The “Vietnam Vet” on Jerry’s cap reminds you that here, among the giant kin of your giant American boyfriend, your home is just the name of a war. Too young to remember Jerry’s war, you grew up reading its handwriting, burned into a face, an arm, a hillside. It was a script that victory could not delete.
The people in this box-like small-town hall might be survivors, too, of some obscure domestic war: wheelchair, white cane, Marvin who’s doing OK but fell on the airport escalator in Denver, Knut who is master of his walker but helpless before the demands of his inscrutable smartphone.
They’ve set up the karaoke, and your boyfriend’s giant father croons “It’s Now or Never” in his oddly delicate tenor. The blind man dances with his wife, and Brenda, whose granddaughter was on American Idol, sways with her Aunt Lillian, stooped but sure-footed at ninety. In the grim fluorescent light you see the glint of water on Brenda’s cheek.
The mystery package you’ve brought for the silent auction sits between the Bierkes’ homebrew fruit wine and old photos of cousins who stayed back in Norway (that’s Oddvar wearing a saucepan for a helmet—must have been ’42 or ’43). The bidding over, Donna wheels up to unwrap her prize, which comes, it turns out, not from Vietnam but from your boyfriend’s magazine collection. Giggles and barks infect the crowd as they process the gleaming cleavage and the iconic rabbit’s head.
Their first question—Did he know?—finds an answer in your boyfriend’s blood-colored face; to their second, neither your calm social worker’s eyes nor your narrow shoulders in their embroidered silk dress, nor your elegant slippered feet give a clue that anyone here is qualified to read.
Roy White is a blind person who lives in Minnesota with a lovely woman and a handsome dog. His work has appeared, or is about to, in BOAAT Journal, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Terrain.org and elsewhere, and he blogs at https://lippenheimer.wordpress.com.