When I first started this little project, I didn’t think that it would consume me as much as it has. I figured I’d start off like gangbusters – like I did that first day – but eventually slow down and eventually peter out to nothing. Just like everything else that I start and never finish. Nevertheless, this is the longest that I have ever consistently written, and that’s coming from a person whose livelihood used to be based on (mostly) daily writing about stocks and investing.
About a week into this thing, and based on the favorable reaction that I’ve received when I’ve shared my daily updates, I decided that I would share something from this (as yet untitled) fiction book that I’ve started writing. Parts of this have been shared with someone, who gave it generally great reviews – though he did see it before I doubled the length and added some other stuff. So, without further ado and after the break, please feel free to read the “Prologue” to the book. It has been lightly edited and most likely not in its final form, but I welcome any and all comments that you might have. Thanks for following along to this point, and I hope that this little snippet piques your interest further.
It’s that one spot.
That one spot that the sun seemingly finds every day, piercing the literal shroud over my window to “awake” me from that night’s “sleep.” I don’t really sleep anymore. I just eventually stumble and fall into bed after hour upon hour of my empty daily existence.
An existence filled with the booze that is the only thing that seems to numb the pain, both real and imaginary.
Those pains in my joints that are real to me, yet imaginary to that quack of a doctor at the clinic. The guy that could barely fall out of a plane five times, let alone survive the intensity of School. He has it out for me because of what I did, or at least because of what he didn’t.
I often wonder how I got to this point. How I became such a broken man. I don’t have any regrets for the path that got me here. You can’t live your life with those regrets.
Listen to me. I should really take my own advice sometimes. I got here primarily because I constantly wonder “what if.” What if I had just went to college? What if I ignored all those people telling me to get out and just settle down with her? What if I hadn’t chosen that block to go on leave? What if I hadn’t switch with Robinson for that patrol? What if, what if, what if…
So instead of moving on with my life, I drink it away. I tried the college thing once. Or maybe I should say the “college experience.” I tried to go to class. I tried to find that part of me that was a good student again. But I just couldn’t find it.
When you are half a decade older than most of your classmates, even some of your professors, it’s hard to feel like you fit in. Like you belong. Most of them wouldn’t understand my story anyway. Why I’m the way I am.
And it’s not like I want to tell them. I had the chance to. All those lame “tell us about yourself” that seemingly opened every “Intro to Random Liberal Arts” class that I took that semester.
They came to school for the parties. For the football games in the fall and the basketball in the spring. New people that they weren’t back in whatever shitty high school they went to. The cute new boys or girls. The loose social mores, often driven by alcohol or other recreational drugs.
For a while, I was the “cool” older guy, and they’d hand me the “booze fund” for the latest weekend blast and ask me to get the swill that they thought would help them in that weekend’s conquest. That lasted about a month, until they found another, happier older guy or some shitty fake ID or liquor store clerk that would look the other way after some light flirting.
God, I sound like a bitter asshole.
That first semester was hard enough, adapting to a new lifestyle, way less regimented than where I was coming from. When I encountered people like this in my previous life, I could just beat some sense into them in more ways than one. I don’t think that would be looked on to favorably by the administration at Old State U.
I thought I could find a home in the veteran’s group on campus. I went to one meeting before I realized that they were just a bunch of tools that hadn’t left their past behind either. I don’t begrudge their service, but if we were to compare our service records, I would probably come out ahead. Not that I cared. I just wanted to leave it in the past.
Why couldn’t I leave it in the past?
I could’ve followed their lead. I could have adorned myself in the Tap Out and Oakleys, used my issued bag to tote my books around and continued to speak the lingo that I dropped the minute I went through those gates at Fort Carson for the last time.
Specialist Broseph that did four hard years in the Tennessee National Guard as a truck driver with a six-month “deployment” to Kuwait walks around like he was Captain America and claims that the local coeds “thank me for my service, if you know what I mean” every weekend.
If you’ve been at nearly any major state university, you know the type: always thinks that some example from when they were “in the Corps” applies to the professor’s example of Lazslo’s Hierarchy of Needs or whatever the topic of discussion is that day. You can take the sunglasses off your head, bro. It is possible to buy other shoes so you don’t have to wear your issue boots everywhere. That “high and tight” really helps you blend in…
Sorry. Just me being an asshole again.
So school was a bust. I guess I could work. But I don’t have any real skills. I’d spent the prior 6½ years perfecting the craft of fighting war, or at least helping those that actually pull the trigger. I guess I could go be a paramedic or EMT or something. That’s what some of my fellow platoon medics did. Firefighters. Lots of firefighters. Fucking Sanderson.
Sorry. I’ll tell you about him later.
So I started drinking.
I never really had a plan for my life beyond the Army. I never really had a plan for my life before the Army. Anna, she knew exactly what she wanted to do from the age of 8. Or even before. I just knew that I didn’t want to be my father. Pulling levers for a meager living, working just enough to cover your bills and have a couple hundred left over to drink yourself to sleep each night.
Heh. I guess I’ve turned into my father after all. Well… except for the working part.
Not that I need to work, but it would sure beat the loneliness that comes from being a broken man. If I had co-workers, I could at least try and commiserate with them. Try to be “normal,” as Dr. Schwab likes to remind me when I actually make time to see her. “Normal people don’t sleep 12 hours a day. Normal people don’t drink the other 12 hours a day. Normal people… blah blah blah.”
Well, normal people haven’t seen what I’ve seen. Normal people haven’t lost people in the ways that I have. Normal people can put the past behind them.
She has no idea how much I want to be a normal person. She has no idea how much it kills me that I am slowly killing myself like my father. She has no idea how much of a coward I am to actually just…
No. I can’t go there again. That’s the darkest place that scares me. I don’t want to become some statistic that gets bandied about on Twitter. Some “memorial” that pops up when people feel sad about my passing, the same people that won’t spend five minutes finding me now. I don’t want to be their cause. I’ll stay a coward for now.
Before we get to the real part of the story, the thing that made you pick up this book in the first place, we should probably spend some of that time answering the questions that I’ve been trying to drown with alcohol for the past two years. Three years? However long it’s been.
How did I get here? And why wasn’t it me?