Why Love Doesn’t Conquer All

Love is aimless, wants direction, wants to feel important.
So he walks into a recruiting station, looks at pamphlets
that read: “Be All You Can Be” and “Army of One.”

Love does pushups in boot camp and shoots Arabs
pretending to be terrorists. He writes a cheerleader he kissed
after a football game. (They were both drunk at the time.)

Love is deployed and told to check his gear. He checks his helmet,
his goggles, his ammo, his mess kit and his MREs. He checks
his grenades. He checks the letter from the cheerleader.

Love calls the cheerleader. He has three minutes. “I liked
your poem,” he tells her. She says, “It was about our first kiss.”
Love’s pal says, “Get the fuck off now!” Love gets off.

Love mans a checkpoint, sees a white sedan approaching, fires
warning shots. Love’s pal shoots out the windshield. The car swerves
off the road and stops. Inside is an old couple with bloody faces.

Love’s tank prowls Tikrit for insurgents behind buildings and on
rooftops. Love’s pal tells him roaches will survive a nuclear holocaust.
Love fires and watches the roaches scatter. Some fall.

Love’s pal takes one in the abdomen. Love yells, “Medic!” and
opens up his first aid kit. He unrolls military-issue number 4572
gauze and stuffs the hole. Blood pumps out over Love’s hands.

Love neatly stacks the children in three rows. He stands guard
while he waits for body bags. On the ground are wailing women
and slivers of candy wrappers. And dead soldiers.

Love’s tour ends. He returns home, takes down all the yellow ribbons.
The cheerleader stops by, and they get high. He shows her all
the poems he saved. They buy an engagement ring at Wal-Mart.

Love is going to be a father. He picks up a six-pack on his way home
to celebrate. Love’s parents kick his unemployed ass out of the house.
He moves in with the cheerleader. They put the ultrasound on the fridge.

Love tells the cheerleader she is crowding him. He needs space,
not pressure. She pours whiskey down the drain. Love breaks the bottle
on the counter and cuts her arm. She scratches Love, screams.

Love hears sirens, so he busts through the back screen door and runs
through the yard and down the alley to the corner gas station. He sees a
recruitment poster on the dirty glass, then pretends to look at motor oil. Bonnie McMeans has fond memories of growing up in Northeast Philadelphia and attending the Philadelphia High School for Girls. In addition to being a freelance writer and an English professor for a local community college, she is married, has three children and lives in Havertown, Pennsylvania. Her most recent publication is a children’s book titled Mysterious Encounters with Vampires (Thompson Gale).

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