An Excerpt from “The End of Fear”

When I drive through the coastal mountains of Western Oregon in April and May, the rain mists on the windshield and I open the windows to catch the air that melts on my skin.  The air melts and then stays there, and if I am hot, like the way the human body expels heat after a bout of pneumonia—so extreme that feet can’t be cooled and the enormity of it all would make a grown man cry—if I am hot like that, the air begins to sublimate from my frozen skin.  It must be frozen.  The dead have no heat, and we are nothing if not dead.

Maybe I am being a bit dramatic. I can accept that. I can hoot and holler and knock ‘em, sock ‘em dead with the best of those country bumpkins from the high deserts of Central Oregon.  I can drive around with my big old balls hanging from my pickup hitch and my gun rack and antlers hanging from my rear window, and I can pretend that the drama simply does not exist—that this level of drama is for the weak.  Maybe those country boys are on to something.  Maybe they never really do feel their truck hitches tighten into their throats.  But maybe drama is what we need. Maybe like those folks in Bend who stare at people of color if they linger in their shops too long—maybe the only time those folks cry is when they see one of their white brethren explode from a well-timed mortar round or when God cries from heaven cause of the beauty of the green earth. Surely Nietzsche was right, except that he has never been to the coastal mountains when it rains—and Lord knows he’s never been to war.  Foxholes and atheists and all that.

So God cries when it rains. That much we know. And when God cries, it takes the heat away from my frozen skin, which makes no sense, but neither do fevers, with their hundred degree temperatures and shivering bodies.  Makes no fucking sense.  If it rains for long enough—without thunder and pelting hail and drips the size of ALS bucket challenges—if God can refrain from his Him-Damn sobbing—but instead, if the Good Lord Above™ provides us with the sweet, sweet juices of his manly, one-teared cheek—if God can just hold it together for long enough for me to get to a fucking pullout along side of highway 197, then I will step outside of my car.  I will open my mouth.  I will breathe in the mist until I drown in the salty tears of God’s green earth. And in that moment, I am the balls on a racist dude’s truck from Bend, Oregon  In that moment, I fear no man.

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            In Iraq, there are no balls on any of the trucks belonging to racist men. Mostly, our racist balls sit on sandbags in our trucks and dangle from below our overheated torsos.  Sometimes our racist balls impose us to chase down Hajji and to crack a drunken man’s skull with the butt-stock of our rifles. But most of the time, when they aren’t in our throats from barely missing being hit by an RPG, they are on the forehead of a soldier while he’s sleeping.  Sexual assault and racism—the diet of a warrior.  Maybe those things are okay though—I mean, what’s a bit of dehumanization when death is on the line?  We greet men and women and children of all ages by soaking them, sometimes with bodily fluids, sometimes with white, salty sweat, and sometimes with tan and beige and blood and blue—we dehumanize the no longer human anyway.

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