And a soul for every cowboy.
And a star to guide him home.
And an angel to bring him,
A song to sing when he’s alone.
And the storm is coming on.
And the wind is blowing colder.
And he’s very far from home.
Bid Head Todd and the Monsters, “A Soul for Every Cowboy”
Not remembering when Isaac first emerged upon our little street–becoming known to David and me as one of the neighborhood kids–I have only vague memories of his presence as he grew-up over the nineteen of the twenty-one years we have lived in our old house, here on our little street in West Highlands. But, he did become known to us. At least, when he would pass our house and give a greeting, we eventually came to call him by name: Isaac. That was probably when he was eight or nine or perhaps older. A precocious kid, my thought then. Bright. Articulate for his age.
Isaac’s family lives up the street. We live back down the street. So, as is the usual want of neighborhoods, we had little contact with Isaac’s family over the years. They lived, for goodness sake, up the street…a seeming lifetime away.
Seeing snippets of Isaac’s growth through the years, brings to mind only momentary acknowledgments that the kid was growing up. Saw him begin smoking at a pretty early age. Saw him go through what I would call a Goth phase–black clad, somber expression, cigarette in and out of the mouth. I suspect that, now that I’ve come to know him a little better, it was not Goth at all. Rather, it was Johnny Cash; the man in black. (The top of Isaac’s bicep now festooned–a tattoo–with a likeness of the same.) Suspect also that nihilism was just not Isaac’s thing. The philosophy of Johnny Cash surely promised more than nihilistic gloom.
Isaac tells the story that one day, after he’d successfully received his GED, he borrowed money from his sister, walked down to the gas station/food mart to buy cigarettes. It occurred to him that his life was in stasis, a kind of sluggish non-entity going nowhere, with no place to go…except to the store to buy cigarettes. “What kind of life was that?” he rhetorically asked, as David and I treated him to a dinner at our favorite Italian restaurant. His conclusion was that he needed to go somewhere; to do something.
Isaac got on-line and studied the recruitment spiels of each of the military services: Navy, Marines, Army. I believe he rejected the Air Force, didn’t even check out their site. “The Air Force are pussies,” he said, as he and his father recently caught me in the front yard, trimming roses. “He was Air Force,” he said, nudging his father, smiling. So, he chose the Army. Called the recruiter and that, as they say, was that.
I understand Isaac’s decision. I, too, volunteered to serve in the Army when, at that point in my life, I asked the question, “What now?”
Isaac headed for boot camp, then AIT (Advanced Infantry Training), where he specialized in armored tank operation. Yeah, the kid can drive a tank. Who woulda’ thought!
The last update from Isaac’s mom speculated that his deployment to Iraq was imminent. Perhaps he is already ensconced in the “Sandbox.”
Most of us don’t view the war in Iraq as an abstraction. The loss of life–American soldiers as well as Iraqi citizens–churns in most of our stomachs as something wrong, something tainted by the poison of lies and deceit offered up as a justification for that very loss. Justification for the financial burden this quagmire has imposed on us all is seen, by most of us, as something quite ludicrous, something that escapes logic. For most of us, the immediacy of the war comes from the media, day after day after month after year after year. Why? we ask ourselves. And, the only answer, the only possible answer is one that George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Karl Rove and uncounted other politicians will find themselves answering for to a higher authority than the mortal specter of the American electorate. May they NOT rest in peace.
Now, the immediacy of the war in Iraq has a name. That name is Isaac: the kid that grew up on our little street, in our little neighborhood where that kid lived his life, mostly unseen by David and me, but where, now, prayers encompass a plea, a hope, a wish that there will be a star to guide him home, an angel to comfort him when he feels so alone.