The next morning I woke up early and headed upstairs to the day room. There were a few guys up there sprawled out on couches — some hungover from their shenanigans of the previous night; others were playing video games which I assume they had started doing last night. I asked one guy how far the nearest church was or if there was a shuttle to get to it. He and his buddies all chuckled and knew right away who I was.
You’re the new Airman who came in from Keesler last night?
Uh, yes. But how’d you…never mind.
The closest thing is a Catholic church. It’s about two klicks past the Mini BX.
I hadn’t ventured out yet, so I had no clue where the Mini BX was located.
So, point me in the direction of the Mini BX.
Jesus, girl! Do you know where the package store is?
No. I just got..
Oh yeah, you just got here last night. I’d take ya, but as you can see, I’m busy right now.
That’s ok. I’ll find it. Thanks. Try not to work too hard.
Without realizing it, a young Airman named Adrian followed me out of the day room. He was making a phone call while I chatted with those other guys. He offered to walk with me part of the way so I wouldn’t get lost. I graciously accepted his offer. As we headed downstairs, Eric was standing outside his room smoking a cigarette. He, too, looked hungover. He was playing Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb”–a description I’d soon learn described several people I would soon meet.
Good morning, Eric.
Top of the morning to ya, Airman. Where ya headed?
Heading to church. Adrian offered to walk a piece with me.
What a nice fella! Watch out for my girl. She works for the base commander.
Dude, that is totally boss! I’ll take care of her.
See ya, Eric.
Hey, I’ll take you to the BX later to get ya a TV and some girlie stuff.
Eric was a character. I think I like him already. Adrian seems nice. He’s from Rochester, NY and works in Transportation, so he drives all day too. We walked at a nice pace, and I didn’t even break a sweat even though it was already 70 degrees at 7:30 AM. It only took us a few minutes to get to the Mini BX, and we took a shortcut through the desert to get to Church which was clearly visible and a short trek from the Mini BX. I invited Adrian to come along, but he declined and wished me luck as he headed back toward the dorm through the desert. I remember thinking that was a weird sendoff, but so far all my experiences had been weird.
As I walked a little further, I marveled at the beauty of the Mojave in spring time. There were actually things blooming all around me. From the corner of my eye, I saw something dart past me. I looked but didn’t see anything. Eyes trained on that spot, it darted further with three little ones in tow. It was a roadrunner and her babies out in search of breakfast. What a wonderful surprise!
I crossed the street, dusted off my shoes, and entered the chapel with the biggest smile I could muster. Despite my worries about this place and this fatigue I still couldn’t shake, I think everything is gonna be just fine.