Whoever stole Bill the Goat, the Navy’s official mascot, and left the poor guy near the Pentagon on Army Navy Drive in Arlington, Virginia, you will get your comeuppance. Remember Army, the Navy has owned you for ten years. And pranks like this only inflame the competitive juices. Or as it is known in France, jus de la compte. (Or is that what I use at Jamba Juice? My language fu feels weak today.)
I am standing in Jamba Juice, in uniform, staring at the wheatgrass. The shoots are yellow and mold encircles the roots. It is a disgusting thing that, wheatgrass. That wheatgrass especially, considering its color, its mold. I cancel my order and the girl with big eyes and the stained red, Jamba Juice apron nods knowingly. I don’t do yellow and moldy. I got a hard enough time doing wheatgrass green and fresh.
A voice interupts my revulsion. “You a Marine?”
The man has white hair. He beams at me. “My son is graduating from Marine Bootcamp on Friday.”
“I’ll bet. That was a high school picture, from Colorado.” He laughs. “Do you know how to get to the Marine Base?”
I give him directions and wait for my pumpkin shake, the one I had nearly befouled with wheatgrass. A mother and a daughter hover behind me.
“Whatever,” the daughter says to her mother and I frown. I don’t understand that word. If I ever use whatever in this blog, dear reader, you have license to come and find me and kick my ass. My daily thoughts this last month have not been far from here. And even in Jamba Juice, I think of these pages. These non-pages. This screen. You know, this blog.
I reach for my pumpkin shake and make a promise to myself. To relax and to not measure success with numbers. To not blog in my mind when I am not blogging. And to blog when I am here, in front of my keyboard, screen.
I see the Marine’s father out in the parking lot later. “You want to follow me?” I ask. “I can take you to the gate.”
“Sure, thanks.” He pulls up behind my car in a white Toyota. We twist through the parking lot and turn out onto Midway Avenue. I switch lanes and we merge with the road running parallel to MCRD. I point out my window to the gate as we pass, but he stays on my tail. I point again and he makes the next right. He’ll have to flip a u-turn somewhere. He’ll figure it out. Marine (fathers): Delivered to the battle by the Navy as usual.
I roll to a red traffic light, waiting to turn around myself, to take me back to my base. A sun-tanned man with black dirt streaking his face holds a sign. I try not to look, but I do. And the sign reads: I need help. Hungry and without work. God bless you.
I reach around my backseat and grab the bag of Japanese snacks I had bought from my friend’s store. It is unopened and I roll down my window. He stares at me. For five seconds. Which feels like fifteen. Does he expect me to open my door and walk the four feet to him? What kind of American is this?
Finally, he stands up and takes the bag with a smile. I smile and understand that I do not understand. His story. What brought him to the streets. He looks healthy and about my age. “Thank you,” he says. He is tanner than me, but dirtier too. I want to remind him where he lives. That he is an American and he must do whatever it takes to get a job. That I have worked at three in the morning, driven forklifts, worked every meal for days. Washed dishes. But I don’t. Because maybe times are different now.
The light changes and I take off. I know I have a blogpost in these last moments and my mind starts running through the events. Then it switches to new readers, bloggers. And how I can link them. That thing about not blogging when I was not blogging? To only blog when in front of my laptop? Whatever. . .