I sit here at my keyboard eating pistachio nuts, casually throwing the empty shells into my over-flowing ashtray. I light up a Marlboro, take another swig of my Ballantine’s neat, and I wonder how the the hell did I end up here.
It was not so long ago that I was in charge of a USS nuclear fast attack submarine. Well, to be honest, the Captain was in charge but I ran the engine room on my watch. It was me and the engineering officer of the watch who determined what would happen in an emergency. And truth be told, as most engineering watch supervisors will tell you, it was our word that mattered. Billions of dollars in materials, and 120 lives rested in our hands. I never felt so alive.
After the navy, and during if you ask some folks, I was also engaged in more “immediate” life and death situations. I trusted my training and my innate abilities to get me through, which they did. I’m not going to lie. There were times when I was not so sure I would see another sunrise. But survive I did, and in doing so I, once again, never felt so alive.
Now I’m just another poor schlep out looking for work. Work. Something to make money. I can make money using my old skill set, but… Work. Holy Christ it hurts right now. I get rejection notices from people I don’t even know and yet I hate them. I light another smoke.
I’m caught between worlds. Too old to do what I am truly good at and yet too young and poor to retire. I watch old movies and laugh at the inaccuracies. I laugh at the movies, but I know that I still have the fire in me. A fire that isn’t a warmth to someone on a cool winter night, but a fire that burns with the intensity of unbridled passion for adventure. It’s not a good fire, it’s also not a bad fire. It just is. It’s a fire that knows what it knows. A fire that knows how to burn brightly, in a no-fire society. It’s not wrong, it’s just out of place.
I’ve tempered this fire with work in the past. Never really quenched, but soothed. Left smoldering, it burns to this day, a constant reminder of my past. I’m proud of my past. I may not be proud of my actions in all cases, but I’m proud of the outcome. It was real. Hard. Cold. Ugly. But it was real, and it mattered.
Now I sit, begging at the floor of big corporations, hoping for a job, a scrap, a mere ort left by some other has-been. “Yes sir, this is a fine organization.” “No sir, I don’t understand why you aren’t making more money. ” It’s killing me.
My God. What have I become?