“Heartburn (or the American Spirit)”

Creative Writing By “Heartburn (or the American Spirit)”

opening my eyes i see a man reading a special edition of “Time.” i know it’s a special edition because the cover is all white-very serious-with a little picture. no loud colors to attract the eye. the headline reads, “The American Spirit.”

i was very tired. the night before I’d arrived home from work at 1 am; that morning i woke up at 6:30 am. i missed my stop on the 7 train because i fell asleep, but now i grew very excited-i would finally see the american spirit! i made a note to myself to pick up the magazine as soon as i got off the train. then i got to looking around the train and thinking: hunched over a brown-bagged bottle was a red-nosed drunk, mumbling, his eyes bloodshot. i couldn’t see the magazine having his picture in it-did he not have the american spirit then? maybe it died a painful death, squirming its wispy body in a sea of vodka, eventually drowning. There were Indians, African-Americans, Native Americans, Greeks, et cetera-whose picture would be in the magazine?

a balding man gets on the train. his shorts are, well, short: they show the bright, untouched white of his thighs. he starts mumbling, then talking more clearly. all the good new yorkers listen. he says, “I was born here … none of them buildings would’ve fallen if it wasn’t for all these immigrants…GOD BLESS AMERICA” et cetera. people crease their brows, shake their heads, some mumble “shut-up” under their breath like a mantra- “shut up…shut up…shut…..up.” someone says he should leave if he doesn’t like it here, others mumble their approval.

he snaps back, “why should I leave? I was born here!”

“so was i” replies a man wearing a turban.

around the War for Independence the ranting man would have shown the American Spirit, i think. then again, so would the mob of people mumbling. as for myself-i’m less sure. as this was going on, i turned my cd player back on. the song echoed with the whining tones of the singer, the slow descending scales of the guitar. my eyes drifted, softened on the white of the train’s interior. i noticed a faint odor of stale urine. some of the slower lyrics cut through my ears: “feeling lonely…i pace faster than anyone….” i thought of the singer, “what a sad shmuck,” and then realized that that was the american spirit! i’ll try to paint a loose metaphor to tell you what i’m thinking:

america walks around in the center of a circle, so you really have two circles. the outer circle is composed of all the countries of the world-work with me here-think of the countries personified. make some harmless stereotypes if you need to: there’s Great Britain with the funny accent, there’s Iraq smoking a hookah…et cetera. america is pacing fiercely in its own little circle, head bowed, eyes beady from lack of sleep, deep circles under the eyes. america looks at a country and the country throws some bread. a conditional, automatic reaction: america looks, bread is thrown. but every once in a while, america just shoots a country. bang-venezuela (you probably didn’t hear about that one, very well covered up.) bang-vietnam (ring a bell?) bang-soviet forces in afghanistan (of course we just trained Osama and Saddam for that job-good work boys!) bang-Iraq (“Saddam turned his back on us”-or vice versa, whatever.). america has to do this or else the bread stops coming, and america consumes more than it could ever produce. it eats until it’s full and then eats more. then it picks off another one. bang. bang. bang.

well, i told you it would be a loose metaphor, but sadly, absurdly-it works. it’s just that we don’t see any of it go on-we get america’s version from america’s news. who has the time to find out the truth? I’m not saying i do any better-i’ve had heartburn for a week and i keep eating anything i want and taking my six classes and working 30 hours and smoking too many cigarettes, but at least i know the difference between honoring the tragic deaths of thousands (which we should all do) and saying “GOD BLESS AMERICA” when we have no concept of what we are blessing.