So I have decided to take to the road again. I have been contemplating a companion for this trip and even posted to my friends on Facebook but in all likely-hood, I will be going at it alone. More than likely since most of my friends are married or have kids or have both. Most of my readership consists of my friends anyway, Hi Guys! Some of you were disappointed when I stopped writing last year. My apologies, I just assumed I’d tell you of my mis-adventures when I got home. I never thought of it from your point of view. This blog was your way of coming with me. I promise i won’t kick you out of the car no matter how small my readership maybe. T-minus 2 weeks and counting.
Three days into the trip and I was having a great time, until this moment. From here on out its nothing but strangers until I get to Jacksonville. I am here on the beach alone. My car, this blog and the voice recorder I bought shortly before leaving are the constants. I am in the middle of conversing with a naive blonde. I’ve tuned her out five sentences ago when I began lying. I am not talking about a big lie. I am rationalizing this as telling a vacation lie. I am not even talking to her anymore I am justifying my lies to myself in a very unconvincing fashion. Why did I say I used to be a pilot? I know why, I wanted to get in her pants. Its working she’s eating it up. I am not even here anymore though. She’s talking to Maverick I have retreated into my own head and subconsciously I have begun to bury my feet in the sand as she asks for more lies about my time in the Navy. I no longer feel like answering. This isn’t fun anymore. The more the lies build up, the more securely I anchor my feet in the sand. The war has begun and the internal dialogue grows louder. Everything I am is saying leave. My Saboteur wants to keep talking he loves the signals where are getting. My ego and self-respect hate him. I am getting jealous of the fictional me because the real Orlando got only a moderate a polite response. The moment I vomited a few lies and could almost hear her hum “Highway to the danger zone” in her head. The moment I became Tom Cruise, I also became the loser who just lied because I didn’t feel I was good enough. The way she is looking at me know in contrast to how she looked at me then reaffirms that. “So I am here at my folks place for the weekend with a couple of friends. We were gonna have a couple of drinks I was wondering if you wanted to come by later?” That invitation isn’t for me and the only way out is another lie” I have to be in Charleston tonight I got a couple of buddies down there. It’s my friend’s wedding… I would love too otherwise.” I can’t believe how easily I lie. I am not a player. Those high fives from the tales of wild nights are undeserved. There are far more nights where I go home alone. Even when I have an occasional bed warmer, it isn’t real. For the envy I may inspire is tempered by the self-loathing for my role as an illusion or an escape and hers of being an object and a distraction for my loneliness. I return to the car and head off. Later I stop to eat. Standing in Subway I observe a couple in front of me in line; he teases her, she laughs mouths I love you too and as his hand reaches the small of her back. It cuts with the reality that that touch was more intimate than any sexual escapade I have had in the last two years.
Norfolk just smells like the Navy. As if Saltwater and freshly painted ships were her natural fragrance. Those bases and ships are the blood and bones of her economy and the sea stories of its residents have given her memory. So co-dependant the navy will always call Norfolk home. If the Navy went away all together. I am sure she would gather all the parts from ships sunk across the atlantic. She would use currents like arms and wash them upon her shores. Hide them under her beaches. Hold them tight to her bosom and wait to hear lullabies of sea stories past once more. You can’t walk the streets without tripping over a sailor active or retired. They walk the streets like P-ways. Chiefs are recognized with or without their anchors the short hand jargon of sailors is a second language and understood by many.
As soon as I saw the tunnel I began calling friends I knew to be stationed there. A woman answered I responded “I didn’t know he got married. It has been awhile, oh he is underway. OK” click. I’ll try someone else. “He is in England really?” That’s ok I’ll try… damn on duty. Try again. “In Texas. On leave. Yeah that’s cool. Enjoy your leave man. Good to hear from you too.” This wasn’t the reunion I hoped for. I knew Willie was here. “WILLAAAY!” A greeting that was a dead giveaway it was me. After the requisite chuckle if hearing a familiar voice came the usual “What’s going on bro.” with an unmistakable Orange County flavor. It had the impact of creating immediate dislike from a few in Mississippi who didn’t like the surfer vibe he gave off. I was already aware that he was working an extra job. He was getting married and these are the responsibilities he was taking on, moving off base and new wife required extra money. After the small talk we agreed to meet up after he got off.
Later as agreed we headed out to a crowed bar on the strip. Once inside I began my Habitual scan of the room. Checking clues to who was available and signs of an opening. When my attention returned to Will, there was a smile. He didn’t mirror my enthusiasm. There was a nod behind the smile acknowledging my agenda. He had seen it before he wouldn’t stop me from doing my thing. It was always understood he wouldn’t participate. I was hunting alone. Here we were a hunter and husband. We have done this dance many a time. He always made accommodations for me. He has always been willing to take a cab so I can close. While we made small talk and waited for our drinks I was coming to the conclusion, this isn’t Meridian. I can’t make up for bailing by covering a tab, or catch up with him in the morning. Tomorrow I am gone. This is the one friend who is actually here and he came out to drink in spite of two jobs and being dead tired. I also knew I couldn’t just sit in a room filled with temptation. When Will asked why our drinks were taking so long I used it as an opening. “This place is too crowded to get good service. Let’s hit another bar.” We left without objection. As we did I took another look at the brunette across the bar playing in her drink just waiting for me to introduce myself.
We found a bar far less packed actually it was sadly almost empty. We ordered shots and began to shoot the shit. How was civilian life, about his ship, making 3rd class, recalling times to remember and nights I wish I forgot. Then our conversation came to the future Mrs. William #####. There was always a sense a pride and a change in tone detected in his voice. As his cadence seems to become a melody every time his girl becomes a topic. It was his tell. If this was poker I would have folded every time. He really loved his hand.
After the bar closed, found myself home. I opened the door to the room to flop lifeless on my bed. I heard Wills’ car Leave the parking lot. I shouted “WILLAAAY!, another shot” once more into the pillow. As my eyes shut I considered our IOU account even. I took one for the team. We saw that brunette leave with the ugly Marine and his fat friend in the car parked two cars down from us. The things I give up for friends….. my thoughts trail into the blackness of sleep.
As I left in the morning my thoughts were on Wills’ girl and Navy wives in general. I remembered the first-hand accounts of cleared bank accounts, email notifications of divorce at sea, the ones who simply couldn’t make it another year wrapping presents alone on Christmas, or when the need for understanding comes from a male friend that gets too close and fills places of need left void by absence, or the really bad ones; the wives turned barflies during the months there husbands are away swore fidelity when they came home and professed undying love. Yet why do some relationships seem to grow stronger with absence? As I left I watched the sea looking for a ship any ship to be pulling away I saw none. Those ships that bring money in, bring sailors to distant shores, bring tears to those who will miss them waving on piers, bring me to the conclusion I was never a sailor I don’t think you can ever truly be one without sacrifice.
One day in, and I fell free not like a vacation. Vacations take work, planning, and more work when you get back; taking crap from your boss, requesting leave, babysitters, pre-loading your work so you can go , doing the back log of work when you get back, finding a place for the dog, packing, reservations. This isn’t a vacation this is liberation and it’s a long time coming. This blog this journal are both witness and catharsis. This trip both journey and jury to an audit of character. I am enjoying the process even if I never have a time like this again. I have it now. I am writing it down and breathing it in with the windows down Newport in my left hand that’s attached to an arm 3 shades darker than my right. I could end up at a job I hate in front of the TV in the afternoons waiting for life to pass me by. Right now though I can do anything I want, be anywhere. Now in this moment, I’ve found it even if I never have it again I have it now and it feels good F R E E
Since rain was in the forecast for the area and I was in the city anyway I decided to do my sightseeing until my hair gets wet, what limited hair I do have. So determined to take advantage of a break in the gloomy weather plaguing the city during the week. I set out for the city. At the Whitehouse gate it dawned on me as I stood among the many international tourists that I was a tourist again myself. I had neglected the treasures in my own back yard for some time and today is a long overdue how are you to a friend I had past silently in the hall. The monuments I pasted on the way to work or on weekend visits to bars held no grudges. They held silent like secrets kept in quiet triumph. They have nothing but time they will stand tall long after I am gone. My time here is short. My illusions of having all the time in the world didn’t bother them they had a bird’s eye view of time ticking away. My neglect was one of proximity mixed with perceived permanence and good old fashioned procrastination. Opportunities and relationships are far less forgiving. I watched couples, families, and buses of kids on field trips from Illinois to India they came to enjoy a day in the backyard of my childhood. I spotted the carousel I once played on as a kid still there like a bookmark in my youth. We both had changed. There was an actor from California in Office no one thought could be present then. Now a president no one thought could be possible. The redskins were superbowl contenders with the over the hill gang and the hogs. Now they are favorites to hog the most overpaid free agents and end up n the cellar. I missed redskins games, I missed the DMV, and I missed family. Pausing for monuments and photo ops I spent much of the early day reminiscing not of the city but of home and how much more difficult leaving again will be. I was fortunate enough to run into a German tourist. She looked as if she was trying to absorb the city all at once. She was also solo. As we chatted she told me she had been to America before as an exchange student. Her dream dashed when it was revealed to her she wasn’t going to New York or DC but Santa Fe NM. I told her about my trip she advised me to skip Santa Fe. We continued our conversation as we strolled through the national mall a more accurate depiction would be she walked I limped. She was nice enough not to complain about my frequent stops to nurse my ankle. I saw curious as to why she kept asking for robin Williams. The Smithsonian came into view and I pointed it out her face lit up and the light bulb in my head turned on, of course Robin Williams. It turned out to be a highlight of my tour. To her dismay king tut wasn’t there either but we did see a guy who looked like ben stiller. We resigned ourselves to a full day. A meal in Adams Morgan were I had my first falafel at Amsterdam. We had a laugh or two about dc being closed for renovations as the reflecting pool is being renovated. Thank you goes out to Jantje for pulling me out of my own head for awhile.