Ezy Reading:
Ponca City, OK
Evan Kanarakis


I only stopped to ask directions
Expecting a quick exchange
The kid nodded - he knew the Knights Inn
But never offered me the way
Just kept talking
Said he was home again
After six years in the army
Been to Iraq, Afghanistan and other places in between.
I thanked him for his service
And asked if the hotel was off Grand Avenue
“You know a lot of my friends aren’t doing so well”, he replied.
“Friends in the service?” I asked.
I put the vehicle into park
The kid needed to talk
Even if it was to no one in particular.

He told me about other friends who had returned
Many were drinking too much
Wasting away with drugs
Retreating within themselves
Becoming mutes to their wives and mothers and friends
He himself felt okay, mostly
Had managed a job pretty quick
Didn’t pay much but was happy to lay low for a while
Until he figured out what was next
Thing is
He told me they’d been taught to be men
To be soldiers
And fulfilled that duty ten times over
But no one told them what to do
About bad dreams         

Tremors and shakes         

That showed up for no particular reason
And how to fight off the urge to dive for cover
When the neighbor’s son set off a cherry bomb

PTSD was a concept the kid understood, of course
But he was lost –lost way worse than me
Unsure which way to go now.
Said his buddy Hank out in Ohio
Had gone missing three weeks ago
The call came in this morning
The police found him out in the woods
A gun at his side
Hank had been a good solider
A better friend
He changed when he got back though
Had lost that easy laugh
The calls came less and less
He became harder to reach
Until it was like he just became invisible.

The kid asked if I knew of that kind of hurt
I answered that I knew a little
But didn’t have many answers
I knew talking helped some
You had to talk,
That I did know
So we talked a while longer
As the sun dipped low
Just me in the rental
Pulled over to the side of the road
And the kid standing there leaning in
Like an old familiar
Talking on
‘Til he could talk no more

Finally he pointed me to the hotel
At the corner of South 3rd and East Central
And we said bye for now
As I drove away I watched him in my mirror
Pulled his cap down low and saw me off for a moment
Before turning to meander in the other direction
He made me think of my cousin
Who we also lost to the woods
So many years ago
And now I wished I had remembered
To ask the kid
For his name


Ezy Reading is out every month.