when i was 20, i was dating a guy (let's call him mike) who was in the army & he was living on a base about 5 hours from my house. we visited each other when we were able to and it was both exciting and tedious, due to the geographic distance between us. i would drive down to the base once or twice a month to visit him & that was always a very strange thing for naive little me because i usually couldn't afford a hotel, so i stayed in the barracks with him when i was there.
before i started dating him, i'd pictured barracks to be like the ones you see in movies where there's one big, open room broken up by rows of bunk beds. these barracks were nothing like that. it was more like a college dorm and in each room there would be two or three guys sharing a bedroom and a filthy bathroom. mike only had one roommate, but he had one of the only vcr's in the building, so it was a hot spot for the other guys to hang out, watch movies and drink beer.
one friday, after working all day, i'd driven the 5 hrs to go see mike. i pulled off a couple exits before his stop to fix myself up a little bit, excited to see my man and wanting to look and smell good when i got there. i arrived on base, parked, and carried my overnight bag up the three flights of concrete steps to his room and knocked on his door. my heart was pounding, partly due to running up the steps and partly in anticipation of seeing the guy i'd been missing so much.
there was no answer. i knocked louder. nothing. it was about 10 at night and i was starting to feel anxious because i didn't know what to do. i was in a place where i only barely knew a few guys, i had no cell phone because they weren't invented yet, and i didn't know how to get in touch with my boyfriend. then i started to get mad. i'd driven 5 hours to see him, i was tired and hungry and he didn't even care enough to be there when i arrived. he was expecting me, but he'd just gone somewhere else.
i stood there in that outdoor hallway for a few minutes trying to figure out what to do. i was close to tears and at a loss for what to do next when 2 soldiers walked through and saw me standing there. they were friends of mike who i'd met a couple times before and they stopped to talk to me. when i told them what was going on, they invited me to their room where i could wait for mike to return. i was tremendously relieved, so i followed them back down a set of stairs and into their room.
i had never drank alcohol before, but when one of them offered me a beer, i was just mad enough to take it gladly & chug it right down. mike knew i didn't drink and he liked that about me, so i thought it would serve him right when he got back if he found me a little bit tipsy & hanging out with his friends. one drink turned into 4 and somewhere in that process, i lost my memory and all sense of things that might trouble me. i remember that we were sitting on their couch watching animal planet and there was lots of laughing. beyond that, i remember nothing until there was a loud, sudden pounding on their door.
i recognized mike's voice yelling through the door to open up because he knew i was in there. it was as if i woke up then and i was thrilled that he was there & couldn't really remember where i was or what was going on, only that i was glad that my man had come for me. i sprung clumsily up off the couch and was about to open the door to greet him when i heard the two guys i'd been sitting with hissing for me to button up my shirt and not to tell him anything. i couldn't tell him anything because i didn't remember anything, but i was happy to button up my shirt because, huh, how did that get open?
i flung open the door and greeted mike with open arms and a great big, beery kiss. then i noticed that he was wearing an eye patch and he didn't seem happy to see me at all. he glared at his friends, then he scooped up me and my bag and carried me up the stairs to his room. he plunked me down on his bed & asked me what happened and why i was in that room with those guys.
that's when i remembered to be mad. i was in there cuz he hadn't been around when i'd arrived a couple hours before and i'd had to go somewhere. i didn't want to just sit on the hallway floor waiting for him all night. and by the way, why was he wearing an eye patch?
he pulled the patch off, un-taped a bandage and showed me his eye. it was swollen and purple and there was a zig zag of stitching through the eyelid. he'd been in a car accident and not wearing his seat belt, so his face he gone through the windshield, cutting his eyelid in two in the process. he was in the emergency room getting his face stitched up when i'd arrived and there was no way for him to contact me.
then, he got back to the barracks and found me drunk and apparently fooling around with his friends. he started crying then and i watched in horror, not just because i'd never seen my soldier man cry, but because he was crying tears of blood that streamed down his face and into his shirt.
it was a very traumatic night for me and it was a long time before i tried to drink again, but i've never been able to drink beer since because it immediately brings to my mind those terrible tears of blood.