Chapter Seven:

10:16 AM

Tristan was finally done enjoying his post-orgasm sleepy high and thinking about getting his day started. And anyway, it was getting hot in the tent. He reached up and unzipped the door the whole way and let in the breeze and the world around them.

Kyle startled out of his sleepiness with, “Uhm, still naked, thanks. You too.”

Tristan looked down at himself. “Oh.” He cupped off the condom and tossed it in the corner, found his balled up shorts and pulled them on, then climbed out of the tent and stood up to a full tall-as-he-could-stretch stretch to welcome and enjoy the day.

His various tats shown in the sun, especially the big one Kyle hated above his heart (more, even, it seemed to Tristan, than the scars so near Kyle’s own), and almost some of his lesser-seen tats below the curvy-v-shaped muscles of his lower stomach as his waist slimmed even more than usual in the stretch and his shorts began to fall. But he relaxed his body and dropped his arms to grab them up in time.

“No. Uh-uh. Not yet. Get back here.” Kyle, naked in the tent, had his arm lifted up to Tristan, his eyes squinting against the sun. “Get back here, pleeeeeeaaassse.”

Tristan had to laugh a little. He got down on all fours and crawled back into the tent and kissed Kyle’s lips. “What?”

“Just a little bit longer. Then, I promise, you can go be Mr. Protest Man.”

Kyle was so freaking adorable right now, Tristan decided to give him this. He flipped around and into Kyle’s snuggle, lying on his side and looking out as Kyle, ironically for their sizes, big-spooned him, his arm wrapping gently around Tristan’s stomach, his hand holding Tristan’s chest, feeling his heartbeat.

Tristan was glad he’d found Kyle. He liked this one. A lot. And he felt really happy this morning looking out at the tent roofs and signs and passing legs of his fellow “radicals.” He could hear one of his friends on the bullhorn off in the distance. She must have been turned the opposite direction because Tristan could only make out a few words here and there about the war and, more dreaded by some, the draft. It brought him some peace. People were finally starting to get it.

Tristan had “gotten it” for years now. High school had been the most frustrating for him. He couldn’t understand how his generation could be so … impotent. How kids his own age could talk about all the shit going down in the world and like all the posts about it and say they cared so much, but actually do so little. How could they just go about their lives like democracy was real, like a few sporadic posts or tweets or protests would make any difference, like God, the eyes of the world, or the Social Network cared about them and every little bullshit thing in their lives, like the people really in charge didn’t even exist? College had gotten a little better, until he realized it, too, was all just talk and clubs and nothing with consequence, impact. Still no one was actually doing anything. He kind of hated his own generation for this. At first, he’d had this sort of nostalgia for the generation that was young in the 60s and 70s, but then, the more he read about them, the more he felt maybe he’d over-idealized them. A lot of people on the “Radical Left” back then seemed like outright fools to Tristan as he read about them now, but still, at least they had done something. Action. Some of them, at least. Even if it was blowing up empty buildings. Talk and talk and talk of acceptance and people’s feelings and subtle unseen prejudices behind things never meant that way and bull-fucking-shit “trigger warnings” before class discussions about anything that might shake your perfectly safe little bed-and-blankets-you’ve-wrapped-yourself-up-in-to-fend-off-the-dangers-of-the-world world—those were his peers. Some were fighters, yes, and they were fighting, but they weren’t choosing the right fights. Their macro-responses to micro-aggressions only played into the hands of our true masters. Get us to spend our time and energy and focus arguing about which of we slaves got picked to work in the house, rather than even contemplating the idea that we should rise up against them, skip the demanding of our freedom, and rather, by force, take it. The big shit, the stuff that really mattered, no one wanted to touch that.

So he was grateful in some opposite-reaction-than-you’d-expect way for all the shit that had been going down lately in the broader world far beyond the protected and secluded Eden of campus. Talk of reinstating the draft had been the biggest thing that slapped them in the face and had at least started to get their attention. That was why there were so many “Hell No, We Won’t Go!” signs and banners and shirts resurrected from the 60s amongst the OCers.

This particular firestorm had ignited when a group of former generals and one former member of the Joint Chiefs took to an OpEd in the New York Times and stated unequivocally that America’s fighting forces were worn the fuck out. Everyone knew it was, what?, less than half of one percent of the population who fought our wars? If you followed the news at all, you’d been hearing your whole life about the numerous tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, the enormous prevalence of PTSD, the poor excuse for care many were getting at the army and vet hospitals, etc., etc., etc. But the generals drove this point succinctly and compassionately home. America’s supply of the poor and/or the blindly patriotic youth willing to take up arms for its War of the Month was dwindling. And then the generals brought home the final and most damning point—it was also because many vets now knew they’d been lied to. Trust. Faith. Shattered. The government had given far too many differing reasons for risking their lives, shedding their blood, shattering their emotional stability; tried to change its own history too soon, too often, and the pawns were no longer willing to play the king’s game.

That—and that all the TV-know-it-alls kept saying that the perfect storm was brewing over there—that this time it wasn’t going to be just one or two Middle Eastern countries, but the whole damned place, borderless, Middle East, Northern Africa, spilling over sporadically onto the streets of Paris, the tubes of London, and any hometown in America now armed with post-9/11 dollars with which they purchased police tanks and espresso machines. We were going to need more men.

… Or, make that: more teenagers with guns, Tristan thought. But that didn’t matter. Tristan knew the draft propaganda was just a ruse for something else. Something more conspiratorial and corporate. But he was glad for the ruse and anything that helped force his fellow youth at long last into in the fray. Whatever it takes, he thought.

But someone else had grabbed the bullhorn now and his voice carried better and Tristan could hear him spouting some bullshit consent-manufactured crap about how the youth vote needed to go Democratic—thoughtless continuation of the Democratic vs. Republican falsehoods of their parents’ generation and so many before. Tristan’s happiness for the morning started to wane. Yes, he was glad his generation, some of them at least, were starting to fight back. But even those were still so fucking blind. There was still so much this knotted feeling in Tristan’s stomach ached for them to see. They were still so damned far from knowing the Truth.


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