A memoir of my first deployment
Collegiate Definition (Entry 1 of 4)
a: An ingredient that gives savor, piquancy, or zest: FLAVOR // a people ... full of life, vigor, and the salt of personality
b: sharpness of wit: PUNGENCY
c: COMMON SENSE
d: RESERVE, SKEPTICISM - see GRAIN OF SALT
e: A dependable steadfast person or group of people - usually used in the phrase salt of the earth
4: SAILOR // a tale worthy of an old salt
I am hard-pressed to hear I'm off to sea. It started as a joke until it wasn't one anymore. I've spoken to the Maintenance Master Chief twice in my year and some change since I've started working here. When I was checking in, I was required to go talk with him in his office. Now he has come to me in my place of work to give me the news. Three days until I go. I did not think these new coworkers would accept me as an equal nor would the ship be to my liking. Last day left, I said goodbye, I packed three bags and rushed to the food court with my new shipmates for one last good lunch.
We each slowly limped on the bus. I tried to rest my tired eyes but sleep never came. I stayed up the night before downloading movies I would never watch. We arrive at the pier that housed great behemoths of steel. The greatest warships the world has ever seen were all around me and I was to board one for a month and a fortnight. We crawled through the lot with lights that stabbed the darkness falling over the sky. I tucked away my belongings on the ship I once helped unload. We had a couple of hours so we split into the city like bugs. Just enough time to see a kebab stand and buy a pack of smokes. The streets were filled with drunken sailors not much unlike many of the ones I was accustomed to. When we returned we played cards before I slept in a bed that did not belong to me.
In the morning I sat up, hitting my head on the rack above me. Breakfast was surprisingly pleasant to the stomach and work began that day. We set up shop and For two months and a half months we, worked every day for half of the day. I adapted to sleeping in a tin can amongst another hundred stacked up around me. The work was honest, the meals cheap, and the people unpredictable. One day harsh and cold, the next, jovial and warm.
I studied for my next qualification as was expected of me. For hours, for days when I wasn't busy I read from an old dirty paperback book. I'd sneak a couple of games in the meantime. At the end of the day I'd, sit outside and reminisce with voices of song. Soon the time came when my mentors would see if my studies had paid off. I passed their test but not without criticism. I never took the time to learn our history which never seemed important to me. I researched for two days to type an essay about the man we wear on our chests with pride. He was not just a swordsman, but also a wise soul. In his life of fighting, he took the time to write books, pursue philosophy, and practice architecture. Not just a warlord but a man of wits.
A disease turned to a pandemic while we were cruising through enemy lines. On land they wore masks, no one could leave, and some of our family members perished to its effects. As quickly as the disease swept across borders, any plans to step off the ship were canceled. Not only were we stuck with each other but there would be no welcome home party once we did make it back. It was during that time when I grew closer to my people and regarded myself as one of them.
Though the seas may be rough and water crashes onto the deck, some sunshine and time will dry the water, but the salt remains. Saltwater acts as a catalyst to the oxidation of iron which if left untreated leads to rust. When a component turns to rust it becomes unusable. We were constantly scrubbing metal on metal and sprayed every surface to clean away any corrosion. Salt leaves a bad taste to the mouth but it's what keeps us going.
Bad times will come just like stormy weather and though we can wait it out the salt remains, the scars after our hurt remains. The real struggle in life comes not from the things that hurt us but long after, how we treat our scars. The ocean taught me that lesson I'll carry everywhere I may go for no conflict shall I succumb to in silence. I took the ocean as a void filled with wisdom to share to those who came to listen. I would stare out for hours at a time with many questions.
We kissed the very port we departed from but could not risk further contact. Our loved ones hid packages among aircraft parts that stache snacks and desired gifts. I hired someone back home to fill a box for me but it never arri4rved. It was then when I realized that unlike my cohorts I had no one waiting back home for me. No one would care if I ever returned to land.
The ocean blinds you of distractions and your left to whatever horrors you've locked in the depths of your mind. I stared out to the sea once again looking for wisdom which came from an unexpected source. It was Mother's day and I debated whether I should pretend that I don't hold any grudges or focus on my problems. I thought for a very long time in seclusion but not without the notice of one of my acquaintances. I cast her off twice but she read through my words. For the very first time in my life, someone asked about my story. No one ever bothered to ask about it. I took a deep breath and shared my tale until the stars shined true. I cried and she comforted me. For all my life I thought I was alone and she made me realize I was never really alone after all. There has always been a kind soul somewhere in reach.
We pushed our birds out of the nest to fly in a storm. We now marched like ants to tidy everything up in preparations for departure. I took only a glance at the sea once last time to say goodbye. We came together as a detachment and we left in two teams. We came back to a ghost town devoid of people and open buildings. I came to my old room, everything still tucked away where I left it but without my former roommate. I see my plant to has grown while I've been gone. I had been moved to a bigger room. I slept on my own and rest came that night.