This, American Life

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The Wasser Agency is in Miami, Florida. This fact is almost as annoying as the reason for their call: to ask if my loved one was killed/maimed/hurt/amputee'd by the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, what have you. There are infinite ways to profit from my brother's death. There are books to be written and lawsuits to file and so much to be done in his name, in his name.

The secretary sounds like a secretary--old-fashioned, kind, with pictures of loved ones on her desk. She sounds like someone who wouldn't mind being called 'secretary.' She thinks she is doing a great service. She will tell her own family about this call, about my biting tone. I can tell she'll cluck and sigh. I predict when she will say I can't imagine, and this is precisely when she says it, right on time to fuck up the rest of my day.

"Mr. Wasser is on another call right now," she says, "but if I could just get you to hold--we just have a few questions for you." She will not tell me how they found me. Or if my mother is on their call list, or "database," which she keeps referring to. Her voice fades as mine rises. I use phrases like above-board and exploitative and I throw in a gross for good measure. I tell her I don't have time to talk, I am driving on the interstate, I am late for roller derby. I say this in a threatening way too, but it makes me sound desperate, like I need her to know I'm the kind of woman who plays roller derby. 

David Wasser calls me three days later. David Wasser is the kind of man who enjoys knowing more than others, and things don't work out for him when he gets on the phone with me. He tries to talk at me, through me, and peppers his speech with brief asides about ultimate sacrifices or getting what's owed. He likes that he can go to sleep at night knowing he might have helped these families, sorry to have reopened the wound, the most valuable families, sorry if your feelings are hurt. All I hear is Ka-ching, Ka-ching, Ka-ching.

John J. Driscoll is a lawyer in St. Louis. He's the one implementing a database on my behalf. On my brother's behalf. On the behalf of loved ones. On behalf of those killed in fucking bullshit wars, God bless John J. forever, Amen. He's the one working with "Blue Path Labs Counter Intelligence," a group I Google and find nothing about, which only enhances the credibility of all these talkative, ever-helpful men. I may never speak to John J. Driscoll, but I hate him. David Wasser cannot stop speaking. He is a good crony, an enthusiastic P.I., and he gives me the rundown.

  • My brother was killed by an EFP, an Explosively Formed Penetrator. 
  • This is not the same as an IED, an Improvisational Explosive Device.

I tell Wasser I know this, I'm aware of these things, but he happily continues as if I've never said a word. 

  • An EFP is made of liquid copper. The strength of this weapon--the efficiency of it--is why my brother and his captain were killed. Their vehicle, an MRAP, would have been strong enough to withstand your everyday roadside bomb. But the sophistication, the evolution of weapons, is inevitable.
  • The EFP Wikipedia uses words like hypervelocity jet of metal, self-foraging warhead, penetration proportional--I stop there because I can hear Ronnie turning all this vocabulary into an incredible series of penis jokes. I don't want to laugh as I research, as David Wasser rambles away on speaker phone. 
  • The EFPs were funded by two Iranian banks. "They gave the terrorists money," Wasser says, on behalf of Driscoll, courtesy of a blue yet invisible intelligence group, all for the sake of soldiers and loved ones. I don't ask who the terrorists are, because no one ever has a good answer for that.
  • The Iranian banks do business in America.
  • This opens them up to lawsuits.
  • Driscoll is a patriot. Wasser is a compatriot. Lawyers suck in general. But isn't this case worthy?
  • We can do this personal injury style rather than class action. We're not talking like five dollars per shitty hip replacement. We're talking, you lost a leg? You get a pay out. Your brother and your life undone by liquid copper? Lives demolished by the kind of bomb which will perforate a thickness of armour steel equal to half the diameter of its charge for a copper or iron liner? $$$$$$$$$$$$$
  • There are checks to be signed. Everybody wins.

I tell David Wasser I do not appreciate how many people have approached my family with the promise of lawsuits and payment. I say I do not feel comfortable knowing random lawyers are digging for ways to make money whilst performing patriotism. I let him know he talks too much, that he'd be better off listening, that he couldn't possibly understand the pain, the pain, the incessant, throbbing pain.

He cuts me off. David Wasser does understand because he has spoken to hundreds of these families now. He is a man who speaks with a puffed-up chest. I bet he enjoys fishing, but he hates eating fish, and he loves how his secretary always buys his favorite kind of licorice. He tells me I'm a smart young lady. I interrupt and tell him it's not nice to remind people their loved ones died because people with money sent them to their death. It's not nice to dangle dollar signs in front of people who ended, when and where they did, because they didn't have much money to begin with. Do not ever contact my mother, I say. David Wasser cannot be derailed. He has many things to offer. He's not really one for lawyers, to be honest, but he does what he can because this is his favorite case, the most important case, a life-changing case he's now chained himself to.

Columbus has been fog-coated all morning. Fog makes me nervous, cloaks what's just ahead and behind. In fog, everything is the same and nothing ever changes and life is hazy and humid and un-mapped. Fog makes it impossible to fully trust one foot in front of the other, and still, I must take my dogs on a walk. The worst thing that ever happened to my family resulted in half a million dollars and an insurmountable rage, entitlement, a friendly dose of hysteria. Most of my life is resisting the urge to cover myself in memorializing tattoos. Much of my time is spent in silent, indirect accusation.

The fog is lifting. I tell David Wasser my father--the Veteran, the Drug Addict, the Life of the Party, the Long-Deceased--was also a private investigator. I realize I still want to, somehow, make this man feel valued, even slightly appreciated. I worry for his massive ego. This is why he gets it, a little bit of it, anyway, at the end of the call. He sounds meek when he suggests that I, please, have a good day. He apologizes again. He shuts up for approximately ten seconds.

I hang up the phone and cover my head with my arms.

I wrap my head with my arms.

I squeeze my head with my arms.

It is very difficult to catch my breath.

The sun is coming.

The sun is coming.