Air Force

Off the Path

I spent the weekend resting and trying to convince Adrian that I wasn’t interested in Tony from the Chapel.  That’s how Eric referred to him when he spoke his name with a crinkled nose as if he had just smelled something rancid.

When I realized that Tony had sent both bouquets, I treated him to lunch. It was strictly platonic. Like I said before, I wasn’t interested in a relationship with anybody.  It was just lunch. We talked about Louisiana mostly and how much we both missed the signature dishes from our home state and tailgating before football games. One of Adrian’s buddies saw us walking together and told him we had been on a date. In hindsight, I guess it was a date.

The next morning, I walked upstairs to meet Adrian instead of waiting for him to knock on my door. He wasn’t there.  His roommate said he had left a few minutes earlier. I ran downstairs to see if I could catch him, but I didn’t see him.

For the first time in months, I had to walk to work alone.  I stopped back by my room to get my Walkman so I could listen to my Loose Ends cassette. I couldn’t stand to be alone with my thoughts knowing that I had probably hurt my friend who just happens to be a boy. I warned him that I was clueless about these things. Even the first time he reached for my hand was awkward. His hand knew the routine; mine freaked out and sweated all over his. He held it anyway and smiled as we followed the path to work.

This morning I was running late, so I veered off the path and cut through the desert. It was getting hot already, so I quickened my pace. I saw Jones’ car pass, and I noticed that he slowed down, but I signaled to him to keep going because I was fine, but  really  I wasn’t. I was a mess — a hot mess!  I fumbled with my Walkman, attempting to affix it to my waistband, but the clasp broke, and I dropped it in the sand. Just as I reached down to grab it, I saw a fat rattler in front of me–stopping me in my tracks.

I was about to be eaten alive by a rattlesnake, and all I had with me was a canteen and that stupid Walkman! I held my breath and took about ten steps in the opposite direction, praying the whole time that there wasn’t another one behind me. As soon as I was far enough from the rattler, I turned around, surveyed the area, and sprinted back to the paved walkway.

Part XV – The Big One

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