Saliva Bullets

I was walking along Bleecker Street, October 1969, dressed in my Army khakis, holding the rank of PFC. The air was crisp as was my gait when I came in eye contact with a woman about my age. She had long dark hair and a red bandana around her forehead. She spit at me–the saliva bullet slid slowly past my heart.

I didn’t say anything, or glare at her. I kept walking, hardly breaking stride. A few minutes later I was facing my girlfriend in her Greenwich Village apartment. We never talked about Vietnam, as in, when would I go, or what would happen when I did? And she would never know about the saliva bullet, my only war wound.

These days I help veterans. They tell me about their anguish and the long wait they endure while the VA decides whether or not to to award them benefits for service-connected injuries. Some have been checking their mail for over 700 days without a response and more than a few have likened the wait to a ” saliva bullet.”

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