Southern California, June, 2014
“Ok, why do you insist in listening to heavy metal while driving, baby?” Tabby asked me, as I smirked and bobbed my head to Armorclad’s latest CD, A Storm in Heaven, in my stereo.
“Because I know the lead singer of this band,” I replied with a grin, giving my girlfriend a glance and a wink. “Besides, the music is great, sweetheart. It keeps me awake and focused on driving.”
She just rolled her eyes, shook her head, and grinned in spite of herself. She wouldn’t admit it to anyone, but my new favorite band was growing on her.
Tabitha Williams is one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever known, if not the most beautiful in the world. At least in my estimation. Imagine Lupita Nyong’o and Danai Gurira, both rolled into one gorgeous package, and you come pretty close. It all depends on taste of course, but to me, she is just my type. Tabby’s grandparents and mother emigrated from Kenya to the US in the late ‘60s, and Tabby was born in 1984 in the Bronx, New York.
Turns out, I was born in the same hospital as she was, only five years earlier. My folks died in a plane crash when I was six, so I had to go live with my Uncle John and Aunt Naomi at Ft. Irwin, where he was stationed at the time.
As I drove north on I-5, heading towards the turnoff to Route 101 to Santa Barbara, I thought back to the early years of my life with them.
I guess a bit of backstory is in order, here. I kept it kind of short, when introducing myself in my previous account, so I’ll elaborate more, here.
At six years old, I didn’t remember much about my real folks, except that they loved me dearly. I did remember that my mom had mostly white hair by the time she was thirty, though. I guess I came by it honestly, since my hair, almost pitch black like hers was before it started to turn, was well on its way to becoming almost the same white shade as hers, just before the plane crash.
John Shepard is my father’s older brother, and the man I’d come to call Dad after a couple years of living with them. Aunt Naomi is one of the women I credit for my appreciation of black women in general. She’s gorgeous too.
Then there’s my cousin Cara, my de facto sister. I was my parents’ only child, and she was the same. So putting us together as sudden siblings, was like throwing a lit match into a barrel of gasoline. Oh, it wasn’t so bad for the first few years together, but then things started to change. She noticed how annoying I was, and I noticed the same about her. So the Sibling Rivalry started.
It was kind of a minor scandal with my grandparents on my father’s side, when John married a black woman in 1969. Ok, who am I kidding? It was a huge scandal back then, even though the Supreme Court had struck down the anti-miscegenation laws in ‘67.
John and Naomi had dated secretly, all through High School. They knew that if their parents found out, they’d force them apart. Whites and blacks didn’t date each other back then, at least not in the neighborhood where they grew up. In fact, the laws there expressly forbade such relationships. That didn’t matter to John and Naomi, though. They just knew that they were right for each other, and love each other dearly to this day.
You can’t help who you fall in love with. There’s a right someone out there for everyone. Yeah, with my history, I hardly believed that, myself. Lately, though, I think that they might just be right. But I’ll get to more about that, in a little while.
Shortly after they married, he got drafted and went to Vietnam for two tours. He went through Airborne and Ranger schools, and then through SFBS, and the Green Beret Q-Course. I credit him as my motivation to join the Army myself, and to aspire to become the best of the best, like him.
So yeah, I started thinking of Naomi and John as Mom and Dad, and then started calling them that. They treated me as if I was their own, anyway.
Cara and I grew up around the world, as all Army Brats do. We ran into some real bigoted assholes sometimes, especially in the South. That kind of killed our sibling rivalry, believe it or not. I’d be damned if I let some asshole hurt my sis.
First time I defended her, something happened, which I still can’t explain. It felt like the whole world kind of slowed down around me, except for me. I couldn’t fight very well, but I managed to get several good hits in before the shithead got ahold of me and proceeded to clean my clock.
Luckily, he was in almost as bad a shape as I was, after the scuffle. When he left, Cara helped me limp home, and Mom was about to go off on me when Cara stood up for me. I’d defended her, and she didn’t hate me anymore after that.
Well, that’s when Dad decided to teach me and Cara how to fight. This wasn’t any martial arts movie bullshit, either. This was down and dirty fighting, that if used in life or death situations, could kill your opponent. He made sure that we knew that, and warned us what would happen, if we ever used more force than was absolutely necessary.
Soon, nobody in school dared to mess with us, and life started getting better all around. When Dad retired, a Hollywood production company hired him as a military advisor on action movies involving Special Forces. He didn’t want us to go to school in L.A., so we moved to Santa Barbara, a couple hours north and west of Los Angeles, to go to High School.
On the first day of school, Freshman Year, I met Mac and Kat, and we quickly became best buds. Kat’s father was ex-military too, and he owns an electronics store in the mall. Mac wasn’t an Army brat, but he was cool. His father was a banker, and his mom was a secretary. Kind of boring, compared to our lives, but I didn’t mind. After moving around so much as kids, Cara and I were ready to spend some real time in one place.
Cara hung out with us too, until she got onto the Cheer Squad. Suddenly, she had a whole new circle of friends, which left her little time for her bro and his new buds. That was also ok by me, since she introduced her new cheerleader friends to me. In spite of her warnings, I dated a couple of them, too.
While I was never sexually attracted to Cara and Mom, I definitely saw what Dad saw, as far as women with darker complexions go.
Mac and I played Baseball all throughout High School, and Kat ended up joining the Cheer Squad in our Senior Year. Unlike my sis, though, she never shirked her time with us, in favor of her new teammates.
I kind of made a mistake when I asked her out once, though. Turned out, that she didn’t like dating friends, or so she said. Cara caught her looking at Mac once, though. She told me later that Kat loves Mac, but she is afraid to tell him how she feels. She then swore me to secrecy over that tidbit. Women. Go figure!
So, being pretty decent at keeping secrets, I shoved it out of my mind. I just wondered when Mac would notice, if ever.
After we graduated, I decided to enlist. Mac went with me to the recruiter, and we ended up signing up together for the Infantry. It was off to Ft. Benning for us! Dad was proud. Mom was worried. Cara hugged me and told me not to screw up.
Well, long story short, Mac and I went through Basic, AIT, Airborne, Ranger, Sniper, and finally Green Beret together. We passed SFBS and the Q-Course, and in 2001, we became full-fledged Green Berets.
Then 9/11 happened, and we got tapped for a new kind of Alpha Team. They picked us because of our scores in the Q-Course and/or our combat records. They also picked us for our chosen specialties. Captain Colton Drake was a total badass, and so was Lieutenant Nadine Olunye.
I thought I was a total badass, until she put me flat on my back, multiple times, during our first sparring match. The other guys were trying not to laugh, especially since I was the best hand-to-hand combatant on the Team. But against the Ebony Fury, I stood no chance in fuckin’ Hell!
That changed, though. She taught us all how to do things, we didn’t think we could’ve done. Then that thing happened again, where the whole world around me seemed to slow down. I didn’t say anything, and neither did the Captain or the Ell Tee. I wondered if they noticed, the first time I went toe-to-toe with Cap and put him down hard. All I noticed at that time, was Captain Dunbar, standing off to the side, raise an eyebrow a bit. He didn’t say shit either, though. He had his own team, designated the Scouts, but was there to help train us too.
I really can’t talk about the details of our mission, so you’ll have to excuse me on that. All I’ll say about our time in Afghanistan and Iraq is that we kicked ass and had some fun. We even got a free trip to Israel, just before getting our Honorable Discharges.
When we ETS’d out of the Army, Mac and I were sitting at the bus stop to the airport, when a Red River Private Security recruiter approached us. That was when I made the dumbest mistake of my life. I mean, I really should’ve listened to Mac, but I saw dollar signs when the asshole told me that I’d be making serious cash. Mac told the douchebag no, but I was young and stupid.
The only good thing that happened, arguably, was that I met my ex-wife while working as a merc. I know, that sounds weird, but I liked my time with Cindy. That was one hell of a year!
When she decided to trade me in for a richer model, I really couldn’t complain, much. Hell, I didn’t love her. I liked her, a lot. What I loved, was the sex. I know. I’m a dog, right? Well, I used to be a dog, back then. No shame. It’s who I was at that time.
.... There is more of this story ...