Bill had been back home after his hitch, for about six months. A dull confusing world filled with nightly scenes from Viet Nam and protestor demonstrations filled him with that “bloody red rage” all vets were dealing with. The only job he could find was working as a telegrapher for Western Union. The war was in the obvious final stages and obvious outcome. The early outs under Nixon had simply escalated the number of young men returning and trying to find work in the cluster of frenzy that corporate layoffs and reductions in hiring were causing.
Life was reduced to the basic elements for Bill. An old car, a rented room and lots and lots of booze. He would cautiously drive up Hawthorne Blvd. in the dark at about four in the morning and plan his day based on which restaurants were open for breakfast and how close they were to bars that opened at six. His return at the end of the day was basically a reverse of the route and knowledge that he would close the bars, provided his money held out.
His alienation toward all that crossed his path kept him in a woozy, mindless numbness. He wanted to not think at all. Since he had not served in Southeast Asia specifically, he didn’t really know what to think. He had done isolation duty at one of the remote listening posts that the Navy surreptitiously and strategically places throughout the world. Hell, he had only done six months sea time in the four years he had been in. A damned eventful six months of playing “chicken” with the Russian Navy in the Med. Three of his four years had been spent basically on high alert status and now, he simply was too numb and tired to care.
Bill was hard; hard beyond his twenty two years. Older by decades than any of the contemporary flower children and bell bottomed, side burned and bearded testosterone bags that roamed the bars he frequented. Bill had no need or desire to associate. He knew it could only lead to fights with one or more of them that was trying to prove something to some stringy haired, flower child with too much flesh showing and the brain of a peanut. His time frequenting whorehouses while overseas had alienated him from that as well. The other reality was that he felt so unclean because of his experiences and really didn’t know how to associate with any woman, other than to ask how much?
He had found a very comfortable existence at the bottom of a bottle of V.O. He could hold his liquor very well and could hide any traces of being drunk with the finesse of an actor. An old man, contained in the vessel of a young, fairly attractive man’s body. Older women and older men always assumed he was the good, clean cut, conservative son while holding him cautiously at bay due to his countenance of constant anger and contempt. Due to the fact that he wore glasses most would dismiss him as simply a soft, yielding and gentle young man. Others could see the anger and suspected a near psychotic personality. Neither was true.
Bill simply wanted to be left alone to sort out the impact of the world on him. The easiest way was to corner himself in a bar with cigarette ablaze and a chimney glass wall.
He took great pride in the fact that he was so insular and camouflaged himself so well, to the world. On occasion when he would go to visit his Mother and Father, they could see what a difference there was in him, since service. His brother, Jerry had been in the Air Force during the fifties and basically understood some part but not nearly all of the attitude and bearing that Bill demonstrated to the world. Jerry’s time in service had all been stateside in very comfortable Air Force, elitist fashion.. In Bill’s eyes, Jerry was aware and to some degree “worldly” but not in the same league as himself. Bill would frequently spend “off days” with Jerry and his family at their house, simply playing cards. Jerry would try and draw him out with absolutely no success.
There was a constant guessing game between Jerry and Bill. Jerry, having been the oldest son, had basically grown up helping raise Bill; but now, there were so many blank spots in Bill’s personality that Jerry just didn’t comprehend. In order to feel comfortable and return to that familiar identity role, Jerry would fall back to their years growing up when he was the superior and Bill the little kid. Bill wasn’t participating in that, except on occasion when something would place Bill back in his subordinate role. Jerry always assumed he still understood and had the upper hand over his little brother.
Bill did know every aspect of his brother’s personality. Jerry had been the student and achiever in the family. The, “good son”. Always diligent and hard working and recognized for his community approval in the little town they had grown up in, in Iowa. Bill knew what a sneaky little shit Jerry could be at playing on his acknowledged “good guy” perception by the world. Bill didn’t resent it, he simply accepted it as part of his brother’s personality. He had seen Jerry pull off the deception so often since Bill’s first cognitive recollections of their childhood together. He had seen Jerry, so frequently be dismissed as not possibly being the culprit of some event or prank or minor crime against the townsfolk of Anita.
Jerry had always been an almost straight A student and had absolutely not one which of common sense when it came to interpersonal relationships with people. Jerry knew the correct posture and correct presentation of himself and always assumed he had the upper hand in evaluating anyone he was in conversation with. For Jerry, it was a game.
His real personality was to get by with anything he could in order to certify his own self image of superiority to all he dealt with. Service in anything that Jerry did, came with an internal acknowledgement that they were simply doors to opportunity.
Opportunity to serve his own advantage in any way that he saw fit, in a timeline only known to himself.
Jerry was Bill’s hero and benefactor throughout their childhood. The comfortable place to return to and be instantaneously understood. Since Bill’s service, the understanding portion of their relationship had evaporated. Now their was a strained silence of disagreement between the two men. The type of comprehension and contention that only two brothers share. Jerry was more than competent at keeping secrets from Bill, Bill didn’t care about Jerry’s little secrets. The obvious was simply that the secrets were of such an innocuous and minor significance to Bill’s concept of life and relationships that he dismissed, out of hand, any and all of his big brother’s secrets. Besides, Bill could read Jerry’s eyes, Jerry could never get the best of him in a card game. Bill always knew when Jerry was telling a lie or hiding a truth.
Jerry knew that Bill was self abasing in his personality. Bill always felt inadequate and not quite good enough in the eyes of the world Bill simply didn’t know how to present and evaluate himself in relationship to any or all human contacts that he made.
Jerry loved to take advantage of this flaw and simultaneously wanted to correct it.
He wanted to joke Bill out of his attitude and occasionally became contemptuous and provocative toward Bill, trying to force Bill’s self concept to change. Jerry knew that if the truth were told, Bill was far more intelligent and well rounded than himself.
Simply, the fact of Bill’s sense of inadequacy irked Jerry and simultaneously evoked feelings of sibling support; but with a touch of contempt as well.
For the time being, at this point in time, the two brothers were contented to be around each other whenever possible. Jerry constantly encouraging Bill to find better work and get off the boozy, drunken sailor on shore leave demeanor and
Bill constantly and defiantly pretending to be Jerry’s superior in life knowledge and worldliness. Bill loved to throw in Jerry’s face the fact that he had never been anywhere outside of the continental United States in his life. He knew it caused a bristling in Jerry that was indefensible. Jerry loved to point up that Bill was just his punk little brother that drank far too much and didn’t have a woman in his life. Frequently, Jerry would tease Bill that he might be queer in a vindictive and vengeful counter to Bill’s contentions. Sometimes Jerry’s wife or both boy’s Mother would overhear their jibes at each other and be amazed at the depth of vindictiveness they could generate toward one another.
Bill carried the self incrimination and drunkenness and futile perception that no woman would have him, at least no woman of worth. He always levitated to slender, dark women, usually of any exotic nature. That was caused by an attitude adopted in the Navy of always hunting and finding an L.B.F.M. (Little Brown Fucking Machine). Too many ports, too many opportunities, too many experiences with the women of the gut bars and brothels of Europe and North Africa. Although, during his experiences in the Navy he had occasionally levitated toward fair, blonde Nordic types, he always returned to his L.B.F.M.’s – it was a Navy thing.
On occasion, Bill would hit on and pick up some loose woman in a bar along Hawthorne Blvd. Usually, not. He didn’t want to relive experiences of his time in the Navy and most of the women would be repelled by his advances or simply the fact that he was ex military in the time of Peace, Love and Understanding. The “Age of Aquarius” as it were.
In the hippie’s eyes, he was just another hooch burning, baby rapist. They did any and all drugs and he did none. He was a “juicer” in a time of sex, drugs and rock n roll.
He belonged with the old guys at the end of the bar, not with the heads. He felt the same to a great degree. He always dismissed the women he met as simply just a loose hunk of flesh on the make. There was absolutely no emotion in their couplings and immediate cold dismissal at the end of each event. Then Bill would return to the conditioned lifestyle of drunkard.
The times dictated that he could not return to college. After all, he was ex military and the campuses were overrun with peace freaks and protestors, still arguing the obvious. Celebrating their vindication and victory over the establishment. Bill could no more participate in that, than he could quit the booze. He knew what an obvious target and freak he would be considered, on any campus of Southern California in those early 70’s. He didn’t care enough to hate his life, cognitively. He simply remained inside his bottle and out of the mainstream. That was his accepted lot in this life and he was sure it would culminate in a drunken suicidal episode behind the wheel of his old Ford Galaxy.
Frequently at night, after work, if the High School aged students were on the streets, he would set next to them at the light and gun his engine and pretend to be up for a drag race. The kids would obviously see that there was no way in hell Bill’s car could compete and would answer his challenges with cat calls or ridiculing dismissal of his challenges. Sometimes, some young kid would be willing to initiate a run, simply to impress the girl riding with him. Bill would feign intent and then let the kids show him up. It was a game and pat on the head to his juniors.
The exotic and topless bars blooming along Hawthorne and scattered throughout the city held absolutely no interest to Bill what so ever. He had been in more than his share of gut, clip joints and looking without touching was ignorance manifested, in his mind. He had been teased, taunted and otherwise provoked far more than he cared to remember. Early on in his days in the Navy he had been subjected to and adopted the hardness and disinterest of a jaded fleet sailor toward whores. If they weren’t on their backs, on their knees, or otherwise in submissive positions, he simply wasn’t concerned. Bill was a hopeless drunk and deeply resentful and jaded young man. Full of self doubt and anger. The funny thing about his predicament was the fact that he was cognitive to the world around him and simply didn’t care to participate.
He held a viewpoint that American women simply weren’t of the low class that the women he had experience with had achieved. Practically, he comprehended that they were absolutely no different; but it was as though he didn’t want to accept that within his concept of right and wrong, good and evil, moral and immoral. The magazines and pornography inundating the culture were a testament to the obviousand subconsciously, he was fully aware of it. He simply wouldn’t acknowledge it. In his concept of reality. There had simply been so many beautiful and exotic Spanish, Italian, and Greek women in his past that he was conditioned to value beauty in those terms exclusively. Pale white chicks just didn’t do it for him. Still, in America, the age of racial mixing was just coming into it’s own. Not quite acceptable; but certainly on the horizon, especially with all the guys coming back from over sea’s with the identical attitude and perception that Bill embraced. “If you’re white, you’re alright, if your black, get back, if you’re brown, stick around!” After all; there were limits to this racial thing.