The Dirty War

The Vagabond

I don't know what station it was. We'd been hunting for the MBTA for half an hour at least. It was cold and snowing. She was miserable; I was numb. We were coming back from a party.

We stumbled down the stairs into a bright warmth. The gate was open: a bad sign. A man with a broom at the end of the station yelled down at us: "Wa wwa waa wa waaaaaa wa wa." Echoes.

"What's that?" I said.

He came nearer. His words materialized. "The last train is gone." I looked at my watch. It was quarter after one. We turned to go.

The girl was cold and said something about her feet. I said tough, I'd be dead in eight months in Vietnam and her feet didn't matter much. She mumbled.

There was another guy in the station, trying to get a train too, and he caught my eye. I turned. He beckoned with his finger. "Yes," I said.

"You want to see something?" he said.

"O.K.," I said.

He opened his shirt, and pulled out a piece of metal. "You know what this is?"

I was glad I did. It was a paratrooper's emblem. "Six months of hell," I said.

"That's right," he said, like anyone would say as much. "You know where I got it?"

"Where?"

"Vietnam."

There was nothing to say.

"I just came back. I been over there over two years, and I seen guys would give their right arm for me get shot up before my eyes."