At first I blamed the Army mail, because
I hadn’t heard from you since I left for
Vietnam. I wrote to you every day.
I kept your picture long after I received
your “Dear John” telling me you were
Years later, in my own way, I had to let
Vietnam go. When I finally cried and
agonized over Vietnam, I let you go, too.
It was time to forgive all the way around.
I lost you, and lost the war.
I loved Vietnam and her beautiful people.
I loved speaking the language, the smells
of the busy marketplace, and especially,
the laughter of the children.
And, I loved you.
I loved teaching English in Hue at that stately
old high school by the Song Huong river.
And, yes, I even loved why I was there.
And, I thought I loved you.
But, in a moment of exasperation, I finally
did it. I tore your picture to shreds. And
then I wished I hadn’t.
It hurt when I lost you, but I cried harder
at the loss of Vietnam.
Copyright © 2013 Alan L. Slaff, selected from
“The Boy in the Mirror (2nd Edition)”
I put the suitcase I borrowed from
my mother in the trunk and got in
My father drove and smoked. And
smoked some more. He is usually
lecturing nonstop by now. I cracked
the window open to get some air
then closed it again. His visible
nervousness made me even more
nervous. He started talking. After
each cigarette, he’d open the window
just enough to flick it outside then
close the window without interrupting
his monologue. He never wanted to
hear anything I had to say, so I
listened to his World War II Army
stories again about his basic training
in Burlington. No post there now.
I think he was trying to give me advice.
He pulled up to the front of the AFEES
building in Newark. As I got the small
vinyl suitcase out of the trunk he asked
me to please write. We sort of hugged.
I started up the steps as he drove off.
Seems like just the other day. That trip
to Newark ended with a late-night bus
ride to Ft. Dix for basic training.
It was fifty-five years ago yesterday that
I enlisted in the Army. Thank you, my God,
for your protection and care. You are my
refuge and strength. You alone are God.
The rest is ancient history.