Memoir of a War Resister—A Novel of the 1960s

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Chapter 12—"The Birds And The Bees"

Contributor Column

By Becky Jamison

On January 30, the Viet Cong shattered their own ceasefire in coordinated attacks all over South Vietnam. This Tet Offensive, named after the Vietnamese New Year, surprised the South Vietnamese and U.S. forces. Many who believed President Johnson when he said the enemy was being defeated now predict an escalation of the war.

More than 11,000 U.S. troops died in Vietnam in 1967. With these new developments in Vietnam, we can expect this number to increase in 1968.

The LFC Students Against the War meets every Wednesday, Bradley Hall, 7:00. All are welcome.

Who is the enemy? And what is victory in war but the systematic and random murder of the losers.

The Saturday after Valentine’s Day, Marty and I held our conception party in the living room of his dorm. I arrived with Jeff, my arms full of bags of potato chips and popcorn. “Happy Conception Day, Marty,” I hugged him. “You look about half-drunk already,” I pulled away from the hug and looked into his blood shot eyes.

“I am. And I intend to be full-drunk before the night is over.” He smiled. “You look full-stoned already.”

“I intend to stay that way all night long.”

Marty brought out the gallon jugs of Pisano wine and bags of cookies. We moved couches back, put tables against the wall, set up the record player and the piles of LPs.

The room filled and the dancing began. Someone put a glass of wine in my hand, someone passed a joint.

About an hour in Jeff said, “I’ll be right back.” He kissed me and I kept dancing. It was the Rolling Stones. I wasn’t stopping for anything.

Ginger saw Jeff leave. “Where’s he going?”

“Don’t know. Said he’d be right back.”

“He disappears a lot,” Ginger said. She took my hands and twirled me around.

“No, he doesn’t.” I stopped twirling and looked at her.

“Yes, he does.” She twirled me around again but didn’t say anything else. I was glad. She was right though. I didn’t want to admit it. I had no idea where he always went.

Hook cut in and we danced to the Beatles and the Dave Clark Five. At one point he took my hand and started to say something.

“What?” I said.

“It’s nothing,” he said.

“It’s never nothing.”

The conversation stopped there as Marty called for attention. “Welcome to our conception party.” He called me to the front of the room and put his arm around me. He was completely drunk. “We share November birthdays so from this day forth we declare the nearest Saturday to Valentine’s Day our conception date.” He picked up the bottle of wine he was holding and toasted us. “To conceptions.”

I took the cup out of his hand and put it on the nearest table. “Let’s dance.” Half-way through the song I noticed Jeff had returned and was leaning against the wall, his feet crossed, arms folded across his chest. He was grinning. I gestured for him to come join us but he shook his head no.

When the song ended Marty said, “You make sure he doesn’t hurt you.”

“He would never hurt me.”

Marty swayed a bit and grabbed my arm to steady himself. “He better not.”

Dancing led to singing led to more dancing. Then I realized I was starving. I went over to the table and picked up a bowl of barbecued potato chips, my favorite. Marty walked up behind me.

“I’m serious, Becky. You’re too good for him. He better not hurt you.”

I put the chips down, turned and put my hands on his shoulders. “Marty, you don’t have to worry about me. Now go sit down. You’re drunk.”

“I worry about you every day.” He grabbed hold of me. Maybe it was for a hug or maybe because he couldn’t stand up anymore. “You’re about my best friend in the whole wide world.”

That was probably true. Marty and I spent a lot of time together at the anti-war table. I knew more about him than I did Jeff. I took hold of Marty’s elbow and led him to a couch.

As I sat him down on the couch he patted the seat next to him. “I mean it. You’re not just my conception twin, you’re my best friend.” Then Marty leaned his head back against the couch and was out. I kissed him on the forehead and took the potato chips to Jeff who watched the entire scenario with a peaceful grin on his face.

When all was said and done, the guitars put away, the record albums back in their covers and the food eaten, we declared the party a success. Jake and Jeff helped Marty to his room but not before I kissed his cheek and vowed to make our conception party a yearly tradition. I don’t think he even heard me.

Jeff and I spent as much time as we could curled up on his single bed in his single room, hoping no one would catch us. We smoked dope, made love—always with the lights off, slept, laughed, talked, read Robert Frost poetry to each other, listened to music. Sometimes I missed class. Often I blew off homework.

Maybe this is what my dad was talking about. You could lose yourself in the dope and sex. Problem is. I loved it. It was hard to focus on doing French conjugations, dissecting fetal pigs, analyzing social structures or writing articles when I knew the next joint awaited me. And on the other side of that joint, the lights were going out.

U.S. Soldier Body Count: 23,618

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