My heart, my brain, my life stopped the moment the words came from his mouth.
“The Army? Jake, you can’t be serious,” my said mother in disbelief. Though she said nothing I knew her thoughts, I could see them in her eyes. The worry in her eyes mirrored my own.
“I’ve already thought it through and it’s perfect for me,” he replied as easy as if we were talking about something funny that happened at school.
My mother’s eyes were not the only ones that spoke unsaid words. I could see everything as easy as if I was looking directly into his head. Excitement, pride, hope, eagerness. I could also see every reason as well. I couldn’t find it in me to be as serious as this conversation was.
“Ha! The military would chew you up and spit you out” I laughed teasingly. Then I suddenly found myself wondering if Jake had been planning on this. I had assumed that the sudden interest in taking weight lifting as a gym for school was to impress girls, but now I felt myself back tracking.
“Listen,” said Jake as if I hadn’t spoken (something I was grateful for) “If I get into the Air Force they’ll pay for me to get my pilots licenses at any college I choose, plus it’s an automatic acceptance.”
I knew it before he’d even said it. The military was his way of getting to fly without massive college fees. But was that it; or were there ulterior motives, and this was just his cover story?
“I know we don’t have a ton of money,” began my father, “but that doesn’t mean you have to join the military.”
My world was falling. I didn’t want to admit it but I could see the perks of his plans. Free aviation training, an automatic acceptance to any school he wanted to go to, knowing you’ll have a job immediately out of college, and knowing you job was secure for six years (something people no longer seem to take for granted). It was all there for him. He started taking aviation training when he was 14 or 15 years old, and ever since we knew that’s where he’d end up.
But whether he couldn’t see them or was simply ignoring them, the negatives were all there as well. I could hear my parents’ conversation; talking about the boot camps and the extra training, and his other options he’d have a bigger passion for. But I truly couldn’t hear, nothing was processing. All I could see was a plane going down in flames, dropping bombs, and other images I will never get out of my head if I live 60 more years.
“You wouldn’t last two days,” I joked, but the words had more meaning and fear behind them than anyone would have ever guessed. I couldn’t allow myself to take this seriously because I didn’t want to think about this seriously. As I knew that every soldier who went in had the chance of never coming back again. I pushed these thoughts from my head as I said, “Jake, you have to get up early, eat what you’re served when you’re served, and listen to others and do what they say without comments. Not your favorite things” I teased. “Not to mention boot camp” I added.
“It’s six years!” said our mom, and I thought I heard almost a plead in her voice. “You have to think about this very carefully, after you sign up there’s no getting out. You’d be stuck for six years somewhere you may hate, or you could even get all your licenses and then get assigned to be an engineer or something similar. You may not even get to fly going this route.”
“That’s six years of knowing my job’s secure. Something I wouldn’t get anywhere else, especially working for Delta or Comair,” he replied.
“Mom, I’m going to go take a shower” I interrupted, clearing my spot at the dinner table.
“Ok” she answered, it didn’t even seem like she was paying attention. I could see the concentration on her face. Trying to find something to make him waver, anything. I knew Jake would need a lot of convincing to get our family to agree with his decision, assuming he actually had a chance. I looked at my parents faces and thought about my own thoughts, he had no chance. If he made this decision I would be proud of him, supportive, provided there was no way out. But I could never agree with it, because although I would never let it show I couldn’t handle it. Not knowing, questioning, and worrying.
I hardly had time to leave the kitchen before my face was wet enough to look like my shower was already through. Six years. Please lord, not him. Not him. I don’t know what I’d do if I lost him. That’s when I had to turn on the shower. So no one could hear my heart snapping to pieces.