Our story begins on a fresh Thursday morning. LCpl Durden is feeling on top of the world – having taken the previous week off, work had been refreshing and fun again. There was a new project to conquer – the ATACTS – and new Marines to train on that project. CLEP tests were proceeding apace, college under Dr. Melley was interesting and there was even a cute girl in class, we’ll call her Julie, that our young LCpl fancied, if ever so slighty.
Yes, things were looking alright.
Well, enough of the pedantic third person tone. Thursday marked the mental beginning of my weekend, as all I needed to do that day was stand duty at the barracks for twenty four hours. Immediately following that, I was going to another camp to CLEP out of American Government, and then I would have duty recovery for the rest of Friday, effectively beginning my weekend. Things were not to be as easy as I initially foresaw.
This became apparent almost from the word go. During the formal change over process with the company Gunnery Sergeant, I was specifically instructed to not fuck up my duty – I was holding the billet of Duty Non-commissioned Officer for two decks, and my area of responsibility included those decks as well as the exterior of the barracks. As the direct representative of the Company Commander, I was to ensure order and cleanliness in the barracks during my post. This sounds somewhat more important than most Marines regard it as being – you can certainly have too big of a head while on duty, but at the same part, it is an important job, and often an unpopular one.
DNCOs (duty noncommissioned officers) have assistants, called ADNCOs. Mine was LCpl Charlie, who was a bit slow and a bit whiny. There was rumor early in my post that the company commander and company 1st Sergeant were planning on walking through the barracks to inspect the Marines’ rooms, so we had to ensure that the barracks maintained a high level of cleanliness. We kept this up until afternoon chow, when it became apparent that no such inspection was going to take place (for whatever reason – the CO and 1stSgt are often quite busy).
After noon chow, the Battalion Executive Officer came on deck to talk to a Marine in our lounge for over an hour. The Marine was not from our company and the visit was odd. When the visit was over, the Battalion XO chatted us up a bit and left. Shortly following this, we heard a rumor that some of the Marines back at the company were being disciplined because they failed the room inspection in the morning (if you just read that sentence twice, you should have – there was no room inspection!). We sort this issue out and essentially establish that the Sergeant accusing the Marines was lying.
After evening chow, field day commenced, and shortly following that, the Battalion Duty Officer as well as the Company Commander came on deck to pass the word that the uniform of the day on Friday would be the utility uniform, rather than the more elaborate service “C” uniform the Marines were expecting to wear. Marines begin drinking and horseplaying a bit at this hour while cleaning up, and we have to make sure that the common areas of the barracks (like the decks and the lounges) are cleaned properly.
After failing to reach Marines who live outside the barracks on the telephone to pass them the word about the change in uniform, I decide to physically walk over to the towers to locate an NCO that lives outside the barracks to let him know about the word. When I get there, he informs me that I already knew. I ask him why he didn’t answer his phone, and he simply replies that most married Marines put their phone to the side after duty hours. Awesome.
I return to the barracks only to have Marines behaving foolishly. I can tolerate drunken stupidity and what not on a Friday or Saturday night, but this is a regular weeknight and it gets on my nerves. I warn the Marines to tone it down. One (my roommate, in fact) fails to do so and I end up having to escort him to his room so he can calm down and think about what the fuck he was doing. (Yes, he quite literally got put on time out).
As the night drags on, I allow my ADNCO to hit the rack. Several different people try to talk to me on the duty desk and explain their life stories to me. I don’t give half a fuck, partly because they’re drunk and partly because I’m irritated. While making one of my regular tours of the areas under my jurisdiction, I discover the smoke pit outside the barracks has been completely trashed by a party that I had no idea about. I wind up deciding the best thing to do is to clean up the mess myself, as I had no idea who held the party and waking Marines up at such a late hour made little sense.
Near midnight it is brought to my attention that a Marine’s roommate is not in her room, and, furthermore, not signed out in the log book. I am worried that I will have to officially report this if the Marine does not turn up and get sucked into a huge drama fest involving several Marines before learning that the Marine is alive and well. People continue to try to involve me in the drama and I remain constant in asserting that I don’t care so long as the Marine is not in danger and is accounted for.
After this, a female Marine tries to talk my ear off about all her problems until two in the morning. She talks about her medical bullshit and blah blah blah. I don’t care. I wake my ADNCO, who is late, and return to my room for about three hours of rest. I wake up before my alarm and end up being early coming back to post.
About twenty minutes before I am to change over, a Corporal from the 4th deck requests that I gather up three Marines (of my same rank) to police call (read: pick up trash) around the barracks. This is a horrible idea because most Marines are trying to get to work and furthermore hate the idea of police calling nearly as much as they hate the idea of being ordered to do something detestable by a Marine of similar rank. I end up having to threaten to log people and report them to the 1stSgt just to get them to do a simple police call – this could have been avoided by having an NCO from our company handle the task.
The changeover goes suprisingly well, and the 1stSgt has nothing to complain about regarding my log book entries or the actions I took on post. After changeover I head up to the other Camp for my CLEP test, which I fail (just barely), ruining my perfect streak of passing CLEPs without reviewing. I am butthurt. Following this, I go back to my barracks room for duty recovery (and to catch some sleep).
So, I don’t get much sleep because of my idiot roommates ruining it (to make a long story short). I proceed to spend a few hours fuming around in my room, listening to angry music, before finally deciding to depart on my own to get some food (around 1800 or so). Upon my return, I run into some friends I don’t see a whole lot (as they work in another section) and they invite me to go to the strip club with them.
I don’t normally go to strip clubs. In fact, I’ve only been to a strip club once before this visit. They don’t do much for me – they tend to bring into focus exactly why it is I might be enticed to visit a strip club in the first place. The prices do not seem fair and the brazen lack of sincerity from the strippers also does not sit well with me. The music is usually too loud, the place smells poorly, and so on and so forth.
But I like the friends that invited me, and I don’t get much of a chance to hang out with them, and I could tell that declining would disappoint them, so I decide to attend and have drinks and see what’s what. The three people I’m going with are already somewhat drunk before we depart, and I’m stone sober. They’re being slightly obnoxious to other people, but I let it slide off of me. As we grab a local taxi, other Marines from my section notice me and inquire as to where our group is going. When they find out I’m going to a strip club, they all flip shit and decide to go too.
We arrive at the strip club and naturally everyone wants to sit front row center. This makes me feel awkward. Perhaps the biggest reason why is that I feel like it is something of a professional discourtesy – if you follow my logic that strippers are professionals, anyway. If you sit right up on the stage, that is sending the stripper the message that you are entertained by her and are perhaps thinking of tipping her to get a table dance – something I wasn’t interested in doing, for the most part. (I was waiting to see if perhaps there was a stripper that I’d be interested in getting a dance from, but no such stripper appeared, and I believe my lack of interest belied a deeper problem than just the lack of a properly appealing stripper.) I get more enjoyment out of giving one of my buddies a ten dollar bill – so he can enjoy himself – than I do out of giving the same ten dollar bill to a stripper.
Let me pause the narrative for a second to discuss one of my party, also. LCpl Papa, we shall call him, has recently been going through a divorce. He went from living in the towers (condos, basically) to living in the barracks and has been going through all of the personal agony and loneliness that constitutes a break up – especially one as momentous as a marriage. His wife had been unfaithful to him and I can tell, even under all the male and Marine stoic layers that distort our conversation, that he is deeply hurt by all of this. I feel sympathy for him and want to see him have a good time – coming here was his idea, after all, and so I encourage him and even give him a little cash to enjoy himself. He claims to enjoy the female attention.
The Marines from my section arrive shortly after I get there, and join the growing group of Marines from my company that are at the club (all who are, again, amazed that I am here and that I am drinking). They try to set me up with private dances, which I try to decline. When it becomes obvious that the set ups won’t end unless I take a dance, I decide to go ahead with one. It was with the girl I might’ve otherwise picked, so, what was there to lose?
We (the stripper and I) head back to the private area. All of the booths, apparently, are being utilized. We stand around somewhat awkwardly before she attempts some conversation – I learn her first name, she learns mine. Her English is somewhat hard to understand and her voice is quiet, which, combined with the effect of the loud music, makes conversation rather hard. She is, however, quite attractive. I suppose my manners are hard wired into me or something, but I just now realized that most of the time I was trying to keep my eyes off of her, even though having my eyes on her was supposed to be the entire point of her being a stripper. Something about a striking woman, like herself, makes me respect her, I suppose.
We head into the private area and I receive a dance. It does not seem to last very long for the $40 that my buddy paid to purchase me it. The rule is that you’re not allowed to touch the dancer as she performs, but partway through she places my hand on her thigh. This five minute dance (or so) constitutes the most physically intimate I have been with a woman in over four years, but it was diluted by the fact that I was paying for it and that she was trying to get more money out of me by virtue of her performance – hinting in my ear that she wanted to “do more” if only I’d give her $150, making not so subtle gestures and indicators as to what that “more” might be. I decline. I am not yet prepared to lose my virginity under such circumstances.
I exit the area and continue drinking, carrying on in various small chat with the Marines that I know. There is a new female Marine from our section that is here with some other Marines from my section as well – this puzzles me. As 2300 nears (which is the pre-agreed upon time to depart, so as not to be late checking back in to the barracks), I notice someone familiar out of the corner of my eye.
Holy cow, was that – yes, it was! It’s Julie. What the hell is she doing in the strip club? I think of some way to approach her – “Hey Julie, it’s J. from class.” However, I’m not sure if I want to introduce myself under such conditions. I debate with myself internally for a while and even try walking by her to see if she recognizes me, which I do not think that she does. Eventually, I see the men that I knew in the back of my mind she must’ve come with, but still wind up disappointed somehow. I feel as though I should have approached her.
We leave and head back to base to continue drinking at the on base club. Not much is said. I escort LCpl Papa back to his room after we have a little chat about how he’s still struggling with his situation. I talk more with the new female Marine who had heard, somehow, that I was imminently getting married (hah!). She then learns that I am a virgin and immediately makes assumptions about my presence at the strip club and judgments about why I should have to “pay” for “such things,” irregardless of the fact that I wasn’t there to pay for anything except my drinks and for my buddies to enjoy themselves.
It’s now two in the morning on Saturday. The night has left me somewhat worn out and confused.
Julie represents what it is that I want – an actual legitimate relationship – and I find it strange and ironic that I would randomly see her in a strip club, which represents everything that I am not after – objectified intimacy for money. What does this portend? I do not know.
The intimacy, even if illegitimate and paid for, was nice. But it did what I always feared it would – remind me of just how lonely I am and how little intimacy I have. I now feel incredibly lonely and am going through literal heartache. It would be great to have someone to hold and share tender moments with. Alas.
I felt inspired to write about these events but I haven’t really come to any conclusion regarding them. I am mostly just frustrated. I shall now sleep.