Glancing at my watch, I see I’m early – you can take a man out of the army, but you can’t take the army out of the man. Not in the mood to stay in the house, where I’ll be forced to make conversation with Mom and answer questions I don’t know the answer to, I decide to go for a drive before I head to the movie theater. Reconnect with the neighborhood. See what’s changed since I left.
But I don’t get very far because I realize I’m not ready for this. For what, exactly? I feel like a pussy as I park my car, not understanding what’s wrong with me. Four years in the army and I’m scared to drive through my old hood? The only person who would understand is Cole, my buddy from the base. So I decide to give him a call.
“Brent! How are you, man?” Cole barks as he answers the phone. “How is it to be back home?”
“Weird,” I grunt. “How about you?”
“Yeah, same. I can’t get used to it. It’s good though. What are you up to?”
“I’m actually headed out for a date,” I answer.
“Yo, a date,” Cole whistles. “Didn’t we just get back? Holy hell man, you move fast. Who’s it with?”
I pause before sighing. Fuck.
“Actually, I don’t know her. It’s a blind double date. My cousin set it up.”
Cole actually giggles a little then.
“Have you seen any pictures of her?” he asks.
I’m on this one.
“Yeah,” I grunt, recalling the girl named Amy.
“Well? Is she hot?” Cole laughs. I shrug, which, of course, my buddy can’t see.
“I guess,” I rumble. “She’s, you know, blonde and little. That sort of girl.”
Cole whistles again.
“Yo dude, is that look not your thing? What’s goin’ on?”
And I don’t know what to say. Because tiny, skinny blondes aren’t my thing. I like them big and luscious, with tits that I can grip and an ass that I can squeeze. Is that wrong of me? But a man likes what he likes, and I can’t change my preferences. So I parry instead.
“I dunno, man. Guess I’ve just been watching porn for too long or something. Real girls gotta represent.”
But Cole has always been the deeper, sensitive type. He’s married, and was like an older brother to me in the Army. So I’m not surprised when he immediately gets serious.
“Brent, man, it’s okay. Don’t freak out dude. It’s just a movie.”
I clear my throat.
“Yeah, I know. I just don’t wanna go, you know? It seems pointless when I know I won’t be into the girl.”
He harrumphs like a grumpy old dad.
“Well, let your dick do the deciding. At least give her a chance. You might as well get a look at the woman first.”
“Easy for you to say since you’ve got Tiffany.”
Cole lets out a guffaw then.
“Yeah, you think that’s easier? Coming back to a wife who has all sorts of expectations of you? She’s so happy to see me, man. All she wants to do is fuck. And I’m trying my best, but it’s weird. It’s like I’m here, but not quite here yet too. At least whoever this girl is, she won’t have any expectations of you or anything. Just go out and have fun.”
And I know he’s right. So sighing, I let out another gusty exhale.
“Yeah. I guess.”
“Just follow your instincts. We’re not at the base anymore. You’re free now, and can make your own decisions. No more following orders.”
“Yeah. I know,” is my sulky reply.
“Look. Use this opportunity to get back into the groove. Do what a twenty five year-old guy would normally do if he hadn’t been in the army.”
“Which is?” I ask skeptically. “Bang girls left and right? Get pussy wherever I can after tours in Afghanistan and Kosovo?”
But Cole gets serious again.
“Yeah, kinda. Listen, for the past four years your senses have been tuned in to war. But that’s not what life is about. Not for you, and not anymore. Use your body to explore a little. Have some fun dude. Like I said, wet your wick.”
I let out a snort, although I know he’s right.
“It might feel weird at first,” Cole continues. “This is the kind of shit they don’t teach you. But take it from me. All you need to do is touch a female, and your instincts will do the rest. There’s no better way to get back into civilian life than fucking around a bit.”
“You’re married!” I grunt.
“I know, I know,” Cole laughs too. “I’m not saying for me, that’s a whole ‘nuther load of crap. I’m saying for you, dude. Just get some of the rage out of your system.”
And I mutter my thanks before hanging up. Because I know my buddy’s right. Before I called him I hadn’t really known what it had been that was bothering me all week. But now I’m sure: it’s some kind of weird disconnect with the civilian world. Like even going to the grocery store is surreal with the heaps of fruits and veggies piled high, and items like Choco-Puffs and Cheetos bursting from store shelves. We had none of that in Afghanistan, so coming back has been like culture shock. Maybe going on this date is exactly what I need.