Before Tomorrow

---There  is no crime of which I cannot conceive myself guilty… Goethe


I’m in no hurry to leave the close-spaced security of the bus. So, I lean back in my seat and wait until everyone is out. Then I walk to the front, take two steps down—back in the “real world.”

After four years, three tours in Iraq, and two days of military psych-docs attempting to drive out the bad times with clever talk and good intentions, I am discharged—officially cut loose from a surreal scene of free-fire zones and indiscriminate killing.

Citizen X: deprogrammed, purified, and deposited on easy hometown streets.

I am uncomfortable in the uniform, a costume that has defined me for so long—now meaningless. I am a phantom in an empty coat. Brutal scenes, cataloged in heartbreaking detail, have no place here. It is clear that in this place I am lost.

The low hum of the idling Greyhound mixes with the fumes of diesel fuel to fill the air with noisy poison. A skinny panhandler wearing a camouflage T-shirt sits crumpled, like lost luggage, outside the depot. One of those forgotten people living a half-life just beyond anybody’s caring.

At his side, a wrinkled square of cardboard—a kind of faded-brown American business card. Scrawled across the front is the familiar graffiti, “Out of Work.” One look at this guy and I know he’s finished. The whole story is right there in his eyes—like looking at the floor of the ocean.

He looks up at me as if I could save him.





DB Cox

DB Cox is a Marine Corps veteran and blues musician/writer from South Carolina. His poems have been published extensively in the small press, in the US and abroad. He has published five books of poetry: Passing For Blue, Lowdown, Ordinary Sorrows, Night Watch, and Empty Frames. DB recommends the Best Friends Animal Society.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Sunday, October 10, 2021 - 22:05