If you have just arrived at The Library in Purgatory, the first chapter is here.


"I never found the girl, I never got rich. Follow me."

~Leonard Cohen

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Chapter III.1


Big Blue

The Haphazard Journals of Charlie Nine Zero Three


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I am just a poor boy and my story’s seldom told
I’ve squandered my resistance for a pocketful of mumbles, such are promises
All lies and jest, still the man hears what he wants to hear
And disregards the rest

When I left my home and my family, I was no more than a boy
In the company of strangers
In the quiet of the railway station, runnin’ scared
Laying low, seeking out the poorer quarters, where the ragged people go
Looking for the places only they would know
— The Boxer
2/21
Orlando, Florida, Recruit Training Command- boot camp to the rest of us. I heard my muse on the fourth day here marching out on the grinder. It was the first time I’d had the urge to write since Christmas, and for a while had thought the desire might have left me altogether.
2/22
Already I can see that it’s going to be a war of attrition with the prize going to the person who keeps his head in line (and on his shoulders), his mouth shut with eyes forward, and runs till his heart bursts or the CC keels over. God help us all.
2/26
Dental screening today; I got lucky and caught a twenty minute nap in the dentist’s chair while the dentist took a break. As long as these P-days have seemed, this week has gone by really fast; and things are just starting to take off. I’ve passed the vision, hearing, and dental screening and the only thing standing between me and BUDS that is beyond my control is the dive physical which is next Monday. If I pass that the only thing that will keep me from being a SEAL is myself. The resolve, the belief in myself hasn’t gelled yet and sometimes it makes me wonder. Part of the reason I’m here is to find that belief in myself, but I don’t think that I can get through this without it. Once again the absurd has taken command and it would seem that in order to find what I seek I must believe that I have it already.
2/27
Nam Myoho Renge Kyo- Devotion to the Mystic Law of Cause and Effect

Went to the Buddhist service today with Hardee. I’d never been to anything like it before and I enjoyed it a great deal
I’ve been thinking about the IT (PT) we’ve been doing, ‘cause I’ve managed to do more than I though possible and I realized that the pain is an illusion, an illusion that can be broken through. The body is capable of doing much more than the mind thinks it can. Pain is only perceived in the mind. So how do you get to ignoring the pain, seeing through it, transforming it, or getting rid of it completely? The best I can figure is that you have to not let there be anything to feel the pain. If you become the pain and that is all there is, then there cannot even be pain. To become one with one’s enemy is to fade away from his sight and he is left without a target to strike (at).
3/1
Monday: Dive physical- so far so good.
3/2
Passed the swim test today and got the first round of shots. I’ve realized that I’m afraid of PT. I think I’m afraid that I won’t try or give a 100%, or maybe I’ll fail, I’m not sure though. I want to put my entire heart into something, to lay it all on the line but I’m afraid to. I’m not sure what’s up.
3/5
1-5 Day: The first inspection, what a hollow victory. What we though we might have gained is drowned in what we aren’t. The shame of it just makes me want to quit. The frustration and confusion are starting to build and I feel like I’m wandering through my childhood again, reliving it. I have the overwhelming impression that nothing I do is quite right and that there is some invisible standard to which I can’t quite measure up to. I’m afraid of being trapped there, in the frustration and hopelessness of my childhood. If I don’t make it here, what’s left? I have to get off the old track and onto the new but I’m not sure how. And I don’t even know why I’m here because I seem to have no desire to be a SEAL. And without that desire I’ll never even come close to getting there. Lights out, gotta go, adios.
3/7
It’s hard to believe that I’ve been here for eighteen days already. The days here all blur into one another, it’s almost as if each day is my first and my last. My recollections of yesterday are already hazy and beyond three days are lost forever. Maybe it’s better that way, only time will tell.

Seaman slack
get out of your rack
and prepare to do push-ups!
— Unknown
3/8
The CC’s wouldn’t let me PT today and now I’m in sick-call; still don’t feel too hot. The two days of bed rest gave me the time to think and sort some things out, get my head straight. The way things are looking now I’m thinking about reclassifying into an A-school that will transfer over into SEALs, finishing out boot camp with the company, going to A-school and then spending a year in the fleet before reapplying. This course of action feels right. I’m coming at this thing on so many levels and trying to do too much for any of it to work out well. Right now I just want to get myself through boot camp learning the things I’m supposed to learn. By doing that I think a lot of the mental stuff will fall in place. By then I’ll be much better prepared to go to BUDS and it will also give me more time to get into shape. So that’s the plan for now. Whatever I do, I don’t want to quit on myself or sell myself short.
The stress of the last three weeks and the impending six are starting to take their toll, mainly on people more like me who really have no business being in any branch of the armed services at all. The warrior spirit is a state of mind not of body, or better, a state of mind and body; and so far, I don’t see any indication that there will be any philosophy with the PT, indoctrination maybe, but no philosophy.
3/9
The ones who are going to make it as far as BUDS (and probably not much further) are the dumb, brute, shark types who have to constantly move (or drown) and have no mind that can be fucked with. I am no longer interested in running headlong with the pack in some anabolic frenzy, but in just getting out of here with an A-school. SEALs will come later or not at all. I don’t feel like I’m getting any more in touch with my body except when it is screaming.
3/11
Walking is the process of falling forward, catching yourself, and doing it again; in a plane, to climb more quickly, you dive first. Life is realizing that up comes with down and down with up, and, by making the most of these “controlled” downs you can go ever higher. The trick to life is keeping your own rhythm and not getting hung up on anyone else’s.

At night, after lights out in the barracks, I sit at the window and watch the cars go by.
3/14
It’s been a busy week and it seems like there hasn’t been any time to write; there were a lot of things I wanted to get to but I don’t remember most of them. Anyway, something did occur to me this afternoon: The main reason I’m here is to learn. I’ve taken myself and put me in a completely different environment and I’m learning about myself, expanding, growing. I think that’s why I’m really here.
3/17
The nights are short here, and the days long, as long as years— an endless repetition of PT, eating, marching, drills, and yelling. You get to the point where the yelling doesn’t even bother you anymore, where you don’t even care if it’s somebody else; and, if it is you, your mind isn’t even there but somewhere far away where no one can get at it.
Johnson passed out in the chow line as we stood there, the rain beating down on us, hot and miserable. There wasn’t a one out of the eighty-nine of us who didn’t envy the hell out of Johnson; to just quit and sit down with our heads in our hands. But we were SEAL candidates, followers of a higher, harder dream. We knew that in the end, only a few of us would stand there at the top, but that didn’t matter now. So we stood there in the rain, hot and miserable, our gaze hard and our shoulders squared, dreaming with tears in our eyes: we are the pilgrims father, we will always go a little further.
3/20
Over the weeks I’ve felt something changing in me. It’s far too subtle, too soon to put a finger on yet, but I feel more confident about myself. Of course there are days when I feel totally helpless to do anything but they seem to be getting fewer and further between. I took the first PT test yesterday and failed wonderfully. That’s okay though, I know what I need to work on and I was very happy with my run. I wonder if Kim’s going to write back. I guess I’m hoping she does. I hadn’t thought about her for a while and then I got here; is it just the desperate need to hang onto something amid all this insanity?
4/3
Company C903 will go down in RTC history with the rather dubious distinction of being only the third dive company since RTC Orlando’s opening to not make the hall of fame. Many people have speculated as to the reasons for this, but, they were outsiders, they didn’t eat, sleep, PT, sweat, cry, fight, or band together with C903. In fact, they had nothing to do with C903 and generalizations like fuck-ups, unmotivated, individuals, and problem children seemed to ring hollow and uninformed.
4/5
Here’s a poem I started at 3 A.M. this morning on watch. I can tell my writing is getting better and I feel it more deeply.

Remembering Kim…
The clouds are low
and far away, above the tree line
a red light flashes on a radio tower.
The earth smells of wet dirt and rain
and I sit here in boot camp
thinking of you
and Pink Floyd
on rainy summer nights—
your dad’s too large
faded gray sweatshirt
falling off your shoulders
as sailboats bobbed slowly
in the swells—
mast lines slapping
against booms
and wispy white clouds
speeding beneath
dark gray, ominous ones.
Thunder rumbled in the distance
and you squeezed my hand,
leaning back with a sigh
as the wet breeze
blew your short blond bangs
about your forehead
and piled sand around our bare legs.
Pulling your brown knees up
and wrapping your slender arms around them
you tilted your head back and looked
at me and my upside down world;
your serious, stormy green eyes holding me
steady in the wind and whitecaps.
“Will you love me…always?”
you asked quietly
with that half-sad, quirky smile.
I held my breath
and looked up at the clouds
running a calloused hand
through short, sandy, wind-whipped hair.
I shivered
and your hand found mine
pulling it warmly
down around your waist.
as I breathed out
and leaned forward against you
resting my chin on your shoulder.
And, slowly, just barely over the wind—
I whispered with my heart,
“Forever.”

*****
The relationship between a warrior and his god is a special one that only another warrior can understand. The warrior relies upon his god to give him courage and the strength to do the extraordinary tasks he is asked to do. His god is his lifeline, his shield, protecting him, his buddies and family at home. I can feel the presence of my shipmate’s god’s in this compartment and though they are not mine I am reassured by them. In some ways I am envious because I have no god to put my trust in other than myself, which at times is a heavy responsibility. But I am a warrior, of this world and it of me, mutually supporting and creating. Where is defeat when victory is assured?
*****

Well, the letter I thought would never come from Kim came today and … I’m disappointed, but it’s what I really expected. On one hand I just want to not write again and disappear from her life but I expect I’ll be writing again. She still haunts me to this day. She tried to be polite and concerned in her letter but she was distant and cold (can I say I blame her?).

Kalamazoo, MI

SR Slack—

Ok, I’ve sat here for ten minutes; how do I start.  So here I go.

Thanks for the letter.  I must admit I was a bit apprehensive about opening it.  I wasn’t sure you were gonna bitch or be civil.  It was nice to read something nice from you.

SR Slack, I also really care about you too, you were a big part of my life, a big changing part of my life.  I hated to end things the way we did, but you just made me so mad! (and I’m sure I did the same to you!)  I read your letter and began to cry.  Slack, I do not hate you!  I loved you then and I love you now (only in a different way).

I’m glad to see you moving somewhere in your life.  Maybe this will be the thing you need.  Your apology is accepted. 

Things are going well for me too.  Yes, I’m still dating Chris.  And just for laughs, my mother doesn’t care much for him either.  Things at home are pretty much the same, except we have a guy from Finland staying with my family.  He is cool, 16 and in high school.

I do hope things continue to look up for you from here.  It’s wonderful to end things on a better note this time.

Slack, keep your head up and push through!  I know you’ll make it.

Good luck in life and maybe we may run into each other somewhere down the line.

Kim

4/10
Company leave today and I’m burnt like an idiot. Over the last twenty-three years I’ve become desensitized to corporate American advertising but it is funny to see the effects of two months of corporate America deprivation— just so taken in watching billboards on the bus ride to the water park.

Something’s changed in me (more than what I was babbling about earlier). Today, walking around at Wet & Wild’s, I saw the same vacant-dead, lost, hopeless look in everyone’s eyes that I only used to see in my own. I don’t know what’s changed yet but I should get some perspective when I get out of here.
4/11
I am a dreamer, and, at various points in my life I’ve run into the hard walls of reality. Then I got here, and from the feeling of my head, there are a great deal more walls here than elsewhere.

I’m a bit of an oddball here, in the fact that I don’t look like your average SEAL candidate, whatever that may be. So people just pass me off. But some of the guys have been around when I really got into a conversation or read some of the things I’ve written and it blows their minds. They’re like, “Man, I can’t believe you’re so deep and intense…man.” I have to laugh. In some ways it’s an ego boost, but that’s beside the point, it’s just funny as hell.
4/14
My third day of 102-103.9° temperature. I think it’s starting to get to me ‘cause I feel terribly disorientated. I know where I am, who I am and how I got here, but I feel like I’m in a dream, like everything’s totally unreal. I wonder how many IVs I’ll get today.

It seems to me that people are addicted to what they fear the most. I’ve been looking to PO1 O’Grady (CC) to replace my father in a way, to affirm me or something. I’m not sure. It feels like I am going to be here forever. My biggest fear is that there’s something wrong with me and that I can’t ever do anything right and I’ll go through life a failure, disappointing them and letting them down.
4/17
Boot camp ceased to be fun after I’d read the back of all the cereal boxes.

It’s interesting to sit and watch your company eat, you only get fifteen minutes from the time the last guy at the table sits down. You can learn a lot about people.

Then one day I realized how much the Navy liked running and I wondered, not for the last time, what the hell I was thinking when I signed on.

If the Navy was a baseball team, it would be the kind of team that would look for its players in the gutter, pay them sub-minimum, and make them buy their own uniforms. Sometimes it’s hard to not feel superior to the whole system.

The military’s love of straight lines and 90° angles borders on the orgasmic.
4/18
I was half-awake, half-asleep last night thinking that if a physical object moved into a space occupied by another physical object and displaced it does the displaced object move into another, displacing it and creating an infinite chain reaction. Obviously the laws of motion, friction, heat, and energy say no, but something always has to be displaced it would seem, even if only one atom. But what then? Or does the displaced object make a quantum leap and fill an empty space somewhere else in the Universe? Don’t ask me, I was half-asleep myself.
4/19
I think the reason I’ve been afraid of talking to PO1 O’Grady like the plague is because he reminds me so much of my father. He makes me feel like my father used to, confused, stupid, guilty, and scared— all without even knowing what it was I had supposedly done.

4/24
Saturday. Day two of PT Hold: Actually, it’s more like a vacation; I’ve already finished one book. Good god, when will the fun end?

Last night I was listening to U2- Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses- and thinking about Kim and just the general mood, feelings, and memories that the music (magic) invoked…and I wanted to go back to then. Not because the “now” is so bad but because there was something special about those times, something wild, desperate, lived on the edge, pushing the limits of tolerance, sanity, life. I look back (and maybe that’s the problem right there) and I see something, a piece to the puzzle, a feeling, something, permeating everything I did and intertwined completely in those two years. And yet, I somehow missed seeing it at the time, or I don’t have it now. Not sure. I can see it but I can’t see/feel what it is. I can feel something in that time, sublime, flowing but it has no shape. I’d like to point out right now that if I have any idea of what I’m saying I don’t understand it one bit; just saving it for a later, more coherent date.

Waldo’s. Waldo’s is also a part of it, along with Pearl Jam. Those nights— long, boring, half-drunk ‘cause no one could afford to get totally drunk nights— god they were so boring most of the time, but that vibe was there, an orange warmth, camaraderie maybe, or loneliness. It was a deep time, a feeling vulnerable time. I was deep into something, myself maybe, or what I was doing/going through/experiencing. I was half there and half somewhere else, very deep, somewhere that probably doesn’t/didn’t exist; or maybe it does but it’s hard to get there and even harder to get back once you are there. I was somewhere deep. I don’t think I realized it till late and even then I didn’t realize where I was. But I had enough sense to start writing from there— what I saw, what I felt. I touched a part of myself in a way I never had before; talked, wrote, walked, drove from somewhere I’d never been before. Now, right now, this instant, looking back, it feels like a part of me stepped out of my body or soul or something and went way deep inside me and touched things, healing things that were sick, fixing things that were broken. It was a light, airy, narcissistic trip, hard to break the hold, the addiction; to come back and not just stay. Enlisting had something to do with helping me to come back. I don’t know, don’t understand yet. I want to keep the path to that place open. It’s a damned unbeatable place to write from. When I’m there I can feel it all around me and the words and ideas just flow. It’s very deep, very still, quiet, tranquil…just sitting.

I don’t know, I can’t see all the pieces together yet, time though, time and I will. It’s all about being patient and believing…in yourself and your innate ability to take of yourself and to make sure you’re at the reasonably right place at the reasonably right time to learn what you need to learn.
4/26
I grow weary of this place and pace like a caged animal. It’s the limiting of my freedom that gets me the most. I don’t mind being here when I can come and go as I please. But this vice-like grip of authority…I’m tired of being a non-being. The people who run this place are a bunch of ignorant, pompous fools and asses. I’m sure that I’ll be accused of not seeing the “big picture” but the reality is that this place breeds nothing but distrust, fear, and paranoia for anyone with an above-rock intelligence. Whoever thought that confidence came from the wrong end of 200 push-ups and a good ass chewing was either a Marine, abused as a child, or probably both. And the bureaucracy rolls on, a paper juggernaut leaving a ravaged trail of paper in its haphazard wake. A strange rider on a strange wave…whatever initially compelled me on this course of action has since left and vanished from memory. I want a better seat or off. The sad truth though is that I’m on for the whole ride, no matter how fucked it may be. When will I learn?


Well, McBee and Lattuca made it today and now I’m the last of the Mohicans. I’m a little down right now; some fool reported me UA. At most I only have to hang in here till Friday, Monday at the latest. I can do it.

Started trying to write to Kim last night and it’s going a little slow, frustrating trying to find the medium between actually saying something, saying nothing and saying too much. It should be interesting (below).


Well,

It would seem that strange movies call for strange characters in strange places, and so I sit in an unconditioned Navy barracks in central Florida on a hot and muggy spring night wondering what’s going on in your head, 2000 miles away, and trying furiously to figure out what’s going on in mine.

I was surprised to hear from you, I didn’t think you’d write back, didn’t know how black of a memory I was, wondered if you’d have the courage. Should’ve known better than that…Kim and courage, what was I thinking? But what made you turn around, pause, look back?

I need to talk with you Kim; not at you, not to you, with you. I don’t want to rehash old arguments or dredge up spent animosity; but our chapter wasn’t completed, at least not for me and there remains links that must be broken or reforged before a proper ending can be brought about and a new chapter started. It feels much the same as it did in the end with Colleen, a sense that things aren’t quite right or over.

Jesus, I’ve been trying to write this letter for three days now and I don’t even know if I am making any sense at all. I’m trying my damndest not to get carried away and drown you in a flood of details, questions and stories and I agonize over every word and try to gauge your reactions in my head. It’s been too long though and I fear I’ve been doing rather badly at it.

I need help putting some of the pieces together, a different view, someone who was there. I know what I’m asking, the implications, the nuances, the risks; it’s a lot, I know, maybe too much. I never thought I’d be here asking this, swore I’d never turn around. Well, I don’t know what else to say, how else to explain right now so I guess I’ll wait to hear from you.


4/27
I’ve staked out an area roughly 15’ x 7’ and it is my domain. It is here that I write, read, sleep, think, and daydream. Once there, I rarely venture forth unless necessity dictates; and the sad reality of it is, there is nowhere else to go.
4/28
I finished the letter to Kim last night (after another rewrite) and mailed it today. I realized that the thing was so damned hard to write because I was making it hard. Let me try to clarify here— this made more sense last night and I’m trying to get back on the train of thought. It was hard because I really want to talk to Kim, need to; and I didn’t totally realize that and was trying to get around to saying that and at the same time I was trying not to say too much. To sum it up, I was trying to ask for something that I didn’t quite totally realize I was asking for as well as trying to convey a meaning without saying too much. I make myself nuts.
*****

Last night I dreamed that I was in some way responsible for the legal order being given to execute my father and someone else, a little boy, myself I think. The only part I remember is running to talk to some kindly scientist-type guy who was working on the means of execution, a large oven, and asking him if death would be instantaneous. The scientist said that the oven was so hot that they would be consumed instantly. The oven was this room that you could see into through a window as the victims were wheeled in strapped on this hospital bed/stretcher type gig. The scientist was testing the oven. I think I felt a little bad that the boy had to die as well but I didn’t know what else there was to do.
*****

I learned to fear and despise authority from, or more aptly, because of my father. I had forgotten how much I looked up to, worshipped, and feared my father until I came to boot camp. Our CC (a lying son of a bitch) reminded me terribly of my father and I constantly found myself hoping and trying to win his attention and admiration much as a puppy or a small child. I was also terrified of him and his anger, which was practically identical to my father’s. Both of them would make me feel guilty, ashamed, and like a loser without me ever knowing what, if anything, I had done.

Subtly, my focus has shifted off of my mother and onto my father who I thought I had dealt with years ago. But as I look back now, it becomes apparent that I never did and it makes sense that this is so since I set out to “initiate” myself into manhood in lieu of my father who is quite incapable of the act. But enough of that for now; here’s why I joined the Navy, more or less:

—Buy some time to figure out what it is I’d like to do
—Money
—It seemed like the right thing to do at the time
—To initiate myself into manhood
—Subconsciously, to pull myself out of the trip/course I was on
—Challenge
—Didn’t know what else to do at the time
—Dog tags and a tattoo

Somehow this wasn’t quite the list I was expecting but it’s what came out.

The other recruits here in Div. One won’t leave me alone— it seems to be that damned “unwanted leadership paradox” again. I don’t know what it is; I think part of it is because my quietness and laid-back attitude are mistaken for confidence and centeredness. In some ways it’s annoying because everyone wants to tell their irrelevant and tiresome stories— especially when I’m listening to my Walkman— but I find myself being much less, much, much less self-conscious and I interact with people much easier. Huh? That’s funny; I hadn’t even realized how unself-conscious I’ve become.
4/29
Well, I’m outta here tomorrow, hit fleet standards no problem; and just in time too, they’re taking away all the privileges we never had, at least officially. Mazzaralla left today, I miss him already. Myers and I kinda slinked over, unofficially, to McDonald’s for lunch. It felt good to have something besides Navy chow for once. That makes our second trip since we’ve been here. Monday Maz, Hemmingway and I went to the big exchange.
4/30, 0945
Hold the presses; here it is…SR XXXXX has finally finished boot camp. Now it’s SA XXXXX. Ha! Ha! I still don’t believe it. Boot camp has seemed to last forever. I don’t even rem ember what it felt like coming here in the beginning and my life before that is only a dream. It feels like I’ve been here forever and it felt like I’d be here forever— a bad loop that keeps on replaying itself. No more though, I’m off to AT land; despite the worst intentions of my CC’s; assholes. Don’t try to weasel the weasel fuckers…!
BT…wait out…


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