Eight years and six days ago, I enlisted. That means that my eight years are fucking done.
The story starts at the happiest place on earth. That's where I met Dan, and that is where I met Mrs. 13 Stoploss. We worked in the same restaurants in New Orleans. Times were great. When my apartment suddenly emptied one morning, and I was in need of roommates, my girlfriend and my friend moved in to split the rent. It was probably the best six months of my life. We drank PBR, cheap wine, and played video games all the time.
On the morning of all mournings, I received a call from work. They said Disneyland would be closed for the day. I was shocked and I didn't understand why. The lady on the phone told me to turn on the TV.
He wouldn't answer his cell phone. He didn't come home for two days. When he did, I told him I would kick his ass if he did something irrational like enlisting. I asked him if he did. I had no reason to think he would, and he had never mentioned a desire or previous interest, but I felt after the events, it was something crazy that he would do. He hadn't done it yet, but he'd been talking.
We were all doomed from the start. The fucking recruiter lived across the street. He brought over beer and Mexican food, and we stayed up all night playing video games. SSG Rod was cool as shit, and he never lied to us. He answered our questions, and only minorly glossed over a few details.
Maybe I'm too nice...
Dan was the first to go. He went off to Relaxin' Jackson a week before us. Wanted to learn how to cook, and had a thing for Asians, so he got himself a three year deal with time in Korea. Robyn and I got married and enlisted on the same day--like it was shopping list, we checked off chores for the day. She was eighteen; I was nineteen.
We finished up the lease on our apartment. Dan left for Basic, and Robyn and I left a week later. She went to Jackson, and I went to Benning--Home of the Infantry.
We didn't see Dan much during those years, but we talked occasionally on the phone. After two years in Korea, he went to Carson to finish up his last year. I had just got back from Iraq, and was preparing for a stop lossed second tour. Eventually, I made it home. He had established some sort of midnight-shift living for himself. Seemed to be doing well. We hung out every other month. He's our oldest, and perhaps closest friend.
There's no moral here. There's no definitive message--just a background check. We hadn't seen Dan in maybe six months or more. So he came over tonight, with a gallon of rum, and for a few hours, it was like old times. The kids were in bed. The drinks were served, and we laughed and talked and watched a movie.
There's a lot I'm thankful for. I am blessed in many ways with which I hope to never take for granted. But for tonight, I'm thankful for old friend: the non-plural. The only one who has always been around, and who has never drifted too far away for too long a period of time. Sadly, I can't really say the same for anyone else.