“You still there, man?” Cole asks.
“Yeah,” I grunt quickly. “Sorry. Okay fine, whatever.”
I can almost hear Cole’s satisfied grin through the phone.
“So how was the date?” he asks, taking that as the go ahead. “Was she hot?”
“It was good,” is my noncommittal answer.
“Just good? Was she hot in person?” Cole growls, which makes me laugh.
“It was someone else, actually. The original was sick, so she had a friend sub for her.”
Cole doesn’t even blink.
“So was the new girl hot? Come on, man, gimme some details!”
“Yeah. Yeah, she was. And um, nice too,” I say, resolving to tell Cole everything. It’s not like the push-ups worked.
“Go on,” he says like some prying, gossipy old lady.
“Actually, we had insane chemistry,” I relent. “She was gorgeous, hands down. She’s got these huge natural tits, big ass, soft arms, that sort of thing,” I add, starting with the easiest part to tell him about.
“I didn’t know you were into bigger girls,” remarks my buddy.
“Neither did I,” I sat. “But it wasn’t just that. She, uh … really got me, if that makes sense?”
“Go on,” says Cole encouragingly, and by the sound of his voice I already know he gets it.
“It was so easy to talk to her, man. Time just flew by. The way she looked at me, it was like she – like she knew me.” I pause, embarrassed. “I sound like such a pussy.”
“No, you don’t,” he says kindly. “I get it. Go on.” And I know I can trust him.
“Well, we got on really well. There was definitely a connection. And then in the movie theater, I followed your advice and um, went with my instincts.”
“Oh really?” asks Cole. Again, I can practically hear his eyebrows rocket off his forehead.
“Yeah and well, things got kind of carried away, and we ended up fucking in the movie theater,” I say, holding my breath. Cole starts laughing hysterically.
“Are you kidding me?!” he caws. “You da man! You da man!”
I snort. God, this was a mistake. But Cole’s on a roll.
“Holy shit, that’s not what I meant when I told you to follow your instincts and have a good time!” he burbles like a fucking girl. “But awesome. Did you get caught?”
“No, which was weird,” I say. “But that’s not the only weird thing.”
“Okay?” he asks encouragingly.
“I kind of had a strange episode afterwards.”
“Like – after we had sex and she went to the bathroom, I was just watching the movie, I guess, and there was machine gunfire in the movie, and suddenly I started fucking hyperventilating. And then it was like I was back on mission, that time when ….” I break off, feeling suddenly sick at the thought.
“Then what happened?” my buddy asks gently. I take a deep breath.
“Well, I fucking had a nervous breakdown,” is my slow admission. “I ran out into the foyer crying, and lay there on the floor like a sack of shit. But Janie came with me, and she was there for me.” To my horror, my voice cracks. I can’t believe I’m saying these words out loud. But Cole is understanding.
“Brent. Brent, man, it’s okay.”
To my horror, I start hyperventilating again, but my friend continues.
“It’s only normal for this to happen. It happens to almost every soldier who re-enters the normal world. They expect you to go back to civilian life like nothing happened but that’s a crock of shit.”
I take a deep breath, trying to get my bearings.
“But I don’t recognize myself. There’s something about this girl that just turns me into a mess. All these fucking feelings, man, and erratic behavior like having sex in public, and then breaking down and crying? What the hell?”
But Cole’s not dissuaded.
“It sounds like she’s good for you. Maybe you should keep seeing her. It’s definitely cheaper than therapy.”
I roll my eyes at his quip.
“Nah. She’s too good for me. I texted the other one. The girl I was meant to go out with.”
“Okaaaay,” Cole drawls.
“You said to fuck around a bit, right?”
“Yeah, but, if this other chick really gets you ….”
“No,” I say abruptly. “I can’t be like this. I want to get my life back together. I can’t go around sobbing and breaking down in public. I’ll be a fucking joke.”
Cole sighs on the other side.
“It sounds to me like you may have PTSD. Maybe therapy?”
This guy is off the reservation. I want to keep my emotions in check, not bawl them out like some basket case.
“No,” I growl more harshly than I want to, but it doesn’t bother Cole. He sighs again.
“Fine. Not for now. But if you don’t like who you are around this girl, and you don’t want to do therapy, then we should definitely talk regularly. Okay?”
That I can agree with.
“Okay,” I say, feeling calmer.
“Just keep me in the loop. And also,” he adds. “I know you’re a purist and you don’t want to start college in the middle of the semester, but maybe it’s best you just get going with it. Enroll. Keep moving forward. You know what they say, dude. One foot in front of the other on the long march home.”