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Goodbye, Old Girl

My heart is heavy, but my gaze is wide and omnipotent. The horizon blinds me, my future growing in vibrancy and promise. In a little over a month, I will reside in a veritable Earthly paradise, living for free in a scenic destination few ever travel to, and if they do make the trip, they drop a small fortune and stay for a sliver of the year. Yet, faced with all of this refreshing change, I find my bravery receding inward, my eyes shifting backwards and cast down, staring longingly and lovingly at what will remain after my departure. Ive read of prisoners that beg to return, willfilly subjugating themselves before incarceration, and of pensioners that long to toil and thrash, chained to their once thriving career once again. While I've not devolved that much, one thing is for certain, and it shocks me impressively. I never thought I'd say this, but yes, I will miss this ship.

I'll never forget my arrival to the floating dumpster that would serve as my home for over 3.5 years. Fresh from Pensacola and 2 weeks of rejuvinating leave, I reported to Newport News, VA. To say that I was underwhelmed would be a lacking understatement. Rather, I was unabashedly disgusted, furious at my instructor for fucking me over and at the Navy for condemning me to such a disgusting ghetto. The dilapidation, destitution and general ambience of despair clung to the area like the scent of decomposition to a rotting corpse. That's just what it was too, a gutted, decaying remnant of a more prosperous era, festering with failure and infested with drug addicts, mental illness and general vagrancy. The assorted homeless dregs, unrepentant and wallowing in their pitiless degeneracy, would crowd the gates of the shipyard, eagerly and aggressively begging, hounding and hassling the departing Sailors and shipyard workers for money. Funnily enough, they knew the exact payout schedule of the dutifully employed down to the time of day with an accountant's exactitude, yet couldnt be bothered to find a job and honestly labor for a days wage. The happiest moment of my time there, aside from when we set sail for Norfolk, was the afternoon when, after leaving work and going to the gas station, I witnessed one knocked out on the sidewalk, bleeding profusely from the mouth. Apparently his bombardment of nagging and annoyance was too much for one welder, who blasted him in the mouth with a stiff right cross. Good on him, although its too bad it wasnt with a wrench. Or a gun.

When I first stepped aside the titan of Naval engineering that I would eventually travel the world on, I was awestricken. The sheer, gargantuan size of the warship filled me with both excitement and dread. As I climbed the metal stairs leading to the Quarterdeck, I took in the vast sweep of the hangar bays, studied the rusting hatches and general layout. I know that, to many of my friends in the Navy, now or past, that are reading this, I sound like a complete sellout, a traitor who's brownnosed disturbingly and gone Joe. I can assure you Ive not, believe me, these are simply my experiences and recounting of my memories as vividly and truthfully as possible. And the truth is, even now, as much as I hate this old rustbucket, she's pretty fucking cool. As we descended below decks and I met my coworkers, superiors and friends, time moved steadily forward. While we didnt always get along, which I attribute partly to my standoffish, brutish nature at the time, these were times in my life that I'd never trade for any material gain. I soon became intimately acquainted with Navy life, the drudgery and passion involved in the trade. I would be sent to Security and learn the finer points of weaponry, tactics and the iconic, irreplaceable art of skating. I count those 11 months as the most treasured time of my military service, and consider those friends the best Ive made in a long while. Deployment followed, a pivotal stretch of life for me for reasons I lack the bearing to discuss here. All I can admit fully is that I returned changed, weary, and stoic, but fully and completely aware of the true nature of the world. You walk the razor's edge long enough and you dont bleed, you just tread casually along on the accumulated scar tissue, impervious to pain and damage, but also shut away from love and vulnerability. I dont write any of this to infer or imply that Im a badass or that Ive somehow ascended to a higher, enlightened plane of being. Please, Im no hero, not at all. I never had the honor and privilege of serving in country, boots on ground, to my great, everlasting shame. Those are the real badasses. Neither am I waxing poetically about my time at war, embellishing it to draw readership. Nobody, least of all Veterans, like the douche that sits at a bar back home, neck obnoxiously decorated with boot tags, enthralling an unwilling audience about his time "over there". But we all go through personal turmoil, our private circles of hell, and this was my place to vent. My blog. Dont like it, leave. Im sorry for all the fights, the chaos, the useless bravado and the unnecessary bloodshed, with one glaring exception. To the prick that went obscenely above and beyond to convince a suicidal girl to commit the grevious, heart-splintering act, fuck you, I should've done more. Legality prevents me from giving your name, but everyone reading this who shared that despondent moment with me knows who you are. You know where I am, I see you stalking my page, and your threats, hollow before, spat and vomited as you hid behind rank, reek of weakness and give way to my seething contempt. Funny how you thought you could get a "restraining order" put on me when you were the harasser and bully. Come find me, and lets have round 2, where no one can protect you. You fucking spineless, honorless coward.

A life spent at sea is unique to say the least, arduous to admit the most, but oh so satisfying. One of the apocryphal periods of my early 20's was spent in Neptune's kingdom, undergoing forced, harsh maturation at the hand that bled indiscriminately as well as fed fully. A normal social life is all but impossible, akin to lighting a match whilst trapped in a horrendous rainstorm. The sensory intrusion is a haelstrom of whiskey, fights, loneliness and reckless promiscuity. I fashioned a niche within this sporadic, chaotic existence. Working out relentlessly and zealously, regardless of the circumstances or conditions ensured my physical health and plenty of strength banked. Similarly, massive swathes of books were devoured, delivered directly to me through the magic of Kindle. Solitary as I was, removed from normalcy, distended and longing for companionship, I found it amongst my fellow pirates. Rising to the scent of aimless aggression and unrestrained anger, we would waste the days away in a haze of liquor and lace, before finding refuge at the bottom of the Pyrrhic bottle. It took its toll on us all, but it was immediately justified when we once again set sail. In the middle of the ocean, beset on all sides by a sea of peaceful cerulean, the sun takes on an almost magnanimous quality. Each morning, it created a visual symphony of faint lavenders and striking magentas as it emerged from behind the wispy clouds, choking the sky with a sharp goldenrod. At night, as the moon began its ascent, it would gradually decline in luminosity, growing weaker, dimmer and lighter, evaporating into the air before being consumed by the deep, thick midnight blue heavens. A breathtaking, marvelous view, one that moved many to tears. Mother nature, it seems, knew best when the matter was the interruption of and reprieve from tedium. No words can do it all justice, and far better writers than I have given their accounts, so I humbly submit mine. If you seek to live vicariously through my words, thank you for the chance to entertain and enrapture. But if you were there... those really were the days. Thank God theyre over.

As I navigated the brow one last time, I was unexpectedly gripped in the jaws of nostalgia. As if I was a ghost, granted the ability to observe people of any time period at any moment, I was overcome by memory. 3.5 years of life unfolded before me. I could see, hear and almost touch the spectres of long gone friends as they traversed the Quarterdeck, heading to replay memories well oiled and often visited. So much has happened on that ship, and it's left its indellible mark on me. To my superiors reading this, thank you for believing in me, instilling in me a drive to succeed and excel, and for not Masting me when you had plenty of reason to do so. To my friends, I eagerly anticipate the shit talk, that is, if any of you dumb fucks are smart enough to finish this. To the new crew, thank you for taking my place so I could rejoin the world and be freed from the maw of the open water. I envy your innocence and virginity, but do not covet your position or what lies ahead. Have fun. They say goodbyes are always difficult, but this was expected and a longtime coming, even if it was one hell of a ride. To the future. Goodbye, old girl.

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