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Jimmy B’s Had Lots Of Practice

September 1, 2010

Stop the Terror in Iraq
Anti-war Postcard

One of the homeless Iraq Veterns I often encountered camping out in my small town gave me this block-printed postcard. Both the sentiment and the design kept it tacked to my wall. When he suddenly went missing, the only thing I could do was write about his life. After being under consideration for months at the New Yorker, this anti-war piece of mine was ultimately rejected. I was pleased it was even considered for publication since I’d written it to be read out loud on Memorial Day at the Veterans Memorial in Taos.

Years later, I still wonder what really happened to Jimmy B.

Jimmy B’s Had Lots Of Practice.
Warning: Adult Concepts

If you hadn’t met him before, Jimmy B still looked sort of cute, if you ignored the bags under his eyes and the haunted look in his face, that is. It also helped if you had a penchant for the 90’s heroin chic look and a few drinks before you met him.

Lots of people did.

Jimmy B never sleeps alone. He never sleeps with women anymore, either. It’s easier that way.

He picks the men up by the sound of their voice and the shape of their hands. He likes them arrogant, but it’s much better if they’re cold and demanding.

Luckily, he seems to attract men like that.

Jimmy B always keeps the lights off when he has sex. Jimmy B never kisses the men he has sex with. He never sleeps with the same one twice, either. Jimmy B has learned he can’t get off if he gets to know them.

Jimmy B ran away from home after his third child was born.

Night after night, the war had filled his head and his life had gotten tighter and tighter until he couldn’t breathe. He’d waited for Annie to notice he was breaking into pieces but she didn’t. She rarely noticed him at all.

When he thought about it, he wondered if she even knew he was gone.

Jimmy B travels randomly now, mostly in sunny places.

He never sends the postcard he buys every day, even though he writes them out at the counter with a pen he borrows as soon as he pays. Jimmy B never sends them even though it always takes him most of the afternoon to decide on just the right card.

After he finishes writing the address, Jimmy B leaves the card next to the borrowed pen on a counter somewhere. The neatly stacked piles of ripped pieces are all precisely the same size.

Jimmy B ’s had lots of practice.

Every single one of them says the same thing:
Please come back.
I can’t do this without you.

Once, a shopkeeper had puzzled the pieces together. She smiled fondly at the thought of reuniting two lovers, sighed deeply and sent it off.

The card came back by return mail, stamped in red.

Return to sender
Addressee deceased

2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 17, 2010 10:56 am

    Good god, Karen, what a gripping piece. You write brilliantly.

    How many broken men and women are in this world? Too, too many.

    I oscillate between striving to make things better publicly and shunning the public, living unknown. Ivanpah, the Brazilian dam, the wars, global warming, texting, abuse….How much can this planet take?

    Do we every need a medicine man or woman to purify this place.

    I’ve not been to the Vietnam Memorial. Must go.

    • September 3, 2010 8:40 pm

      Thanks, Jack. I always hesitate to show this one. I’ve been criticized for the subject matter but it’s important to keep speaking out. No one wins in a war, no matter what side you are on. After working with the men and women who put their lives on the line, the toughest part for me is how little support and respect they get when they get home. I may have protested the war but I always protested the horrible treatment the survivors got after their bravery. I’ve volunteered since the 70’s when I could. It never changes.

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