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I made it to my bed (or rack, as it was now called) the night of the Moment of Truth. My division was sleep-deprived for 49 long hours. I’m pretty sure I saw the utensils at the galley swing-dancing in front of me; that’s how tired and cracked I was. In the 49 hours I had been at Great Lakes Recruit Training Command, my division got off those coach buses in the middle of the night, we spent hours getting our gear issued, getting our hair buzzed off, and going through hours of paperwork. On top of that, we ate 5 times at the galley, we spent time cleaning the head, (bathroom) we spent time stenciling our gear, and we received initial medical checkups. It was due time for sleep. The recruit division commanders were giving us 8 full hours of sleep, and our new temporary home was at the USS Red Rover. (It’s not actually a ship. It’s just a building named after one). Lying face up in my rack, I thought about my last day, right before the Navy.

 

I wanted to cry for her to see, but I didn’t as well. It was strange.

 

It was only that evening we were watching Silver Linings Playbook. We cuddled and hugged each other until it was time to leave. We didn’t watch Ant Man with her parents that night, either.

It was only that afternoon we were sitting on the balcony of her house, reading some book about palm reading. I didn’t agree with her choices of what I was in a hand. It was only that morning we went out for breakfast, and we had one of our last meals together. At least the last one I spent taking her out. We switched cars to her driving after breakfast. I felt pretty happy in her arms.

“I love you.” She said back to me, parking the car in my driveway. “I shouldn’t say that, but I don’t know any other love like you. I wish we had more time, too.”

“I wish we had more as well.” I replied. “I love you.”

We got out of the car, and had one final kiss, and one final hug, before I walked away, and she drove away. I smiled, feeling so elated. So elated. I had a few tears before I walked inside.

My parents really loved her too. They were confused why we didn’t continue our relationship, but I knew that it was definitely for the best, and I knew she thought so, as well. I had the letter she gave me in my pocket, and I went to go upstairs to my room to place it on my desk. It was a good place for the note for now. I checked my phone and notice that I had a few texts from one of my best buds.

”Yo, when are we meeting up tomorrow for breakfast?”

I replied to the text with, “Meet me at my house at like 7:30 am.”

I laid down on the floor of my room, not really knowing what to think. I was really happy. I was also excited for the future that was about to occur, but I was so nervous. For once this summer, the time was slowing down, and it wasn’t so fast this time.

I had my Eagle Scout Court of Honor. I spoke at graduation; that was fantastic. I did well on my ACT retake. That meant a lot. But it wasn’t just about me. It was about my entire graduating class. I don’t want to sound so mushy, but we experienced our final times at Prom, getting dressed and feeling as if it was our wedding. We experienced our senioritis, that was so real. We also looked forward to the future, and we were both panicking and excited. College acceptance letters, ASVAB scores, and job lineups alike. We had our graduation parties, seeing family members and our friends. We collected letter after letter and check after check. We said our thank-you’s and we had a good time.

We went to pick up our yearbooks at the high school, and somehow, the feeling of stress was all but gone. We all said hello to each other, as we passed by each other in the hallways. It didn’t matter if we were nerds or jocks. Social class and status didn’t matter. That was all bullsh*t now. We wouldn’t see each other for a long time. Maybe at our high school reunion 10 years from now. We saw our old teachers, saying our goodbyes, and sharing words about our high school experiences. We got close to our teachers, almost as if they were as close as our best buddies, and the classes we took were fond memories. So they were.

The summer was full of both forlorn reminiscing over the great high school past, or aching for the future to happen already. We worked our summer jobs, and we had a lot of fun hanging out, too. But finally, it was time to end it all. After answering my friend’s text, I went to bed in my bed, for the last time.

The next morning, I woke up as early as I could. I could hear my parents and my grandmother sleeping in the other room. As I woke, the sun pierced through the top of the window blinds and its harsh light made me wake up even more. I didn’t bother to make my bed, but instead I threw on my running clothes to go for a morning run.

When I returned from my run, my friends were waiting for me to go out to eat breakfast.

After breakfast, myself and my two friends who went to eat with me sat on the driveway for one last time, something we always do. I was going to miss walking in circles late at night, just talking about whatever. We talked about whatever until it was time for me to leave.

That was the last thing I did, before I went off to Navy Basic Training, at Great Lakes, IL.

Well, one more thing I did, actually.

I put the note my girlfriend gave to me in my wallet. I gathered my things and my parents brought me to the Navy Office. But before I went to the Navy Office to depart for Boot Camp, I did one more thing.

I drove up to my girlfriend’s house, and I left her a note that I wrote. I feel like I quadruple checked it to make sure I had the right piece of paper.

-Matt Cuartero

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