“I WAS 23 YEARS OLD WHEN I RETURNED HOME TO LANSING, MICHIGAN AFTER TWO TOURS OF DUTY IN AFGHANISTAN” by XIM XOM

I was 23 years old when I returned home to Lansing, Michigan after two tours of duty in Afghanistan.

I came back to find my wife was with another man. It had been over a year. Together they had spent all my savings.

He seemed to feel a little guilty about it when they broke the news to me at the doorstep – but she didn’t.

So I bought an ounce of weed off him and took my things to a motel on the other side of town. I played the classic rock station on my transistor radio and got as high as humanly possible for two weeks.

I thought about how the same 50 songs have been playing on repeat my entire life. Whenever I wanted to listen to them, they were playing already. They would probably be playing long after I was gone, maybe after everyone is gone.

When I finished my ounce, I walked out into the motel parking lot and took a look around. An anxious looking woman in hot pants and a tweety bird crop top was standing by a dumpster watching out while a guy rummaged through it. She saw me first and tapped him on his shoulder. He whipped around, confused at first.

“Hey motherfucker,” he shouted at me across the lot.

I looked to my left and my right. I was the only one here. I pointed at myself.

“Yeah you,” he yelled.

“Come here.”

I walked over hesitantly. He gave me a mean look while his girl bit her nails.

“Hey man, you wanna help me out?”

I said sure.

“You wanna climb in this dumpster for me?”

Yeah. I did.

He had his girl boost me in and closed the lid.

“Alright, I’ll be back tomorrow,” he told me.

I sat in the darkness enveloped in garbage stank. Minutes passed, then hours. Early the next morning I heard their voices. I lifted up the lid a bit and peeked out. The guy was surprised to see me.

“Man, what in the fuck are you doing in there?”

I told him he’d asked me to climb in. I asked him what to do next. He gave me a look.

“Man, it’s been a long night. I don’t know what you should be doing. You’re a grown man and you asking me what to do? Getting in dumpsters just because someone tells you to and shit.”

He sucked air through his teeth and spit. His girl got up off the curb and came over. She looked me up and down carefully.

“Hun, you look all kinds of messed up though.”

I agreed. She sighed and looked down at her nails.

“Must’ve jumped timelines,” she muttered.

I asked her to repeat that.

“Timelines. Boy, don’t make me repeat myself.”

I apologized. I asked her what she meant.

“When shit gets hectic in your life, it isn’t just you. There’s all sorts of chaos in the universe.”

Her guy rolled his eyes and pulled out a cigarette.

“There you go again with that bullshit.”

She ignored him and went on.

“See, this thing right here,” she said, gesturing around her.

“This thing can go all kind of ways. It’s really up to you.”

She could see I looked confused.

“Something happened, right? Something bad? You jumped over. Didn’t even have to realize it to do it, you just went and did it. Now all you gotta do is jump on back.”

I asked her how. She screwed her face up and pulled out her phone.

“Motherfucker, it’s your life.”

So I went back to my ex’s house and bought another ounce from her boyfriend. He thanked me for my service. I said don’t mention it.

I went back to the motel room, turned on my radio and fired up the bong again. Except this time something was different. I wasn’t sure what but it wasn’t the same this time.

It just really sucked.

I walked outside and threw my ounce in the dumpster. I walked down the side of the road with my thumb out waiting for a ride. I hopped in the first car that stopped. An old man with a pickup truck and a golden retriever in the back seat. I rode with him into town. He dropped me off at Burger King.

That was 10 years ago. Now I own two franchises in Lansing and am financing a third with my partners in Battle Creek. I don’t think about the past. I stay focused on the grill. I go to church but I’m not that into it. I still smoke weed sometimes but I use a vaporizer and take little hits.

Everything I do makes a difference.

It’s up to me.