I stepped off the plane and into a small crowded airport. There were so many people I felt like I couldn't breath. Add that to all of the other worries I had been spinning around in my head like a view master constantly switching scenes at lightening speed and you have one overwhelmed teenage girl. The only thing that kept me from exploding in emotion was sheer exhaustion from the flight. I was at my first actual military assignment. I spotted my sponsor across the crowd. She was tall and thin with long wavy brown hair pulled into a pony tail. To my surprise, she brought a friend. A tall smiling blond haired man/boy. He was full of energy and jokes. He made her laugh with almost every comment. I have to admit I thought he was pretty funny myself. Their smiles put me at ease as I crawled into the back of the smallest car I had every seen outside of the circus. It was green and bug shaped....and weird, but I had no car so I couldn't be choosy. Thankful to have a ride I buckled up and settled in for the journey to my new home.
I had no idea how long the drive would be. It always seems to take longer when traveling somewhere new. My new friends were chatting away in the front seat while some terrible country music blared on the rough sounding stereo. This was my first introduction to Toby Keith and I was not impressed with his yellow rose in a long neck bottle. We must have listened to it drag on at least three times. It occurred to me she might not own any other cds.
We finally pulled into the gravel driveway of a pink two story house with a lonely palm tree in the yard. Apparently this was the home of smiley guy and we were making a stop before she took me to the dorms. I reluctantly got out of the booger car and went inside the obvious bachelor pad. There was an old beat up sofa, a papa san chair, a large tv and a coffee table that to this day still makes me shudder. It was a glass top table with full, empty and half empty beer bottles completely covering the surface. I believe there was an ash tray or two squished in there somewhere. The bottles were all different colors. Some were brown, others green or clear. I stared at that "coffee" table in disbelief. Apparently the owners of this residence were without a trash can. It was dirty and smelled of cigarettes and meat. I turned around as my new friends hurried upstairs promising to return soon.
When I turned back around two young men had entered the room. Both wearing unbloused BDU pants, half laced combat boots and untucked brown t-shirts. They introduced themselves and I immediately got the impression that they had been celebrating the end of their work day with some alcoholic refreshments. So much so that they hadn't even bothered to change clothes. It appeared that they just started yanking at any part of the uniform that felt constricting until they landed in the heap of disheveled clothes I saw before me. My suspicions were confirmed as they offered me a drink. I refused and sat down as they began their interrogation. They were amused by my accent as they inundated me with staggered questions about the whole of my life before I ended up in their sad home on their dilapidated couch. One was short with dark hair and tan skin. The other was tall with dark hair and the face of a little boy. He was quite the contradiction standing there with his baby face, cigarette and booze. They were both clean shaven and tried their best to be hospitable despite their obvious inebriation.
The shorter guy disappeared after a while and I was left alone with the 10 year old boy in a military uniform. He finally, after incessant badgering, convinced me to take a shot with him. He asserted that he would be a bad host if he didn't offer and he would be honored to participate in my first drink in Italy. I sighed and followed him into a small dingy kitchen. It was poorly lit with the smallest stove and sink arrangement I had ever seen. There was a tall free standing cabinet that housed a rainbow of liquor bottles. From top to bottom were bottles of vodka, gin, and a plethora of liquors I had never seen before. He offered me a shot of southern comfort. While I appreciated his sense of humor I grew hesitant about the brown strong smelling liquid he began pouring into what I was sure was not a clean glass. I guess he picked up on my nerves and he cracked open a coke for me to wash it down with. I put the tiny glass to my lips and gave myself a quick pep talk. I really didn't care what this kid thought of me I just wanted some distraction from their dirty house. I managed to drink less than half the shot before I slammed the glass down in disgust and dove for the coke. He burst into laughter as I guzzled the soda like someone who just crossed a desert.
He tilted his head and easily put back the rest of the shot for me. To my relief, I heard her voice again ringing down the hall that it was time to go. I spun on my heels and quickly thanked him over my shoulder as I practically ran out of the house. I was never so happy to leave. I was disappointed that these two clowns were the first people I got to hang out with on my adventure, but it was out of my control. I wouldn't be visiting there again any time......ever. I was done with these two, or so I thought. Little did I know that through a crazy twist of events and lots more alcohol I would actually move in with the tall baby faced boy, marry him and have 4 babies. If this isn't a lesson on the value of first impressions then I don't know what is. Its funny to think of how we met and his instant attraction to me. I wish it would have been mutual, but that's not how it played out. He's grown on me and changed me for over a decade now. And I am quite happy to admit that I was wrong about him.
I just won't ever say it to his face.