Chapter Eleven Requiem Eternum
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Sub-Chapter: Even a Paladin sins…
As though the TRAP mission weren’t bad enough, more was to follow. Not more TRAPs, just shitty news.
One of my first friends once I got to the Fleet (Fleet Marine Force) was named Jason. He was a cool laid back Texan. He was actually a gorgeous guy. A calm manner. He got married and disappeared. In reality he went to a different assignment. His wife was beautiful and I supposed they were happy.
They were not. She filed for a divorce six months after the vows, and he took to drinking. He drank while on duty, drank all the time. He’d talk to none of us about anything. One night he went for a drive and never came back. He was speeding around a blind turn on the back roads, drunk. He drifted into the other lane and had a head on collision with a tree truck. He was killed instantly.
The wife got half a million dollars…
The fourth of July 96 rolled around. A 96 is exactly that many hours of liberty you get. Usually it’s for a major holiday like the Fourth, or Thanksgiving etc. I was restricted to the base again as I’d gotten into a “fight”. It wasn’t really a fight. I was at a local bar, a fight broke out, a friend of mine got hit and was stomped on as he curled up on the ground. I moved in, and stopped the stomper. That’s all! Yet I got a month’s worth of barracks restriction. I suppose I was in their crosshairs for being AWOL before. Whatever, my friend’s alive and there’s no brain damage. I opted for the lesser of the two evils, as I’ve never been one to simply sit idly by.
So Jay stayed with me. We got a bunch of booze, Glade, and had us a party. I’d made a mixture of tide washing powder with water and painted the ceiling of my barracks room. In normal light you can’t see it, but in black light you can. So there was the usual smattering of “Fuck the suck” etc up there. Our black light was blaring and so was the system. We were grooving to Zombie by the Cranberries when Hogan came down.
Sergeant Hogan, that is, WAS a cool guy to hang out with. He’d gotten out, spent a couple years in civilian life, and came back. He was now trying to get Marine Guard. The security details that protect Captains of ships, American Embassies, and the President. You see a Marine Guard whenever the President steps off Air Force one or Marine One. They’ve got VERY stringent rules on who gets in. Weapons training includes the combat shotgun, which is cool. Hogan was too fat though. He wasn’t actually “fat”, but was too fat for them. So he took his frustrations out on the lesser ranked guys. Two of which were me and Jay.
He was drunk, came down and declared that the radio was too loud. We turned it down. He then declared,
“Harper shot himself! Stupid motherfucker!”
And with that he turned, went to his room, and promptly passed out.
We figured he was just bullshitting to be an asshole, but something in his toast made me think twice. I had Jay go to the staff duty’s office, and ask. It was true.
Harper was one of the guys on my team that walked the swamp to get to the phone after Purple Heart. He was white boy good at basketball. He was… just an awesome guy. Cool as a cucumber in all situations, and no he didn’t get crazy when he got drunk like many others do, me included at that time.
Perhaps it was the Guinness. Perhaps it was the combination of so many deaths. The loss of so much that I needed her. She had always been there when I needed her. When life was in a pinch, she was there. So I called my wife.
I don’t remember the exact discussion, but I was crying over Rich, and Jay, and the Recon fellers. The whole thing was tearing me down fast. It didn’t help that I was drunk also. I told her I needed her there. I need that one person that had my back. Would hold me, like she’d done before, and tell me it’s all going to be okay.
We’d made arrangements for her to drive with our son out to North Carolina. We got a trailer in the country, with a fireplace, and we made our home there. Our first legitimate attempt at being a family. A couple. Not just a Bonnie and Clyde type couple, but one with responsibilities and needs.
The very first night she’d realized she forgot to bring her stereo. She always needed white noise in the background to sleep, and that’s something I’d adopted too. At one in the morning I drove to Wal-Mart to pick up a little radio/cd player. I swear I’d do anything for her.
I remember one day I was painting with oils, and went outside to smoke a butt. Relaxing, mentally planning my next move on the painting I heard her scream.
I damn near tore the screen door off its’ hinges.
“WHAT! WHAT HAPPENED!!!”
“Tristan drank your paint thinner!!!!”
I ran to him. Sure as shit his breath stank of it. I snatched him up, and we bolted to the car. I blew through traffic, damn near killing us, to get to the hospital. We were told he was ok. As a precaution we’d have to bring him up every hour on the hour to get an x-ray of his chest. He was okay and that’s all that mattered to me.
So I stayed up the rest of the night, waiting for the next hour to wake my boy up, pissing him off, driving us to the hospital, and helping get him in what looked to be the most uncomfortable machine possible. He had to have his arms pinned above his head, and mounted on this walker looking thing.
We played basketball a lot once we moved to the trailer we were going to buy. There was a basketball court, our neighbor liked to play, and so did I. I brought the boy down and picked him up as he shot the ball. I’d dribble around and he’d chase me. It was fun. We often went for walks, but she was always so snappy with him. Yelling at him to keep up etc. I think she was taking the shit intended for me out on him. In that case I’m glad she walked. If not being around me allowed her to become a great mom, which I think she is now, then so be it. I’d just have to suck it up.
The problem lay in the fact that she never let me know what she thought about me. Meaning if I were going down a wrong way she never said anything like, “Hey asshole quit the drinking or I’m gonna leave you” something of the like. I feel that if I love someone and they’re engaging in a destructive lifestyle I’m going to at the very least say something or do something.
On the face of it I wasn’t getting paid to be nice to people. I was living a life that was day to day. I was constantly on Air-Alert platoon and my job had strange hours that often kept us out in the field until insane hours in the morning, only to wake a couple hours later and repeat the cycle.
She’d decided to go home to visit with her folks, and I was again stuck alone. I had a home, but it was no good to be there by myself. I needed to be around people. So I moved into my friends’ room in the barracks while she was gone. It was originally intended for her to be gone for a couple weeks, she was gone for three months. The baby had an earache so he couldn’t fly, we didn’t have the money though her sister worked for the airlines she used… many excuses.
I began to resent her. She would complain about our lack of money, but not look for a job. I was a friggin PFC I made shit for money. So I drank. I didn’t often pay for much, but I did drop a few dollars here and there. I had friends who’d pay. Single friends that had no responsibilities. This didn’t stop the screaming accusations of me spending all our money on booze.
She wanted more control over the bills. I agreed. I was always terrible at keeping a scheduled payment agreement, lack of personal discipline I suppose. So I gave it to her. She was to control the bank account, car and house payments etc. The car was repoed and so was the house… eventually.
I’m sure some of the blame can come to me, and I’ll accept that. Some of the blame also doesn’t lay with me, when bills were hidden from my parents who’d come down to visit. Who said they were going to take care of a bill for us, and were told they’re all up to date, no worries. In short, I think she’d begun to resent me too.
The bottom line, in retrospect, was that we allowed an ill-conceived marriage to ruin a damn good love affair. Perhaps it would’ve been best to do what she’d told me that she’d expected me to do once I went back from being AWOL. Disappear.
She’d expected me to saddle her with a kid, and just go away. Well, that’s not the honorable thing to do. I was blessed with a son, and then another! Being a Dad is a tough gig. You’ve got to teach them to be hard, but with a tender hand. To be self sufficient and self reliant, without alienating them from humanity. You’ve got to be the Mr. Miyagi to their Daniel.
In between the beginning and the end a lot of hard and hurtful words were said between the two of us. Mainly towards her from me. The breaking point came when she finally came home. To me that is.
She’d been told by a “friend” of mine that I was having parties and girls were over that we’d basically had orgies in her absence. True enough I did have a party, a big one. True enough the guys brought girls. Wrong that I was having orgies, or even sex with any of them. I always thought it was funny that because of the way I look that any female is instantly fucking me if I speak or hang out with them. It IS possible that I enjoy company beyond that of my own sex. It IS possible that I do not want to fuck everyone I meet. I can’t speak for them, but I can and do speak for me.
But she believed him, and not me. Which is fine. Water under the bridge now…
But that was the proverbial straw. That and once she’d moved to North Carolina her mom told her and I fucking quote, “If this marriage thing doesn’t work out you know you can always come home.” What balls!
When it came time for me to begin the out processing process of the Marines, I was given many papers, guides, and how to’s. One was a city comparison. I made the argument that we should move to Boston. It has better schools, medical care, and better opportunities than sub-urban Missouri. She disagreed. Her point was that Boston lacked moral fiber. I made the argument that the HOME is what dictates the moral fiber of the individual, not the society. She disagreed. So I had my suspicions as to her ulterior motives. Her mom was getting empty nest syndrome. Wanted her babies, HER babies which were not hers… So I asked if she herself had been given that moral fiber she spoke of as a child. Her reply was yes. My response was that moral fiber didn’t stop you from blowing me in front of my friends did it? Didn’t stop you from mounting me in the backseat of a car full of my friends did it? Didn’t stop you from drinking yourself into a raped stupor did it? Didn’t stop you from loading my gun when I went out to rob someone did it?
“People can change Alex”
Was the response.
Yes Ma’am, people CAN change when given the opportunity or shown the light from those that love them. And so I probably would have, if given half the chance. I probably would have been a good little christian middle America kind of guy for her. I would have slept through church like they do, then claimed some sort of moral superiority. As it turned out, I was given a different hand to play, and it was not an easy call to make.