From Fallujah to Chili's: A reservist goes back to work (Excerpt)
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At the restaurant, right now is the highlight of our guests's week. Monday through Friday, for eight hours a day, they had to dress up, be polite to the boss and look busy behind something light and digital - how tough for them.
None of them carried a weapon instead of a Personal Digital Assistant. None of them listened to wind-tossed dog tags clanking against the rifle, boots and helmet memorial of a newly killed Marine. None of them picked up the body parts of both strangers and friends: a tossed salad served by suicide bombings.
It's March 2005; I've only been back home from my second tour for about four months and I'm heartbroken and poor and not mentally well. It's been over two months since my year-long orders to active duty ended. The military's finance system has yet to sign off on the thousands of dollars they owe me. So I'm forced to work when I'm barely capable of basic existence. On my days off, I'm too depressed to move. On my couch, I watch the days turn to darkness through the slits in the patio blinds; and when it's dark I'll finally rise to go get wasted.
I loved someone once. And she loved me. She wrote me daily in Iraq and drew me pictures. She scribbled hearts under her name and marked the envelopes with lipstick. We used to work at the same store. Now that I'm home again though, I've become an ugly man - filled with rage and sorrow, prone to excessive self-medication. I scared her away. I show up to a different Chili's now; it's too hard for me to face my failures...