|The following narrative was submitted on 21 January, 1997, by Brent Green, who was born in 1949. If you'd like to contribute a narrative, please fill out our form. If your browser doesn't handle forms, just write us an email. For permission to reprint narratives, please contact Viet Nam Generation, Inc.|
I wandered through a torrid dream before my awakening. I saw a tapestry of images woven with mop-top hair, stringy recording tape and tattered denim. I tasted sloppy cheeseburgers, sipped old black coffee, smoked filterless cigarettes, and slammed down shots of Madeira wine. Fragrances -- burned car oil, wispy female breaths, sandlewood, cherry vodka -- wandered through my nostrils. The songs I nodded to were of silence, wind and JFK.
I thought about differences and similarities, but mostly differences. I challenged anyone over thirty. I believed fervently in nothing but hopefully in everything. I followed well because I listened passionately to protest songs and shrouded myself in bell-bottom garb just like every other iconoclast.
I awakened to shadows of doubt. My eyes squinted open full of fuzzy sand, watering with unrest ... darting with distrust.
Demands placed upon me for decisions were hopelessly complex, yet so simple. At once I wanted to fit nicely, to become a fundamental spoke in the great machine of society, to enlist in the American Gleam Team. But I detested sameness. My gut ached to be like the starving artists because I needed to carve a feast of spontaneous combustion.
My footsteps away from childhood into looming obligations were screaming yawns. I trembled at one horrible nightmare: my teeth tangled with jungle vines; my tongue blackened from innocent death; anger spilling over my lips as drops of blood mixed with sputum; and righteous indignation dripping down my chin onto an empty heart.
Many times I attempted somnambulistic love, a narcotic. It was on the sandbars surrounding slowly passing time that I saw starlight reflect in laggard muddy waters. I flowed down a forever river, absorbed in concerns about connectivity. I drank too much warm beer, lay on my back in sunburned sand and watched the Big Dipper swirl with hot loneliness. Brilliant ripples of ardor radiated around me in those moments when I raced in circles with sexual feelings. So I took captives and kissed parts of young women to learn about the ephemeral addiction of touch. Instead, I discovered the power of eroticism. And in the twilight of my morning mind, among the wet dreams, I lived a hundred lives filled with romance and shuddered many times with anguish at love lost, even when I did not find it.
Trust fell from grace and slapped my face with Rule Number One: There are no safe mating harbors.
Songs wandered from an eight-track stereo across blowing winds of uncertainty to fill me with doubt, exhilaration, bombast, and gall. Guitars were twangy and sweet and swift. Drums punctuated my youthful, lofty ideals. The beat beat me, beat me, beat me.
Shrill harmonies carried me to audiences who loved me, screamed for me. Concert halls full of rapacious fans adored my honesty, my humanity, my brief, clear vision of life. (Good rock n' roll songs always delivered the happy dream: What poignant fantasy to have been one of the melodic messengers of my youth, to have sung the words that were the mood of my generation. So I listened to every song, born from either crystal or needle, and heard with some level of rapture.)
And little by little, I cleared my callow eyes to understand Rule Number Two: You can survive either in a reality or a dream; it is always your choice.
Friends I found along the way were much needed. They awakened with me. Boys became men as we reached into the wellspring to find visions of a time, together. We sat in stuffy coffee houses, ate peanuts in the shell and laughed about puberty. We burrowed deep into musty bars reeking with stale beer and stole private moments between gregarious chugs. We smoked too much, drank too much, held on too hard. Drunk or not, we drove fast in unimpressive cars; ashtrays were always full of fading fairy tales.
Arguments often lasted late into night when we talked about life differently. Nobody was ever completely right, but neither was anyone completely wrong. We warmed each other to the struggle of growing up. It was enough to make the journey plausible.
Then Rule Number Three tiptoed into consciousness as my groggy head cleared: Nothing is real outside your mind, unless it hurts you or kills you.
My awakening took me somewhere beyond the senses. I woke to a raging beast and also met a timid wanderer. At first I boasted little knowledge of which was which. The horrific duty animal slithered into my mind and bit me where it hurt. But the poet also bloomed during soft moments of appreciation. In one sense, I lost everything: All the old codes were meaningless; mangy, arcane philosophies grew tiresome. In another thought, I gained primordial wisdom that would nurture me through banal years of rigorous maturity.
My eyes blinked alert; I stretched wistfully, stood carefully; and I unfolded my mind to a new era, squinting over my shoulder at that bright, spiritual, paisley, unsettling, psychedelic black light of the Nineteen-Sixties.