The Ballad of Betty and Bruce: Begin

My life began that night as her velvet voice stole into my heart for the first time. I jolted and my head whipped around, trying to locate the source of that beguiling sound. The room was dark and crowded. I could see no faces and her voice trailed off into my memories.

“Who was that?”, I asked.

“Oh, that was just Betty,” answered Sue with a shake of her head, “she’s trouble you don’t want.”

I shrugged, pretended indifference, but I can still hear her voice, still feel the way my body jerked in reaction, 35 years later. You’d think that I was used to it by now, but I still love the sound of her voice. And yes, she was trouble, but so was I. We all are when lives intertwine.

I was in the Navy, as were most who lived in the building. The cream of the Naval crop, all learning of electronics, computers, programming and life. All young as hell and thinking we were in college. A college with a 100% ROTC membership. And, like all good college students around the world, we were working on getting high. And, like good sailors, we knew exactly what would, and would not, show up in a piss test.

“Is that half,” I asked?

“Half of what’s there.” Sue replied. I wasn’t sure if I trusted that answer. I’d never done acid before and was a bit nervous.

“Half a hit?” oh bless my naïve soul.

“Like I said, it’s half of what I had here.”

I sighed. Stared hard at Sue. Stared hard at my fellow sailors. Tried to read the twitching smiles on their faces. Nothing. Fine. At least I don’t have to put it my eye, that’s always given me the willies. I picked up the tiny piece of paper and laid it onto my tongue, fear roiling in my gut. Peer pressure…bah.

I’m not certain what happened directly after, besides the table erupting in laughter. I fucking remember that, the bastards.

Things happened, I can only assume, because my next memory is standing in line at a party store. A long. Slow. Line. Certain that they all knew. Trying to see who was looking at me, while terrified of meeting any eyes. They know. They know. They know. Oh god oh god oh god they know. Why is everything so bright? Get me out get me out get me out. Shit! I’m next I’m next I’m next I’m next…. Why am I here? Shit! There’s nothing in my hands. Why am I here? Oh god I’m next.

The clerk is staring at me. I’m staring at the clerk, quite possibly twitching. I could feel my eyes rolling around like marbles. I ask for cigarettes. He gives me cigarettes. I pay for cigarettes. We stare some more. HE KNOWS! I flee into the night. And god what a night.

We walked for miles. Laughed and talked and walked, filled with boundless energy. At one point we were walking across a vast field, and I noticed a car parked above. It’s headlights were on. Staring right at us. I couldn’t stop looking. I started walking backwards to keep my eyes on the fucker.

“Rick.”

“I know”

“There’s a car.”

“I know.”

“It’s just”

“I know”

“But”

“I know. Turn around”

“What if”

“Turn around before it gets angry”

“Oh. Oh god. Right.”

I turned around. I could feel the car even after we got buildings between us and it. Damn car. I can still see the thing, high above a field. Watching. Judging.

We climbed up the underside of the North bridge leading to the base and sat, still talking, for hours. I fell in temporary love with Holly, an open lesbian, but I didn’t care. She was smart and pretty and talked about life as only the young can manage. Full of ideas and questions and well, life. I still smile when I think of her. She had a good soul.

We all split up around 3am, and Rick and I went back to the apartment to watch movies. I saw The Hitcher for the first time. Quite the experience on acid, let me say. The VCR had a clock-radio on top of it, and they were in perfect sync. I first noticed it at 3:33. VCR 3:33, clock 3:33. Back and forth I went until it was 3:34 and the clocks released me. I didn’t look again for one hour and eleven minutes. 4:44, 4:44, and so on until 4:45…. My next glance came at 5:55….. after that I got a little nervous until 7am came by.

All through this fun crazy night, I still heard Betty’s silky voice describing a poem she once wrote. That voice has never left me.

Spent my life fixing whatever was broken, until I was the thing that was broken. Now I explore my lifelong love of the written word.

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