Bag Lady & the Retired Marine Ch. 09bySusanJillParker©
Dave and Susan sitting in a tree k-i-s-s-i-n-g. I love you.
Dave watched Susan sitting there as if he had pulled her plug or pulled out her batteries. Emotionless, she was comatose. When most women would love to hear that, he say the wrong thing by telling her that he loved her. Happy one minute and sad the next, he wondered if she was a manic depressive. What just happened? He didn't know. He had no idea. So full of life before, all that it took to turn her off was for him to say three words that meant so much to him and obviously so little to her, 'I love you.'
She acted as if he had said I hate you instead of I love you. She acted as if he wanted to break up with her, not that they were ever together. She acted as if she wasn't interested in taking whatever the fuck they had to the next level, which he wanted to do. What did they have anyway? Obviously, they didn't have anything. Obviously, even though he thought they were, they weren't a couple.
When it comes to women, he wondered if Simone, Lucy, and/or Carmen were available to give him some much needed advice if not some comfort. He wondered what they'd say and how they'd react if he told one of them that he loved them. No doubt, being that they were prostitutes and with their Johns telling them that all the time, they'd probably laugh in his face.
A bag lady and a Marine having only met several hours ago, he was as much of a stranger to her as she was an enigma to him. Apparently, according to her immediate negative reaction and foul response, in the way that she recoiled from him and rejected him, they didn't have anything in common to maintain a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship, never mind love. What is love anyway? It's just a feeling. He had feelings for her but she didn't have feelings for him. When most men never want to commit, he was ready to ride off in the sunset with her, only there was a hitch and a fly in the ointment.
'Houston there's a problem. May Day! May Day! Negative to love. It's a no go. Abort the mission and scrub the relationship.'
She sat there with the look of a woman who had been badly beaten before being brutalized emotionally, physically, and sexually. As if she were a human turtle hiding in her self-protective shell, not willing to show her emotions for fear, no doubt, that she'd be hurt again, she had the look of a woman who had disappeared inside of herself and withdrawn from life. Obviously, an understatement, she wasn't ready for love or any kind of a relationship for that matter. Not the best looking man, especially after having his face reconditioned with the stress of combat and with one too many blows to the head, maybe she was ready for love but not with him.
After his ears stopped ringing and after the last cloud of black, putrid smoke cleared, always there was smoke after the fire and not before, she had the look that he had after he survived another bloody battle. Always as if a crescendo to their mission, the air was filled with the stench of fuel, oil, and burning rubber. He wonder how many deadly, cancerous carcinogens he inhaled. He wondered how many years being a Marine fighting wars took off of his life. She had that same dazed and empty look that he had when looking around to survey the damage and to take inventory of the dead and the wounded. Only her combat mission was living and his combat mission was dying, kill or be killed.
'Don't move! Show me your hands! Show me your hands! Get down on the ground! Get down on the ground! Don't move!'
Those words echoed through his brain in seven languages. Yet too many only understood a bullet to the head. They hated Americans. They hated America. He never met so many people who were willing to die rather than to surrender to an American serviceman.
Yet every year we support Pakistan with billions of dollars, money wasted over there that could be used to house the homeless and feed the hungry over here. For Pakistanis to hide terrorists while burning our flag, those two facts don't bode well when Congress approves more money going to Pakistan. If he were President and Commander in Chief of the military, he'd fired a couple of smart bombs one earmarked Pakistan and one airmailed to Afghanistan. 'Boom!' In an instant, the war would be over. Hamid Karzai, our puppet president in Afghanistan, in bed with the CIA from day one, holds no loyalty to the United States.
If he had the chance to take Karzai out when he was there, he would have but he was protected, not so much by the Afghan military but by United States private contractors, mercenaries, men who were once just like him. Only, if he had assassinated their president, Secretary Clinton, the President, and the top generals and admirals from the pentagon would have been all over his ass. No doubt, they would have blamed him for destabilizing the area. They would have blamed him for making things much worse when there was no way things could get any better over there, which is why the Russians left years ago to end their war with Afghanistan. Yet, we're still there. Why?
He could have worked for one of those private contractors. He could have worked for the CIA or any secret agency that did dirty deeds behind the scenes. He was qualified. He had the skills to kill, something that is still in high demand. They would have paid him buckets of money to work for them. Only, he saw how they worked and how they operated. Different from the Marines, he couldn't work with someone and for someone who wasn't watching his back and who was more concerned with their own.
Only, with all of war and foreign policy out of his control, all he could do was to retire from the Marines and go on with his life. He couldn't do his job anymore. The patience he once had was gone with suicide bombers. Now he fired first and asked questions later. Shoot to kill or be blown to bits was always his standing orders.
* * * * *
'I love you.'
The words echoed in his head in the way of a bad dream. The words that lifted his spirit to say before made him sad now. She didn't have to say she didn't love him. She saw the shocked look in her eyes. A nanosecond glimpse in her soul, a trained assassin, he was skilled at detecting a liar. He could walk in a room cold and know which one to shoot first. Never was he wrong. Always was he right. Otherwise, he wouldn't be standing here as a retired Marine. He would have been a dead Marine years ago.
With death always all around him, the stench of rotting corpses and the acrid smell of burning flesh is something he'll never forget. To this day, he can't enjoy a barbeque, raw meat burnt beyond recognition. How many of his buddies did he had to identify. If it wasn't for their dog tags, they'd be buried in an unmarked grave with so many other soldiers and marines who didn't have enough left of them to identify.
Burning alive again in his nightmares, he still relives the horror, hears their screams, and sees the faces of all those buddies he couldn't save. Taking his gun and shooting them instead of watching them die a horrible death, acts of war never reported on the nightly news, he's done that more than once. If the military allowed the press to report everything that they witnessed and that happened instead of classifying their dirty laundry as top secret, there'd be a Congressional investigation where some Major, Captain, and Sergeant would be offered up as sacrificial lambs, when the army rotten from the head down.
How many generals return home fatter and richer than when they arrived? There's a lot of retired generals who retired after going over to Iraq to pillage and Afghanistan to plunder. After a while, after seeing so many killed in combat, other than to fan the area with a blanket of machine gun fire, dead bodies no longer evoked a response in him. After a while, instead of killing the lowly enemy, men who were as brainwashed as he was, he wished he could kill the ones responsible for the deaths of so many of his buddies. Only, they'd court marshal and execute him if he started killing those powerful generals who knew the real story of why they were at war. Twisted enough by war and politics, it was time for him to retire and he did.
His first time in combat, he was scared. Realizing fast that it was either him or them, fright turned to anger. Now unemotional, with bullets whizzing by his head, he used his calmness to his advantage when shooting off his 50-caliber machine gun. Still shooting until he was out of bullets or until everyone was quiet, he was a one man assault team. Because of his deadly accuracy, he had a lot of nicknames, Doctor Death, the Grim Reaper, the Sweeper, and recently, LMS, last man standing.
After a while, as if they had never lived, the dead didn't look real. Except for the blood and the bullet holes, most appeared to be sleeping. Tit for tat and an eye for an eye, rat-a-tat-tat, rat-a-tat-tat, and rat-a-tat-tat, he grew tired of exchanging bullets. He envied the sniper, one bullet, one kill. Only snipers, once there was an eyeball on their location, had a short lifespan.
He could clean and fire a gun faster than most could load a chamber and pull a trigger. Yet, unless he re-upped or became a mercenary soldier and worked for a private security outfit, what good is that skill now that he's a civilian and a law abiding citizen? Hard for him to cope, always looking for love and hoping for love but with love so elusive, he never found it. Being that he didn't know what he was looking for and being that love was just a feeling, how would he even know if he stumbled over love? When he thought that he did finally find love with Susan, he thought love would set him free. Only, as if plucking a rose with one less pedal, she loves me, she loves me not, she doesn't love him.
As if he had been shot, the look she gave him hurt more than any bullet he's taken. Surely, he'd take a bullet over her look of rejection. Her look and then her reaction to his words stopped him cold. Defenseless against her mere words, always in control, she made him feel vulnerably unworthy of her affection. Having already survived being shot numerous times, in the way they make a vest that's impervious to bullets, he wished someone would make a bulletproof vest to protect his heart from love.
It took a lot of whiskey for him to live with himself after losing all of his men in his last battle before retiring. The last man standing, even his buddies back at base looked at him as if he was bulletproof, invincible, and unable to die when he just wished he were dead. They feared him as much as they regarded him and respected him. Even though his last mission didn't work out so well, no doubt, sabotaged by the bad Intel from the CIA, everyone still wanted him to lead their squad. Even if it was the other guy and not him taking the bullet, they all knew they'd have a better chance of going home alive with Gunnery Master Sergeant Dave Ryan watching their back.
Never considering himself lucky yet, always, he was the one spared. Always he was the was one of the ones not returning home in a body bag. Why him? Why them and not him? Why was he spared? Was he spared for Susan to so rudely dismiss him, not want him, and to look at him as if he were crazy to ever think that he'd have a chance of her loving him.
She was a homeless, bag lady and, with no one in her life in the way that he had no one in his life, even she rejected him. Now that he finally had someone in his life, he didn't understand why his life continued to be so difficult. No longer at war, yet always it was a battle. When he's willing to love someone, why is it so hard for someone to love him? He's worked so hard to deserve better.
"I'm sorry Susan," said Dave staring at her withdrawing inside of herself. Going from sorrow to anger, he withdrew his apology. "No. I'm not sorry for falling in love with you," he said with anger. "We're made for one another. Don't you see that? We were meant to be together," he said touching her hand when she didn't speak and taking her by her shoulders and shaking her when she didn't look at him.
"I'm sorry Dave," was all that she said.
"Damn it! We're both fucked up. Yet, here we are. You're just as broken as I am. No woman would want me and no man can deal with you. We have too much baggage to ever be normal but why not be abnormal together? This is our chance for something special so why not take the chance?" He let go of her when she stayed past him. "Say something. Say anything."
"What do you want me to say? I have nothing to say," she said finally looking at him. "I don't love you. Okay? Is that what you want to hear? I don't love you."
She looked at him with cold, distant eyes. She looked at him as if he was looking at a stranger. He did it now. Just as he had turned on her switch to have sex with him, he had turned off her switch by telling her that he loved her. How could he be so stupid not to know her reaction. If he were in field and she was some middle eastern woman, he would have summed her up with a look and at a glance. Yet, back home and a stranger in his own country, already making a big mistake, he had made the wrong move by telling her that he loved her.
"I'm tired of living alone Susan. I'm tired of being alone. I'm tired of going places alone and doing things alone. I'm sick to death of having no one to talk to but myself. I want someone in my life. I want a woman to love and who will love me. I want you," he said.
She put her fingers to her lips when he leaned to kiss her.
"Don't talk. Just don't talk. It's better if you don't talk and we just have sex," she said looking at him. "Okay?"
"Okay," he said. If he had any pride, he'd turn her down for sex but having sex with her without her having any love for him and any kind of affectionate emotion was still worth it. Surely, he could pretend she loved him while having sex with her. "Only--"
She gave him the same impatient look that he gave his new recruits when they poured off the bus not knowing what to expect.
"What about pillow talk?"
"I like talking dirty while making love, sorry, I mean, having sex and I figured that you do too," he said as if apologizing to his mother for his need to talk dirty after breaking something. Only, he wasn't the type of guy to have sex with his mother. Besides, Susan looked nothing like his mother, thank God.
"Yeah, I do," she said with a dirty laugh. "How did you know that I do like pillow talk? Only, can we limit our conversation to pleasantries and pillow talk? Once you start complimenting me, Dave, you go overboard. You go all sappy on me," she said. "Not deserving of your compliments, your compliments made me feel uncomfortable. You're adulation makes me feel bad instead of good."
"I know and you're right Susan. Suddenly, something I never was, with you pushing all of my buttons, I'm needy. Obviously I need you more than you need me," he said revealing his private thoughts. "Pining the loss of my beloved Marine Corps as if it's one of my buddies that just died, I'm like one of those guys living at home with their mother. Sucking at her tit for too long, the Marine Corps was my whole life. I never thought I'd be like that but you make me like that. I hate to say this and if my buddies ever heard me say this, I'd never hear the end of it," he said looking at her with sad eyes for understanding.
"You bring out the woman in me," he said squeezing her hand while cringing from uttering the words.
"What? I bring out the woman in you?" She looked at him as if he told her that he didn't love her when he did love her. She gave him a look that told him that it was impossible for her to not only love him but also to love anyone. "What are you suddenly gay? Are you going gay on me Dave?"
"Hardly," he said with a laugh. "It's just being with you Susan is different than being with the guys, an understatement," he said laughing while looking at her sitting across from her naked. "You make me feel things that I never felt before," he said with a laugh while cupping her big breast in his hand.
"Literally," she said with a laugh while looking down at his hand fondling her breast and watching his fingers fingering her nipple.
"You make me want to do things that I never wanted to do before. You made me realize how much of my life I lost fighting and training men to fight someone else's war, a war waged just for the sake of money. Money, money, money, the death and dismemberment of some of the best men I've ever known, trained, and some of the best buddies I ever had is for the sake of money," he said suddenly looking as sad as he appeared angry. "Now that they're done with me, now that I'm done with them rather, just as you're the shell of the woman you used to be, I'm the shell of the man I used to be."
"What do you mean?" She asked the question but her look confessed that she already knew the answer.
"You know what I mean Susan. We both suffer from Post Traumatic Stress but for different reasons," he said.
"I really don't want to talk about that with you," she said.
"You because you were raped and brutalized by your relatives and by the men in your life and me because I was shot at and wounded in a war that I was ordered to fight not for freedom, not for terrorism, but for money," he said ignoring her request that he not discuss that part of her life. "War is big money. Their call to arms, a call that few of them have even answered themselves, old, fat, Caucasian men wave the United States flag and get rich while the rest of us die for money that our families will never have."
"I am kind of a basket case," she said ignoring his confession to make her own. "I'm sorry for having that kind of reaction when you told me you love me but it's automatic. I would have had less of a reaction had you slapped me across the face. Suddenly feeling suffocated, I was stunned, shocked, and surprised."
"I get it. I do. I know what you mean. I have the same reaction when someone startles me or sneaks up on me. If I don't catch myself, I could really hurt someone, even kill them. Even though I love the Marines, I'm their creation. I'm their monster. They made me who I am today, a man who lives alone, is suspicious of everyone, and barely likes himself never mind anyone else," he said.
"You just described me," she said with sadness.
"And then you come along and I'm saying something that I've never said to anyone before," he said looking at her, "that I love you. I love you Susan Jill Parker," he said lifting her chin to look in her eyes. "I love you. I don't care if you don't want me to say it and/or if you don't love me but I can't help from feeling what I feel and what I feel for you is a deep love and affection that transgresses just having sex. If I wanted just sex I could pay to have sex with Simone, Lucy, and/or Carmen."
"Don't," she said putting her fingers to his lips. "Please stop saying that you love me when we both know that you don't and when we both know that you just want to be in love with someone, anyone, to feel something other than death and pain."
"You're wrong about that. Yeah, sure, I'm a desperate man filled with anger and hate but I do love you, I do."
"Sorry Dave but I can't love you. I don't have it in me to love you. I don't have it in me to love anyone," she said falling sadly silent again. "Just in the way that you are, I'm dead inside."
"Why? I don't understand? Why can't you love me?"
"You don't understand? I don't understand how someone can love me when I don't love myself. Sometimes, most times, all the time, I hate myself. I go around thinking that I wish I was dead. My interior monologue is filled with negative dialogue instead of with positive thoughts," she said looking at him sitting there with his mouth gaping open.