I am ONEILL JONATHON M. 318-02-3437 O POS CATHOLIC. I’ve been so since I was stamped so back in nineteen seventy-four; a proud three and a half inch long oval of polished alloys. My first partner and I were shinier then, our rolled edges smooth, our embossed letters deep and even. HE took great pride in us. I remember being touched a great deal in the early months; clutched, absently toyed with in the dark hours of a long watch. HE didn’t look at us much, but we felt his grip, the slide of his strong fingers along our punched letters. When we weren’t being touched, we dangled against his chest, jingling softly when HE moved. Our clinking was muted under shirts and uniforms most of the while. We rested against flesh at other times, absorbing the heat of his skin, and taking on the sweated salt of his body.
We were always there. HE used us occasionally; prying up beer can tabs was the most common function. We scraped leeches off of his thighs once, and swung in a dizzying arc at the end of our chain in the glare of headlights to hit a menacing face. We were dangled in water, tossed high into the air, tucked behind the safety of a flak vest. After each action we were wiped clean and returned to our accustomed post against his chest.
Others have touched us. Cool clean hands scented with Phisohex and rubbing alcohol have removed us from and returned us to him. Small grubby hands have tugged at us. Slender hands with painted nails have toyed teasingly with us, made us jingle playfully. We have bounced between his body and those of others in a hard grunting rhythm. We have been set on bureaus and nightstands and dirt floors only to be brought back against his skin, his heart.
I lost my partner after eight years. There was screaming. Our chain was torn apart; HE reached for us with a flailing hand, caught me, held me tightly in his big palm. So tightly my letters were left in his flesh. I was held, clutched for hours. HE put me in his mouth and I rested against the inside of his cheek. HE hid me, only to take me out in darkness and run his fingertips over my surface, reading me over and over again: ONEILL JONATHON M. 318-02-3437 O POS CATHOLIC. I gave him comfort.
A new partner joined me later, shinier, without a rolled edge. HE put me first on the chain, stringing the other behind me. We did not clink, not with our rims covered with thin rubber mufflers. We rested outside his shirt, on a smaller chain linked to the one around his neck. HE didn’t touch us nearly as much as HE had years before, but we were a part of him now, so familiar that we were an appendage. When HE remembered us, it was usually with an absent fondness, a pinching caress between thumb and fingers. My letters were worn, my façade darker. There were faint traces in the crevasses of my lettering; dirt and blood mostly.
O POS mostly.
Under me, HE has fought and loved and died and argued and fallen only to rise and do them all again. I have been there. I proclaim him, sharing identity with him. A lifetime of existing as ONEILL JONATHON M. 318-02-3437 O POS CATHOLIC. That will be my existence until I am gently taken from his quiet chest and passed into shaking hands.
Then I will give comfort to someone else.