“Congratulations, Private Johnson, you survived Basic Training,” Dad said patting me on the back.
All smiles, I say, “Thanks Dad. BCT was – really rough, but I’m glad to be able to- to have the experience.”
“Yeah, it was the experience all right.” My sister, Jessy, is doing everything I have not been able to do for ten weeks: chew bubble gum, pop her hip out, scroll through her phone, and say ‘yeah’.
Mom swoops in for a hug, “Well, honey, I am so incredibly proud of you!”
“Thanks. You’re letters really kept me going. Letters keep everyone . . . motivated. You can just see how different people act when they haven’t – uh- received any mail to when they finally have,” I say while at parade rest, a force of habit.
“We tried to write you as often as possible, but your letters just got to us so slowly,” Mom explains.
“Yes, the mail has to go through several, um what’s the word, post offices before coming to the base and often the drill sergeants don’t pass mail out for a week.” It is so strange being the center of attention again.
“Hm, that’s too bad,” Jessy says popping a bubble.
“Well, you must be in the best shape of your life, son,” Dad says.
“No, not really. I’ve got so many ant-bites, rashes and, oh whatdacallit, a stress fracture in my hip. Yes, I gained – muscle, I’m fit. But not the best shape, no.”
I did not realize how difficult it would be to talk. I have been focused on one task at a time and clearing everything else out of my mind for so long. Stringing words together that actually make sense is so foreign to me.
The Army has one large dictionary and the only words are swear words. I hardly swore before, and now restraining from cussing only makes talking all the more difficult.
I have forgotten so much. This morning a civilian asked me if the ground was muddy. I forgot what the word ‘ground’ meant. We have all forgotten voices, lyrics to our favorite songs, names of loved ones.
I feel like my mind is a glowing light bulb, but with the cord unplugged. Where I get my energy, my motivation, my will power is gone. I cannot find it; I am so exhausted not only physically but also emotionally. I have to be strong for my family, but I can hardly be strong for myself. Somehow, unbeknownst to me, I keep going, continue to have my light glow.
More muscle than ever before, but I have never felt this unconnected to the universe outside my own decrepit soul.