Teeth

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Chapter 3 - Smashing Pumpkins

August 1991

“It won’t be long, Sweet Pea. It’s just 12 months,” Chuck said as he rubbed my back, and I hugged him in the darkness of early morning in the parking lot of the staging area.

“I’m still going to miss you,” I replied bawling in front of God, his lieutenant, and his grunt buddies.

“I hate to see you cry.”

“I just can’t help it.”

“Look, I’ll call you as soon as I get to .”

“I miss you already,”

“It’s only a 6-month float. It’ll be alright,” Chuck said as he tried to let me go.

“I know,” I said as he pried my arms from around his body. He looked apologetically to his lieutenant who was waiting a few feet away. He kissed me again, grabbed his pack, and walked to his company staging area to report.

What do I do without him?

I got back in the car and drove home to try to sleep a few more hours before I had to get ready for work. I quit that job last week with security in the PX because I got tired of everyone knowing what I was doing and when. I even had to ask permission to go to the toilet. I started a new job in the engraving shop. The manager, Kelly, recruited me while I was standing guard in the sports department.

On my first day, I learned how to engrave in a very short time in the morning. I learned to make keys and engraved a few plaques. That was it. That’s all there was to this job other than learning how the register worked. At lunch, I drowned my loneliness in Hershey’s chocolate syrup and bananas. After lunch, I learned how to order new plaques for the shop. Richard stopped by the shop at about 16:00 hours to see how I was doing. I guess Chuck asked him to before he left.

“How’s it goin’, Lilian?”

“Alright.” I smiled and told him about the stuff I learned. Kelly noticed Richard and came over to join the conversation.

“Oh Richard, this is Kelly, my boss.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Kelly,” Richard said as he shook her chubby hand and stared at her size 48 F chest.

“I think I’ve seen you before at the e-club. Do you go to Country and Western Night?” Kelly asked as she tossed her massive curly blonde hair behind her shoulder. The ends of her hair slapped my lower arm as they passed by.

“Yep. I’m there every Wednesday that I don’t have duty,” Richard said smiling down at Kelly. She was about six inches shorter than me and a whole lot rounder. I had seen the type of women Richard went for and got, so I kind of giggled at how Kelly flirted. Richard just smiled over Kelly’s head, and we exchanged glances like we knew exactly what she wanted as she talked about her favorite songs and how much fun she has at the e-club.

“Well, why don’t we take Lilian this Wednesday?” Richard suggested to Kelly.

“Hey, yeah! Lilian, do you want to come check it out?” Kelly asked finally acknowledging that I was still in the conversation.

“I don’t think they’d let me in.”

“Why not?” Richard asked.

“It’s a bar.”

“Yeah, so,” Kelly said.

“I’m underage.”

“It’s the e-club. A lot of guys are underage in there,” Kelly said.

“Yeah, Lilian. It’s a club for all enlisted in the service. It’s a bar, but it’s also a club,” Richard explained.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Kelly coaxed.

I finally agreed to go with them one Wednesday night, but not this one. Richard talked about where he would be this weekend and next week. His company was going on a mini-deployment to the .

“Bring me some pictures of the volcano if you get a chance to take any,” I said just before he left to get dinner at the mess hall.

“I’ll see what I can do.”

At 5:30, Kelly and I closed out the register and locked up for the day. I walked home to my apartment at six that afternoon after getting chili and rice at the Wiki Wiki. The Wiki Wiki was a little fast food diner housed in the PX building. It was cheap, and the food was pretty good. On my way home, I stopped at a telephone booth to call my mom, but I realized the time difference and decided to try to call her at lunch tomorrow. She would be off work by then.

Late that night, the phone rang while I was curled up under my covers and missing Chuck so much I’d given myself indigestion.

“How’s my Sweet Pea?” he asked.

“I’m doing really good. I love my new job. It’s really laid back, ” I said into the phone as I choked the receiver and pressed it into my right ear trying to get closer to him.

“Me and the guys are goin’ into town to look around tomorrow night. I’ll see if I can find you those silk pajamas you wanted.”

“Ooh, I want pink ones!”

“What size do you wear?”

“An extra large.”

“You don’t wear an extra large!”

In truth, I wore a 2X, but maybe I could lose it before he got back.

“Yes, I do.”

“No way, I’ll get you a large.”

Okay, I’d lose two sizes.

“Okay, whatever you think. You look at them and decide, but pajamas are supposed to be loose.”

“Alright. I won’t have a phone for about two weeks after this, so don’t be upset if I don’t call every day. I’ll be out in the field,” Chuck said.

“I understand. I’m alright now. My job will keep me busy, and I have Richard to talk to,” I explained, “he came by the shop to check on me today.”

“He did?”

“Yeah, didn’t you ask him to check up on me?”

“No, but I guess I’m glad he did.”

“Richard and Kelly are taking me to the e-club in two weeks...for something to do.”

“I’ll talk to you in a few weeks, then.”

“Okay. I love you… ” I said to a dead phone.

The next weeks crawled by without a word from Chuck. I called my mom every day at lunch, and she talked about the family and all of the things she was dealing with at work. I felt better by the end of our conversations, but an hour later, I was so miserable.

On November 13th, I crawled out of bed and forced myself to go to work. I needed to be around people. Kelly joked with me and tried to cheer me up. The extra attention made me feel a little better, and by lunch, I was nearly normal. At least I was joking back with her. We ate lunch behind the counter today because we had twenty-five plaques to make before some awards ceremony the next day. The colonel who ordered them was sending his assistant to pick them up at 5:30 today. Kelly and I took turns engraving and helping other customers and grabbing a bite of the sandwiches we bought from the sandwich stand outside the PX.

By 5:15 we had only one more plaque to engrave when I heard a familiar voice.

“Hey, Lilian. You have those plaques ready?” Richard said.

I smiled at the playfully demanding tone in Richard’s voice. “Yessir,” I said with an equally playful salute. “I’ll be finished with the last one in about two minutes, provided I’m not distracted.”

“Well then. Wouldn’t want to distract you,” Richard said as he leaned on the counter.

“How are you, Kelly?” Richard turned his attention to my boss and they chatted about the e-club while I finished the last plaque.

“Here you are, Richard, twenty-five plaques. Now how in the hell are you gonna carry them?” I asked.

“I’ve brought reinforcements.” Richard gestured to a guy looking at the bicycles. “This is Jason.”

I smiled and shook hands with a very short, but very muscled blond. “It’s nice to meet you, Jason.”

“Hey, Kelly,” Jason waved at my boss.

“Hi, Jason, how’s it goin’?” Kelly said as she flipped her hair and whacked me on the arm again.

“Are you going to the e-club tonight?” Jason asked Kelly.

“Yeah, I’ll be there.”

“Cool. What about your friend here?” Jason asked smiling at me.

“I don’t think so. Not tonight,” I said.

“Why not?” Richard asked.

“I just don’t feel like it.”

“Why?” Kelly asked.

“I miss Chuck.”

“Sitting at home alone isn’t going to make you not miss Chuck,” Kelly said.

I realized the logic in this, but I really didn’t think I would have much fun while I was thinking about my husband in .

“Lilian, come on,” Richard said.

“I don’t think I’d be much fun.”

“We’ll cheer you up,” Kelly said.

“Yeah, come on. It’ll be fun.”

I finally gave in to my friends’ invitations. Maybe it would keep my mind off being alone.

“What time do I meet you?” I asked.

“Why don’t you come home with me after work? We can get ready and go from there, ” Kelly suggested.

“What time are you guys gonna be at the e-club?” Kelly asked.

Richard consulted with Jason and they decided around 7.

“Great, we’ll see you tonight,” Kelly said as the two men grabbed the plaques and headed back to work.

Kelly and I quickly closed the shop. We grabbed dinner at the Wiki Wiki, and walked to her house. Kelly lived on base, so it only took a few minutes to get to her house. Base housing was really pretty nice. It was wall to wall tile, but the walls were freshly painted and they were huge apartments, bigger than my house in .

“So what are you going to wear tonight?” Kelly asked after she got me a beer from the fridge. I’d never tried beer. I opened it.

“I’ll wear what I have on,” I said. “I don’t really have a choice.”

“You can borrow somethin’ of mine.”

“Na, I’ll be fine in my boots and t-shirt.”

“It’s really okay if you want to borrow something.”

“I’m not tryin’ to impress anybody. I’ll be fine.”

“Okay, but I’m going to change. Jason sure is cute.”

“If you say so.”

“You don’t think he’s cute?”

“I guess, but aren’t you married?”

“I’m married, not dead.”

I took a long swallow of the beer. It tasted like fizzy stale bread.

“I’m going to take a shower. You can watch TV if you want, and help yourself in the kitchen,” Kelly said.

“Thanks.”

I started thinking about Chuck and how much I missed him as I sat and drank huge gulps of the beer. I didn’t know what the big deal was with this stuff. It tasted like crap, and I didn’t even feel anything. I finished the first and, still thinking about Chuck, got another from the fridge before Kelly finished showering. I went through three before she was ready to go. I felt happy when we left for the e-club, but I still missed Chuck.

When we got to the club, Kelly showed me where we had to sign in, and gave me the penny tour. There were several rooms in the club. We walked down some stairs into one massive room with a concrete floor. A band was setting up on a big stage centered on the back wall opposite a huge bamboo bar with wooden stools surrounding it. Dark, wood-grain, rectangular folding tables spread around the room were surrounded with gray, metal, folding chairs. A large rectangular space in front of the stage was reserved for dancing. In the corner opposite the entrance to the room was a glass-windowed room where the DJ played “Margaritaville” as Kelly and I walked in.

“This is where they play Country and Western music on Wednesday nights.”

We walked back toward the entrance to the club and turned left past the bathrooms. Then Kelly showed me another smaller room where a jukebox played Nirvana.

“This is where you listen to rock. They have Thursday Rock Night in here.” A mirrored ball hung above this room’s tiny wooden dance floor. It’s dark shag carpet and small round tables reminded me of the seventies discos. The small bamboo bar sat against the wall next to the entrance. I guessed Rock wasn’t as popular as Country around here.

“These are the only two rooms I’ve ever been in. I think the rest are for private parties,” Kelly explained as we went back into the first room.

Jason and Richard were sitting at a table on the edge of the dance floor when we returned.

“Hey, Lilian,” Richard said as he stood up to offer me a chair and pushed it in for me.

“Hi. Thanks.”

Jason followed Richard’s cue and did the same for Kelly.

“Thanks,” Kelly giggled at the star treatment.

“Does anyone want something from the bar?” Jason asked.

“Can you get me a Coors Light and a shot of tequila?” Kelly asked.

Jason nodded, and then looked at me expecting me to say something. I just smiled.

“I don’t think they will let me drink.”

“Don’t worry about it. What do you want?”

“I guess I’ll try what Kelly’s having.”

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