Red Lights

 “Prepare to darken ship. Let no white light shine topside.” The loud speakers called out the same thing every afternoon before the sun went below the horizon. Life on a Navy ship is most remarkably characterized by the glowing red lights within the ship at night. Red light doesn’t travel as far to other ships, which would give away its position.

 Corey Simmons always grew more anxious walking around the ship at night. He always over thought things at night. The red lights made it worse. The dulling of his senses walking through the pitch black into the red areas creeped him out. It put him on edge.

 He was walking the passageway from his shop to his berthing. The red lights are spaced out every twenty feet or so. That allows for darkness to be spaced out every twenty feet as well. the red and black rippled down the ship’s interior. In one of the black areas, Corey hit his shoulder on a large electrical box. “Shit.” He rubbed his shoulder as he kept walking. Corey came to the end of the passageway. There was only a locked hatch. “Fuck man.” He looked around. He missed a turn or a ladder well. Turning around, he went back the way he came. He didn’t recognize where he was. Corey went down the first ladder well he came to. The aluminum ladder shook violently with each step. It made much more noise than you’d expect on a steel ship. Then again, steel toed boots aren’t the lightest of footwear. He still didn’t know where he was. That wasn’t so uncommon on a ship this size. He cursed himself for not remembering the frame and hatch numbering system. He should be able to use it to find his way anywhere on the ship. He walked for two or three minutes more, taking various turns and trying to find a familiar hatch or landmark within the ship. Most of the water-tight hatches were ‘dogged down’ to prevent water intrusion in case of flooding. That was rare these days, but precautions were always taken. 

 Corey could feel himself getting frustrated. He started to sweat more the longer he was lost. When was the last time he even saw someone else? Even though it was the middle of the night, someone else should be walking through these passageways. His anxiety was beginning to rise. Corey began to overthink the situation. His breath became short. Then he became light headed. He knelt down and put his head on the cold metal floor. 

 Dark thoughts began to enter his head. He thought about all the negative aspects of his life, about how he always felt inferior. There was a lot of bravado in his daily life. He overcompensated for having a low self-esteem. He began to think of past sins and indiscretions. He thought of that summer in college when he swallowed a bottle of sleeping pills to try to kill the pain. With self-loathing, Corey kept drudging up the past. He knew God. He knew he believed in God. He believed that he was forgiven of his past. Corey just couldn’t find a way to forgive himself.

 In a moment of clarity, Corey remembered being young, maybe six or seven. The neighbor kid, Nathan something or other. He thought it might have started with an ‘A’. Corey remembered Nathan touching him and making Corey touch him in return. Nathan must have been thirteen or maybe a little older. Nathan made him go into a closet in the garage. It was dark in there. Corey was scared, so he did as he was told. 

 Corey didn’t know why he was remembering this now. He wished he hadn’t remembered. He wished he could forget it. He could feel tears roll down his cheeks. He cried until he passed out.

 What must have been hours later…

 “Dude!” Corey felt someone kick his shoes. “You can’t sleep here. Simmons, get the fuck up.” He felt another kick. Corey opened his eyes to see white lights all round him. They were bright. They hurt his eyes.

 “Sorry.” he said. Corey looked down at his watch. He was late for morning quarters.

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Taco Tuesday 

 

 

Tuesday afternoon came around. We had planned on meeting up for lunch at Rosita’s. They have the best tacos on the island. The place was beat up. It looked like it was constructed entirely of driftwood and old metal signs. I ordered the Key West Amber. The barkeep wore peach shorts and a denim shirt buttoned low over a nice, tight tank.

“I’ll have a water, no lemon please.” The sound of her voice broke the love spell.

“Sorry, I was…uh…”

“It’s okay. I understand.”

“How are you?”

“I’m good. It has been a rough start to the week, but it’s early and we’ll rebound.”

“I love that about you.”

“What’s that?”

“How you always find hope in the situation.”

“What’s the alternative?”

“No, I get it. I just don’t naturally see it.”

“Are you guys ready?” The barkeep asked.

“I’m going to have the taco plate.” Alice’s voice was overly cheery, bordering on patronizing.

“Make that two, please.” I resisted looking at the barkeep, instead keeping my eyes on the menu. I folded it, handing it to her without ever looking up. I’m sure it was awkward for everyone.

“What’s your name, dear?” Alice asked the barkeep.

“It’s Summer.”

“Oh, of course it is. ”

 

*previously published