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What I remember about my childhood is camping on hollow battlefields, looking my enemy in the eye, and everywhere I turned witnessing instruments of destruction. For me, the son of a army officer, this was a typical day.
The campground rested over an old war bunker used to fight the North Koreans. In the morning fog would roll down into the rice fields, coming off the mountains separating us from the wasteland of death populated by nothing except mines and ghosts. The enemy who stared back at me wore red stars on their hats and the instruments I gazed upon were the many machine guns, tanks, planes, ships, and bombs in the hands of soldiers waiting to play their parts.
"Two weeks ago one of them defected to the South," an MP explained. "It happens at least once a month. Shots are always fired, usually no one dies."
I remember other aspects of my time spent over there. Chantings that rang from the insides of ancient temples, the roar of a subway train that could take you anywhere you wanted to go, and once when 60,000 Koreans turned to me to bow and say thank you on account of my Dad.
Back stateside things were kept just as close to the lunatic's fringe as we dared. Boots, big hats, and belt buckles that glimmered in low level fiesta lighting. Snakes that rattled within patches of cacti and tarantulas that scuttle among longhorn skulls in the desert. "You're a Texan, boy," they use to tell me. "Don't air'er lit 'em forget it."
Time travel a decade into the future and everything looks different, but feels the same. The old uniforms hang in my closet and their metals on my wall. On the floor a Les Paul guitar sleeps inside its coffin while all fifteen of my other instruments lie in the nearby gun cabinet. I go almost everywhere in a heavy leather jacket and my next dream car has only two wheels.
Someday I plan on taking all of this along with my beautiful Peruvian wife and venturing the world. However, for now I shut myself in my room and type words on this machine.
Writing is a completely self-absorbed, selfish endeavor. It requires headroom, alone space, a border you must protect with minefields, tank blocks, and the power of whatever you call God. Storming the blank sheet of paper everyday is a battle, which requires spiritual and mental fortitude in a war never won where many die trying.
Why do I write? It may be single most pretentious question writers will ever have to face and yet it must be answered or it will never cease to be asked. My short answer is I write because I want to; the long answer:
I write because since I was a boy on those battlefields spirits of the fallen have found me. They appear in wisps of memories and visions, fading just as quickly as they appeared. Once they have visited me they never leave, but come back from time to time. Some of them have been visiting since I was twelve; I'm now twenty-five. Each time they appear they share a little more of their stories and each time they want the same thing, for their stories to be told.
I know I am a little insane to be sharing all of this, that's okay, all good writers are a bit crazy. I could ignore these bloodied and broken apparitions, bottle up their tales for my own pleasure. I do not have to share their stories even though I know it is the only action I can take to silence them from speaking.
I do it because I want to and I will continue to do it till the day I join them. For that reason I write. Even if no one else reads, I still write.