Leaving Our Mark

By Matthew Young

August 24, 2015

Leaving Our Mark
In the weeks before we end our active service in the Marine Corps my roommate, Caleb, and I slug Wild Turkey in our barracks room, and then decide to celebrate our impending freedom by burning down the thirty-foot-high diving platform a mile away off Christianitos Road.
After Caleb dumps five gallons of gasoline over the bloated wood and molded Astroturf we drive, headlights off, in my Jeep through the coastal hills of Camp Pendleton on rutted back roads, through thickets, crushing wild fennel beneath our tires, sending black licorice stink into our noses. Dark briny Southern California air settles heavy on my whiskey-slick skin.
I want to move on, forget the last four years happened—the mud and sand, the boredom, the kids in flexi cuffs, the bomb-mangled bodies. They all feel like failure. I try instead to think about my possible futures. They roll out in front of me on the pocked dirt road. I might be a teacher, a drunk, a coward, a lover, a student, a criminal, a husband, a father, a fuck-up. Maybe all. Maybe none.
A pale orange glow flicks in the rear-view and I think, Finally, mission complete. Then one last future: the Jeep tips, bursts into flames, turns us to ashes along with the diving platform. A perfect ending, no chance for failure.
But the Jeep doesn’t tip, we get back safe, fall into drunken sleep. In the morning I see the wood isn’t even scorched.
Photo "Rearview Hell" provided by Nandini Gupta, via Flickr.com creative commons license.
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