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P. 1
Boots

Boots

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Published by: stumbleupon on Aug 15, 2012
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12/02/2013

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Hernandez, A.V.Bus, Batteries and BootsThe black mountains cast a silhouette against the dark sky as the sun peeked overthe horizon. The olive drab bus marked with the USMC emblem, resembled a yellowschool bus, and was nearly empty when I boarded at 4:00 am. I found my seat in the 3
rd
row near a window. I placed my backpack next to me, pulled out my Walkman, and gavein to the predawn fatigue.“Is this seat taken?” I was startled awake. I looked around at the empty seatssurrounding me and sleepily said, “There are a lot of seats available.”“But I want to sit here,” he said as he slid onto my seat squishing my backpack upagainst my leg. I dislodged my backpack from between us and placed it at my feet. Thisgave him more room; I was still squashed up against the window. His long legs pressedup against the seat in front, making 2 dents in the flexible green covering. No oneseemed to notice us, the 4 others were asleep, and the driver was filling out the passengerlog.“What are you listening to?” he asked.“Um…it’s a compilation”“Of what?”“Aah, Anita Baker. Just a compilation of different artists.”The 4:30 am bus pulled out into the dark night and drove through the still desert. The1
 
Hernandez, A.V.four-hour drive to Camp Pendleton seemed especially long today. There were momentsof silence peppered with random questions. His attention was overt and relentless.During the final hour of the ride I learned the fact that he made the trip to CampPendleton weekly. He had physical therapy on Tuesdays and Thursdays for an injuredright hand with torn ligaments.“Are you around next Thursday?” I asked him.“Yeah.”“The PX was closed when I got on base last night. If I gave you five bucks, couldyou pick up 10 packs of AA batteries?”“Sure.”I pulled out my wallet and handed him the five dollars.“You can leave them in the Marine Liaison office Staff Sergeant Anderson will holdthem for me. Where else can you get batteries for 50 cents a pack with no taxes?”“No shit.”We pulled up in front of the Naval Hospital; I carried my backpack in one handand my sea bag on my back.“Need a hand?”“No, I’m cool.”The six of us walked through the front entrance, got on the elevator to the 3
rd
floor andsigned in with Staff Sergeant Anderson.2
 
Hernandez, A.V.“Good morning Staff Sergeant Anderson.”“How you doing Lance Corporal Hernandez?”“Tired, Sir.”As I walked out I thanked the guy for picking up the batteries.“Where are you going?”“To my room.”I took the elevator to the 5
th
floor. My room was next the nurses’ station on thepediatric ward. Rooms were filled while I was waiting for the Military Board to give mea release date. Until then I hung out at the hospital, answered phones in the MarineLiaison office, and just waited.My weekends were free, and my friend Lisa would pick me up on Friday. A Navyguy I met lived in Whittier, and worked at the hospital. He would give me a ride back tobase early on Monday mornings.When I got to my room, dumped my sea bag, separated my dirty laundry andorganized my closet. It was still early enough to get breakfast, so I headed down to thecafeteria. When the elevator stopped on the 3
rd
floor, the guy from the bus got on.“Hey.” I said.“You know I have seen you here before.”“No,” I answered.“Yeah, you always walk around like you’re tough, but you’re not that tough.3

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