Chapter 25: Angel Dust
Even Lieutenant Jackson began having an attitude. It was not as much, what he said, as how he said it.
"Haven't been ruffling-up any more brothers, Sergeant?" He asked nonchalantly one morning as I entered the warehouse.
I knew what he meant, and so did Gunny, only he preferred to remain neutral. His only loyalty was his stomach, and did not care about anything so long as he got fed. Gunny was married more than ten years to a Mexican whore he met on the streets of Tijuana. According to rumor, she was less than faithful during the first three years of their union, until she became pregnant and settled down, becoming fat and discontented, committed to raising a single child in a cramped trailer just outside of the front gate. Even Gunny did not know for certain that he was the father, nor do I think it mattered to him as long as he found his wife home when he arrived. Gunny was not a bad person, just lacking self-dignity, overly content, looking toward the day of his pending retirement and the salad days to come.
I felt more alone than ever before. I had lost respect for the one abiding principal that defined the meaning to my existence. The Marine Corps had become as a father and a mother to me, I the coronate son of promise. Now I was aware to the Machiavellian reality of politics, my personal honor and virtue sacrificed on the altar of public opinion. I still planned to reenlist. Only now, I would do it just for the money.
I drank more than ever before. Not because I liked the feeling of drunkenness more, rather, it made the bitterness taste sweeter. Southern California became as a familiar stomping ground, as I wandered up and down the coast, exploring every bar in every little town between San Diego and Los Angeles. I preferred San Diego more than L. A., mostly because of its nearer proximity. Also, it felt somehow safer and more familiar. Perhaps, the maze of one-way streets that traveled for miles gave me the greatest comfort, knowing that here I could never get lost. I was worse than lost--only I did not know it.
One Saturday around midnight, I found myself in a district of San Diego city I knew little about. Parking my car near a square just off El Cajon Boulevard, I found a restaurant called The Philadelphia Deli and ordered a highly recommended famous Michigan sandwich. Although exotic sounding, it was actually a stale subway roll drowned in greasy meatball sauce. Fortunately, I had the stomach of a teenager, and after the wash of a couple of beers felt as if I had eaten a steak dinner.
Opposite the square, an all night movie theatre with the new release of a film starring Tom Laughlin called Billy Jack, a macho testosterone tale about one man's determined stand against injustice. As a military man on the prowl, you learned a few things. For example, an all night theater was a great place to sleep-off a hangover, or just to sleep. I paid my ticket price, found a seat near the middle, and settled in for the night. At around three a.m., I awakened to find a young pretty girl beside me wearing a pink miniskirt.
"I must have fallen asleep," I said shyly, righting myself.
That is when I realized that she had her hand on the crotch of my pants. She only looked at me, her eyes cool and unwavering. After a few uncomfortable moments, I leaned forward and kissed this unexpected seraph. I knew even then that there was something different about her, something familiar that I could not quite grasp.
"Will you give me five dollars if I make you feel good?" She asked matter-of-factly in a voice that did not exactly match her demure.
Five dollars was all I had left, but I could not imagine spending it on anything better. I will not say that I did not know what she was. I knew, even if my mind refused to accept it at the time. We ended up making out on the carpeted floor littered with the garbage of spent chewing gum and used condoms behind the back bleachers while Billy Jack exacted larger than life revenge on those who deserved punishment. At some point, I must have fallen asleep again, because when I opened my eyes she was gone like an unreal spirit in a dream. In a way I wished it was a dream, yet I knew it was not, and that the sin real. It was just another Sunday morning as I exited into an incandescence of early mist that clung heavily to everything. This was the coolest time of the day when all became pure, cleansed of imperfection, a morning unique to this glittering city in the sun.
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Distance Traveled: A Chronicle in TimeNon-Fiction
This is an autobiographical novel beginning in a small town in old south America. It records the life of a young man growing up in the shadow of the escalating Viet Nam war and eventually joining the United States Marine Corps to become a part of t...