Red Panda

January 27, 2011

It’s that time again.  The doldrums, or whatever you want to call them.  You know, that period of time in which I can’t stop analyzing and over-analyzing and thinking and whatnot.  In a nutshell, I’m not as happy as I could be right now.  But that’s more or less my own doing, and I’ll have to deal with that and see if I learned from last quarter.  Nothing like a good academic crotch punch to really put you in your place.  Anywho.

I was in Bio lecture yesterday, and this guy gets up to talk to the class before the professor starts.  Older gentleman, well-dressed, very professor-y (white hair, thinning, kind face, tweed jacket, elbow pads, etc).  He’s there to tell us about this program over the summer for academic credit.  Students can go to South Africa (he leads with this), Big Sur, Alaska, Australia… and China.  Why China?  Well, there’s this animal in China that’s endangered.  Very endangered.  Maybe you’ve heard of it: The Giant Panda?  Yep.  10-12 weeks in China, working with Giant Panda’s, helping with conservation efforts, learning about their ecology and behavior, all of that.  Cool, right?  Well, I said to myself “It’s too bad they aren’t working with Red Pandas; I’d be all over that.” After class I go up to get the information, because it is something to do for the summer, and who knows, maybe there’s something in there that I could do.  I’m not too keen on going to China for Panda research, or to South Africa to work with Elephants, but Big Sur is cool.  So I grab the brochure, or whatever it can be called.  It’s more like an informational magazine on the different programs.  Anyways, I grab it and start walking out of the lecture hall.  As soon as I get outside I open it so that I can peruse it on my sojourn to Starbucks to work.  I open to page 2, and what do I see smiling back at me?  A Red Panda.  A very very CUTE Red Panda, mind you.  Where? Where is this Red Panda? I can work with Red Panda’s?  I look to the top of the Page.  China.  Panda Conservation.  10-12 weeks.  Giant Panda AND Red Panda.  WHY DIDN’T THEY MENTION THIS IN CLASS?!?! That’s the selling point! All of this flys through my head.  Wait, maybe I’m mistaken.  They’re just including it because it’s endangered and in the area.  Nope, Red Panda’s too.  Red Panda’s too.  Since I started here I’ve often thought about and considered taking a quarter in Washington DC to hopefully try to work at the National Zoo.  I would love to work with Red Pandas.  Outside of my field, but that’s besides the point.  They’re Red Pandas!

So what’s the issue?  It’s China.  It’s Summer.  It’s 10-12 weeks.  I have to pay a little over 3 grand to do it.  It’s worth 18 units, sure, but still.  I would love to do it.  It’s a great opportunity.  But I’m really not sure about it right now.  The worst part is that I have to apply soon or not get it at all.  I’m already staring down the possibility that I might not be doing anything this summer yet again, much to my chagrin, and not for lack of trying.  I have bio professors who won’t even email me back about a meeting for a letter of rec, and one letter is one short of what I need for just one summer program.  Jobs aren’t looking good for me at the moment, what with not having enough lab experience or a 3.5.  I need something where I’ll get paid even just a little bit so that I can stay in my apartment over the summer and cover bills and, you know, eat.  I’ve considered applying to be an ER tech at UCDMC, or even looking into an ambulance shift or two, if it comes down to it.  But the point is, I have no idea what I’m doing right now.  I don’t know what I’m doing with myself, I don’t know where I’m headed, I just don’t know.  And most people here would say “But you’re in college, no one knows what they want to do!” No.  I’m almost 23.  I’m a sophomore.  I want to be a doctor.  But I may have screwed myself out of that, at least for the time being.  I mean, there’s still my backup plan, which may just become my plan, assuming I can manage to bring my GPA up from out of the depths of hell (bear in mind, this is pre-med GPA hell, so just a hair below a 3.0).  But really, where am I going?  Moreso, if I can’t get into these research programs over the summer because of my GPA, or even, apparently, because of where I go to school (Thank you, Stanford HCOP, for giving preference in a 25 person class to people from Bay Area schools), how am I supposed to get research, which roughly translates into shiny bullet points on Grad/Med School apps that show that even though I may have had a bad quarter, I’m a good student and suited for their school?  And because I love to think ahead, what if I just get burnt out trying?  I feel like I’ve struggled just to get where I am now.  I don’t think I’ve had anything handed to me.  What if halfway through Grad School I just say “Fuck this, I’m tired and I want to be done already”.  I’m not sure if I want to be a professor, much less a researcher, for the rest of my life.  I want to be a doctor.  But can I put up with that much more school, stress, and bullshit?  I think it comes down to can I deal with knowing that I’ll never be what I want to be and that I had to settle over can I put up with stress, school, and bullshit.

At this point I really have no idea. And as this goes on, I’ve slowly come to the realization that I’m in a persistent outgroup.  I don’t really hang out with anyone besides people I’m in a club with, or friends of Lucy or friends of friends.  What the hell happened to me being social and always having close friends?  And why do I insist on being “best friends” with someone who can’t even reciprocate.  I’m not really sure if it was ever smart for me to go down that road.  And so instead of dumping this all on a close friend and being able to talk it out over coffee, I’m left with writing it out as my only means of true outlet.  Because anyone else I tell really doesn’t know what to say.  It’s either “You’ll be ok”, or “Oh, Pshaw”, or silence.  And I think I prefer the silence of my blog on my computer screen to the silence of someone I actually know.

One step closer to just saying Fuck It and becoming an introverted and anti-social English major.  Then at least I’ll have a good excuse to write and read novels, and maybe I won’t care so much about what happens in the future.


Nobody’s Fault But Mine

January 18, 2011

*Give credit where credit is due.  This small flash of inspiration and the subsequent writing was inspired by On The Road, my good friend Seth, and the Grateful Dead.

I doubt this will get polished.  It probably won’t even be that good.  But it’s the first thing I’ve been able to write in a few months.  That’s all I need. *

I carelessly threw my bag into the backseat and slammed the door, keeping my eye on Neil.  It had been a long time since we had even been around each other for more than 5 minutes.  He set his backpack down carefully and closed the door, hopping into the front seat with effortless grace.

“Let’s do this!” he growled as I sat down and pulled my door shut.  I looked at him as his eyes locked on mine.

“Man, I missed you.” I said as I moved my eyes back to the steering wheel, the dash, the keys, to what I was doing.  “It’s been too long.”

“I know, I know.  I’ve been busy.” he said, drumming his hands on his lap.  But who hasn’t been busy?  Everyone has been busy, but it hasn’t been work to see them, to talk to them.  I had reached the point of not caring and had somehow bounced back to caring more than I should.  Fuck.  The engine turns, sputters, and then roars to life.

“Where we goin’?” I ask, hoping to get the conversation rolling.  It’s been months since it’s been just the two of us around each other, but it doesn’t feel awkward.  No response.  I throw the gear down into drive and the car lurches forward and we’re going, gone, on our way back.  But I don’t want to go back just yet.  I want to talk.  I want to tell him how I hated him, how I disowned him, how in my mind we weren’t friends.  I want to tell him that he’s being a dick, that his friends have been pissed, that he isn’t the Neil that I got close to.  The Neil I knew would put his friends before himself, would give himself up to make them happy.  I get my speech in my mind, I take my eyes off the road to look at him, to give him a piece of my mind, to do what I had been saying for months that I was going to do.  “Just as soon as I get the chance,” I say.  “I haven’t had time where it’s just us.  As soon as I get the chance, I’m talking to him.”

Neil is sitting in my passenger seat, his only-looks-shy-if-you-don’t-know-him closed-mouth smile on his face, his eyes alive and glowing.  He’s happy, and he’s here.  He’s my friend, and he’s riding with me.

“It’s been too long, man.  Too long.  I really missed you.”

The Zippo

December 3, 2010

And so it begins.  My writing, that is.  In an effort to write more, I may turn to this as a sort of writing journal.  With finals coming up I doubt I’ll be writing much in the next week, but afterwards I would like to say that I’m going to write a lot.  We’ll see how that goes.

The idea at the moment is one I’ve toyed with, but it finally hit me as an actual idea for a story.  By toying with it, I mean that the notion or general concept had crossed my mind, but it wasn’t until a few days ago that it actually hit me as an actual story idea.  That epiphany-type of sensation as I was walking to the bookstore to kill time before what I thought was going to be discussion (there was none, and I wasted a whole hour waiting when I could have been at home).

The main characters are college students (or graduates… that detail is still being worked out), and they’ve come to the conclusion that their education or degrees are basically worthless, what with the economy and all.  Long story short, they turn to dealing drugs.  Small at first, but the idea I have is that it will grow and get larger and darker and seedier.  It’s not my usual type of story, either.  I mean, it is, in a way, but it’s vastly different from what I normally do.  Most of my stories revolve around someone dying and how people are impacted by that.  It’s similar in that it will be looking at someone’s internal struggle, and I suppose, to stretch the idea, that it’s about someone dying on the inside.  But I’m aiming for dark, hopeless, gritty, and depressing.  I have a general direction, but I want to see where this goes, in all actuality.

I have a couple of paragraphs that will probably get completely thrown out in a revision or two, but the point is to get words on paper, and that’s all I’m going for now.  The story will come when it wants to. I just have to write and revise until then.

Thought for the day: High School was driven by wanting to be cool.  But really being cool isn’t being cool at all, but just trying to be yourself without regard for what others think of you.  And not many people get to that point in their lives until college, or later.  This has probably occurred to people before, I’m sure, but it’s never explicitly come to me before today.  Random realizations keep me moving.

More later, as things get worked on.  Cheers until then.

Everyone is Golden

November 30, 2010

It’s been so long since I’ve written anything, which is ironic given that I’m supposed to be writing an article on finding time to write while in school.  At first I was just gathering my thoughts, and then it turned into me not even following my own advice on how to write while in school.  Go figure.  But I, as substrate, have encountered the catalyst and have begun to react.  Slowly, given the presence of a catalyst, but reacting slowly is better than not reacting at all.

I had an idea for a story today.  And it might be a long one. You know a story is going to be good when it starts with a Zippo.  But more on that as it comes along.

This quarter has been killing me.  But I finally sucked it up and went to CAPS for help, which I desperately needed.  And what do you know, it helped.  Hopefully it’s a resource that I’ll be able to continue using.  It’s done a lot of good for me.  But let’s see if I make it through this quarter with my grades and soul still intact.

So much to talk about, and I’ll save it all for later.  I’m just happy that I’m actually updating this blog.  It’s a huge step forward for me.

Book Club:

For those of you keeping score, The Tortilla Curtain is now done on my end.  If anyone is reading along with me, feel free to say what you please about the novel on here, or email me/facebook me/text me/use whatever form of socialness that appeals to you. Since The Tortilla Curtain is now done, I have moved on to The Satanic Verses.  Before I jump into the meat of this entry, I would like to say that I have been meaning to reading The Satanic Verses for a long time, and I’m very happy that I gave myself a reason to spend money and buy it.  While I have a few ebooks, I had to go old school with this; not only am I addicted to books, but I just love holding a book in my hands.  I love turning pages, I like seeing my progress through a book visually, I love having a stack of books on my floor that is 4 feet wide and at least 3 feet high.  Plus, this is just a work that deserves to be read in print form.

Also, I have been lent the book The Tao of Physics, and I’ve begun my old habit of “double fisting” books.  So I have two going at the same time.  Feel free to read The Tao of Physics (I strongly encourage that you do!), but don’t feel like you have to read two books at once.

On to The Tortilla Curtain!

So, to preface this, I would recommend this book to my friends.  Not because it’s a great book that will change your life or the way you see the world, but because I feel like different people might have different opinions and views of this books, and it’s probably a hit or miss novel.  For me, it was a slight miss.  Here’s why: The Author set out with a great story with a decent plot and vivid characters, and proceeds from this great point to destroy every character and to write an utterly depressing story.  Any character development that I could see (and it was only with two characters) was in a downward direction; by the end there was no one to root for, no redeeming qualities to admire, and nothing to take away.  The characters learned nothing, either about themselves or about each other, much less the world, and they all ended up with less than what they started.  Well, scratch that.  The immigrants started with nothing, gained a very little bit, and lost it all again.  I can discuss it much more, but I don’t want to ruin anything.  Read it for yourself, and I’d be more than happy to discuss the finer plot points etc. But by the end of the novel I was just dying to be done with it, which is an experience I’ve never had with a novel, mostly because I’ve never forced myself to finish a bad book.  Then again, I’ve never read a book that started with such promise that wound up losing it all in the end.


At least I have the rest of my summer reading to look forward to!

Happy reading (and less bookish blogs to return again very soon)!

Short Story

May 17, 2010

This is my short story for English 5.  Enjoy, and feel free to give me comments.

Burying A Best Friend
Tim was never a safe driver, but as he drove north on the 280 from San Jose he took even more risks than usual.  Part of it was to beat the rain, part of it was because he was sleep deprived, and part of it was because he didn’t give a damn.  He pushed his Jetta to ninety, not slowing as he followed the serpentine curves of the road and swerved through traffic.  He was pretty confident that he wouldn’t get pulled over;  a man in uniform never does, and even if it happens, he would be let go with a warning.  It’s just the way things work.
Tim was going to Golden Gate National Cemetery to bury his best friend, or what was left of him.  In the week since he had learned of Peters’ death, Tim had tried desperately not to let it affect him, but it was in vain.  He was hoping to find some sort of closure by going to the funeral, but he doubted that it could be found at all.  He knew that seeing only a casket and a folded flag handed to weeping parents would do nothing but push him deeper into the hole that he was in.  And yet he drove, ignoring the lush green of the trees and hills that surrounded the road, telling himself that it would all be better soon.
He pulled his Oakleys off of his face and looked at himself in the mirror, not slowing down for a second.  His brown hair was an inch long on top, combed forward, and razor short on the sides.  His clean shaven face was obviously razor-burned, mostly because he hadn’t shaved in a week and when he did that morning he had done so quickly and without shaving cream or aftershave.  His attitude had overcome him, but not so much that he looked unprofessional.  He had always been and always would be professional, no matter the circumstances.  His eyes, a deep brown that had once been able to capture a woman’s attention for hours, were now dull and overwhelmed by the dark purple and blue under his eyes.  He hadn’t been able to sleep more than an hour or two all week.
Tim had met Peters when he joined his unit, fresh out of Medic School.  No one had started calling him Doc yet, and he was still struggling to find friends and people who would trust him with a needle within 10 feet of them.  But Peters was a young infantryman who managed to remain positive, no matter the circumstances.  Peters didn’t look a day over sixteen the day he came bouncing up, a grin and wide-eyed expression stuck on his pink, childlike face that contrasted with his blonde hair that looked white because of its length.
“So you’re the Doc, huh?” Peters said, sticking out his hand eagerly.
“Yeah, that’s me,” Tim said, as he stood up to shake his hand.
“Glad to meet you.  I’ve heard stories about you medics.  You guys like to stick people with needles and stuff, right?  Don’t you guys, like, fantasize about people being blown apart?”
Tim’s handshake lost its firmness as he realized that he expected a serious response.  Medics had this reputation, and Tim really didn’t fit any of those descriptions.  Giving IV’s was his least favorite part of Medic School.  He almost fainted the first time he had seen a pool of his own blood.  And he always cringed at the “shock value only” photos that were shown in the classroom.
“Well, we’re not all like that.  I thought medics just liked to drink and give people drugs.”
“That works too! I like drinking, and… yeah.”  Peters snorted as he laughed at the last part of his statement.
“So hey, uh, Doc,  I got this swelling in my crotch.  Think you could look at it?”
Tim hadn’t been a Medic long enough to know better than to fall for the joke, but he found himself enjoying Peters’ awkward sense of humor and his naivete about the Army and life in general.  He loved to talk about himself and the girls he was constantly chasing, which gave Tim the opportunity to not have to find anything to say and to just enjoying listening for a change.   While everyone else expected a diagnosis, or an opinion, or even an intelligent response to a question, Peters just expected Tim to listen, something that he was more than happy to do.
The unit began the process of deployment two months later, and Tim and Peters found themselves in the same platoon, which gave them more opportunities to hang out and talk.  Tim was kept busy with medical “missions” and classes, however, so their time was often limited to Breakfast and Dinner as well as downtime in the lounge of the barracks.  They had nothing to do but talk, but conversations on deployment are inherently different than conversations while talking to people from home.  Music, movies, and daily training incidents were common topics, with the latter being the funniest and most drawn out subject of all.  Tim and Peters were still new enough to the Army to trade stories about how tough their Drill Sergeants were, how hot it had been during Basic Training, and about how stupid some soldiers were and how they managed to graduate and go on to Regular Army units.  Ft. Benning, Georgia and Ft. Sam Houston, Texas, had been the most exotic place either of them had been, and both were excited for Iraq, despite what they had been hearing from the news: for every roadside bomb found, three were detonated;  the number of soldiers killed was increasing by the week;  Iraq would become the next Vietnam.
Their unit landed in Kuwait in the middle of summer and was flown to Camp Liberty, Iraq not long after.  Tim talked to a few people in their leadership and managed to get a room with Peters, despite their conflicting schedules.  Peters and the other infantrymen found themselves on convoy missions into Baghdad and the surrounding areas, while Tim found himself working at both the trauma center on post and on convoys.  Tim and Peters had been on a few missions together, but normally one was working while the other slept.  That didn’t stop them from getting breakfast together, which gave them a chance to tell war stories and talk about life in the desert and how much better the food was in Iraq than back home.  Despite the many inconveniences of living in the desert and being deployed, Tim and Peters adjusted well and even learned to enjoy their time after a few months.  At least until their routines began to change.
Tim was sitting on his bed in their room, books spread out around him in every direction.  Tim passed much of his free time in Iraq by reading books about medicine.  He was determined to become a better medic, and the only way that he knew how was by expanding what he knew about medicine.  Besides helping him treat his soldiers and helping to pass the time, it made him look good in front of the doctors that he worked with.  They trusted him to do more complicated procedures, which gave him medic bragging rights.  Peters burst through the door and threw his gear onto his bed, sitting down on his footlocker with an angry sigh.  Tim didn’t look up from his books.
“Bad day?”
“You could say that.”  Peters said, pulling off his boots.  “They’re changing our mission schedule.  Just when we get used to it! Seriously, what the fuck?”
“It’s the Army, dude.  You should know that they throw curveballs like this.  What are they changing, exactly?”
“Time, destinations, mission type.  Everything.”
Tim closed the book he was reading and swung his legs off of his bed and over the side so that he could face Peters.  “Are you going to be running nights?  Where to?”
Peters took a deep breath before he answered.  “Yeah, nights.  To Sadr City.”
Tim knew what this meant.  No more working at the trauma center, unless he enjoyed going four days without sleep.  A medic was required on every mission to Sadr City, without exception.  It was too dangerous to go without one.   “Well, I guess we’ll get to see a lot more of each other now.”  Tim said, trying to cheer his friend up.  Peters looked up and smirked, despite the frustration that was flowing through him.
“As if I need to see your ugly ass anymore than I already do.  You act like it’s some sort of treat!”
“Are you scared?” Tim asked, knowing that he wouldn’t get a straight answer.
“Me? I’m an infantryman.  Fuck no I’m not scared! This is some real Hooah shit we’re going to be doing now, man.  I can’t wait! If anyone should be scared, it’s you!”
Tim was anything but scared.  He enjoyed working in the trauma center, and he felt like he was getting great experience by working with the doctors and seeing the patients that came through.  But he dreamed about going on dangerous missions and doing his job in the field.  He wanted to be the medic that was saving lives as bullets zipped by his head.  And now he was going to get an honest chance to be that medic.
Two months of monotonous missions went by with no action whatsoever.  Tim was excited to be on dangerous missions for the first two weeks, but when they turned out to not be so dangerous after all, the excitement wore off and quickly became boredom.  He went from looking out of his window continuously and talking constantly to listening to his iPod and fighting off sleep.  He came to dread missions and to resent them for the sleep he lost and for the time that he felt was stolen from him.  But the missions kept coming, and there were still more than six months left in the deployment.
Tim stood in front of his Humvee, drinking coffee as he waited for the mission to start.  The trucks were still in the motor pool as they were being checked by their respective drivers.  It was impossible to hear anything except for the rumble of the trucks as they idled in unison.  The headlights illuminated the gravel-covered ground and managed to turn everyone in the motor pool into a walking shadow.  Tim heard the crunching of approaching feet and turned to see who it was; Peters’ blonde hair shone like a halo when backlit by the headlights and gave him away instantly.
“Hey Doc, so I’ve been wondering for awhile: what would you do for someone who got their balls blown off? Like, how do you fix that?”
“You don’t.” Tim said flatly.  “Pack with gauze, hold pressure.  That’s it.”
“So you just let the guy live with no balls? For the rest of his life? He’s ball-less?”
Tim sipped his coffee casually.  “Yep. There’s nothing else I can do.  And just think, if his balls are gone, so is everything else.  Probably nothing to salvage.”
“Doc, promise me that if that ever happens to me, you’ll put me out of my misery.”
“I promise, Peters.”  
 “I’m gonna hold you to it!”
“I know, and I’ll keep my word.  10 of morphine, one after the other.”
“You’re a good man, Doc.”
“I do what I can.”
Tim finished his coffee, tossed the coffee cup over the Texas barrier wall, and began putting his body armor on.  “It’s gonna be a long night, Peters.”
Tim never lost his childlike fascination with the sights of Downtown Baghdad at night.  The neon-lit shops and bakeries with men huddled in doorways and the roving gangs of children playing soccer and pleading “Mistah, mistah! Candee! Watah! You give to me!” were the features of convoys that he looked forward to.  Downtown was a relatively threat-less place at night, and so the convoy was able to go faster and be less vigilant.  The route to Sadr City, however, involved a choke point bridge that, due to brilliant Iraqi engineering, could only handle one vehicle at a time.  As if it wasn’t bad enough that the river it spanned smelled of raw sewage, the opposite side of the bridge was notorious for being the place where soldiers and civilian truck drivers alike were pulled from their trucks and kidnapped or killed if they weren’t paying attention.
A few miles past the bridge came the right hand turn into Sadr City itself.  As soon as the turn was made, there was only a three feet of space on either side of the vehicles.  Tim was always eerily fascinated by this part of the city because he was practically in the doorways and houses of people who wanted him and his friends dead.  A left turn and the convoy was faced with sniper-friendly high rises and a median that was lined with black flags every fifty feet.  They were only a mile from their destination now.  Tim stared out of his window and looked toward the mosque looming before them on the left.  The string of lights leading to the minaret were lit, as were the lights around the dome of the mosque itself.  The lights of the mosque were usually never on. 
 Chatter about the lights came over the radio while the engine of the Humvee roared as it sped up.   Over the roar Tim heard a distinctive Pop, followed closely by two more.  As the driver swerved the truck to the right Tim realized that they were in the middle of an ambush.  As this sank in he heard Peters yell “Fuck!”
Tim quickly pulled him out of the gunner’s turret and laid him down, putting his head in the other rear passenger seat.  He was holding his left arm and his face was contorted by pain.  Tim grabbed his black aid bag and unzipped it as quickly as possible, trying his best to ignore his hands nervous shaking.
“Doc, what happened?” Peters said with a whimper, still clutching his arm.
“Move your hand so I can see,” he told Peters as calmly as possible.  “Here, hold this light with your other hand.”
Peters groaned as he gripped the flashlight in his other hand, shining the light so that Tim could see what he was dealing with.  The crimson spot on Peters upper arm was growing rapidly.  Tim grabbed his trauma shears and cut the sleeve of Peters uniform to the shoulder, exposing a pale white arm with bright red blood gushing from a neat hole the size of a thumbtack.  Tim clamped his hand over his friend’s bicep as he thought to himself. Gushing, bright red blood… medial bicep… fuck, fuck, fuck, I need a tourniquet.  His hands were already opening the velcro straps of the tourniquet as he thought about needing it.  Tim didn’t need to think anything through; without his realizing it his training took over and he moved quickly, efficiently, smoothly.  He put the tourniquet on Peters’ bicep and tightened it until the blood stopped flowing.  Peters’ face was red as he bit his lip to keep from screaming.
“Just a little bit longer, buddy.  Just a little bit longer.  You’re going to be ok man,”  Tim said as he continued bandaging the arm.  Kerlix gauze.  Tape.  Ace Bandage over the gauze.  More tape.  Check tourniquet.  No more bleeding. Mark tourniquet.
“You’re ok, Peters.  You’re ok.  Does it hurt?”
Peters nodded his head quickly, still biting his lip.  Tim grabbed the flashlight and held it with his teeth as he cut Peters’ other sleeve.  Tim dug in his large black bag again.  IV, tubing, catheter.  IV went in smoothly, despite the bouncing of the Humvee.  Tim hung the bag of saline and found his morphine.  2 milligrams, IV push.  Peters facial expression eased slightly, his mouth relaxing as the pain lessened.
“Jones, how long until the Green Zone?”  Tim asked the driver.
Peters, though shot in the arm by a bullet that nicked his brachial artery, was fine.  He needed rehab for his arm, however, and spent five of his last six months of deployment in Landstuhl, Germany.  He came back in time to help train the unit that came to replace them and to help pack up everything.  He told Tim that he was thinking about deploying again, since he had been cheated out of five whole months of “action.”  He asked Tim what he thought about volunteering to go to Afghanistan.  “Look Peters, do whatever will make you happy and help you feel like you did something.  Just don’t expect me to go with you.”  Peters took his advice and volunteered within a week of landing in the US.  Tim wished Peters all the best in his career and told him to give him a call sometime.  He never saw Peters again.
Tim got the call a week before the funeral.  The funeral was to take place on Saturday at Golden Gate National Cemetery.   The unit leadership was getting in contact with everyone from Peters’ platoon, informing them that he had been killed in action in Afghanistan while serving with the Second Infantry Division.  An IED had torn through his truck and killed him and everyone with him instantly.  No one from their unit was sure, but the word was that the only thing recovered from the Humvee was the driver’s hands, which were charred and attached to the steering wheel.
Tim hung up the phone and broke down instantly.  A crushing feeling engulfed his chest as he replayed the phone call in his head.  Peters was dead.  They killed him.  And Tim wasn’t there to do anything.  He had told him to go, but that he wasn’t going to go with him, and he died, alone and helpless.
That night Tim dreamed that he was in Afghanistan with Peters.  Peters had been shot in the chest and a pool of blood was growing underneath him.  Tim tried to run to him, tried to save him, but couldn’t reach him, no matter how fast he ran.  Peters mouthed the word Doc over and over again, his frightened eyes locked on Tim.  The crimson pool grew and Tim could get no closer to him.  Tim looked at his hands and saw they were covered with blood, despite the fact that he hadn’t reached Peters.  Blood covered his hands and his arms and eventually his whole body, but he was no where close to Peters.  He could only watch as Peters died agonizingly in front of him.
Tim woke up and puked next to his bed.
Tim pulled his car into the parking lot of the cemetery.  He got out of the car and put on the jacket of his dress blues, staring at the Combat Medical Badge that he was awarded for treating Peters in Iraq.  Tim wanted that award more than anything, but now it was worth nothing to him.  It symbolized to him that he was a failure as a medic, that he wasn’t there when his best friend needed him the most.  He made sure that his uniform was in order and walked to the gravesite.
A sickening feeling washed over Tim as he walked toward the funeral.  He had slept not four feet away from Peters for five months, had talked to him daily, had saved his life in Iraq, and he knew him only as Peters.  After countless conversations and a deployment together, he had shared the most insignificant details of his life with Peters and had learned the same details about him.  He had been best friends with him, and he didn’t even know his first name.  A million thoughts raced through his mind as he struggled to comprehend this revelation.  He didn’t even know his name.  Some friend he had been.
Tim watched as the casket draped with the American flag was slowly brought towards the grave.  He had been told that the casket was purely ceremonial, since there was really nothing to bury.  He looked around at the crowd of people gathered and recognized soldiers from his unit.  He continued to study the faces of everyone there until he noticed Peters’ parents.  They were sitting in front, his mother crying quietly, wiping her eyes every few seconds.  As he watched her cry, he felt compelled to say something to her, to tell her that her son was a great American, a true hero, and the greatest friend that he had ever known.  He wanted to hug her and make sure she knew that her son would never be forgotten.  Her son…


April 28, 2010

First: New Deftones = amazing.  Here:

Second: An excerpt from the first draft of my short story due in a little under a week.

Memories flooded his thoughts, memories of he and Peters in Iraq.  Peters was the guy who always had a crazy question, and Tim didn’t mind trying to explain it to him.  One time Tim was sitting up in his bed, books taking up the extra space around him, studying cardiac disease for his Cardiology rotation that week.  It was five in the morning, and he hadn’t been to bed yet, when Peters came back off of a convoy.  He tossed his rifle on his bed and set down his Kevlar helmet as he stared at Tim.

“Hey, uh, Doc.  I got a question for you.”

“What’s up?” Tim said, not looking up from his books.

“So, I was wondering: what could you do for a guy who got his balls shot off? Like, really shot off.”

Tim looked at Peters over the top of his glasses as he thought about his answer.  After a few seconds he said quickly, “Hold pressure, try to pack what’s left with gauze.  Hope he doesn’t bleed out.  I mean, he probably lost his dick, too, if it isn’t just badly injured to start.”

Peters stared at Tim, his mouth open.  “That’s it?  No trying to reattach it? This guy isn’t going to be a guy anymore and you’re just gonna let that happen?”

“No, not at all.  But it’s not my place to put everything back together, assuming there’s anything to suture back in the first place.  Dude, look, I can’t give sutures while bouncing in the back of a Humvee in the dark.  Impossible.  And I’m more worried about him dying than about him losing his dick.  Life over limb, you know?  Besides, if it ever happens maybe you can, uh, ‘comfort‘ his girlfriend.”

“That’s fucked up, man.  What if it was me?”

“You’d be dickless, and I wouldn’t feel guilty at all.”  Tim tried to keep a straight face, but it wasn’t working.  He started laughing the longer he thought about Peters talking with a higher voice.  “Hah, you’d have to use the female latrines!”

It’s very rough, I know, but I happen to like the dialogue.  Then again, “Kill your darlings”.  We’ll see what becomes of it.