Somewhere in a quiet little town in Northern Illinois is a little gas station. It’s not much to look at, you may have seen it and never paid any mind. This little gas station used to be a mom and pop shop with a little garage attached for giving oil changes and tires rotations to soccer moms and boys whose fathers never taught them to do it themselves. Now it’s a Shell. One must imagine a couple’s dreams at business ownership were set back on that spot.
Just down the street is a park. You can see it from the little gas station that used to be a mom and pop shop. At this park, children play on the playground. Young boys and girls play football, baseball, and softball at various points of the year. Dads will cheer their sons and daughters on. Some are made proud, others disappointed. The kinds of dads who teach their kids to change their own oil. They make plans to live out their athletic dreams vicariously through their children. Some are very talented. But maybe they like music more. Still. Dad has his plans.
Plans. God laughs.
Dog owners walk their dogs at this park, too. Couples stroll around, some with dogs, some without. Teenagers get up to no good there. There’s a little forest just past the football field notorious for teenagers getting up to no good.
All a manner of life takes place on this obscure little northern Illinois street. It may even be undistinguishable from any other suburban street in the United States, save for the climate.
Summers there are warm and often humid. There is green everywhere and the air can be thick with the smell of cookouts. Winters are long and often bitingly cold. The sky is gray and, while the snowfall can be very beautiful, its beauty quickly gives way to ice and slush and snow blackened on the side of the road by car exhaust. Fall and Spring are cold, too, mostly. In the fall, chill sets in early. In the Spring it retains its grip as long as possible.
Down the street from this park, almost smack dab in the middle between the park and the little Shell gas station that used to be a mom and pop shop, there is a house. Nothing out of the ordinary to see from the outside.
A beautiful girl lives there.
There’s a boy who loves her. She loves him back too.
This girl had a quality about her that could almost be electric, and she was stunningly beautiful. There were lots of boys who chased her. But she loved this boy. He loved her back, too.
This girl would often contend that she could not bear to finish a story. She never wanted to know the ending.
Maybe it was for fear of tragedy. Maybe though, she felt that not knowing the ending meant the story never ended. There could be a comfort in that. Often on late night walks through the park down the street from the little Shell gas station, the boy would play the contrarian. Try to see if he could change her mind. He never could. She was more stubborn than he.
He had to know the ending. Indeed, no matter how tragic, it was the most interesting part.
This park, down the street from the little Shell gas station that used to be a mom and pop shop, was the scene of many late night walks with this boy and girl who loved each other. They would talk about this or that, or nothing at all. They would share cigarettes and she made him promise to quit before they got married. They made plans. They sat at the bench and proclaimed their love for each other. Young and in love. They had hope. They made plans.
Plans. God laughs.
Maybe, sometimes, they’d stop at this little Shell gas station and fill up their tanks on their way to this place or that. It meant very little to them. Just another gas station.
The former proprietors of the little mom and pop shop would stop by the little Shell gas station sometimes, too. They would get gas, and stand on the spot where their dreams collapsed.
They had plans once too.
Years would go by. The young boy and the young boy, now perhaps a young man and a young woman, kept loving each other. Not the same love as before. More mature, perhaps. In its way, it blossomed from simple passion into an impossibly close friendship. They became family in their own way.
The young man, now, had grown to love this young woman more than his own life. More than anything he thought possible. He imagined getting a normal job, and having a normal house with children. He’d teach them how to change their own oil, and let them play baseball, or football, or music if they would like. He had no desire to live vicariously through anyone else. Above all odds, all he wanted was firmly within his grasp.
He made plans.
Granted, all was not always perfect. The young man and woman surely fought, had the disagreements all couples had. No sweat. They always made up.
On nights when the young man wasn’t around, the young woman would go for walks in this park by herself. Maybe, an idea began to creep into this young woman’s mind.
Maybe, she thought, she didn’t want to know the ending. Maybe, she thought, she ought to stop reading before the ending.
Perhaps for fear of tragedy.
She made plans.
There are few certainties.
Late one cold spring night, the girl stopped at the little Shell gas station that used to be a mom and pop shop.
Where she planned on going is no certainty.
She collapsed there.
Late one cold spring night, at the little Shell gas station that used to be a mom and pop shop, the young woman, for whom the young man would surely have killed and died for, thought her last thought.
What truly happened, other than that, is no certainty.
Perhaps, the young man would wonder, love was truly not enough. None of it was enough to the young woman to make life worth living.
Indeed, if life itself wasn’t worth living, what chance did he stand with her?
Perhaps, she felt she had figured out the ending. The sad, tragic truth. That love just wasn’t enough. She never wanted to know that.
The young man, though, he needs to know.
Now he does.
Surely there’s more to life than one tragic truth. She’ll never know.
That’s just how she wanted it.
Here’s one last certainty:
Sometimes, late at night, the young man who loved the young woman more than life itself will drive by that little Shell gas station that used to be a mom and pop shop. Sometimes, he’ll even get gas there.
He’ll stand on the very spot where his dreams, and all the very ideas he once held as truths, collapsed. Much like the former proprietors of the little mom and pop shop.
He’ll stand there and look down the street to that park.
He won’t be going back there.
Howard Zinn said it best.
I'd write a long essay about the unavoidable nature of bias in history class, but Howard Zinn already said it better than I ever could. Check it out!
"It is not that the historian can avoid emphasis of some facts and not of others. This is as natural to him as to the mapmaker, who, in order to produce a usable drawing for practical purposes, must first flatten and distort the shape of the earth, then choose out of the bewildering mass of geographic information those things needed for the purpose of this or that particular map.
My argument cannot be against selection, simplification, emphasis, which are inevitable for both cartographers and historians. But the map-maker's distortion is a technical necessity for a common purpose shared by all people who need maps. The historian's distortion is more than technical, it is ideological; it is released into a world of contending interests, where any chosen emphasis supports (whether the historian means to or not) some kind of interest, whether economic or political or racial or national or sexual.
Furthermore, this ideological interest is not openly expressed in the way a mapmaker's technical interest is obvious ("This is a Mercator projection for long-range navigation-for short-range, you'd better use a different projection"). No, it is presented as if all readers of history had a common interest which historians serve to the best of their ability. This is not intentional deception; the historian has been trained in a society in which education and knowledge are put forward as technical problems of excellence and not as tools for contending social classes, races, nations.
To emphasize the heroism of Columbus and his successors as navigators and discoverers, and to de-emphasize their genocide, is not a technical necessity but an ideological choice. It serves- unwittingly-to justify what was done. My point is not that we must, in telling history, accuse, judge, condemn Columbus in absentia. It is too late for that; it would be a useless scholarly exercise in morality. But the easy acceptance of atrocities as a deplorable but necessary price to pay for progress (Hiroshima and Vietnam, to save Western civilization; Kronstadt and Hungary, to save socialism; nuclear proliferation, to save us all)-that is still with us. One reason these atrocities are still with us is that we have learned to bury them in a mass of other facts, as radioactive wastes are buried in containers in the earth. We have learned to give them exactly the same proportion of attention that teachers and writers often give them in the most respectable of classrooms and textbooks. This learned sense of moral proportion, coming from the apparent objectivity of the scholar, is accepted more easily than when it comes from politicians at press conferences. It is therefore more deadly.
The treatment of heroes (Columbus) and their victims (the Arawaks)-the quiet acceptance of conquest and murder in the name of progress-is only one aspect of a certain approach to history, in which the past is told from the point of view of governments, conquerors, diplomats, leaders. It is as if they, like Columbus, deserve universal acceptance, as if they-the Founding Fathers, Jackson, Lincoln, Wilson, Roosevelt, Kennedy, the leading members of Congress, the famous Justices of the Supreme Court-represent the nation as a whole. The pretense is that there really is such a thing as "the United States," subject to occasional conflicts and quarrels, but fundamentally a community of people with common interests. It is as if there really is a "national interest" represented in the Constitution, in territorial expansion, in the laws passed by Congress, the decisions of the courts, the development of capitalism, the culture of education and the mass media."
Always, I prepare for war.
I carry my life on my back. Sleeping bag. Poncho. Food. Water. Body armor. Helmet. Rifle. Ammunition. Tobacco. The essentials.
We're called grunts because of the sound we make when we put our packs on our backs. We live up to our name.
We wake up at nautical twilight, it's cold, but we do not get to choose our weather. We are tired and sore. Our feet and shoulders hurt. It's time to go to work. We are grunts. We live up to our name.
It's not so exciting, this life. Not often, anyways. We walk. We sit and watch nothing. We shoot. We train and train and train some more. Always, we prepare for war.
My rifle is an extension of myself. I must know my rifle. I must keep it clean. For without my rifle, I am useless. It must not fail at the moment of truth. Always, I prepare for war.
I hold no hate in my heart. I would just as soon live and let live as I would kill. I love humanity, but I hold no illusions that there are those who would do me and those I love harm. I do not pray for war, but always, I prepare for war.
I am scared. I prepare to kill or be killed. It weighs heavily on my heart. No one forced me to be here, yet here I am. Preparing for war.
I am not political. I do not wish to kill others in their homeland, but I do not get to pick my battles. That is for the politicians to decide. I am the wolf who keeps the other wolves from the door.
Yes, we have not had to defend our homeland since the Aleutian Island campaign of World War 2. That is because we are strong and others dare not attack us. We are the wolves who keep the other wolves from the door.
I am a grunt. Always, I prepare for war.
I signed my life away because I didn't care to live anymore. Now I miss home and I don't want to die. Be careful what you wish for. You'll get it.
I'd kill for a kiss goodbye, love.
This isn't how our story ends.
The finality, it's so confusing.
This isn't our story.
It can't be.
At 0100 on 03/02/16 we received a 9-1-1 dispatch for an MVA on east bound Glen Rd. between North ave and Lawrence Rd. We arrived on scene at approximately 0105 to find a two vehicle collision. Fire was on scene and were extricating a PT from her vehicle. The second PT was ambulatory but heavily intoxicated. Vitals as follows: BP 136/94, pulse 103, respirations 16/min and shallow, oxygen saturation 98%, blood sugar 103. No pertinent medical history. PT admitted to drinking "7 or 8 drinks". PT had suffered minor lacerations to the forehead and hands. PT was then transported to CDH.
At this time FD had completed extrication of the female PT. They had already requested critical care airlift to Good Samaritan. PT had sustained a laceration to the femoral artery, as well as a possible aortic rupture. Attempts to control the hemorrhaging were unsuccessful and PT went into decompensated shock. PT was pronounced dead on scene and the airlift cancelled. No further interventions taken. Ambulance 6 was unable to return to service after this call until approximately 0700.
The patient from the car was my fiancee. She died in my arms, scared and in pain, while my partner applied a torniquet to her leg to try to stem the bleeding.
What do I do now?
"Are you fucking high? Is this some sort of metaphor for my failings as a parent? Am... Am I sure I don't see him? Yes I'm pretty sure I don't see a naked man named Jimmy running around my backyard. Why would his name be Jimmy, anyways?"
"He's right there."
"HOLY SHIT, WE'RE LOOKING IN THE SAME DIRECTION. JIMMY IS DEFINITELY NOT HERE RIGHT NOW... Alright... That's the last time I let you smoke angel dust with me."
0100. Dispatch radios in. Motor vehicle accident.
0105. Shit. Get the trauma bag.
0106. Chevy Aveo totaled. I know that car.
0107. My fiancee bleeds out in my arms.
0108. What now?
The more winters I survive, the more summer nights I can appreciate. Especially this one.
That bright idea.
Just keep writing until you think of something. I mean, whatever. It's whatever. I'll think of something.
Eventually I'll have to think of something.
I'm still fucking rambling.
It's whatever. I'll think of something eventually.