Vision or war


Andre Franklin had a gigantic smile and ease about him that made people feel relaxed. He had a laugh that could immediately chase away a sullen mood. His body was bigger than the rest of us but not in height. His was the natural muscle tone inherited through African heritage. Unfortunately, when I was a teenager, that genetic trait completely skipped me. Jeff, Vince, and I who were mostly skin and bones. I wish I had more time to get to know Andre. Dodi , Andre , Sharon , and (I think) Jeff all went to South high school, which was a public school near our neighborhood. They introduced me to Andre. So, they knew him a lot better than I did. Not long after I had met him, Andre joined the military. I don't remember which branch of the military he joined but he seemed excited about the adventure. A few years later, Allen also joined the military. His branch was the Navy.


Although I had never met my father, I got to know about him through my paternal cousin, Dawn. According to her, my father and his siblings we're all warriors who had spent some time in the military. It seems as if it was a point of pride and heritage. My mother had also served in the Navy.


The Broadway squad was made up of kids who didn't have much growing up. However, we all had grand dreams of the future. The military seemed like a way to make those dreams become a reality. I was so close to joining I could almost smell the Listerine and garlic on the drill sergeant’s breath. After Andre and Allen had signed up, it seemed like a done deal for me. The idea was attractive at first. We all knew we would suffer in boot camp but we also believed we would learn skills that would sharpen our minds, toughen our bodies and turn us into men. They also promised to pay and educate recruits. I hated poverty so much I thought I was willing to fight if necessary, to be away from it.


I went to the recruiting office to get more information. When I grabbed the handle of the door I experienced a momentary blackout. Everything around me vanished and I saw a vision of myself carrying a machine gun. I also saw myself aim that horrible device at a group of people then mow them down. The fear of death would have been strong of course if I had found myself in war. However, the fear of having to take another person's life and possibly have to carry their severed heads in a sack like trophies simply because I had been ordered to do so was far greater. I released the handle of the recruiter’s door and the vision vanished.


There was a man that I knew briefly who hung out in the Buddhist Community Center. For a time, my mother I had converted to Buddhism. I don't remember the man's name but I remember that he was a very friendly. I also remember that he lived with his grandmother. One day a burglar broke into their home while he and his grandmother were there. He fought the burglar to the death. After he had killed the invader, it seemed as if his soul had died too. He didn't smile anymore and he seemed to have lost his friendly nature. I'm pretty sure the same thing would have happened to me if I had been forced to kill.


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