Waiting at the VA Clinic

Old men.
Waiting for the doctor.
Telling stories.
Remembering Iraq.
Comparing experiences.
Comparing diagnoses.
Swapping acronyms.
Waiting.

High tech checkin.
Scan your ID card.
Verify your birthday.
All medical files have been digitized.
Waiting for benefits.
Smiling at the receptionist.
Appreciating kindness.
Thinking about military service.

Feeling less out of place today.
When you’re 23 at the VA and you’re surrounded by WWII and Vietnam veterans, you kind of stick out.
I’m older now.
I’m not skinny any more.
I need to reduce my cholesterol.
My vision isn’t what it used to be.

Listening to the stories.
The stories in the waiting room.
The tales of the dead.
Bodies in Iraq.
Severed limbs
Burned in a pile
Chemical defoliants
Dropped by aircraft flying high above
Designed to peel back the jungle canopy
Peeling back years of vitality and health now
The unintended consequences
The science of warfare
Manifested now in the clinic
Waiting.
Listening.
Remembering.
Thinking.

Waiting at the VA clinic.

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