Saturday, August 22, 2009

So, I've been traveling around the great state of Texas with my cousins, Slim and Woody, visiting friends and family before I have to report for military duty.This feels like the point of no return. After this trip is said and done there is no turning back. Well, it's not like turning back was ever an option, but you get the point. Every nuance, every detail, every motion, every sentence seems to have a deeper significance considering the fact that the next time I visit these places I will have been around the world and back.

I have had difficulty keeping my head in the right place the last few days. My phone has been ringing itself to death and the volume of texts messages would challenge the inbox of the best drug dealer in town. Everyone and their dog wants to know how I feel about mobilization and I keep giving them the same scripted answer.

"I am as ready as I can be," what a cliche; I can hear the Army recruiting theme song playing in my head when I say that. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind talking about it but sometimes I feel like I am in an open ended interview with Barbara Walters. I wouldn't even wish that upon my worst enemy.

We went to a minor league baseball game yesterday and something happened that made me realize that my head has been in the right place all along.

My brother, two cousins and I were standing in line buying beer and food. I realized I couldn't juggle a beer, nachos, a chicken sandwich, a bottle of Gatorade and napkins. Without hesitation, I proceeded to stuff my cargo short hip pockets with the Gatorade, napkins, and the pre wrapped chicken sandwich. These items joined the chewing tobacco and cell phone that had been there all along.

When we got back to our seat my bother turns to me and asks, "Where the Chicken sandwich?"

"In my pocket." everyone in the immediate vicinity started laughing. At first I was a little confused. Is it not normal to stuff things in your cargo pocket? Something that I thought was absolutely normal was somewhat alien to the people around me. My brother made a comment that he would have never thought to stuff the items into his cargo pocket. He's never had to carry all the gear that a soldier carries either.

Our military uniforms have an infinite amount of pockets. Every now and then I find a pocket that I never knew existed. It is normal to have every pocket stuffed with gear, food, hand sanitizer, weather proof note pads, and other nick knacks.

That instinctive action, regardless of how trivial is was, helped me gathered my thoughts as I reflected on the reaction of the crowd around me. Their reaction made me realize that they had never served in the military. The countless questions were coming from people merely curious as to what was going through my head as I prepare for war. They were not trying to be insensitive to my situation but they couldn't resist the human tendency to be curious either. I can understand that they are curious.

As I drank my Shiner Bock and watched the ball game I decided my head was always in the right place, but I had allowed Barbara to ask one too many questions. I was trying to disconnect from the world to avoid the endless questions and comments and somewhere in the process the struggle became one of the inner person. It's hard enough questioning oneself and struggling with your own personal demons but imagine the pressure when questions have you surrounded and their weapons are on full auto.

Mom made us breakfast this morning and I was the first of the hungover guys out of bed. I decided I wanted first dibs on the meal so I let the locust sleep before waking them to descend upon the breakfast table. After half an hour or so she had homemade tortillas, chorizo and egg, potatoes, bacon, biscuits, the works, all ready for the onslaught that was about to ensue.

After the meal I noticed a cake sitting on the counter, I figured it was for the BBQ later in the day. I walk over to it and what was written on it made my gut twist. I know my mom means well but holy rusted fucking metal batman. Across the American flag icing was HAPPY BIRTHDAY (MY NAME)! My birthday is three fucking months away.

I think I need to set up a therapy session with Dr. Phil. I know I will not be around this year for all the holidays but celebrating my birthday three months early upset me. No, that's an understatement, I wanted to crush the cake on sight. I dealt with it in my usual manner by cracking a joke about keeping my drunk cousin away from it before he ate it all and I walked away.

When I said this feels like the point of no return I meant it. I know my mom had nothing but good intentions with the gesture but she should have asked me first. Seeing that cake made me feel like I had terminal cancer or some incurable disease that will cut this trip around the sun a few months short.

I do not plan on dying in a foreign country. I plan on coming home and living a long healthy life. Seeing that cake made me think my family is prepared for the worst. It doesn't work that way; I don't work that way. I don't think they get it. Just when I thought I had my head in the right place I have to go chase down another demon.

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