Monday, November 7, 2011

Shared Pain

I received a personal phone call today at work. Now under normal circumstances I don’t answer my cell phone at work unless it is a call from immediate family or someone who is a very close friend. In this case, it is a very close friend.

My friend, let’s call him Steve, yeah, I like that name and you really don’t hear it very often anymore. So, Steve calls me, we haven’t spoken for over two months, not for the lack of trying on my part, I’ve sent him text messages, left voicemails, posted on his Facebook page. I did everything I could to get a hold of him except drive up to his home on the New Jersey and Pennsylvania boarder, grab him by his short hairs and drag him out into the sunlight kicking, screaming and cursing my name and my ancestor’s names too.

So, when I saw his name and photo pop up on my overpriced smart phone I immediately answered and headed for a private place in the museum. Now, let me clarify some facts for you my dear readers; Steve and I have only known each other for eight months and we spent three weeks working together every day. At night we would hit the local bars for endless hours of bullshit and bonding. It turned out that Steve and I have a lot in common; ie. Horror movies, horror books, work ethic and a deep desire to talk about anything BUT WORK!

And for three weeks we did just that. Even at work we managed to not talk about work.

You see, while Steve works for one of the best companies in a very small field and he is one of the best at what he does, he is also Staff Sergeant for Uncle Sam and has done three tours in Iraq over the past ten years. His job for Uncle Sam is classified but I can tell you that he is damn good at his government job and because he is so good at it his skills are in high demand. So is his friendship.

Now, if you have never been a part of a close knit unit who have put their lives on the line for each other twenty-four hours a day for endless years on end there are no amount of words I can use to express how close you become to the men you are serving with. The things your share with your fellow soldiers and sailors over the years can only be understood by those that have served. It’s a rough life, especially since the war on terror started. Steve has suffered but he has managed to maintain a living wage outside of military service.

Now that I’ve explained all this I can now divulge some of our phone conversation and why I will always answer phone calls from close friends.

Since the last time I spoke with my pal he has suffered some terrible losses. One of the members of his reserve unit died in a terrible motorcycle accident, another committed suicide and his units commander is now retiring. Basically, three of his closest and most trusted friends have disappeared from his life. It pains me to even think of something like this happening to me and during my conversation with Steve I could feel the pain he was trying to hold inside. He told me he’s been in “ghost” mode since he got the news. I couldn’t blame him. How could I?

Here is a close friend, a soldier, a hero, a brother in arms and a man I would take a bullet for in pain. I listened to what he had to say, we made jokes when with each other when appropriate. We talked about people we both know, new internet sites, future vacation plans, horror books, women and cigars. We talked about everything but the crap that causes us stress. It was a great conversation. A much needed conversation.

I hope it is not our last.

Steve is more loyal to the people he cares about than he probably should be. He will bend over backwards to help a buddy out when they are in need. Hell, he’ll even bail your ass out of jail if he isn’t in jail with you. He drinks Yngling by the case and Jameson by the gallon. He smokes his cigarettes by the pack and will stay out until it’s time to go to work. He is a hooligan who celebrates his Irish heritage with pride and knows more Polish jokes than I know Irish jokes. My pal is hurting and I hurt for him. I don’t know where he is tonight and I know he is working through a lot of crap that would crush most people. I pray for his safety and a guiding light to help him through the dark times that seem to have fallen on him.

Thanks for reading, and if you run into a short, dark haired Irishman who has had too much to drink and is looking for a fight tonight with some crazy tattoos from foreign tattoo artists. Try to gently guide him into a safe harbor.

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