My fellow short-timers are vanishing one by one, off to the mythical holy ground of civilian life, and new guys appear out of thin air to replace them. I meander from appointment to appointment, hoop to hoop, goose chase to goose chase with extreme pleasure.
Any time away from the unit is good time. The more hours that a uniform doesn't touch my body, the better. The thick medical records, the ETS to-do list, and a sense of bastardly determination are all that I need. Swimming upstream, clawing and fighting my way out, it's a very long process. I'm ready to be gone NOW.
Erase any evidence that I was ever here, turn in all my gear, wage paperwork war and take signatures as prisoners, make no mistake: this is a battle and it IS personal.
Load up the car with whatever material possessions I bother to collect while I Tasmanian Devil my way out, punch the gas and fly out the gate for the final time as nothing but a blur, rear view mirror detached and laying on the floor because we won't need it.
Heaps of uniforms piled in an ominous hill that we'll make reek of combustible fluids and chuck a cigar at the center and dance around the flames, temporarily insane from the rush of freedom I could never be prepared for.
If I were to be fired from a shitty job, I would hug my boss. Fired? That's it? That works out for BOTH OF US!
I gave more than I ever imagined I would, and no hard feelings as long as you just leave me alone and let me leave in peace. Great run, eh? Later homes.
No, now. Ticking down the days is making me lose my mind. Waiting for appointments and paperwork, waiting, always waiting, when it's right fucking there! I can see it, just down there a bit further, that's ETS, man! Fucking move it! Come on, faster faster faster, let's go, give me the leave form dammit, are my orders here yet? Why the fuck not?
Look at that guy, he got out, hasn't shaved in a week! That's so cool! I bet he doesn't even get up until two in the afternoon.
I heard an NCO tell a dude that he couldn't hear him because the dude wasn't standing at parade rest. I thought, yeah you can, that's stupid. All those little weird things that the army does that you learn to accept as being normal, you start to see that no, they aren't. Not at all. We're saluting because Reveille is playing? Why do we even salute? We aren't knights, we don't have to lift visors to show that we're recognizable dudes. Whatever, sure, I'll do it as long as it keeps them off my ass.
But this is good, my ability to think for myself is regenerating, like a starfish that was cleaved in half.
What's that man? You only have three weeks left? Fuck you man (envious verbal assault). But I'm not that far behind, am I? Sunday, that's the 1st of the month, another down. A month and a half as long as everything goes well, and for the love of GOD, please let it.
I need this with every ounce of my being. I have a FEVERISH NEED, ravenous hunger, vampiric compulsion, cannibalistic disregard for everyone else, this is for me, this is mine, GIVE IT TO ME. Dangling on a string above me and I'm reaching for it like a cat, leaping and swiping and growing more irritated. I'm going to get out, I am, really, that's what happens right? I am believing this, even though how can it be real? Guys don't get out, they just disappear, right? Ol' Suspect here sure will. Lost somewhere on the highway between Fort Lewis and Tacoma, trailing like ashes behind me, fading and collapsing on itself like a dying star, replaced with a dormant but wiser version of who I might have been at one point, and god bless and pass the gravy.
I'm going to get out, good God, yes I am. I've never been more sure of anything.