“What the FUCK do YALL want??!”
The room falls silent. The clock on the walls slows to millionths of seconds, and the winter sun alertly hastened its retreat over the western horizon, lengthening the already elongated winter shade. Youthful eyes, once full of cautious optimism are now flash-frozen in terror and fixated on the piercing glare of a man in winter working blues; a stranger yet to introduce himself -- and yet a stranger who I assume that no one should ever intentionally piss-off -- was somehow pissed-off by our very existence.
I gather myself, compartmentalize my emotions, and fortify them with the steel rebar and emotional calluses born from a lifetime of being bullied, humiliated, and disappointed. The immersion was jarring, as it was supposed to be jarring, but it was expected. With the others, I remain silent. And wait.
“Oh, don’t tell me,” the pissed-off man continued in an annoyed tone as the streetlights outside crackled and hummed into service, “You guys wanna be in the Muthaphuckin Navy!” That’s all I heard; the buzzing streetlights, the thunderclap of his voice, and the echo of those thunderclaps at the far-end of the hall and the back of my skull. Those were the first words a United States sailor ever spat at me in what I assumed to be earnest. These were not the words of a silver-tongued recruiter telling me whatever he thought I wanted to hear so that I would sign my life away and swear-in. These were the words of a realist who had shit to take care of in a short amount of time, and collectively, I guess we were that shit.
After this inauspicious welcome into the brotherhood of surface warriors, rolling his eyes, the pissed-off man walked smartly away, because as I would come to learn, everything in Recruit Training Command was done smartly, loudly, or it was redone to smarter, louder specifications, with sharp muscle-pain thrown in for those who settled for much dumber, quieter methods. Before we could process the initial encounter, he was back, flanked by other pissed-off guys in winter working blues (and one rather grumpy woman, from who I later learned that watching men quit made her pussy wet, which stood in sharp contrast to her dour demeanor. I didn’t learn this information from experience, nor did I intend on proving the accuracy of her confession. She flat-out told us that having a guy humiliate himself by giving up actually made her moist. You know. Down there. And as I had nowhere else to go if I washed-out of the Navy boot-camp, I quietly hoped she could find an over-the-counter lubricant.)
At this point, they began to “process” us, and nothing was ever the same.
Night casts long shadows
I’ve burned my ships behind me
The day must be earned