At least I had planned on not sleeping. Around 1000, my adrenaline levels had sunk to a life-threatening low. I passed out next to PJ who tried to wake me up about an hour later. The story as to what happened to me after that is by account of the people who helped me that day.
When PJ woke me up, I couldn’t feel my arms and my speech was slurred. He was panicking, and I told him to slap me to get my heart going, so he did, and that worked until we could think of a plan. Although I was disoriented, I remembered that my Sergeant Lukas had suffered an adrenaline heart attack when he was serving in Iraq. He told me that the ground units (infantry, grunts, grunties, etc.) receive a steady supply of Rip It Energy Fuel to keep them alive after multiple firefights, straight from the supplier. They help to keep the heart beating after your adrenal gland runs out of juice. In the Marine Corps, these life-saving drinks are just affectionately referred to as Rip Its. We had a few packs of them in the house, and I mumbled out the word, “Rip” and PJ knew exactly what to do. He ran to the kitchen, and grabbed three cans of Rip Its. When he was gone, I was crying for him not to leave me and he was yelling that he was going to be right back. He flew back into the room.
“I don’t want those… Sleep.” I slurred.
“Hell fucking no. You are fucking drinking this shit!”
I turned away from him, so he grabbed my shoulder, held me down, opened my mouth and poured the drink into my mouth. I kept on spitting it out, but I was gaining control over my arms as I was getting pissed at him for pouring the energy drinks on me and holding me down.
“THIS IS FOR YOUR OWN FUCKING GOOD SWEETPEA!”
“FUCK YOU! I JUST WANT TO FUCKING SLEEP!” I yelled.
He poured all three cans in my mouth until I choked, and I regained some sort of normal consciousness.
“Baby girl, are you back?”
“What the fuck just happened?”
“OK! Phew, I thought I was gonna lose you.”
He hugged me real tight.
“Why do I have Rip Its all over me?”
“You were about to have a heart attack, sweetpea.”
“Let’s go take a shower.”
“Baby, I just want to sleep. I didn’t sleep all night last night because I thought I was gonna lose you.”
“You gotta tell me about that because I don’t remember.”
“I’m having a hard time remembering right now, but I just want to sleep.”
“…… You want to sleep in piss and energy drinks?”
“Well, I’ve slept in worse,” I laughed.
“Let’s go take a fucking showerrrrrr!!!”
I looked at the clock.
“HOLY SHIT BABY YOU’RE LATE!”
“I really don’t give a fuck. I’m gonna be even more late if we don’t take a shower.” He smiled at me because he knew that was the only way he was getting me in the shower.
I stuck my tongue out at him and we got in the shower. He told me it was gonna have to be cold but I wasn’t getting in. I was falling back into the low-adrenaline stupor, so he picked me up and put me into the cold shower which helped take me out of it. Then I got used to the cold water and started again. He had to wash my hair and body ’cause I was fighting about doing it and he was trying to keep me in there. To get my heart going, he even tried to fake a seizure. He did a good job at it, but it didn’t work.
“You don’t even care I was having a seizure?!”
“You can’t fake the sound of a grand mal seizure,” I was staring straight forward and talking in a monotonous voice,”the screeching sound created by all of the air being released from the vocal cords can only happen when all of the muscles in your body are–”
Then I fell asleep in the shower, and he had to slap me to wake me up again. I fought to stay asleep in the shower, so he had to pick me up and put clothes on me. I atleast had enough wits about me to drink another Rip Its before he had to leave, but I still tried to go back to sleep on the bed. It’s a good thing I’m so little ’cause he had to grab me and pick me up to bring me out to the couch. That’s when he assessed the damage that was done the night before. This can of Rip Its was doing the job and I was starting to remember what happened.
“Baby, you’re gonna be late for that drug test.”
“Well, I already told them I was dating a Marine so I’m pretty sure they’re not gonna shoot me,” he giggled, “besides, I have to get some new furniture. We literally destroyed everything. I’ll just let them know I’m gonna be late! That’s what you always did didn’t — woah woah woahhhhhh!”
I started to fall back asleep.
“Baby girl! Hold on a second!”
“Baby, I just want to sleep. I drank the energy drink. I’m pretty sure I’m good for now. Can’t you just wake me up to drink another one after you get the furniture sorted out?”
“Yes, but I just have to ask you something.”
“Did I ask you to marry me last night?”
I smiled, “Yes.”
He got upset.
“But I probably would have done the same thing if I was in your position,” I smirked
“I just– I didn’t– FUCK!”
“I know you didn’t want to ask me like that baby.”
I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. I was just happy that was the only thing he remembered.
“That’s the only thing I remember, but I just can’t remember what you said.”
“I said, ‘Some day, but we have to get divorced first.'”
He started laughing, “I have to get a couple divorces.”
“That’s what you said!”
He kissed me.
“That didn’t count. I’m gonna do it again, just you wait.”
Then my mind started wandering to the divorce I was going to have to try to get, and I started crying.
“You’re gonna get rid of him, baby girl. Just like I’m gonna get rid of these swine.”
“Then we can run away and live in box cars on trains like gypsies?!!”
“Yes we can, Esmarelda.”
I kissed him again.
“Um… Can I take a nappiepooz now?”
“Yeah, I gotta take care of some things.”
“Ok, love you bye.”
I fell right asleep, but it kind of freaked him out that I said bye, so he woke me up again just to make sure I was still alive. I pushed him away from me and he started laughing. It took him a while to secure the furniture because they wouldn’t let him buy it over the phone, so he had to call like 10 different places because they didn’t believe it was him. I woke up ’cause I heard him yelling at some people.
“Baby, what’s going on?”
“HOLD ON A SECOND!”
Then I started listening to the conversation and realized he was still trying to get the furniture. So, he had to hang up, call the fuckers administering the drug test and tell them that he didn’t give a fuck if they didn’t care about the furniture in his house because military police give a fuck about the shipment and he wouldn’t mind giving them a call. I was thinkin’, “That’s my man. Hehehe.” He was having a hard time figuring it out.
“Baby…. Just call my Marines.”
“Because you can give them the money, and they can go get the furniture. Just make sure you pay them for doing it or else I’m gonna get pissed,” then I started going on a tangent, “‘Staff Sergeant is moving houses. We need 10 Marines to help SSgt with his furniture.’ ‘Are we gonna get paid for it, Sgt?’ ‘HELL FUCKING NO!’ ‘Fuck, at least we can get out of–‘”
“Ok ok, I get it. But your phone is dead and we can’t charge it.”
“Well, it’s a good thing I have my,” I reach into my purse, and take out my wallet to brandish the Marine Corps’ super secret weapon, “RECALL ROSTER!!”
He burst out in laughter, “What in the fucccckkk!? You guys are really prepared for anything aren’t you?”
“Yes.” I had a big smile on my face as he handed me another Rip Its, “I love Rip Its! You have to call–”
“Yes, I know, I have to call Sgt Lukas.”
“Sweetpea…. Adam is in Los Angeles.”
“He’ll come. He’s my best friend…. But I don’t have–”
“I’ll get it. I know where he lives.”
“You made me drop you off there, remember?”
He calls Sgt Lukas.
“Let me talk to him because he hasn’t–”
“Hello! Is this Sgt Lukas?”
I heard him on the other line, “Who the fuck is this?”
“Jack Holiday, look. I have something–”
“WHERE THE FUCK IS KERKMAN, MOTHERFUCKER?! I know you’ve been seeing her, and WHEN I find you, I’m gonna fucking–”
He started on one of his Sgt Lukas death threat rants, so I snatched the phone away from from PJ.
“Sgt, it’s me.”
“KERKMAN! What in the fuck are you doing Kerkman? What in the fuck kind of commi–”
“DON’T you fucking talk to me about fucking committment, Sgt of Marines,” I started, “THAT FUCKER TRIED TO FUCKING KILL ME! AND HE THREATENED TO KILL ME MORE THAN ONCE BEFORE! HE FUCKING SHOT AT ME WITH A SHOT GUN AND I’M LUCKY I MADE IT OUT WITH JUST A GRAZED SHOULDER! If you’re with him, Sgt, he’ll probably try to kill you too.”
He laughed his pissed off laughter, “You know how that would go down, Kerkman.”
“Yes I do, Sgt. We need your help.”
“Ok, but I can’t talk right now. I’ll call you back as soon as I can.”
He hung up. The husband was trying to divide my Sgt and I, but that would never happen. He and I went through some shit together, and he would always believe me over even anyone else in our own goddamn unit. What kind of idiot tries to kill a Marine and then goes and hides out at another Marine’s house? I thought.
“Why in the fuck would he go to another Marine after he just tried to kill his Cpl?”
“I know, right? Goddamn I made a mistake, didn’t I?”
“To say the least.”
We both started laughing, but we still hadn’t gotten anywhere. At least we had a plan.
“Baby girl, I gotta go.”
I let all the air out, “I know. You’ve been here for too long.”
“I fucking hate them,” his eyes started to water, “I don’t want to fucking leave you here by yourself.”
“Baby, look, I’ll stay awake for as long as I can,” I grabbed another Rip Its even though I was already pissed off that the husband even tried to get my Sgt on his side. “It’s kind of like being on heart attack duty.”
“Every. Single. Thing.” he couldn’t stop laughing.
“If you fall asleep, you die! If you don’t drink Rip Its, you die! I got it.”
“You know what? I think I have some people to call too. And! You already love them.”
“Ooo! Is it a surprise!?”
“Yes it is.”
“Baby, you gotta go. It’s a long drive.”
“Hunny bunny,” he looked up into the air with a smile on his face, “I don’t know if you know this or not, but I’m fucking loaded with money. I don’t drive to Los Angeles.”
“Oh! You take the train!” I mocked.
“You always have something — Oh, you’re gonna get it. Just you wait. I also have to go to court and shit, but I’m going to come back and–”
“I’ll wait.” I smiled, and pushed him to the door as we were making out, “Go! Naughty man.”
“Alright alright. I already love you the mostest!” he yelled on his way to the car.
“No you don’t!”
“Yes I do!”
“No! I love you the mostestest!”
He got in the car. Damnit, he always gets in the car before I can say anything, I thought. He looked at me and mouthed, “I win!” as he laughed, pulling out of the driveway. He’s gonna get it.
I pulled out a piece of paper to start mapping out our attack plan with the forced heroin distribution. I figured out that the line test that they take measures how much of the herion is in their system, so if you keep a steady flow of it throughout the week, in smaller dosages, you don’t suffer as badly when they make you “Take 2.” “I’ll be damned if we go through this again,” I said as I started to fall asleep again, but I caught myself. Time to get the blood pumping. I drank some more Rip Its and started picking up the house. I washed the bed sheets and cleaned the mattress, but in the midst of my cleaning, I forgot to drink the Rip Its, so I grabbed a can, and stumbled over to the couch, but I passed out before I could get it open.
I woke up to people coming in the house, and I couldn’t recognize them.
“WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU?!”
“It’s me, Kerkman, Sgt Lukas.”
“You’re not fucking SGT LUKAS!”
I grabbed the ka-bar PJ bought me for my birthday, and attacked him, but I shoulda known better that he wasn’t gonna show up to a fucked up disoriented Marine by himself. Sgt Lukas, Sgt Kokesh, and Gunnery Sgt Gusman all rushed me at once as I tried to fight off all three of them. GySgt Gusman and Sgt Lukas held me down while Sgt Kokesh ran to the kitchen, grabbed the Rip Its and forced me to drink it. My wits started to come about me as they poured the second can down my throat.
“ADAM WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!”
“CASS SHUT THE FUCK UP AND DRINK THIS FUCKING SHIT!”
“Who the FUCK ARE YOU TWO?!” I looked at the Marines holding me down again, “Sgt Lukas? GySgt Gusman? What are you guys doing here? Why are you holding me down?”
Sgt Lukas started laughing, “You tried to kill me, Kerkman.”
“And you almost did,” GySgt Gusman was pissed, “What kind of Marine attacks her own goddamn SGT?!”
“I didn’t want to kill you Sgt,” I started crying, “I would never kill you Sgt.”
Adam was laughing and I was getting pissed, “Cass, you’re in attack mode right now. You couldn’t even stop yourself.”
“YOU WENT TAD KERKMAN!” Sgt Lukas yelled at me.
I looked off into the distance, “What?…. I did go TAD……….”
“Fuck….” GySgt Gusman said, “Yes you did, Kerkman. I’m sorry.”
I smiled at him, “It’s OK, GySgt, you were just tryin’ to get my heart pumpin’. Why are you always wearing Oakleys? Always hiding those pretty eyes.”
That made him feel better. He gave me his GySgt Gusman smile as Sgt Lukas and Sgt Kokesh picked me up and put me on the couch. GySgt and Sgt Lukas went to go get the furniture while Adam stayed and looked after me.
TAD stands for Temporary Assignment Duty. All Marines can be sent TAD at any time to any duty station and any country where the US has a military base. When I was a Lance Corporal, a SSgt Julio Jimenez came up to me and told me I had TAD orders.
“For how long, SSgt?”
“It doesn’t fucking MATTER, Kerkman. Just do what you’re fucking told. We’re going to fucking fix that shit.”
“SSgt, where am I going?”
“To your barracks room and getting all of your CIF gear in order. You’ll receive a brief once you have all of your gear packed.”
“Aye SSgt,” I went to leave, headed to the barracks, “Dick.”
I got into my room, opened up my gear locker, pulled out my ILBE pack, dumped all the shit out, and started to take accountability for everything. Before I could even put my phone on the charger, my barracks room door opened and five “Marines” I’d never seen before charged into the room. I tried to fight them off, but they had me cornered. They pinned me down and shoved a needle of some heavy narcotics into my arm. I passed out.
Due to the abuse I suffered throughout my childhood, I have a high tolerance for opiates, and they underestimated me. I woke up as they were trying to figure out how to get me out. When I’m out, I weigh somewhere between 200 and 300 pounds of dead weight, but when I’m conscious, I weigh 145. That confused the shit out of them, but I laid there and pretended I was still out until they were able to pick me up and bring me outside. As they were becoming complacent, I kicked them off of me, they dropped me, and I ran for my car ’cause I still had the keys in my pocket. They took off after me, and I didn’t have a chance being all doped up, but at least I outsmarted the fuckers.
I don’t remember anything that happened to me after they stuck me with another needle in the van. All I remember is waking up in my barracks room and going to work as usual. A girl I worked with, LCpl Ineptas, came up to me that day with a smile on her face, “Kerkman! You’re back! How was your PTAD, Kerkman? Did you get anyone to join?”
“You were gone for a month.”
“No I wasn’t, I was just at PT yesterday.”
“You’re crazy, Kerkman. We missed you, and you didn’t leave instructions for how to print off the Rough Roll.”
“Well, SSgt Dickhead told me to……” I started to remember, “Ineptas, did they tell you where I was going?”
“They said you were on recruiter’s assistance!”
“I wasn’t on recruiter’s assistance, Ineptas.”
“Then you were UA. You have to show up at your recruiter’s–”
“Shut the fuck up about it, Ineptas. You don’t know what the fuck happened to me. I don’t even know what happened to me.”
I went outside to smoke a cigarette, trying to figure out what happened. Unbeknownst to me, while I was outside, she tried to tell SSgt Jimenez that I didn’t show up at my recruiter’s office to try to get me charged with Unauthorized Absence. She came outside in the middle of my cigarette.
“Kerkman…. I gotta tell you something. I’m sorry but I went to tell SSgt Jimenez that you didn’t show up to recruiter’s assistance and he started yelling at me.”
“What did he say?”
“He said that I needed to mind my own goddamn business. Then I told him that I needed to report it because if I didn’t then I would get in trouble. Then he started laughing, and said, ‘If you just would ask LCpl Kerkman, she would tell you that she went TAD to Quantico.'”
“He told me that you were doing training with officers.”
“They did some fucked up shit to me, Ineptas.”
“What kind of training were you doing? ‘Cause he said I was going to do it too.”
“I don’t remember.”
“What do you mean you don’t remember?”
“Ineptas, you gotta tell them that you don’t want to do that training.”
“I can’t, then I would get bad marks on my pros and cons.”
“PROS AND CONS DON’T MATTER! YOUR LIFE FUCKING MATTERS!”
“What is your problem, Kerkman?”
“You gotta care more about your own self than your meaningless Marine Corps conduct marks.”
“But I wanna get meritoriously promoted to Cpl.”
I sighed, looked at her, and pulled out another cigarette, “Tell them I’ll be in there in a minute. I’m having some bad flashbacks.” I sat there in silence.
Adam was watching me as all of these memories were coming back and the tears started rolling down my face.
“Cass,” he sighed as he held me, “they do it to all good Marines.”
“But nobody considered me a good Marine at the time!” I wailed.
“How were your rilfe scores?”
“4’s and 5’s, right?”
“And what about combat training?”
“I fucking ruled that shit. I hit 3 out of 4 targets with the grenade launcher, every target with the SAW, completed MVG training twice, lead an ambush. I even shot one of the combat instructors when we were doing our paintball combat simulation. I did it all with two broken feet and a fucked up hip. I even fucking threw the grenade the farthest out of my platoon.”
“Cass…. that means they were planning on doing this to you before you even left combat training, probably even boot camp.”
“But I fucked off prequal.”
“And then you scored high on qual, right?”
“That’s when they spotted you. They keep an eye on recruits who stand out from the rest to be made into their Candidates.”
“Yup, they did it to me too, and I spent most of my career trying to find out how they did it. I was even going to reenlist because I didn’t find all of the answers.”
“Is that why you didn’t remember–”
“Yup, I didn’t remember the pistol, and that’s how they got me kicked out because they figured out what I was doing.” He frowned.
I smiled at him, “That’s some fucking journalism right there.”
He laughed then started to get upset again as I opened up another Rip Its.
“Adam, I’m sure you did everything you could to cover your tracks. One of the Marines you trusted told somebody didn’t they?”
“I FUCKING SAVED THAT FUCKER’S LIFE!!!”
Tears started to roll from his eyes, so I crawled onto his lap and held him. Once he calmed down, he realized I was sitting on his lap and started laughing.
“We probably shouldn’t be doing this, Cass.”
“PJ won’t mind.”
He smiled, “He told me he’d kill me if I slept with you.”
I started laughing, “He was just saying that to scare you. Plus, I wouldn’t sleep with you unless he was there, one. And two, he wouldn’t kill you ’cause he knows how much I love you.”
He looked around. “You’re right. But you should still…”
“I got you, I got you.”
I got off of his lap and stared at the jar of weed.
“Nope,” he said as he grabbed it.
“I know. Goddamnit! I just want to smoke a blunt. This shit sucks.”
“I’m hiding this from you, you stoner.”
“That’s probably a good idea.”
As he was stowing the jar away, GySgt and Sgt Lukas showed up with the furniture.
“I gotta help them,” he said.
I got up to go and help too, but Sgt Lukas picked me up and put me back on the couch.
“Hell no, Kerkman.”
“But I want to HELP SGT! I can’t just sit here and –”
“No, you’re just gonna sit there and look pretty while we lift all of this heavy stuff for you.”
He gave me a kiss on the cheek, and that got my heart goin’ again. Haha. Sgt Lukas always had a way of doing that.
As they were finishing bringing in the furniture, PJ came home.
“BABY!” I ran to him and gave him a big hug.
“Hi sweetpea, you’re hugging me too hard baby girl.”
He showed me the gauze where the bullet wound was. I yelled and went to punch a hole in the wall, but he stopped me.
“We gotta work on that anger, naughty woman.”
“BABY! I AM GOING TO LOSE MY SHIT! THEY JUST FUCKING GRAZE YOU TO PUT YOU IN PAIN!”
He sighed, “I know. But at least they give me pain killers!”
“Honey, that is not funny right now.”
“But I’m your funny hunny.”
That made me laugh. Adam emerged from putting the kitchen together and PJ stared him down.
“Be nice, baby. We didn’t do anything.”
“I know. Him and I established that, didn’t we Adam?”
“Yes we did.” he said
I stared at PJ, “What did you do to him?”
“Nothing!” he smiled.
“That’s between PJ and I, Cass.”
“Whatever. I’m not worried about it, I’ll find out one way or another.”
“Yes you will, sweetpea, but not from Adam. Right Adam?”
Adam smiled, “That’s right.”
I stared off into space.
“No, you cannot smoke any weed baby girl.”
“I just fucking remembered that I’m a fucking manchurian candidate, goddamnit. I just want to SMOKE A FUCKING BLUNT!”
“Maybe later, sweetpea. I won’t ask you about that.”
“I’ll tell you about it later.”
The guys just got done putting everything together, and they came to tell us they had to go.
“What? Can’t you stay for dinner or something?”
“Kerkman, we can’t,” started GySgt, “We–”
“You gotta get back to your ladies for dinner…..”
“They’re not fucking ladies, Kerkman,” GySgt snapped, “you’re the only lady in this goddamned world.”
“Oh, I love you GySgt.”
I gave him a hug, then I gave all of them a hug as they walked out the door.
“SEMPER FIDELIS!” I yelled. Then I got a bark and an oorah from all of ’em, and PJ said goodbye. I turned to PJ, “I love my Marines, baby.”
“So do I, baby girl. We need to go over what happened last night.”
“You don’t have to go back!?”
“Nope… But I am gonna get into some trouble ’cause I missed court.”
We ate dinner, while I gave him the whole story of what happened the night before and he told me everything that happened this morning. I eventually was able to tell him what happened to me in the Marine Corps, and that upset him.
“Well, at least you have super human strength!” he said.
“That must be how you punched such a big hole in the wall.”
“Haha, it probably is…. Baby, do you have to–”
“Ok, well, I know this is fucked up but I think you should anyway.”
“Just hear me out. Ok, so if you keep a steady flow of the shit in your bloodstream, not only does that increase your tolerance level for when they try to kill you like last night, but it also gives you a way to be able to handle the moodiness.”
“Ok, but it’ll turn me into a zombie.”
“Not if you take small doses at a time. It’ll be like popping a vicodin when you have…. a fucking…. bullet wound.”
“Huh…” he sat there and thought for a minute.
“I don’t know the ins and outs so I wouldn’t know how much the smaller dose would have to be in order to equal out the line test.”
“It’s a blood test, sweetpea.”
“Even better!” I smiled, “You’d probably have to start with the smallest amount possible, and work your way up to your regular small dose so you can function. You’d have to be careful of the addiction side of it though. It’s like…. acting sober while on acid.”
“Haha! That’s hard to do.”
“Not if you know you’re in control of the drug. You’d probably also have to find a way to get it from someone else because they probably give you a controlled amount.”
“Yeah, they do, but it’s not hard to find more than that in that fucked up city. How come I never thought of this?”
“Because you’ve never felt in control of it before.”
“This is true. Hm. Oh yeah! Your surprise, you’re gonna get it tomorrow instead.”
“Haha. What is it?”
“Well, I was gonna have them scare the shit out of you, but now you’re gonna scare the shit out of them instead.”
“It’s a good thing they didn’t do that because I would have tried to kill them.”
“Yup…..” he looked at me in the eyes and turned to me, “sweetpea, I gotta talk to you about something.”
“You just told me about all of this abuse that you suffered in the Marine Corps, and yet you still have this motivation about you that gives those people more power over you and other veterans.”
“I know. It’s hard to control, baby, especially when most of your adult life was spent in the institution.”
“I know, it’s just like they make you into these hardcore killing machines and it never leaves you.
I put my head on his chest and he wrapped his arms around me.
“It’s just, I see this anger that you can’t control, but you never take it out on the people you love, you take it out on yourself.”
I was crying, “And walls…..” I sniffled, “It just makes me feel alive. Like, without it I’m just wondering who the fuck I am. That’s why I smoke so much weed…. to calm me down.”
“I know baby girl. You neeeed that shit. Haha. You’re Cassandra Kerkman, but Cpl Kerkman will never leave you. You need her to protect yourself and the people you love.”
“And that’s one of the reasons why every individual Marine is loved. It’s not about the institution, it’s about the buddies to the left and right of you who are watching your back…. Even though some of them just act like it….” I sighed, “But it’s those Marines who are there for you when you get out and help support you when you’re dealing with the same fucked up shit that you know you can always trust…….. I’ll always protect you baby.”
“And I’ll always protect you baby girl.”
We began to kiss, and he went to go pick me up to bring me into the bedroom but he forgot about the wound.
“It’s kind of hard to–”
“Oh, I’ll just go take some Vicodin.”
We laughed, made love, and PASSED THE FUCK OUT!