BY ARA MGRDICHIAN
Mr. Wild is clean-shaven and smiling. He’s got a 10,000-mile gaze, and you cannot see the bottom of his pale, blue-gray. He’s gotten just a little pudgy, but he’s still tall and he’s still strong and he doesn’t smoke and he can definitely kill with a smile.
He did three years in the Nam.
Boyle Heights Irish-Jew, American, love child.
In the early days, at the high school, before drive-bys and gun toting kids cracked-up and gloating were the norm, he walked straight up to the van parked outside the school where those older kids from somewhere else were waiting inside with the shotgun and the sticks.
Wild Bill walked right up, smiling and opened the side door, looked into the frightened, angry eyes of the alpha male and took the shotgun out of his hands and ran them out of his town, tails between their shaking legs.
Now, Wild Bill and I are dressed in suits, milling about the cafeteria where all the immigrant children are all cliqued up and brooding. Bill and I are herding, we’re gathering Hum-Intel and sniffing scents, making sure it’s all in the box.
No war, the big dogs are here.
Smaller children are sent by the too cool headmen, the older kids, the ones with ties to quasi-criminals on the outside–little munchkins, nice guy baby smiles and tradecraft of the imminent fool. These are sent to nip at my heels.
Flush hounds, stalking-horses.
The bolder ones almost nuzzle, coming in close to Papa Bear. They look, they view. It’s surveillance, baby boy style, but still surveillance and they try to lift the hem of my suit coat. They want to “accidentally,” “playfully” let the coat flap a little, so they can see if that’s a holster I’m wearing–to see if Wild Bill has brought in some impossible, noveau dinosaur Armo cop, that speaks all the dialects.
Narc. Cop. Father. Mother.
They cringe and smile.
A small scabby hand goes for the lower part of my coat.
They cringe and smile–primate fear grimace–as they peer with their chocolate milk mouths and Jolly Rancher cheeks exactly, precisely, where their bounty may lie. The little one moves back as the coat flaps less than he thought and his backup–the real watcher–is at the other side, at an angle, waiting to get a glimpse.
I bat them away without touching them, as they realize my pockets are weighted and their interest grows. They speak to me in their language–street Armenian from Yerevan’s outskirts. It’s my adopted language, because I don’t have a language.
Because my language is dead.
The bell rings.
Boyle Heights Bill and I make eye contact and move in tandem, two sheepdogs, his pale blue and my terminal brown, deep rivers, unfathomable, and we herd them out, as notes and money and drugs are passed between the Children of the Genocide.
I somehow knew all this.
I somehow knew this even before I got here.
Walking with jackboots, heavy, on harder streets and longer roads. Whiling away my time in hot winded desserts. Whiling away time, whittling it into flutes, figurines and toys for hapless children I never had. Whiling away time in small ill-lit rooms, machining tools, molten lead, lubricating, fabricating printless bullets…. reading, walking, talking–sitting the in-betweens, in coffee shops and city streets, deserted villages and burnt out towns, displaying my lackadasia and vigor like a bazaar king or shameless whore.
And you know I’d change for a dollar…
But, I never did.
I was never twelve like these kids had been. I may have been twelver than them, I don’t know. But, I know I stayed 13 or 14 for most of my life, like Khmer Rouge adolescents.
Pure, unadulterated flux, biologically mandated, mostly unbeknownst to myself. Partly willed, like hormones moving, kicking like babies in the belly, like ovum fertilizing.
I am my sperm.
That state, that vigor, that marginality and integration, that heightened entropy, metastasizing, inching always to maximum equilibrium.
That forever present, that forever present tense…
That blind faith that turns toddlers into butchers, that makes true believers into the nightmares of enemies.
Pubescence–the most radical time in the human animal.
I am changing, yet I am the same, fucker.
This is why I became who I always was.
This is why I am you, the you you really love.
But, this was all microcosm and Petri dish. This was all “It’s a Small World After All.” This was civilian life and poetry and I knew it would end, as I waited for marching orders from up top, from up on top of my grizzled head, from way inside, from the great beyond.