On the up side
It’s a downward spiral.
Running faster and faster,
Spinning out so final.
On the down side
It’s an upward spiral.
Around and round slowly,
Dazedly going viral.
This isn’t the first time I’ve flown before, nor will it be the last. This is the first time I will be away from my family and friends for an extended period of time though, and any thought at all of everyone I’m leaving behind ties the knots in my gut up tighter. I used to love being alone, having some peace and quiet away from my family, tucked away in my bedroom. Sometimes all I’d do is lie on my back and stare at my walls, wondering where the next poster would go, or how I was going to get the next bottle cap to add to the collection stuck in my ceiling. Other times I would open my closet doors and pretend I had dozens of glamorous, silky dresses topping an impressive, spiky-heeled shoe collection, and wonder where I would go wearing such things. My room was my sanctuary, my escape into seclusion and privacy. But where I’m going now, where can I go for privacy there?
In every generation in my family going back to before the 1700’s, there has been someone, some cousin or great-uncle or even great-great-grandfather who served in the United States military. I have great-greats who served in Korea and WWI, a grandfather who was a boiler technician in the Navy, a grandfather who made Officer by the end of WWII, and my father: A Marine. I survived middle school holding on to the plan, the dream, that one day I too would serve the U.S. as active duty military and carry on the family tradition. Being the only child on my dad’s side of my family, it was inconceivable to me that I wouldn’t join up; enlist. The obstacle of junior high and high school seemed like such a small blip on my life’s map; almost inconsequential compared to what was to come: Boot camp.
Today I’m flying there, to boot camp, to turn in my civilian clothes and my first name in exchange for a uniform and my last four. Today I will be introduced to my future. As I sit on the large yet compact airliner watching the other kids from San Diego talk animatedly among themselves, I can’t help but notice how unconcerned they all seem; how relaxed. It’s all I can do to not give in to the tremors and keep my eyes from rolling in panic. Who was I kidding? I don’t want to be away from my family, to escape college and maturity. I don’t want to avoid adulthood by escaping to the ranks no matter how fiscally fucked I am without the military’s pay and benefits. I think, for such a brief moment it barely makes it to the long-term memory banks, that I am so out of my league boot camp will only be my failure. This one brief moment of long-sight that has me staring down a tunnel straight to a very probable outcome nearly breaks me.
“I’m not worried about Navy boot camp. I did some time with the Job Corps, and I tell you what…” That opening line comes from a kid named Sterling. He’s one of the other recruits from San Diego. The only thing that marks him Not San Diegan is that he’s pale as pale can get, and wears a new hemp necklace. A piece of insight here: All hemp necklaces are new in the beginning, but anyone who is anyone knows to wear it everywhere at all times; in the shower, in the pool, at the beach, to bed, to school, to work- everywhere. It’s the fastest way to wear it in and avoid the new hemp necklace look. I shake my head at Sterling’s attempts at bragging his bravery, shaking away my momentary panic and loss of confidence. If anyone is going to break, it’ll be Sterling. And who was I kidding anyways? Of course I’ll make it through boot camp. I am my father’s daughter, and my dad is tough. Boy scout, Eagle scout, Marine, prior Marine; professional hiker, camper, outdoors man, and handy-man. All this, and to top it off- he’s my dad, my blood. I’m tough.
Everything seems to blur together; the rest of the flight, the collection of our group at the U.S.O. office, the shuffling on to the bus that takes us to boot camp. It’s almost as if someone has taken control of my brain and body and given me a front row seat to the show. But I’m not interested and my attention wanders. It’s cold on the bus, and it’s the first thing I notice since blocking out Sterling’s bragging. Then I notice snow drifts alongside the bus as it turns onto a highway on-ramp. Snow? How could there be snow? It was just 70 degrees before our flight. It’s the beginning of spring for crap sakes, how could there be snow? It doesn’t scare me, but it worries me. I’ve heard of people being made to wait outside in unfavorable weather conditions for hours before being formed into their squads. I guess I’ve watched too many movies. But I snug down in my seat on the bus, cross my arms over my stomach and curl in on myself for extra warmth. People all along the outer-most seats start closing their windows, slamming them shut tight against the blizzard we’re driving through.
“If your window was open when you boarded the bus, and you have since closed it, OPEN IT BACK UP!” the driver shouts at the top of his lungs and nearly everyone jumps at the sudden amplitude. A chorus of sliding and slamming rings out and we are all freezing, once again. The girl beside me scoots closer and I don’t say anything but scoot closer to her, too, hoping to share some body heat. I’m beginning to think that survival mode would be wise to engage, but suddenly lights appear ahead and the bus slows to a stop. A guard climbs on to the bus just enough to see over the railing at all us newbies and demands we show him our ID’s. It’s mostly driver’s licenses I see go up, but some are holding social security cards, and only three are holding up green little rectangles I assume to be their legal citizenship cards. The guard takes his time, appearing oblivious to our collective teeth chatter and shivering, and after a long five minutes disembarks and waves the bus through the security gate.
“Welcome to NRTC, folks!” The driver shouts, and quicker than I thought possible we’ve arrived and the door opens again, this time to allow someone in a crisp tan uniform on board. The man is tall, not muscular but not thin, with a light brown mustache and large blue eyes. I’m half-way to smiling, thinking the man may be a few years younger than my dad but still good looking, when he opens his mouth and issues forth a stream of shouted orders.
“ON YOUR FEET! GRAB YOUR BAGS!! OUT THE DOOR! GO! GO! GO!” He’s moved far enough into the driver’s personal bubble to allow us to scramble, panicked and shaking on our feet, past him and off the bus into the frigid snowy night. There were no other directions he gave us but to exit the bus with our bags, so I stood off to the side to allow the other passengers their exit. Some had begun walking toward the building about twenty yards from where we are parked. Flood lights ring the roof, turning the short, squat brick building into our beacon, promising warmth and comfort from the constant fall of snow and biting cold winds.
“WHERE ARE YOU GOING? DID I SAY “GO TO THE LIGHT”? NO, I DID NOT! GET BACK HERE AND FORM UP!”
People are bewildered. “Form up”? What does that mean? Of course, those of us who’ve seen enough movies involving boot camp or the military in general know that “form up” means to get into rows and lines. But that isn’t all of us and the majority bumbles around aimlessly, hoping their feet figure out what their brain can’t and gets them to the right spot. The man in tan who shouted us from the bus, is now standing at the half-way point between the bus and the building with two others in black uniforms. He’s holding his hand to his forehead as if he couldn’t be more stressed about the new load of people the bus just brought; as if the hairball a cat could cough up and the kibbles a dog could puke up are worth more than us, the bunch still trying to figure out what “form up” looks like. I have a bad moment where I am nearly consumed with the urge to laugh, hysterically, until I can’t breathe. I want to laugh so bad my eyes tear up, my mouth twists up, and I nearly snort from the pressure building behind my sinuses. If only I could laugh!
After five or so minutes it becomes painfully obvious no one knows what “form up” looks like and the two in black uniforms take pity on us, usher us inside the short, squat beacon building. The inside is khaki on khaki with a little tan and beige mixed in; khaki walls, khaki ceiling, beige base boards, tan tile, tan grout. The blandness somehow manages to sink into a form of background noise while simultaneously making me ill. The near-complete lack of color does something funny to my head, gives me a sense of finality, a signal that this is really happening, more so than the flight or bus ride here has accomplished. The near-monochromatic attack of khaki and tan innards of the building say “You are here to stay” and “There’s no going back”. The room they place us in, full of desk-chairs, drinking fountains, pillars with 7ft tall rulers glued to them, and chalk boards running from wall to wall, all begs for color, for something other than tan, khaki, beige, or brown.
After all are called out and assigned into small groups- men with other men, women with other women- we are made to circulate the stations. The first station for my group is the urinalysis station. If we can’t provide a urine sample on command, we are made to drink from the fountains and walk circles around the perimeter of the room. Don’t disturb the other stations, stick to the walls, and when you’re ready to pee, raise your hand and someone in uniform will assist you. After I pee, assisted, in a room with toilets lining the walls and no stall doors to block the sight of twenty other women being assisted, I’m assigned to the medical station. Here I have to describe the appearance and location of all prominent and or distinctive marks, freckles, moles, scars, and or tattoos. I have to provide a family medical history and am asked if I am allergic to any medications, plants, or foods. No, no, and no, I smile.
“Don’t smile,” I’m told, and pointed to the next station: Shoe lacing. Of course this is rocket science, I am one of the last from my initial group to make it to this station and it is beyond my comprehension as to what I’m supposed to be doing. I look around but there isn’t anyone in uniform to assist me, and everyone in the desk-chairs around me is very intent on getting their shoelaces exactly right.
“What do we do?” I whisper to the guy next to me. He seems close to my age and a whole lot more approachable than the hag sitting behind me. The guy doesn’t look at me, or respond, but holds his shoe up in one hand, still holding his laces in the other in answer. With a small sigh and a hope for getting these apparently difficult laces done right the first time, I pull my shoes up and pull the laces out. I’ve finished the first shoe and am on to the second when a man approaches my desk-chair and stares at my hands as my fingers smoothly pull the laces through the eyes of my left shoe. He’s dressed in a track suit of navy blue with dark yellow stripes down the sides and the sleeves, navy blue and yellow personalized Nike sneakers, holding a short black baton-like looking object. His skin’s so dark he nearly blends in with his track jacket. In a blink I pull the last of the lace through the last eye when the baton swings down and pins my poor shoe to the desk top. I jump and pull my hands straight down to my lap. I’m so caught up in deciding whether I should look the guy in the eyes and give him a mean mug, or look down and act timid that I miss his question the first time he asks it.
“What?” I ask. My head snaps up and I realize the error in keeping my eyes trained away from whomever I’m supposed to be listening to.
“I asked, who told you to lace your shoes like that?” Still using his baton like an arm extension, he nudges my shoe this way and hat across my desk top until it tips onto its side.
“No one… Petty Officer.” I’ve assumed his rank based off another assumption- that the only military people who matter in boot camp are Petty Officers, Chiefs, and Officers. Some instinct told me he was more a Petty officer than Chief, and I guessed right- that or he chose to ignore my ignorance and let me slide.
“Perfect,” he nods to someone behind me on the opposite side of the room. I turn to look as I hear him continue, “Nine-Two-Three. You got a new one, Chief.” The man he says this to, is the same man who came on to the bus and shouted us off. The man in tan. Chief Key. I look back to the Petty Officer with the baton, but he’s already moved on to the other people seated around me, making comments and gesturing to the various places they need to go once they’ve finished lacing their sneakers. I’m worried about the division number. My recruiter mentioned something about special divisions starting with the number 9. Was I just placed in a special division? A hand lands on my shoulder as I hear Chief Key telling me there’s no need to move from my seat. “Division nine-two-three assembles here.” I purse my lips and try not to think too hard about what just happened.
“Chief,” I say, without looking up, though he’s removed his hand I’m hoping he’s still near.
“What, Recruit?” he asks.
“Did I just get placed in a nine-hundred division? For tying my shoes right the first time?”
“Sure did,” he replies, and with that, I hear his shoes squeak as he executes a one-eighty and walks away.
I have no more tears to cry,
Because I think I've cried them all.
All the years we've spent apart,
The further and further I fall.
I spend a lot of time, thinking of you,
And how things could be...
And wish that any time with him, would have been you with me.
I'm thankful for every day I have with my son,
And I'm glad he is who he is.
But wish that some times he could be yours, instead of his.
There's nothing I can do or say to rewind time,
Though there's days I think that if I could, you would still be mine.
I love him for the child that he gave me,
But that doesn't stop the love I have for you, to still be.
I wish I knew the future,
And how things would end up.
But every possible outcome I think of...
It's just not enough.
Since I was eighteen,
you've been my only love.
I don't know what else to say,
Maybe because there's nothing else to speak of.
So I'm supposed to have a rough draft of a research paper either nearly finished, or already finished and in the process of refining by 2pm CST today.
Do I have a rough draft? No. But I have my outline and a general idea of what I want my point to be.
See, originally it was going to be a paper on the difference between corporal punishment, child abuse and how parents cross the line. But I figured that topic to be too broad. But the difference between a spanking and a Spanking is so objective, such a grey area, I found it hard to even begin my argument. So I changed the terms and approached one side of the argument: Discipline, Punishment, and where parents should draw the line. I know, it still sounds vague, but the point I want to make is that discipline should be the main tool for raising a child, punishment used sparingly and only for serious offenses, and why it should be this way.
Still subjective, still one sided, and I still have no idea how I'm going to get this rough draft cranked out in time to make my class.
My struggles with my educational progression aside, does anyone have any input on this topic? I'm kind of in a soap-box mood...
“Bubble bubble, troll- ” The little girl paused in stirring her make-believe witches brew. “Ohh… Double toil…” She started only to have her new friend, Star, correct her again. “Double bubbles- Ok, ok, sorry! Double, double toil and trouble,” she nodded her head to emphasize each word. “Fire burn and cauldron bubble.” She went back to stirring the imaginary stew in the rusty bucket, laughing at the silly words. Star said all young witches made Eye of Newt, and everyone who was anyone knew the proper spell.
“Ok, I got it. Double, double toil and trouble… Fire burn and cauldron bubble.” Just then the door at the bottom of the stairs opened.
“Teresa! What are you doing all the way up here, kid?” Her sisters’ voice got louder as she climbed the stairs. Teresa jumped up and closed the doors to the armoire where she and Star had been playing. Clasping her hands behind her back, Teresa assumed a look of perfect wide-eyed innocence as her sister, Melody, reached the last few stairs.
“Hey, this is cool!” Her big sister looked around, taking in the various piles of long-forgotten junk and furniture. “I can’t believe someone would leave all this cool junk behind. Anyway, lunch is ready. Mom said you need to wash your hands before you eat. She must’ve known you were going to get into something dirty…” Melody pointedly looked at Teresa’s hands and knees then turned to leave. “But next time,” she said over her shoulder, “Tell someone when you’re going to be up here, at least until mom cleans it.” She rubbed her arms. The tiny hairs had been standing on end since entering the attic making her skin feel prickly and tight. “There could be rodents or something.”
When they left the attic together, Teresa waved goodbye to Star before firmly closing and locking the door at the bottom.
Later that night after Melody made sure Teresa was asleep, she tip-toed from her bedroom. She was going to be so glad when Teresa could finally sleep through the night in her own bed. Moving slowly, she crept down the hall to the guest bathroom. Since the day they’d moved in she’d desperately wanted to bathe in the guest bathroom’s claw foot bathtub. It was pearly white and huge, and with a few candles placed around the room, the tub filled with steamy water and soapy bubbles, it appealed to every aspect of Melody’s fifteen year old romantic heart. Hanging her robe on the stand-up mirror in the corner, she slipped into the steamy water, sighing with absolute bliss as she submerged. Putting her headphones on, she leaned back and focused on relaxing. She wanted to feel like a glob of warmed jell-o by the time she got out.
The water was icy, her skin pale and mottled with dark blue veins. She couldn’t breathe, couldn’t move. Something was holding her down, keeping her from escaping the slushy water. Where her body touched the tub she burned. Melody tried to speak but only managed a faint exhalation, her breath freezing in the air as it passed her lips.
“What’s going on? Someone please help me! HELP ME!” She meant to shout, but got little more than a strangled gurgle. She wanted to scream, to kick and flail her limbs free of the now frozen bathwater. She was stuck in a tub-shaped block of ice, her shivering heightening the streaks of pain shooting through her body. Her heart slowed to an achy “Bah-bump……bah-bump”, so slow it seemed impossible for her to still be alive. The veins in her arms and legs began to blacken, spreading slowly to her fingers and feet. Tears froze before they could leave her eyes, fusing her lids shut.
A voice whispered, feathering her frostbitten ear, “You’re next”.
Melody woke with such a start, water splashed onto the tile floor and her iPod fell in. Clutching her chest, she tried to get her breathing under control. The heat of the bathwater was at once startlingly welcome and intensely painful. The bleak cold of her nightmare translated to her waking reality and her body felt iced to the marrow of her bones. Frantically turning the faucet knobs, she scooted to the end of the tub and sat directly under the rush of hot water. She couldn’t warm up fast enough, doubting her body would ever return to its natural ninety-eight degrees again.
When she felt sufficiently warmed, she donned her robe and ran down the hall to her room. Flipping the closet light switch on, she dug through the semi-unpacked boxes for her sweats.
“What’s going on?” Teresa asked through a big yawn, sitting up in bed.
“Nothing, I ‘m just sick, I think I have a cold. Go back to sleep.” She said as she slipped on thick gray socks.
“Did you have the freezing dream too?”
She didn’t look up, didn’t want to confirm that her baby sister had experienced the same horrible dream. Without another word, she turned out the light and left the room to find where her mom had stashed the hot cocoa.
“But mom, everyone’s going to be at the Halloween dance tonight! Why can’t I go?” Melody was mentally screaming, willing her mom to change her mind and let her stay out for the night. Although she hadn’t had any more nightmares since the awful “freezing dream”, she’d done her best to stay out of the house as often as possible.
“Because, Mel, you’re never home. I want you here to answer the door, hand out candy, and be a good house sitter.” Melody felt anxiety unfurl in her stomach and inch its way into her chest. She set the grocery bags on the counter with a loud thump.
“What do you mean? Where’re you going? Where’s Teresa going? Why can’t I go to the dance if she’s not even going to be here?”
“She’s staying with that Brittney girl down the street, and I’m going to be at Georgette’s till midnight.” Her mom paused in unloading the groceries, “I swear, for a teenager, you’re awfully unwilling to be home without supervision. When I was your age I was planning a party before my parents could finish the words ‘Weekend vacation’. What’s with you?” Her mom fisted a hand on her hip.
“It’s fine. I’m fine. I just thought I’d take Teresa trick or treating. I guess I can relax with some horror movies… and popcorn.” She attempted a smile but felt her face form a grimace.
Her mom shook her head at her and turned to put milk in the fridge. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d think you’re scared of being alone.”
“Pfft.” Melody scoffed. Her mom had been right about the planning part, but it wasn’t a party she had in mind. She wasn’t planning on being home at all. She just had to find a way to stay out until her mom got home and wondered if the little Brittney girl had an older sibling she could hang out with.
A few hours later Melody learned Brittney was an only child and her parents didn’t think it appropriate for her to spend time with the two younger girls. They’d told her just as polite as punch that children should associate with others their own age, implying Melody was too old to hang out with the nine year olds.
“Never mind one of them is my own little sister,” she muttered darkly. After being turned away from Brittney’s house, Melody stomped back home and went straight to the detached garage. She would camp out in the backyard if she had to. After rummaging through all the boxes in the garage, she couldn’t find a single piece of camping equipment, and none of the boxes yielded anything she could turn into a fort.
Not happy at the prospect of sleeping in the filthy, cramped garage, she trudged back toward the house. The porch light flickered as she approached. Melody stopped and looked up to see each light in the house take turns flickering.
“Oh my GOD could you be more cliché?!” she screamed at the house, shaking her fists in the air. “What happened to you? Did you die of fright from an 80’s B-rate movie?” She shouted up at the roof, imagining she was yelling at whatever was in the attic. “Get some new material for crap sakes!” Feeling too angry to worry about her all-consuming fear of being alone in the house, she stomped up and all but kicked the back door down. It swung open and smacked back against the wall. She stood in the doorway, her hands clenching and unclenching. “I’m not afraid of you.” She blustered, and closed the door behind her.
Fear returned, instantly making her hands cold and clammy and her mouth run dry. She turned her back to the dining room to open the door, one hand on the knob, when she heard it. It was a noise she’d never heard before. It was revealing, and it was damning. It told her she had been right all along; it told her she was shit out of luck. A skin-tightening shiver raced up her spine. The fine hairs all over her body stood up and attempted to march off her skin. She took a deep breath. “It’s not real, it’s not there, nothing is there, everything is normal, I’m ok, I’m ok, I’m ok…” Her attempt at bolstering her nerves didn’t work.
She thought she heard a little girl’s giggle. It made her skin crawl. “What’s your name?”
“Star,” whispered a girlish voice.
“What do you want?” She found she was frozen again, her feet rooted to the floor. She was just as cold, just as icy as she had been in her nightmare. She watched as the skin of her arms paled and turned blue. A frost-blackened hand gripped her ankles, and she felt a scream bubble up and lodge in her throat.
Separate names with a comma.