitive sense of how to deal with Mickey’s damaged psyche. When he went into one of his funks, she knew how to lift his spirits. She was comfortable with his silences and listened patiently when he felt like talking. Although Mickey didn’t realize it at the time, Bonnie was exactly what he needed at that point in his life.

When Bonnie brought Mickey into her life she also introduced him to her world. As an art student, Bonnie’s social circle included other aspiring artists – actors, writers, dancers and musicians. Mickey, who was used to the rough world of soldiers and working men, found himself enjoying the company of his witty and creative new friends. They made him laugh and think and look at the world differently. He was changing.

Slowly, Mickey began to come out of his shell. He felt healthy again. He was sleeping better, too, his dreams less vivid and frightening. He took pleasure in good conversation, good music and even began enjoying some of his classes, although it must be said that Mickey had a low opinion of organized education. He no longer had a sense of dread when he woke up in the morning. He had the odd but welcome sensation that he was becoming a human being again, reconnecting to the person he once was and seeing intimations of the person he might become.

Mickey understood that none of this would have been possible without Bonnie. She had literally saved his sanity and, possibly, his life. She had lifted the darkness from his soul and replaced it with dawning hope. Mickey knew that he could never explain to Bonnie what she had done for him. He could not find words that adequately expressed what she meant to him. In fact, he doubted that the proper words of thanks existed in the English language. The only thing he knew for certain was that without her he might have remained a ghost, a blue-collar Flying Dutchman, doomed to spend eternity wandering. He would never forget what she had done for him.

All stories have a beginning and, sadly, an end. When she finished school, Bonnie decided to move to New York City to pursue her artistic dreams. Mickey’s future lay elsewhere. They went their separate ways, but Mickey always kept Bonnie in his heart, safely tucked away in a place where a person’s most precious treasures are kept. He thought of her often, wondering where she was and what she was doing. Always, when he thought of her, he wished her peace, love and happiness. There was nobody more deserving.

And there was absolutely no doubt in Mickey’s mind that when Bonnie thought of him, she wished him the same.

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