Behind the counter
We (the baby and I) take a walk outside around the little strip mall where the practice is located and go to the bakery for some hot water for tea for the Mama.
The short, buff, clothes-finely-creased manager behind the counter has also had a difficult morning. His skin, velvet as a round truffle's center, appears as if tarnished by a healthy dab of heavy cream. He glances at my shirt which says TROOPS HOME NOW while he shares the trials of his 'whatever could go wrong did' morning.
And then he confesses slowly, almost distantly, yet he has leaned forward to confess that he was there in the beginning. A lieutenant. In the beginning.
He directs his co-worker in a kindly lieutenant tone full of no-nonsense confidence and authority, to begin baking more breakfast souffles.
Before I get to ask which beginning, he nods '90, '91 - the VERY beginning.
Ahh, Bush One. We share a grimace.
He suddenly reassures me so quickly that he no longer has the nightmares I wonder if my face reveals the deep sadness and concern I feel for him - and from him.
"I did" he states unequivocally yet very slowly. "I was a lieutenant. I had the nightmares. But they finally stopped." Maybe in the spaces between words he's attempting to calculate how many years it's been. I can see him almost jerking himself up to abandon that attempt.
I ask him if he has computer access and he looks like I've asked him if he has ever seen a bird. He recites the long list of technology he owns. I ask if he's heard of Veterans for Peace. He tells me he doesn't have the nitemares. He promises to google VFP when he gets home.
I smile in what I hope reveals gladness for him, not disbelief, and then turn away before he sees my next ridiculous question how a man who made lieutenant in the military in the '90's ends up working behind a counter at a bakery in the 2009's.