Monday, April 12, 2010

Victim Of Lust? Part Two

I didn't see Carl for a few days after confiding in him. He had duty the following day and I had duty the day after that so I was kind of relieved.

Maybe, just maybe he was too drunk to remember what I told him, I thought.
The fact that no one was laughin' at me was a good sign, whether Carl remembered or not, I reasoned, tryin' to shake the feelin' of dread that had grown within me since that night.

I couldn't put my finger on why I had this feelin'. If Carl told everyone I was a virgin I was certain I would never hear the end of it. I would be the butt of every joke, ridiculed beyond comprehension, humiliated past all endurance.

So why the feelin' of dread? I wondered. Maybe I'm just gettin' paranoid, I thought, tryin to sweep this feelin' off the grid.
Unfortunately, it didn't budge. It mocked me, daring me to just try to compartmentalize it and forget about it.

Damn! I thought. It wasn't like me to get all worked up over speculations based on a feelin'. There was no evidence that Carl ratted me out. Besides, I'm purty sure he don't want me spillin' the Navy beans about him havin' only one ball.

Maybe it's somethin' else I'm uptight about, I mused. Maybe I'm just blamin' this feelin' on the only thing I could associate it with at the moment.
Whatever it was that was buggin' me, be it dread, impending doom, or all four horsemen of the apocalypse, I had to carry on. I couldn't ignore this, but at the same time I couldn't allow it to paralyze me.

I muttered a quick prayer, somethin' I seemed to be doin' a lot less of than I used to do. Guilt soon followed that thought.
I couldn't exactly articulate why I was prayin' less than I used to, or why my faith in God seemed to be dwindling.
However, I was acutely aware of it.

I had often pondered why this was. Nothin' seemed to be goin' my way. I couldn't catch a break. I couldn't do the job I was trained for. Instead, it was an endless stream of grinding and chipping paint and rust, and repainting. Cleaning the ship several times a day.
Every day, twelve hours a day, with a duty day every third day.

And duty days meant more, much more than just twelve hours of work. It also meant a four hour quarterdeck watch, and probably a four hour firewatch, and drills thrown in for good measure.

It all seemed unfair to me. Yeah, welcome to the real world, I thought, sarcastically. Where's God in all this? I wondered for the upteenth time. I'm sorry. It's not your fault.

I used to get angry at God, but that anger quickly turned inward.
Then I had a dark realization, or at least it seemed real at the time.
I didn't deserve God's love. Somehow, that made sense and I was no longer angry at Him. It explained why I could no longer feel His presence, and it explained all the unanswered prayers.
No, I was alone. I deserved to be alone. Hell, even I didn't like me.

After awhile I just tried to forget about it...about God...avoid thinkin' about spiritual stuff at all costs. It hurt too damn much. So I partied. I drank, then I drank some more. I worked hard and I played hard.
No, that's not it, I worked hard so I could play harder. That's what I lived for. Like that song Against The Wind: I was livin' to run and runnin' to live...never worried about pain...

Ah, f*ck it, I thought. I always get depressed when I think about this sh*t. All serious and meloncholy. F*ck that. Too much thinkin' just brings me down. Time to party!

And yet, even in this sorry state of mind (mindlessness actually) I somehow managed to keep my sense of humor. Which is a good thing because it kept me from falling off the edge, so to speak.
Good thing, too, because soon, I was gonna need all that humor and then some.

"Hey Ben! Whassup?"

"Hi Carl," I replied, gettin' ready to climb the mast for another grueling session of chipping paint and hand.

More fun than a barrel of rabid monkeys, I thought.

"Not much. Thought I would climb the mast and hang around up there for awhile. There's a nice breeze up there," I repled.
"What are you up to?" I asked.

"Gotta repaint the signal bridge, if Bernie ever gets back with the paint. Hey, a friend of mine is having a party tonight, wanna go?" Carl asked.

"I dunno. I was thinkin' of shootin' some pool," I said.

Besides, I don't even know his friend, I thought, or where the nearest bus stop is or the times it runs.

"There'll be free beer," Carl said, with a gleam in his eyes.

"Okay you twisted my arm," I replied, laughin' as I took the bait, hook, line and sinker.

"Cool! I'll meet you in the compartment after work then," Carl said, sporting a mischievious smile.

I was about to ask Carl what he wasn't tellin' me when I spied our division officer headin' my way.

"I'll be there," I said. "I better get to climbing. Lt. Goebal is headin' this way. See ya later, Carl."

"Right on," Carl said with that sh*t eatin' grin still plastered on his ugly puss.

Somethin' was definitely up, I thought. Oh well, as long as there's free beer it didn't matter all that much.

I quickly climbed the mast until I got to the top. Then I got to the very edge of the wooden platform that was temporarily put in place and hooked up my safety harness.
My friend Rick was up there on the other side. We were both in the same division.

"Hiya Ben!" Rick said, a bit louder than usual because of the wind.

"'Sup Rick?" I replied.

"We are," Rick said, lookin' down. Rick wasn't a big fan of heights. He wasn't terrified, he just didn't like it.

As a kid I was always climbing trees, particularly douglas fir trees and I always climbed to the top. I loved heights. I had some close calls via broken branches too, but that didn't deter me from climbing.

When a branch did break I somehow I always caught another branch to keep me from decorating the forest floor with my remains.
I didn't look for that to happen. I mean, I wasn't some adrenaline junkie who purposely sought to fall for the thrill of it.
It scared the hell outta me whenever it happened. Just not enough to give up climbing.

But there was no branches here. If I had a mistep when the safety harness wasn't attached they would be scraping whatever would be left of me off a steel deck.

"This sure would be a bad time to have an earthquake," I said.

"Don't even say that!" Rick shouted over the wind which had gotten more blustery.

"Okay, I won't say it," I replied, laughing.

After awhile I noticed there was some areas of the mast I couldn't reach without unhooking my safety harness. I unhooked it, grabbed the arm and leaned out to chip the paint and rust.

"What the hell are you doin'?" Rick shouted.

"Chippin' paint!" I shouted back, the wind gusting so hard the paint chips flew right into my eyes.

"Damn it!" I shouted, virtually blind. "I can't see!"

"Don't even think about messing with me right now," Rick said.

The wind gusted again and I almost lost my grip.

"F*ck!" I shouted, tryin' to control the overwhelming sense of panic I felt rising up within me.

I gritted my teeth and tried to pull myself back but my grip was precarious so I stopped.

"Is there anyone down there Rick?" I asked, the wind ripping the words from my mouth before they could escape.

"What? Sh*t, you're serious! Hang on, Ben, I'm on my way!" Rick shouted.

"I said, is there anyone down there?!" I shouted as loud as I could.

"What? No! No one's there!" Rick shouted.

I dropped my hammer, freeing up that hand. But my position was so precarious it didn't help much. I felt for where I had been chipping, and found the arm. I gripped it as tight as I could stabilizing myself somewhat.

"Hold on Ben!" Rick shouted, getting closer.

"Good advice," I muttered, tryin' to wipe my eyes on my shoulder as the wind roared about me.

It seemed to take an hour for Rick to get near me, but it was only a few minutes.

"How are you holding up, Ben?" Rick asked.

"You ever notice these harnesses ride up yer ass?" I asked.

"Huh? Oh, yeah! Drives me nuts!" Rick replied, laughing.
"Crap! I can't reach you without unhooking my harness!" Rick said.

"Don't try it, Rick. Go get some help. I'll wait," I said.

"That won't make a difference. Someone still has to go out there to help you," Rick said.

I heard a click and I knew Rick had unhooked himself.

"Dammit Rick! Don't put yourself at risk!" I hollered, worried about him.
"I know! Go get one of those long hook thingy's the Bos'n Mates use."

I felt Rick's hand as he grabbed my arm in an iron grip.

"Okay, I gotcha," Rick said.

I thought about what to do next. If I simply let go I might throw Rick off balance.

" can let go now!" Rick shouted. "Honest! Just relax. Don't pull or try to help me."

"I might throw you off balance," I said.

"I said I gotcha!" Rick replied. "Now let the f*ck go!"

"On three?" I asked.

"Good idea, on three. One! Two! Three!" Rick said.

It was really hard to let go when I couldn't see anything but I trusted Rick. He had never lied to me about anything.
I let go the hand that Rick had and pushed with the other hand and felt myself bein' pulled by Rick.

Then the wind decided to gust again. I sensed animosity from this wind. Like it was some kind of evil entity seeking to destroy me. I lost what little orientation I had and I heard Rick cursing.

"Damn it!" Rick shouted.

Now ain't this a kicker, I thought, lost in space.


julie said...

Yikes - this time you're literally leaving us hanging?!

Joan of Argghh! said...

Dang it, Ben!!!

Anonymous said...

IS VERY GOOD..............................

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

I'm sorry. I can't help myself. I'm a serial cliffhanger nut. It's genetic.