“What does it look like…this black wall?”
“Death! It’s a winding path with arms and legs. Its body is hinged inside the earth like a massive giant and it waits patiently for newcomers to come within reach; to lay eyes upon its grandeur. I’ve seen it one time and I don’t want to see it again.”
“Is it real or something you have manufactured?”
Ralph’s demeanor sharpened. “What’s the matter with you? It’s real! Have you been sheltered all your life?”
I was becoming defensive. “No,” I raised my voice. “I haven’t been sheltered all my life. The question was valid. You were out of your head when Melissa heard you say it. She doesn’t know what you meant; any more than I do. Either you want to talk about it or you don’t. For once in your life, spit it out. I’m getting tired of pussy footing around with you.” I stood up to leave when Ralph motioned for me to sit back down. I continued to stand.
The officer outside the door appeared. “What’s the matter here?”
“Nothing, sir. It is ok. Ralph and I just had a meeting of the mind. We’re fine.” The officer shut the door and I sat down.
“Ok, Ralph, I want you to tell me about the black wall. I need to know and so does Melissa. Why were you writing your name?”
For the first time, Ralph’s tense body melted into a soft repose. “The wall is real. If I remember correctly, there are 58,245 names on the wall. It includes 1,200 MIA’s, POW’s and a few others. It’s the National Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.”